Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the Sixth Day of The Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2021! Last time we reached our peak with a gorgeous and evocative Soviet-era production based on a beloved holiday classic from Russian literature. Today we scrape the bottom of the Shitmas barrel with a low-interest, low energy, last gasp of a Christian-themed program most people today only know through found-footage montage videos on YouTube. What can we say? We all have our ups and downs, our good days and bad. Sometimes a healthy bowel movement, sometimes none at all. Shitmas, like life, can be capricious and unnerving, and sometimes it can be so labored and plodding it can leave you wondering if it's even worth the effort at all.

Don't forget to schedule your Christmas colonoscopy!

We're posting a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day beginning December 3rd, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning. Surely, you've noticed our new Secret Santa sneaky link feature by now? It's not the kind of sneaky link where you married a fine man shortly after college, but that was seventeen years and two children ago and things have gotten stale, and your old roommate Sheila with whom you did some "experimenting" in your sophomore year moved back to town a couple of months ago, and when she invited you to catch up over a glass of wine one night, one thing kind of led to another and now it's become a weekly thing. No, it's just a plain old sneaky link hidden in one of the screenshots, leading to a weird or scary depiction of Santa Claus we may or may not have found on a black market site on the dark web and had to purchase using crypto.

Much like Cab Calloway when he sang St. Louis Blues, there's two people in this world I just can't stand. For Cab it was a two-faced woman and a lyin' man. For me it's anyone who can fold a fitted sheet perfectly while smugly insinuating it's the easiest thing in the world, and priggish persons of ostentatious faith who never shut the fuck up about Jesus. You know the sort. They just can't seem to make it through a single sentence without name dropping him like he's their exclusive BFF, and he calls them up and texts them and brings them nachos and takes them on bible-themed cruises with day-trips to the Holy Land. Can I get an "amen?"

Feel free to send a little hate-mail my way, but let me just clarify that I am not taking the piss out of Christians in general or especially the J-man himself. Although I am a Godless heathen, who with each of successive review here at MMT is paving, brick by infernal brick, a pernicious road to eternal perdition for myself, my wife is a woman of firm faith in Jesus from a deeply religious family, very active in her Episcopal church and lives a life of love, compassion and peaceful resistance to social injustice. Her mother is a devout Catholic who attends mass at least twice weekly and is, quite frankly, one of the finest people I have ever had the good fortune to know. Her father was a man of true and honest faith, a deacon at their church for thirty-nine years, whom I miss very much and was deeply privileged to have known. There are certainly no lightweight, spiritual dilettantes in the Weaver clan.

The folks I take umbrage with are the ones who shove their faith in your face like a hunk of limburger cheese and insist you take a deep, penetrating whiff of their self-satisfied sanctimony. It's mostly and vangie/fundie thing, I think, and as I explored in last year's Day Six offering Colby's Clubhouse: It's Almost Christmas, it really gets up my nose.

Is it me, or are Christian kids' shows super fucking weird?

When I chose today's special I was only familiar with its titular hero Gerbert from a series of found footage edits by the borderline geniuses over at Everything is Terrible, and from those I learned two basic facts. First, Gerbert is an idiot. Second and more concomitant to my point here, Gerbert loves both God and Jesus with all his plush, poly-filled heart. Imagine my shock, surprise and disappointment when I watched Gerbert: The Gift of Giving, a Christian-themed Christmas special, mind you, and found that neither God nor Jesus got a single solitary shout-out in the entire show.

Even the "G" in his name is a "J.C." for Christ's sake!

Granted, this was the final episode of the final season of the show, and it does have the distinct aroma of a project that everyone involved in was ready to be done with and move the fuck on. The energy and enthusiasm here are so infinitesimally small they cannot be traced by even the most sensitive Fucks Given detection equipment known to modern technology. It drudges along almost imperceptibly in a languid, soporific haze, and the moral and spiritual challenge it presents is not so much "What Would Jesus do?" as "Could Jesus Stay Awake Long Enough to Find Out?"

I know I couldn't. I fell asleep three times, but then I am a mere mortal--and an inveterate sinner, too.

The opening credits are 90's screensaver quality CG and take place underwater in a fishbowl for reasons I do not care to understand. The theme song, "I Wanna Spend the Day With You," sung by our protagonist, is surprisingly not entirely terrible, but it is terribly derivative. It's got that rockin' Bo Diddley beat and reminds me a little of The Strangeloves' 1965 hit "I Want Candy," but without the cheeky sexual subtext. Gerbert is cheeky enough already. Seriously, he looks like an acorn-stuffed chipmunk.

