Year End

...and with that, we draw to a close.

It's been one insane year. I don't know about you, but I am about to start getting duded up for a costume party. Lots to do and miles to go, etc. I've really enjoyed writing for this site every day (or as often as possible, as the occasion would permit). Sometimes it has been a snap, when coming up with ideas. Other times I've had to push myself to get an idea out there. One little trick has been to keep a running list of things I want to cover and write about, in case the well ran dry or inspiration never struck. As a result, there have been some things I've wanted to do longer posts on but have never been able to fit in to the schedule. So rather than force a bunch of half-hearted ideas and arbitrary posts, I thought I'd just run through them all in one shot, to show what could have been. 

In no particular order, here are the ideas and things I wanted to write about and will be culling from the year's to-do file:

The Goonies - I wrote about the soundtrack, but never mustered the wherewithal to really dig into why I love this childhood staple so much. Still a favorite of mine, all these years later.

Despicable Me - Super fun and overlooked. An adorable, surprisingly funny movie with Steve Carrell and Jason Segel providing voice work. Mad scientists doing wacky stuff.

Ectopiary - A crazy, long running web comic that only gets better and better. Free and not for the faint of heart.

The Elephant Vanishes - A great collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors. Simply too overwhelming to attempt to unpack the myriad of ideas put forth.

Bioshock - This amazing game got me into the modern era of videogames after holding out for about five years. Astounding and groundbreaking in every way. A must play, if you missed it (like I did).

Earthbound - My favorite old school SNES game. The internet already had enough articles about this quirky and idiosyncratic masterpiece.

Lunds Sandwich - No joke. Didn't want to be another food blogger, but this thing had turkey, cranberry mayo, swiss and bacon on cinnamon bread. I was in heaven every time I had it. 

That about does it for 2011. It's been phenomenal for me. Thank you so much for reading. I'll see you on the other side. Happy New Year!


Indoor Life

Evening, gang.

The year is coming to an end, faster than I'd care to admit. It's been a huge year for me - getting married, a crazy honeymoon, starting this site, new job, new home. I've done more in one year than I feel I have in the last five. It's been damn good to me. I won't bother you with the typical year-end, best-of lists that are so pervasive this season, though. For me, it's been a time full of office deadlines that demand I keep my head down and just push through, processing invoice after invoice. Super fun stuff, let me tell you. So how do I get through this? By devotedly listening to one of my favorite podcasts - The Indoor Kids, courtesy of Nerdist Industries.
I had long been a listener of 1Up's Retronauts, viewing it in my own mind as a be-all, end-all for gaming. I had a big gap in my video game lexicon, ending in the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era. I didn't go modern until last summer, and that was only because a friend gave me an incredible deal on a 360. That's the thing about getting older - money is no longer the scarcity; time is the valuable commodity now. Getting married and starting a new job consumed most of my free time. When I could steal a free hour, here or there, I would have to make the most of it. Bit by bit, I caught up on what I had missed out on - Biohazard, Arkham Asylum, Alan Wake. Lots of genre specific, niche-heavy titles. I slowly went modern. When my favorite podcast announced a satellite series, hosted by Kumail Nanjiani, I was wary but excited.

Turns out, my curiosity was rewarded.

I had been a fan of Kumail since I had seen his stand up on Comedy Central. He's hysterical and sweet, the kind of comic who can make you howl at jokes about the depths of the ocean ("It's when God says "...and here's all these mistakes I've made!""). His obsessive, devoted appreciation for the world of gaming is so pure and sincere that hours of fantastic content spring forth from his discussions he hosts, both with friend Ali Baker and wife Emily V Gordon. In particular, hearing the married couple's take on gaming is both endearing and fascinating - you get a glimpse not only at how their relationship as writers and comics work, but how gaming is a force in the course of their lives. 
On top of the great hosts, some of the themes and guests they've had for episodes have been unparalleled. There have been down-the-rabbit-hole discussions on Gears of War with voice actor Carlos Ferro, entire episodes dedicated to the discussion of music in gaming, and the overwrought notion of girl gamers. Tom Lennon lead an eye-opening episode on addiction and the time sink that is gaming. I was agog at how Paul Scheer consistently (and without fail) backed the wrong technological horse. Dan Harmon extolled the virtues of evolution and story telling around the merits of Skyrim as it consumed everyone's lives.
I love this podcast and look forward to it every week. Kumail and Emily are top notch and open minded in a field that too often yields nit picking and negativity. If you have any interest at all in the idea of games as a commodity or cultural phenomenon, or just the guests themselves, listen to an episode. I guarantee you'll learn something.



