Christmas episodes always seemed old-fashioned—a chance for sitcom writers to indulge in syrupy family-affirmation or the upmteenth retread of A Christmas Carol. The snarkier the show, the more requisite the big hug at the end, with everyone from I Love Lucy to WKRP in Cincinnati succumbing to the temptation to devote a regular episode that happened to fall in December to bah-humbug-erasing holiday magic. But surely all that sentimentality is old hat in this postpostmodern era?
Judd Hirsch guest stars in "Secret Santa," the 2010 holiday episode of Warehouse 13.
|Go to Eureka clip|
|Go to Warehouse 13 clip 1|
Then along came Doctor Who, and its monster-ratings Christmas episodes. The BBC ending up building Christmas Day around the special, creating a new teatime tradition and ensuring a new surge of publicity and all-age viewers for a program that was otherwise between seasons. Brilliant.
Kindred sci-fi series sat up and took notice, and this year sees a spate of otherworldly specials for shows airing at other times of the year. The funny thing is, American networks in this TV-addicted nation don't trust audiences to actually watch television on Christmas (and broadcasting lots of red and tinsel early in December reminds folks to go out and buy stuff). So, just as with the Charlie Brown and Rankin-Bass vintage specials, the new specials ae airing weeks before holiday week.
We've already had the Futurama holiday episode—which around Thanksgiving. And this week Syfy is offering holiday eps for its two big veteran summer franchises, Eureka and Warehouse 13 (the special back-to-back holiday episodes on Tuesday Dec. 7). It's actually part of a big holiday theme for Syfy, which involves holiday eps for Ghost Hunters, Hollywood Treasure, and Fact or Faked, plus an ice-themed entry in Syfy's string of original movies, Ice Quake (Dec. 11).
And if you're worried about all this emphasis on Christmas in a supposedly multifaith country like America, don't worry: all these episodes are subject to the strict rules of the television "holidays": (a) however much people talk about Christmas spirit, wear red, erect Christmas trees, etc., the celebrated subject of TV Christmas is always Santa Claus, not Jesus; and (b) Jewish characters (like Warehouse 13's Artie) get to celebrate Hanukkah. (Though I think the Hanukkah Armadillo, sadly, has gone into retirement.)
Clips from this week's specials:
- Eureka - "O' Little Town": In the little town of Eureka, Secret Santa gifts are being passed out as Carter sinks his teeth into an out-of-this-world fruitcake. His thrilling palate experience is interrupted by a code 12 and immediately orders everyone to get down. He'll have to put his holiday cheer on hold in order to once again put the town first.
- Warehouse 13 - "Secret Santa": In the first clip, Claudia goes to persuade Artie's father to come back with her to see Artie. She has to think a little outside the box and tells him his son is dying. Fearing the worst and with Claudia saying she's omitting more information forces Artie's dad to join her.
- Meanwhile, Artie is off to tell Pete and Myka to cancel their trips because they have a new case in search of a familiar face around the holidays. Will it stop them from their own get-aways?
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