We open with Gerbert standing beside a shipwreck, as if he's living inside the fishbowl from the credits, and again I can't bring myself to dig deeper and find out why because this one episode has already taken up more of my life than I wish to spare. His stuffed lion Rory is there, too, and Gerbert tells us they're both just so very happy we could join them for today's episode, but before we get started, he has something to show us.

Is it the den where you store your seeds and nuts?

We cut to what was ostensibly a regular feature of the show, "Dot and Dash," featuring a pair of sighing, mumbling, minimalist hand puppets, one red, one green, who perform simple plays against a black background to New-Age space music, which is a little bit peculiar because I always thought fundies considered New-Age music to be Satanic. Today they're making a snowman.

Dot & Dash, seen here tamping down their balls.

They give the thing an appraising eye and find it somehow lacking, so they clamber off-camera and return with a couple of paint brushes, adding eyes, a mouth and some buttons with one, and a carrot-colored nose with the other. Two more brushes bring fresh colors and a hat and scarf for Mr. Snowman, and voila! He's all done and ready to come to life and start himself a Crowley-esque Satanic cult.

Is that really the best they can do?

And that's it from Dot and Dash. We cut to a commercial, and when we return we're in the middle of Gerbertsville, USA, or whatever the town is called, where a five-strong choir of stuperous carolers drowsily murmur the first few lines of "Joy to the World" on Gerbert's porch, then slowly drift away like a gaggle of sleepwalkers heading back to the hotel to climb back into bed. This group will be used as a framing device for various scenes throughout, like a Greek chorus that only just now woke up and hasn't yet had its morning coffee.

Inside Gerbert is in his pajamas, excitedly telling Rory that Christmas is almost here! He suggests to the inert plush toy that they should get off their butts and trim their tree, and naturally they can't possibly do that without a song. I should mention that Gerbert's bedroom is freaking enormous and seems to take up the entire house, and since we never see his parents or anyone else taking care of him, or indeed anyone else in this place ever, it's apparent that he lives there alone. More on that later.

It looks like an unusually well-furnished barn.

So the song is called "Christmas Time is Here Again," and again, it's not as awful as I would have expected. It does feel out of place with the rest of the special, though, because it's upbeat and has a little pep to it, but don't panic! It'll be over soon.

It's the last episode, pal. Everything will be over soon.

The song ends and we fade to the center square of the town in which Gerbert lives, where the choir of five is now down to four, with one of them having collapsed in a snowdrift somewhere between Gerbert's barn and here. They sing about four bars of "Noel" then wander off again, humming wearily, shuffling zombie-like into the fog-drenched winter's night.

The guy in the fedora might actually be snoring.

We zoom over to Gerbert in his yellow coat and fuzzy earmuffs, longingly gazing through a toy shop window at a fire engine, muttering to himself about the unparalleled magnificence of its shiny red finish, its battery-operated lights and its realistic emergency siren sounds. Indeed, the siren song of the thing is so irresistible to the mump-cheeked moppet he muses aloud that if this one toy were the only Christmas present he got that year, he would still be happy.

Just then a woman comes out of the toy shop to tape a hand-printed sign on the window.

I have special needs that require a little love in action, if you know what I mean.

Gerbert and I apparently have something in common, because he reads the sign aloud and says to her "I have a special need!" Then he points at the fire engine and explains, "It's really special and I need it!"

The woman laughs at the little scamp's greed and ignorance, then condescendingly explains that it doesn't quite work that way in the real world. You see, this is a program for people who've lost their jobs or had a long illness or some other situation that's left them in dire financial straits. The more donations of food, toys and clothes they get, she explains, the more broke folk they'll be able to help have a wonderful Christmas.

"Then we can all ignore them again for twelve whole months!"

Having vainly attempted to educate him about the oft-neglected moral obligations of a capitalist society, she indulges his tiny whims for a moment by acting like she gives a shit about what he wants for Christmas, and he waxes rhapsodic again, assuring her he put that magnificent fire truck right at the top of his list.

She tires of his tone-deaf avarice and excuses herself to go put up more signs, so she can hopefully help some people who really need and deserve it, but as she exits she also adds cryptically "the nice thing about Christmas is it's full of surprises!"

As Gerbert heads inside the store for a closer look at the apple-red plastic apple of his plastic eye, we fade to another commercial.

When we return a Dad and his Kid are walking in the square, pausing in front of "Kiser's General Store." The Kid glances up at the place and says "Don't worry, dad, I'm sure he's looking for some extra help!" Then heads straight next door to the toy shop and starts ogling the same fire engine Gerbert was practically creaming his dungarees over before the break. The Kid offers hopefully "It sure would look good under our tree!" but Dad explains that he doesn't even know if Mr. Kiser will give him work, what with his alcoholism and all, and even if he does they'll have lots of other things to buy before toys. Alcohol, for example. The Kid cries "But dad, it's Christmas..." and if whining like an entitled little bitch could make money fall from the sky they'd both be millionaires.