Aw man.

It's always hard to go from vacation mode to work mode. Being a Midwesterner, it was a shock to my system to see so much sun during December, even if it was barely a week. Getting up and going in the total dark, only to return home in said dark, is a wearing task. It forces you to look for solace and comfort in the sunny, exuberant things you wouldn't normally turn to. 
For me, there was relief in digging out an old standard from the oddball days of the alternative 90s. Blasting 'Cannonball' by The Breeders gave me an awesome distraction from the bleak, oppressive and never ending darkness. Also, it's a punchy pop song that may have been cutting edge 20 years ago. Now it just seems like a bit of hipster power-pop. Curse you, ravages of time! 
Screw it. For a year now, I've been realizing, bit by bit, that I have an extreme fondness for all things early 90s. Some of it is so widespread and general that it becomes too hard to connect the dots. Other times, there is a distinct pattern that emerges. I feel like this song, with the loopy bass and clean guitar lick that builds to a wall of distortion, is right in that wheelhouse of songs that stand out as codifiers of the period. All the more amazing is that fact that this legend of alt rock was (at a time) comprised of former Pixie Kim Deal and her sister Kelley. It seems like it wouldn't be fair or possible for someone to make more excellent music after being in such an influential band as The Pixies. We got lucky, apparently.
Look, you think 90s alt rock, you think this song. Probably some Doc Martens in there, and a wacky montage of Gen X-ers painting the camera and doing wacky, ironic things. Sort of a genetic precursor to hipsters. Fitting, then, that this fantastic song would fit in so well in a similarly jaded playlist. Who cares, I love it. Gets me through a dark night to the weekend on the other side.


Diorama-Rama Redux

Hey gang.

So I'm back in my home state, after the holiday travels. I know the content has been a bit wonky, as of late, but I appreciate your patience as I sort things out and revise some of the unfinished/bare-bones posts. In the meantime, let me share with you something that might just be an annual tradition. Back in January I shared a bunch of pictures I took  of toys invading the ceramic village in my parent's basement. This year I did two smaller things. One was a surprise party for a California Raisin:

The second set is of a mugging gone horrible awry. Long and short of it is that I found my old toys in my nephew's toy box and had to do something. This is the result:

Game Off


So that's it for me. The holidays are wrapping up. I'm heading back home after visiting the in laws in their homestead. They've been great hosts and I've had a lot of fun, including an epic round of charades. There's been a plethora of good food with a slew of fresh things for me to read, enjoy and review. In the meantime, while I gear up for tomorrows flight, let me tell you about something fantastic you may have missed.
I didn't have a specific introduction to Lana Del Ray. I was simply driving through uptown, getting ready for the big move I recently endured and listening to The Current on 89.3. A song came on by a young chanteuse that possessed, as the singer chides herself, a certain "gangster Nancy Sinatra" aesthetic. The somber, haunting tune had the young woman moaning and groaning over an idealized but less than perfect vision of love that she was enduring, as chronicled in the track 'Video Games'.
This song kind of caught me off guard. The way Del Ray almost sleepwalks through it gives an air of otherworldly kind of old-timey sadness and melancholy. It can kind of kill a raucous mood if you hear it at the wrong time, but when your own mindset syncs up with this piano-driven number it's solid gold.
'Video Games' is the lead-in to Lana Del Ray's soon to be released debut album. Here's hoping the rest of what she has to offer is just as fresh and moving. I don't care if it all varies from this killer track, I just want the same world weary sound.




