Original airdate: December 5, 2010
The premise: The Simpson family all have their own Christmas dreams; Bart travels to the North Pole seeking to confront Santa regarding an consistently overlooked gift, Lisa confronts her tree phobia with a World War II-era fantasy, Marge wishes for a picture-perfect Christmas courtesy of guest star Martha Stewart, and Maggie imagines up a comedy sketch with her family in puppet form.
The reaction: Like “Simpsons Christmas Stories” a couple seasons back, we get four vignettes that seemed to get progressively worse and worse. The first one was easily the strongest, as Bart climbs the corporate ranks of ClausCo. to get face time with the big man himself. The conceit of a North Pole with hellish working conditions isn’t incredibly original (and was seen much better done with Futurama‘s Robot Santa and his long suffering elves), but there were a couple of amusing bits sprinkled throughout. I also understood what the hell was happening in it, unlike the following segment. In the wraparound story, Lisa is protesting Christmas trees, because she’s a humorless, ecologically conscious harpy, which leads to a dream about a WWII-era Lisa being terrified of trees because it reminds her of when her mother was enlisted in the war effort. It makes about as much sense as it sounds; it’s all characters announcing what’s happening and how they feel, and is rounded out by an extended ending where Marge blows up a theater full of Nazis a la Inglorious Basterds, a scene which would make absolutely no sense had you not seen the film. The Marge story with Martha Stewart is three minutes of the exact same joke: Stewart is amazing, and she can make anything out a home decoration! And she’ll do it eight times! Then we have the grand finale, an Xmas puppet show, which is one of the worst things the show has ever done, both in terms of regular badness, and in terms of being such a wasted opportunity; I’ll delve into more detail below.
Three items of note:
– Every time Otto appears, it’s guaranteed there’ll be some sort of drug joke. As the conductor of the Polar Express, he keeps the train running by shoveling in pot leaves. It still is just so sad that all of the side characters on this show are now relegated to delivering just one type of joke. And it’s usually the same joke. Two episodes ago Otto used Burns’ body as his own bong. Drug references are funny!
-I barely even want to talk about the Lisa story, because I don’t really understand it, but the wrap-up of Lisa’s dilemma is so unbelievably ham fisted. She runs down the street horrified with everyone bringing home Xmas trees, ending up at the tree lot that Marge ended up leaving her at. In case you forgot the flashback from one minute earlier, Lisa helpfully narrates, “Oh no! This is where they took Mom from me!” But all is made well thanks to wiseguy Raphael, who has kept the tree Marge picked out from last year, and proceeds to decorate it, and trim it to resemble Marge’s head and hair. It’s such a belabored explanation, and this tender moment is coming from Raphael, a man who previously made Marge spell out ‘CUP’ for his own amusement and kicked Homer in the face riding an old timey bike. It all feels empty and meaningless, and this is all before the stupid Basterds ending.
– Okay, so that fucking last segment. The only positive I can say about it is the puppets themselves look fantastic. Everything else… what a disaster. The writing felt a lot like the terrible demo tape that Homer filmed in “Behind the Laughter,” except with none of the self consciousness. I’m not entirely sure what they’re trying to parody either; there are many allusions to the Muppets, The Muppet Show specifically, but the premise is like a bad sitcom story, the boss catching the subordinate in a lie, more than some kind of sketch. All they can think to do are some softball meta jokes (Moe crumbling up cookies like Cookie Monster, a live hand appearing beneath a puppet), nothing that really hasn’t been seen or observed before. But the biggest waste of all is the appearance of Katy Perry. This was coming off of her Sesame Street skit being canned because a certain amount of busybodies were upset that she has breasts and complained on the Internet. There’s a laundry list of things you could make fun of about that “controversy,” her pop star persona, the media machine perpetuating her style of performance and music, it’s an endless parade of material. Instead, they shove her in a tight red dress, and trot her out to be objectified, shoving Puppet Burns into her boobs and Puppet Moe going to town on her crotch. No thought, no creativity, just bland “shock” material. Rather than subverting the sex appeal of her image, the show just goes for the same base and vapid territory as TMZ would. What a complete and utter waste, especially for such a unique segment. The first live, in-person guest star and this is all you can do?
One good line/moment: The only good moments are in Bart’s story at the beginning, which has a few solid jokes, but my favorite part was when Bart takes the freight elevator down with an elven Lewis and Morton. It’s a straight ahead shot of the three awkwardly looking back and forth, with the two elves looking like they couldn’t give less of a shit.