Monday, December 3, 2012

Yuletide TV Day 3: That 70's Show

Series: That 70's Show

Episode: S4E12 "An Eric Foreman Christmas"

Original airdate: Dec. 18, 2001

Santa? Claymation Santa

Other holidays mentioned: None

Availability: Netflix

Unique Christmas Story:
First of all, I love shows that alter their opening credits for Christmas episodes, and few sound as good as this:

That 70's Show has a surprisingly good run of Christmas episodes throughout its eight seasons. That might not seem like much, but I was surprised when preparing for this series of post that many shows shy away from big Christmas episodes. Think of Friends, that show has a number of memorable Thanksgiving episodes, but how many people could name more than one Christmas episode? And I bet even fewer could claim they actually liked it (I'm looking at you, Holiday Armadillo).

What's even more surprising is that this season of That 70's Show actually used a great Christmas premise in its season opener. "It's a Wonderful Life" featuring Wayne Knight as Eric Foreman's is perhaps one of the best episodes of the entire series. But the reason it works is because it is taken out of the Christmas context.

For their actual Christmas episode, That 70's show decides to riff on another holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Eric takes on the role of Charlie Brown in this episode, after being elected by his mother to direct the church Christmas pageant after she believes he has lost his Christmas spirit (see I told it wouldn't be the last). But unlike Joan from yesterday, Eric actually takes to the opportunity of rekindling his love of Christmas. However, while Charlie Brown had to deal with a group of friends who were simply uncooperative, Eric has to deal with friends who think they are too cool to get wrapped up in the joy of the holiday.

Undercutting Eric's story is one on the other end of the spectrum. While Eric is looking to find his Christmas spirit, Kelso is positively bursting with it, much to the annoyance of the rest of the gang.

All Kelso wants to do is watch those classic Christmas specials (like the ones I said I was going to ignore). His friends mock him for being childish, and in a great dream sequence, Kelso is forced to confront his conflicted feelings over the Christmas.

The C-plot of this episode goes to the adults. Bob, forever lonely, puts up a gaudy Christmas display next to the Foreman household complete with sound effects. Red takes it upon himself to steal the display and put it in a dumpster behind the liquor store. It's pretty simplistic, but a nice piece to go along with the rest of the episode. I forgot how good Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith were as Kitty and Red. There is reason CW shows phase out the parents and these two stuck with the show for its entire run, they can be just as funny and interesting as the younger actors the show is focused on.

Anyone who has seen A Charlie Brown Christmas knows how this episode will play for Eric, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The characters age means they get to make some edgier jokes and the references to A Charlie Brown Christmas extend beyond the similarities in plot. It's a nice take on a familiar story, with just enough differences to keep it interesting.

Unique Christmas Message:
No one is ever too old to enjoy Christmas.

Watch the episode and hit the comments with your thoughts.

Take a trip across the pond for a Christmas episode that isn't quite that.

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