Hope all has been well. Hope it's been a swell couple of days for you. I indulged in a rare day off, which hopefully hasn't betrayed me as a slothful layabout. Truth be told, though, there was a sinful amount of lying about today. I took an epic morning nap. I read a long overdue chunk of the Steve Jobs biography. I also had a massive, indulgent meal of sushi with my better half and her sister, photog-extraordinaire Kate Engelmann. It was the kind of meal where they were stuffed and insisted I finish all that was on the table, which is the best kind of present to me - there is no joy like an abundance of sushi to be personally devoured. Usually it comes in smaller, more reasonable portions. Not today. Today I wallowed in fresh fish and rice. 
All of this lay in stark contrast to what happened last night. I was permitted to participate in the in-law's tradition of an annual Xmas movie, this year's choice (or perhaps resignation) was The Descendants. I phrased it as such not because I didn't want to go (to the contrary I adore going to the movies) but because there seemed to be no strong option this year. Having perused the trailers, though, this George Clooney flick seemed to be the strongest contender. Two hours later, the four of us left the theater with somewhat disparate but converging opinions. 
The Descendants is, in a way, your quintessential indie film. You've got Clooney as the charismatic and cantankerous, conflicted lead. There are his troubled, rambunctious daughters who actually provide quite remarkable performances. The plot and setting are both centered around the practical reality of Hawaii instead of our idealized Eden. Then there is Clooney's wife. She's in a coma, having suffered a boating accident that has seemingly brought her life to an end. What unfolds as a result is both terrifyingly visceral and human as well as poignant and funny. It was, though, not a soft and rolling ride.
I really enjoyed the film but I seemed to stand alone in my assessment. My better half didn't really have the wherewithal for this film, especially on Xmas. Her sis was more open to it's tale, with their mother falling closer to my sensibilities. The general consensus, mine included, was that there too little in the movie that served as relief from the soul-crushing sadness. There were times the movies was proudly genuine and heartbreaking. The trailers sold it as more of a quirky comedy, and while there were the occasional moments of levity they were few and far between. A bit more humour would have brought balance to the sine wave of emotional resonance.
Please don't take my callous take on the movie as a total dismissal. There were some great, powerful moments. In particular, Clooney is on fire here as a father, as are the girls playing his daughters. There is a scene early on where he confronts some friends about the futility of his wife's situation that gave me chills due to his delivery, which should be credited to the writer as well. The end was terribly sad, but genuine and believable. It's not a full-on uplifting movie, but The Descendants was a human story with a lot of heart that cut thought the noise and clutter of the holiday offerings by granting peace and silence in its emotional story. Check it out, if you're interested.


Night Wares

Merry Xmas, gang.

Thanks for reading this. It really means the world to me that you would spend any time here. It's been almost a year since I started this project. Hopefully you've found some cool stuff as a result. I know the holidays aren't as fun for everyone else as they are for me, so that's why I broke down my Xmas Xceptions here, to give you a little relief and a dose of levity for the season. So how about one last Xmas Xeception?

Let's pretend, for a minute, that the Goth/Mall crowd didn't co-opt this one.

It's Xmas Eve, and you might be tired of all the Yuletide cheer. I've got just the thing for you. It's something dark, twisted and unlike anything else. Just try to forget about all the obnoxious Tweens sporting cheap jewelry and black nail polish. I'm saying turn off the lights and watch The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I know, it's all old hand by now. But if you try to look at it through fresh, sincere eyes, it's a pretty remarkable and dynamic piece of work. Tim Burton's impeccable blend of Halloween and Christmas hits the intangible sweet spot between childlike wonder and sinister malice. The music is all kinds of amazing and Jack Skellington is an iconic, uniquely strange character that is unlike anything else you'll see around Xmas.

Happy Holidays, kids. Enjoy this weird, special time of year any way you please. All I ask is that you make it as awesome as it can be. It's your own day. Do what you want with it. I'll see you tomorrow!


Home Again

Kevin Mcallister must have been an anti-social nerd.

I realize that this stance on Home Alone sounds harsh, but hear me out. As is the annual tradition, we were watching the 21 year old movie tonight when I noticed a trend in the movie that hadn't picked up on before. You see Kevin building all of his gadgets and traps and have him talking about making ornaments with the forbidden glue gun and his dads new fish hooks.

This all makes for fitting foreshadowing to the madness that follows in the second half of the movie, but it also shows his ingenuity in Macgayver-ing his schemes. The whole thing with the mannequins as a faux party to throw the set bandits off his scent? Inspired stuff, I wouldn't have thought about that now, let alone at eight years old. So his gearhead/crafty nerd side is firmly in place.

But here's the other thing - I don't think Kevin has any friends. Not once in the three day ordeal does he think to call a friend. I'm not saying I'm throwing a ripper the minute my family disappears (actually, I did do that in high school...once) but never in his folly did he think about calling a buddy? Sure, everybody in the immediate neighborhood was out but that doesn't mean Chicago was empty. Furthermore, are there no Jews in Chicago? Not everyone is tied down for the holiday. So no friends came over, not even the kid from across the street, the talky one whose fault it was anyway.

