The Reader's Eye on Television

(Santa arrives. Santa and I greet.)

Ollie: So, Santa, you don't mind if I ask you a question to verify you are the real Santa, do you?

Santa: No, Anthony, not at all.

O: Where's my fire truck, Santa? You know which one I'm talking about.

S: The one you "didn't get"? (Santa makes finger quotes.)

O: I'm still pretty pissed about that.

(Santa furrows his brow.)

S: Your brother stole it from under the tree the morning of Christmas 1980. He realized he couldn't play with it without you telling on him so he threw it in the creek behind Steven Brown's house.

O: That son of a bitch.

S: Hey! (Santa points accusingly at me.) That right there is a big reason you've been on the naughty list since 1987, young man.

O: Okay, sorry. Let's just move on. Toys are pretty complicated these days. When I was a kid there were trucks for the boys and dolls for girls. Now, everything has lights and flashes. How do you pull it off?

S: Do you think our shop is only wooden hammers and chisels for making hobby horses? (Santa laughs.) No, no. We're actually a very advanced production force. Our facility is quite modern -- rivaling most computer companies, actually. The idea that "Oh no, Santa's workshop is antiquated. He can't keep up, and the spirit of Christmas will die if we don't, blah, blah, blah" is all just Hollywood fantasy. It keeps the movie industry going around this time of year.

O: That brings me to my next question. How do you pay for all of this? You have the largest manufacturing business in, well, in the history of man. How do you keep it all running on zero pay?

S: Zero pay? Ha! You think I do this on milk-and-cookie wages? You watch TV for a living. You tell me.

O: Endorsements.

S: Endorsements. Sprite, Circuit City, Coca Cola. My word, the money those Coke people pay me. (Santa looks out the window.) And they're almost all on the naughty list too. That's the irony of it. Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, NBC. They all want a piece of ol' Kris Kringle, come about July. But nobody wants to sit down and just behave. Whatever. (Santa looks disgusted.)

(I look away and down a little. Santa notices this even before I do.)

S: It's okay, Anthony. It's not too late. Just stop with this cursing and carrying on with the drugs and that sort of thing. Look, there's an extra DVD of this season's American Chopper at the North Pole. There might even be a fire truck up there if you can stop objectifying women.

O: Can I have a copy of The Winner's Guide to Texas Hold 'Em Poker, too?

S: That! You see? That, right there, is what we were just talking about!


Thursday December 23 The Santa Clause (1994)

KGTV 10, 8:00 p.m.

Tim Allen summons his comedic talent to help Santa Claus out after Saint Nick takes a swan dive off of a roof. I know what you're all thinking, "There's no such thing as 'Tim Allen's Comedic Talent,'" but if we wish real hard, put milk and cookies out, and go right to bed after dinner, maybe this movie will stop being programmed each holiday season and drift back into relative obscurity where it belongs.

Chris Isaak Christmas, a Soundstage Special KPBS 11, 9:00 p.m.

If you bite down on the tinfoil wrapper from your Christmas candy it'll shoot a small electrical current through the fillings in your teeth and leave a metallic taste in your mouth. If your cat eats wheatgrass it'll spray waves of bright green puke from its heaving stomach onto your kitchen floor. If you mix vanilla, khaki, and taupe together you get the Chris Isaak Christmas special, ready and waiting for when you're fresh out of tinfoil and wheatgrass.

Saturday, December 25 World's Strongest Man Competition Marathon

ESPN2 28, 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Make this special holiday even better with a Christmas martini and a strongman marathon! You'll need three ounces of gin, half an ounce of dry Vermouth, one teaspoon of peppermint schnapps, and ESPN. Shake the first three ingredients with some cracked ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish your concoction with a candy cane and tune in to watch these abominations-of-nature lift giant rocks. Mmmmm...just like Mom used to make.

Sunday, December 26 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

10:00 a.m.

At the Sunshine Company there are 400 TVs all tuned to six different games on Sunday morning. I can never tell which channel the Steelers or the Chargers are on, but it doesn't matter because we're drinking pitchers of the good stuff. By the time Pittsburgh has played and we catch the end of the Charger game, I've slipped from a warm buzz into "I hope I don't wet myself." My roommate Kip does a drunken victory lap around the bar in his Roethlisberger jersey and gets high-fives from the other displaced Pennsylvanians.

Desperate Housewives ABC 10, 10:00 p.m.

Rigor mortis has already set into this show's lifeless body. Now all that's left to do is dump it in the street and let a six-foot-tall supermodel run over it in her minivan as she takes her kid to soccer practice. Luckily, I know just where such plot lines and statuesque women cavort. (This week's episode is the pilot that started the whole mess.)

Monday, December 27 That '70s Show

FOX 6, 6:30 p.m.

Because moths think light bulbs are the moon, they naturally gravitate to light bulbs. Because I'm an idiot, I cannot help myself but to stare at a television if it is on. I had the misfortune of eating dinner with friends on the back porch of an Ethiopian restaurant that used a TV to entertain and calm the visiting kiddies. I can't tell you who I was with or what we talked about, but I know that Fez's goddamned girlfriend works at the DMV. Super. There's something I'll think about while I'm dying and I should be remembering who I spent this life with.

Seinfeld FOX 6, 7:30 p.m.

My father wanders around, waters the lawn, and does dishes while he watches TV. He can't stand anything that requires his attention. He just likes to walk through the front room and see someone fall or glue themselves to a table or something equally stupid. Consequently, Seinfeld was banned in my household during its original run from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s. If I tried to watch it, Dad would come in from outside and change the channel, saying only, "This is a terrible show. All they do is talk," as he turned around and headed back out to the garage. I'm trying to catch up so I can hold my own when the conversation inevitably turns to, "Do you remember, on that one Seinfeld..."

Tuesday, December 28 MAD TV

COMEDY 48, 8:00 p.m.

It really isn't an effort to be the least-funny channel in history; it just seems that way. Comedy Central's executive officers were on a yacht in the South Pacific sometime last year when the head honcho said, "I don't want to eat lobster exclusively, but I want it at every meal. Maybe lobster and eggs for breakfast, then a lobster salad, and steak and lobster for dinner, every day. I want a diamond-studded lobster for my wall, and one for my lawn. Now, you fellas are going to get me there."

"I've got it!" shouted a VP. "We'll just buy shitty sketch comedies that other networks don't want and rerun them constantly. We don't have to pay for new product development, and we'll charge the same for commercials, now that everyone watches us for South Park and The Daily Show."

"Oh, ho, ho. Martin, you've just won yourself a Tiffany lobster lamp for your Christmas bonus."

Wednesday, December 29 MythBusters

DSC 35, 9:00 p.m.

Quickly running out of myths to debunk, the crew of this program has resorted to just making shit up. What was once the simple, straightforward Pepsi and Pop Rocks controversy is now an elaborate scheme involving goldfish and trombones that no one has ever heard of.

Thursday, December 30 The Birdcage (1996)

BRAVO 42, 8:00 p.m.

Now that the reality TV season has wound down and we're between holidays, the big networks are going to run a lot of crap marathons. Joey, CSI, The O.C., and whatever other unwatchable drivel they've barely stitched together. Rebel. Watch something good.

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