The Reader's Eye on Television

"We need to talk. Come into my office, please," I say, and I switch off my Bluetooth earpiece. "Of course, Anthony. It is a lovely office."

"Don't blow smoke up my underpants," I say. Rounding my large mahogany desk, I sidestep and pull myself into my black, Italian leather, ergonomic office chair. "And, it's Mister Olivieri; let's keep this professional."

"Ho ho ho. Of course, Mister..."

"Let's cut to the chase, Santa. Your performance has been lackluster this year."

From a side drawer to my right I pull out a round compact mirror and check my hair. I want it just right for this meeting. I replace the mirror and shut the drawer.

Santa slumps into a seat opposite mine. He touches the cold, reflective surface of my shiny brass nameplate with a white-gloved finger.

"Don't touch that," I command. With my left hand, I swivel the 21-inch plasma monitor so Santa can see it. "Let's look at the projections, Mr. Claus."

"Ho ho ho. You can call me Santa."

"Mr. Claus, if you look at our digitally rendered, Mercator projection map, you'll see that your popularity is dropping, not only in regions not traditionally associated with Christmas, but in North America and Europe as well."

Santa smiles, puts an index finger next to his nose, and winks. "Well, the spirit of Christmas is..."

"Santa, let me put it to you this way: you were once a commodity, but you have become a liability. We foresee that in the winter quarter of 2007, you'll actually cost us money instead of generating revenue."

Santa blusters in his seat, and tiny bells on his jacket jingle. "Christmas isn't about profit and losses. Christmas is about..."

"Save it for the made-for-TV movies, you dinosaur. Actually," I pause and touch my lip, "dinosaurs may not be a bad idea for a new Christmas mascot." I make a mental note to have Jimmy look into that for me.

"But, Mrs. Claus and I..."

"Santa, let me be frank. S.A.N.T.A., Inc. is going in a new direction this year." I open a video player on the computer monitor and a flashing, swirling graphic power promotion animation fills the screen. At the end of the 30-second spot, in sleek, silver lettering, a banner appears that reads, "America's Holiday Icon: Who Will Be the Next Santa?"

"What is that?" Santa asks.

"It's a reality television program. Our focus groups..."

"But, I'm the real Santa."

"Not anymore. You can audition with the rest of the contestants. Santa," I say, and give him the finger. "You're fired."

Thursday, December 21 Gunsmoke

TVLand 9:00 a.m. For Christmas, I got a cap gun, fringed leather vest, and a pair of boots. I've shelved my Incredible Hulk underwear in favor of a more classic design of choo choos; they go better with the western theme. I'm willing to sacrifice a little authenticity to wear my tablecloth cape. All I need now is a cowboy hat, and I'll be the rootinest, tootinest, downright orneriest cowpoke superhero this town has ever seen. Hyeaw! Get along little doggies!

Poisonous Women

DTIMES 7:00 p.m. Not only are they poisonous, but they also have strong hind legs and jaws. They hunt in packs and are most dangerous when cornered. My dad told me if I never get close enough to see one of their horns, I'll live a long and happy life. My buddy, Tommy, said if you put a small rock in one of their ears, they'll get confused enough to let you pet them, but I've never tried it. They scare the livin' daylights out of me.

Friday, December 22 Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Family 7:00 p.m. Oh, no you don't. You back that red-nosed bastard right up. New Year's Eve is for wearing your own ass as a hat and waking up with your nose on the asphalt. None of these cutesy, anthropomorphized, claymation Christmas animals have any business buttin' into my holiday. Except Frosty. He can party like a cross between Hunter Thompson and Lindsay Lohan.

Saturday, December 23 Sports Stars of Tomorrow

Fox 11:00 a.m. I'm a sports star of tomorrow. If competitive eating is a sport, then why not competitive bellybutton-lint picking? Those bastards at the Olympic Committee may have slammed the door in my face and, yes, my shoulder still hurts from where that security guard grabbed and pinched me, but they'll hear me. They'll hear me loud and clear when I protest the 2008 games by unleashing an entire sheep from my navel. Bastards.

Rug Gallery Extravaganza

HSN 3:00 p.m. I imagine the Home Shopping Network as Fezzini from The Princess Bride , and he keeps saying "extravaganza" instead of "inconceivable." Like "It's a rug gallery extravaganza!" Until Inigo Montoya says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Sunday, December 24 A Hobo's Christmas

CW 1:00 p.m. Pretty much every Christmas I've celebrated since I was 14 has been "a hobo's Christmas." Waking up in a strange boxcar or jail cell. Wondering about the origin of that faint smell of urine. Is it me? Was it Rudolph? Hoping for the best Christmas gift ever -- that the rash in my armpit would clear up -- and being disappointed upon initial morning inspection, but keeping the Christmas spirit anyway. Oh, take me back. Take me back.

Monday, December 25 A Very Soapy Christmas

ABC 2:00 p.m. Okay. Okay. I can be a total jerk most of the time, but I'll be cool. Sure, I don't celebrate this holiday, but it's fun for a lot of people, and even though I pretend I was hatched in the desert from a lizard mother or I sprang fully formed from the head of Charles Bukowski, the truth is I was a kid once, too. And the night before Christmas when I was a young 'un was all anticipation and happy thoughts. So, go ahead, have a good time today. Enjoy your time off, relax with your friends or family, and have a sip of a peppermint martini or tea or something and feel warm. You know, like when you were a kid.

Tuesday, December 26 Equestrian -- Spruce Meadows

FSW1 3:00 p.m. All right. All right. Enough of the touchy-feely holiday crap. Back to being myself. I say, to hell with horses. Next!

Wednesday, December 27 Avatar: The Last Airbender

Nickelodeon 6:30 p.m. I don't know what this is, but I'm going to start using it as my main excuse. You know, when my girlfriend says, "You sick pig. Can't you wait until we're out of the car?" I'll tell her I'm the last one and that I was "bending the air." The fate of the world rests in the seat of my jeans.

Thursday, December 28 Green Acres

TVLand 5:00 p.m. You'll notice that TV got weirder and weirder as consciousness-expanding drugs pervaded society. If there's one thing the Reagan administration did, it was to rein in this phenomenon. The "Just Say No" War on Drugs sidetracked bizarre television and replaced it with Bill Cosby's ugly sweaters for a while. I mean, there was a talking pig in Green Acres and that was 30 years ago. If we'd continued in that vein unchecked, TV would be incomprehensible, like Italian films about clowns. Sure, it's more fun to be goofed up on the good stuff, but you've got to come down once in a while. Let's have some coffee and work through the hangover instead of hitting the baggie again. That sort of thing.

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