Poor, misunderstood Kevin Mcallister. No friends and a nerdy passion for building contraptions and booby traps. He endured his darkest hour, a Twilight Zone scenario that saw him unleashing his crafty talent to save his own life. The Looney Tunes action turned dark at the last minute, with Joe Pesci threatening to bite of Kevin's fingers. Yeah, it got kind of weird there as the Wet Bandits hit the end of their rope.

They never stood a chance against that adorable little nerd, though.


Did you guys know Juliette Lewis was in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?

That still weirds me out whenever I see that holiday staple. I'm on vacation, taking in one nice meal after another, usually topped off with a Christmas movie. Today had me dining on some superb burgers and splitting a bottle of cab, followed by Christmas Vacation. It's no Citizen Kane or Dark Knight, but it has a lot of nostalgic charm. Since that seems to be my forte, lemme extol the virtues of this weird little movie.

It's really a patchwork affair. The movie plays out like an extended series of skits for the first 2/3rds, only to dovetail into a sub-par 'kidnap the boss and learn the meaning of Christmas' cliche. Still, the stuff that happens before that is a great bit of relatable, and insane moments.
The endless trek into the woods to find the right tree, forgetting the shovel of course. Helping your dad set up the decorations and lights. The sheer insanity of a whole slew of elderly relatives arriving en masse, filling the air with conversations about sores, symptoms and maladies. Pets making a ruckus. Sledding misadventures. Pretty much any horrible or awkward experience you deal with this season has been touched upon by this strange movie from 1989.
It is a strange movie, after all. There's a totally unrelated and unnecessary animated sequence in the beginning. Juliette Lewis is taking the role rotation of the Griswold daughter. Chevy Chase existed as a proto-Pierce Hawthorn. I'm not saying its the best movie, just a fun, cathartic and nostalgic way to deal with the holidays. Enjoy some slapstick and try not to think of all the stuff you have to do before Sunday.


More Untraditional

So yesterday I extolled the virtues of the Futurama episode Xmas Story. Huge fan, I'm all about it. It was a game changer, for sure. The only thing better was the follow up, released a year later. Titled 'A Tale of Two Santas', this episode was even crazier and more over the top than the last. You want to celebrate Xmas? Go over the top with this under the radar episode.
The last Futurama episode had introduced us to the seasons greetings
in the year 3000. This episode sees the cast and crew digging in for their most cathartic and destructive iteration yet. Why observe the holiday in solemn silence when you can see the withered remains of Neptune or the legally mandated execution of a robot in the name of Xmas?
Here's the gist: the Planet Express crew is tasked with delivering letters to Santa, no matter how evil he may be. When the Robot Santa becomes trapped in an ice block, Bender takes on the mantle to become Santa for a night, enduring all forms of torture and mistrust in the process. You come bearing Tri-Ominoes? Good luck escaping unscathed. When he's brought before a jury, everyone in the Planet Express crew has to step up and prove his innocence.
This episode ups the insanity from the previous years Xmas installment in the best way possible. It's bigger. It's badder. The world is more established. The Neptunians are a grim, sobering bunch. Santas workshop is a horrible relentless place. There are more explosions and gunfire. More violence and jokes. Basically the cast and crew figured out there voice and hit it at full stride for this Xmas episode. Plus, a lovely holiday tune that starts with the line "We are free and fairly sober." Super fun stuff.
When people talk about the 'golden period' of Futurama, like they do with the Simpsons, this is an episode that stands out. Just ask Santa's friend Jesus. It's insanity at the best level. Keep reading. We're gonna hit dirt in a couple days...



Well alright, then.

