So it’s that time of year again when Christmas is upon us and we begin to read articles that begin just like this one. A key part of the festive season is figuring out what to watch in order to get you in the cheery spirit. What follows is a handy guide in what to watch, not just to get you in the festive mood, but to help you survive it.
Quality Time With The Family
Yes, family. Christmas is when we all get together with our nearest and dearest, whether you like it or not. And what happens when this occurs is inevitable bickering, fighting and negotiating. So what should we watch to prepare ourselves for it? Easy. The Thick of It and The West Wing.
I know what you’re thinking, these aren’t about Christmas but it doesn’t matter. These shows are tactical choices. They will prepare you for the onslaught of visiting relatives, feuding siblings and drunken debates. Whether it’s settling who sits where, why someone has more pigs-in-a-blanket than someone else, or who finishes the bottle of wine, there’s going to be a lot of negotiating making these two shows required festive viewing. If for the peaceful political manoeuvring of Josiah Bartlet and his White House Staff, or the colourful language of Malcolm Tucker, you’ll learn all the skills you’ll need to survive Christmas by watching these shows . Be tactical. Be Tucker and Bartlet. And Christmas dinner will run without anyone using the turkey as a weapon.
If it’s Christmas based episodes you want from the world of politics then Try ‘Noel’ or ‘Holy Night’ from The West Wing. Or ‘The Rise of the Nutters’ from The Thick Of It. Both brilliant.
The Alternative Christmas Special
There are festive, feel-good films and TV specials in abundance throughout the holiday season. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good traditional Christmas movie like Santa Clause or the annual Christmas adventure of Doctor Who. But let’s face it, the outrightly seasonal fare can become a bit of an overload. What would be perfect is a festive story that’s a little different, a little to the left of what we normally see. And I have just the thing. Allow me to point you in the direction of the Christmas special of Misfits.
That’s right. The show about a bunch of super-powered teenagers on community service had their very own Christmas episode at the end of its second season. It has all the things you want from a Christmas special, but through a very dirty, crude and potty-mouthed Misfits filter. Over the course of the episode, the gang discover the existence of a mysterious power-dealer on the estate, a pissed off priest who poses as Jesus, a not-so-virgin Mary and an extremely messy Nativity scene. It’s pretty messed up, and just the antidote to the usual festive fare that fill the schedules.
Escaping The Madness
As everyone knows, this is one of the most stressful and busy times of the year. There’s presents to buy, decorations to put up, parties to organise and dinners to cook. Sometimes you just want to escape into another world, to take away the stress of the holiday season. Well, rather than look to one TV show or Film, I’m turning to one man. The General that will help us battle through the madness that is Christmas. That man is Joss Whedon.
The rich worlds that Joss Whedon creates, known as the ‘Whedonverse’, are the perfect way to escape the baubles, tinsel and oppressive carolling of the festive season. Whether it’s with his films (The Avengers, Serenity), TV Shows, (Buffy, Firefly) or web-based musicals (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog) you are guaranteed fantastic stories and brilliantly written characters who you will immediately fall in love with.
Central to a lot of his work is the coming together of family, dysfunctional ones at that, apt viewing for and time of year. And if you’re stuck for those last minute present ideas, Whedon saves the day again. I suggest his short-lived TV series Firefly as the best series to enter the Whedonverse.
If you’re on the hunt for specific episodes then try ‘Amends’ from Season 3 or – to put your holiday hangovers into perspective – ‘Beer Bad’ from Season 4, both from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. While ‘Amends’ isn’t necessarily the most cheery of episodes it most definitely has a hopeful ending and features a hell of a lot of snow, while ‘Beer Bad’ sees Buffy transformed into a cavewoman after drinking too much of a ‘special’ brew of beer…
Spreading Joy and Cheer With A Story and A Song
Finally, one of the things that are a key presence during the holiday season is the musical. Yes, people spontaneously breaking into song and dance. From Singin’ In The Rain to Calamity Jane, musicals are spread all over our festive screens. There is something inherently cheery about a musical. It never fails to draw a smile upon my face. However sometimes we don’t have the time at this point to sit down and watch a film. So, allow me to offer some special musical episodes of Television.
The Season 2 Episode 20 of Fringe, ‘Brown Betty’, is a good place to start. This episode sees one of the main characters, Walter Bishop, telling (series protagonist) Olivia Dunham’s niece Ella a detective noir story to pass the time. All while high on his own strain of marijuana – Brown Betty. It’s a well-written departure from the series’ norm that has that ability to spread the cheer and tell a moving story, both without being too traditional (singing corpses, anyone?).
Alternatively, there’s Season 6 Episode 8 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, ‘Once More With Feeling’, or Dr.Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. They have the ability to give you the joy that musicals aspire to, but within a more compact timeframe; invaluable for those who feel time is against them this festive season.
So, there you have it. My essential viewing to help you survive the festive period. A perfect mix of Christmas cheer and that much needed antidote. I think they’ll do well to equip you with the right frame of mind to face the festive season.