It doesn't and they're not.

Dad explains "I know it's hard for you to understand..." then embarks on a long, rambling diatribe about the collapse of the manufacturing sector, deep cuts to unemployment benefits and lack of effective occupational retraining programs under the George W. Bush administration.

"An honest day's work for an honest day's pay means nothing in this country anymore. Remember that, son."

The Kid apologizes for being a greedy, ungrateful, dead-weight drag on the family budget, and Dad heads off into old man Kiser's general store to see if the old rascal has a few odd jobs for a hard-drinking but essentially honest man who's just trying to feed his family and maybe score a little Mad Dog for the holidays.

The boy lingers at the toy shop window, gazing longingly at the fire engine, and who should step out of the place but Gerbert, with his cheeks still swollen by some rare glandular imbalance and raving about the many wonders the toy can perform with a couple of AA batteries and a little bit of imagination. Gerbert avers once again that it's at the top of his Christmas list, but the Sad Sack Kid's shoulders sink and he sheepishly admits "I didn't even make a list this year."

"What're you a fucking moron?"

As the impenetrable Gerbert tries to figure out what the hell is this Kid's major malfunction, Dad steps back out of Kiser's store and notices the "Love in Action" sign.

"Special needs," he mutters, shaking his head, "I guess that's us this year," and with that self-piteous admission he collects his son so they can go eat cold beans right out of the can and reminisce about the before-times, when any man with two strong hands could find work digging coal, building bridges or giving another man a deep-tissue massage with a happy ending at the special bookstore on the other side of town.

Gerbert, meanwhile has a sad. When he was singing his Christmas song earlier he proclaimed that everybody's face was bright during the holidays, but now the veil has lifted and he sees the dark realities of economic inequity, unemployment, and how financial stress can lead even a God-fearing family man down the path to self-loathing, petty thievery and prostitution.

"Everything I've ever known is a lie."

After another commercial break we fade to a house in town where a Mom, a Girl and the Sad Sack Kid from the toy shop window are listening to the radio and making popcorn wreathes...and if you listen very carefully with headphones on and the volume turned all the way up you can just barely hear the voice on the radio say something that maybe sounds like "Jesus," but I can't be 100% sure.

Mom tells the Girl she's doing a fine job stringing the kernels, but the Sad Sack Kid, his tandem blinders of ignorance and comfort now torn forever from his once-innocent eyes, has become hard and pragmatic. He barks at his sister that it's stupid to make these garlands when they don't even have a tree to put them on, and what with the wolves of starvation already growling at their door, perhaps they should be eating the fucking popcorn, instead of hanging it up on the bare walls of a home they'll soon be evicted from anyway.

The Girl shouts back at him that if he can't say anything nice he should probably become a Republican.

"Mic drop, biatch!"

Mom steps in to restore the peace. She knows its hard, she tells them, but they've been through hard times before, what with Dad's alcoholism and all, and they've always gotten through it by pulling together as a family and secretly stealing and eating the neighbors' chickens.

It's a fine, rousing theory. If only the woman playing Mom hadn't had the acting ability of a lump of cold lard I might have even made some small effort to pretend to care.

She thinks a thespian is a lesbian with a lisp.

Just then Dad comes in with a wee-tiny tree he probably stole from the same neighbor whose chickens they've been enjoying. He sets it up and they begin to decorate, forgetting for the nonce the rumbling of their stomachs, the spareness of their furnishings and the bitter cold that will soon invade their home when their last gallon of heating oil runs dry.

We fade to the chorus again, who have finally accepted how they're compelled to walk the Earth, like Isaac Laquedem, until the second coming of the well-known messiah who shall not be named in this program. They have returned to this familiar town square to continue their eternal piecemeal oratoria, but two lines of "Holy Night" later they shuffle away again into the cold and damp, hoping against hope that this may be the year in which He is reborn and they may finally cease their weary perambulations.

They're still singing, even today.

Once they've gone and it's finally safe for the other citizens to walk the streets again, lest they be bewitched and forced to join their choir, the Love In Action lady steps out of the toy shop with a gift-wrapped package. She calls back in to assure the unseen proprietor that "Gerbert's gonna love this!"

Just then the puffy-faced poltroon himself appears and the Love Lady must quick hide the box under her coat and turn her face to the wall, so he won't see it or recognize her. He heads to the window, sees that the fire engine is gone, and droops as flaccid as a post-coitus erection.

Love Lady asks what happened to his Christmas spirit, and tellingly he replies, "Someone bought it," which may be the most unintentionally insightful joke about holiday consumerism I've ever heard. Gerbert is crestfallen, gutted, chewed-up, spat-out and picked over by scavengers over the loss of this petty thing he hadn't yet gained. He compulsively relays to her the official product description of the toy, right down to the model number and the page on which it appeared in the holiday toy catalog.