Yesterday's Xmas Xception was on some crazy, ultra-violent stuff, the completely out-there Last Christmas. It's an insane comic that warps the sense of the holiday. Let's continue down that weird tangent, only dialing down the bloodshed. Let's take a look at another of my favorite animated installments, Xmas Story from Futurama.
The best thing about this episode, besides Robot Santa, is that it doesn't even start off as a Christmas episode. Instead, it's set at a ski resort. You have the usual sight gags involving the sport, as well as everyone in ridiculous outfits and a surprise appearance by the head of Conan O'Brien doing a stand up gig at the Catskills. Things begin to switch gears, though, when Fry gets a hankering for Christmases from his past, like the eggnog his dad would make (bourbon and ice) or cutting down a (now extinct) pine tree. Of course, this being a thousand years in the future, no one has any idea what Fry is talking about. They figure he's using an archaic pronunciation of their holiday, Xmas. "You know? X-M-A-S!" The crew of Planet express batten down the hatches for the holiday, as is tradition. This is where things go from good to great. 
The biggest contribution to the holiday season Futurama has made is that of Robot Santa. Made by Mom's Friendly Robot Factory to make the yuletide season more efficient, a programming error put everyone on the naughty list. As a result, the homicidal robot spends every Xmas killing everyone in sight with festive weapons and some robotic reindeer. John Goodman's voice acting is deliciously evil and the imagery of Santa launching rockets on Christmas is too awesome to deny. So while Fry is out looking for a scorned Leela (having inadvertently insulted her and then bought an obnoxious parrot as apology) they both end up dodging missiles and machine gun fire. 
This episode (along with the dynamic follow up) are required viewing in my household every Xmas season. Murderous robots. Bender skiing in a ridiculous hat. Zoidberg on a pogo-stick. Amy and Hermes doing a groan-inducing 'Gift of the Magi' bit. The head of Conan O'Brien. There's just too much awesome on display here. Track it down and see what you've been missing.



This may get kind of weird.

Since I've started down the path of Xmas Xceptions I've tried to keep a loose yet cohesive set of parameters for inclusion. Some of it has been sweet, some of it has been irreverent. How about we get gross and grimy? Let's take a look at a holiday phenomenon that crosses the line when addressing Christmas. It's audacious and awesome. It's The Last Christmas.
Published by Image Comics in 2006, The Last Christmas is a twisted tale of holiday cheer turned vengeance. Written by comedian/writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Dugan, with artwork by Rick Remender, the six-issue series tells the story of the end of the world and how it affects Santa's desire to die. Yes, you read that right. You see, when the zombies rose up from the earth, mankind went to hell. People died off in the millions and marauders took to the highways, stealing all they could and pillaging the remaining clusters of humanity. Still, children believed in Santa so he was able to continue existing. When the marauders make their way to the North Pole, though, tragedy falls upon Santa's village and he falls into a deep, seemingly endless despair. Only after a letter from the last child believing in Santa does he sober up long enough to take action. He decides to kill the last child who believes in him, to bring about his own death.
Merry Christmas, one and all.

This book is deranged. Santa hits the bottle, and hard. The undead devour the living. Snowmen lob ornament-grenades at men in spiked helmets. It's the most original take on Christmas I've ever seen. While Santa may actually waiver on the whole killing-his-last-believers thing, even that it toes that line is bonkers. On top of all the madness is a heart that somehow is sweet and sincere amidst all the bloodletting and zombie-slaying. I don't know how they did it, but this book hits all the wrong notes at just the right time.
The Last Christmas is the perfect sort of cathartic release a person can get for the holidays. Feel uninspired or bored? Feel like you could just snap and knock over a pine tree, decorations and all? Pick up this bizarre, profane and undeniably fantastic comic before the big day. You will never forget it.


Terrace Tale

Well, hello there!

I'm rolling right through the season, having just returned from an early Christmas with my parents and siblings. Had a fantastic time and worked on a special follow up to a post I did earlier this year. But that's for a later date! Instead of that mysterious thing, I want to tell you about an underrated, overlooked Xmas episode from the Simpsons, Miracle On Evergreen Terrace.
Broadcast back in 1997, this episode from season nine is the kind of episode that hits the sweet spot for me. It's not too cloying, not to irreverent and dismissive. It falls right into the pocket of an episode wherein Xmas is a part of the plot, but not the center of the story, followed by a forced special moment. So let's break it down, eh?
Christmas Eve is ending and Bart devises an ingenious way to beat the system - when Marge confiscates all alarm clocks in the house, thereby nixing any chance of waking up and opening presents early, he chugs water like a dying man. His subsequent dream sequence is hilarious and dead on for those horrible nights where you wake up and stumble to the bathroom, by the way. So Bart is the first to rise and opens a present. When this radio controlled toy goes off the rails and causes a small fire, the tree and all the presents melt. Panicking, Bart quickly disposes of the evidence and tells the family they were robbed. Heartbroken and crestfallen, the family doesn't know what to do. Homer hits the guilty, sneaking subconscious urge on the head: "Can *sob* we *sniff* skip *sob* church?" We've all been there.
So Kent Brockman does a feel-good human interest piece on the family and the town opens their hearts and wallets. The Simpson clan make off like bandits. Bart's ball of lies, however, begins to crumble, and when the family finds out what happens, they struggle to maintain the facade. From there on out it's your classic series of misadventures and half-heart conceits, but it's pretty damn funny. It all leads to the townspeople stealing everything in the Simpson family home. Heartwarming stuff.
I love this episode - it's been a staple of my holiday viewing, both for the general plot and the fact that it doesn't play out like your typical Christmas episode. It's out in several forms, including a Christmas collection, single disc release and on iTunes, as well as less reputable places online. Just sayin'. Take a look and see if you get the same strangely fresh take on Christmas that I did from this old and forgotten gem. Xmas is coming, kids.


High Pitched Noises


Xmas Xceptions. Let's do this.

How about a thing that revamps a classic? Sound good? Cool. This may not curry favor with some readers, but I actually am a sucker for the Chipmunks song 'Christmas Don't Be Late'. I don't even know how this happened, to be honest. I think it just happened to be on a holiday collection my mom had and I picked it up through osmosis. My brothers and I used to have a good laugh over how ridiculous it was. Somehow it grew on me and now I find myself singing along when that insipid piece of strangeness, made by one guy back in 1958, comes on the radio. What makes it more palatable is an equally obscure cover of the novelty song by Powder, a long-dissolved Britpop band.
Powder only existed for a few years in the mid 90s, releasing a handful of singles before throwing in the towel. At some point during their brief existence they cut a heavy, melodic (and substantially less cloying) version of 'Christmas Don't Be Late'. Featuring Pearl Lowe's lush vocals, the song became a more relatable, plausible holiday song when re-contextualized. Now instead of pitch-shifted (actually just sped-up) one-man harmonies, it was a heavy, rocking version featuring fully fuzzed, bloated bass lines and the occasional squealing guitar lead. Actually, when they get to the hula-hoop line, it's pretty damn catchy. 
I only came upon this version of the song years after the fact, first as a bit of a guilty pleasure. Now, though, I don't like to think of things I like as guilty pleasures. I just like to own up to what I dig, including an oddball revamp of an oddball song. Sure, call it cutesy or not relevant, but it's a damn sight better than hearing the same 15 or so Christmas songs ad nauseum. Give it a spin and see if it doesn't add a little fresh air to your Xmas Xceptions. Less rodents this season, more guitars.


Controlled Chaos

Well, hello there!

Just gonna pop in a drop a quick post for the day's Xmas Xception. Had an insane week at the office, the kind wherein you find yourself looking forward to a break, not only to stop the madness but to allow the steam to vent. I feel as though there are jets of vapor shooting out of my ears from sheer over exertion. Bad enough it's a crazy week, but then adding the holidays to the mix makes it even crazier. You can't just come home and relax - you've got to finish wrapping presents and start gearing up for holiday travels. No rest for the wicked! 

So how do we unwind? The best way. Community. Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas.
Community is that rare breed of TV show that trusts the audience. They know that if they supply quality writing, a stellar cast and a passionate production team you can hold a steady, devoted audience despite the efforts of a desperate network. They'll shuffle the show all around in the hopes of pulling in blockbuster ratings, but Arrested Development never got huge ratings and it's become the modern hallmark of 'Cancelled Too Soon' despite having ran for three full seasons. So appreciate Community while it lasts! This week had us seeing an encore viewing of last year's Christmas special, Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas.
I adore this particular episode, even within the canon of this amazing show. In it, pop-culture junkie and TV addict Abed loses his grip on reality as the stress of the season gets to him. He beings seeing the world in the manner of the old claymation/RankinBass holiday special. It. Is. Awesome. The study group embraces his madness, if only to gain perspective on how to talk him down from his delusions. John Oliver makes another fantastic appearance as a smarmy, smug wizard. Characters are transformed into holiday archetypes -Pierce a teddy bear, Jeff a Jeff in the box, Annie into a Ballerannie and Troy a toy soldier. Abed's detailed, unhinged world is beautifully sculpted and lovingly made, at once aping the style tongue in cheek and becoming downright poignant by the finale. Plus there's a fantastic dig at Lost's inability to stick the landing that still makes me laugh.
This is one of, if not the best, Christmas special in recent years. It's actually quite sincere despite the pervasive snark. Dan Harmon's little show that could cemented itself as a legitimate force of the medium with this episode, showing there's really nothing they couldn't do when they set out for it. It's available on Hulu for the time being. Do yourself a favor and indulge in some smart, engaging TV for a change this weekend. You deserve a holiday treat.