"I like fire engines. Do you like fire engines?"

Love Lady decides to fuck with him a bit, saying "Well, it was right there just the other day," but seeing how genuinely upset he is about it she backs off from her teasing and and hands him the box, saying she hopes it will cheer him up, and exhorting from him a promise not to open it until Christmas morning. Gerbert is confused, saying she didn't have to give him a present since they're not even related or anything, but Love Lady tells him that giving presents to anyone you like is what Christmas is all about.

That's an odd theological position for a Christian program to espouse.

Later on Gerbert is back home talking with Rory the stuffed lion about all the wonderful presents he has under his tree. There's the one from Love Lady, one from Mr. Kiser at the general store, one allegedly from Mr. Wigglesworth, whom the all-seeing, all-knowing inter-webs tell me is Gerbert's goldfish (which explains the underwater credits and fishbowl pirate ship at the beginning, now that I think of it), the next two are from Gerbert to Gerbert, and the next one is from Rory...and that's it. There's nothing from his parents, nothing from his family, nothing even labeled as being from Santa Claus, and clearly the gifts from Rory and the goldfish are just additional gifts to himself, all of which bolsters my tragic theory about who he really is and why he lives alone: I believe Gerbert is a Cabbage Patch Kid who came to life and never got adopted.

Cabbage Patch Kids, for those who don't already know, were one of the most widely-sought-after toys of the 1980's, particularly for the first three years following their mass-market debut in 1982, but by the end of that decade they'd become more of a niche product for toy collectors.

They were allegedly "born" inside cabbages that had been pollinated with magic crystals by rabbit-eared "BunnyBees," and harvested by a guy named Xavier, who claimed to have created the dolls but who actually stole the designs from a Kentucky-based folk artist to whom he later payed an undisclosed settlement. The dolls came already named with "birth certificates" and "adoption papers," and if you wanted to change the name there was an official process for doing so.

Oddly, their popularity with adults eventually outpaced and outlasted their transient appeal to children.

As far as my theory about Gerbert being a Cabbage Patch Kid, well just hear me out...

Exhibit A.

First off, as you can see above he looks likes one, with his beesting-swollen cheeks and big, dopey eyes. Secondly, he's the only living doll or puppet in a community of normal humans. Third--and crucially--he has no parents or family and lives completely alone.

I submit to the jury that Gerbert started as a plain old Cabbage Patch Kid who had the shitty luck to end up in the self-same small-town toy shop we've seen him hanging around outside of in this very episode. Perhaps he was one of a shipment of Cabbage Patch Kids, the rest of which were all sold, or perhaps he came in on backorder, long after the Christmas rush of 1982, when fewer people were looking to add one of these rather homely toys to their collections.

At some point Gerbert came to life, perhaps due to a visit from that inveterate trickster the Fairy Snow Queen, but because a talking doll in general is objectively terrifying and unnatural, and because Gerbert specifically is personally unattractive and annoying, nobody wanted to take him home.

Still, the good people of Gerbertsville felt kind of sorry for the butt-ugly little aberration of nature, and when the toy shop owner wanted to move him along to make shelf space for some Nintendo Game Boys he could actually make some money with, old man Kiser from the General Store offered to put Gerbert up in his barn for a while, at least until either someone bit the bullet and adopted him or he found someplace else to go. Nine years later he was still there, more-or-less tolerated by the townsfolk, yet too freakish and ugly to be fully accepted by them, condemned to live in a lonely fantasy world, endlessly chattering to himself, dreaming his dreamy puppet dreams, with his stuffed lion and his goldfish his only true friends.

Then his show got cancelled and he ended up in a landfill in New Jersey...just like Jimmy Hoffa.

Anyway it's time for another song!

Gerbert figures out from the shape and size of the box that Love Lady's gift is the fire engine he's been dreaming about. At first, he's super excited, but then he remembers the Sad Sack Kid and his deadbeat alcoholic Dad. He realizes he's already got more presents than he needs, so he sings a little ditty called "Christmas is for Sharing."

Even as the final, haunting strains are still echoing in our ears he writes up a new gift tag for the box and tells Rory that he's going out...because he's got something important to do.

Back downtown the Chorus is just finishing up last few lines of "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem" before heading out to haunt the next small town's square with their gaunt, ghost-like visages and charnel musical stylings.

"How we long for the eternal peace of death's sweet caress."

Gerbert finds Love Lady at a folding table surrounded by care packages and gift baskets, preparing to nobly distribute these festive charitable donations to the least of her fellow townsfolk. She's surprised to see him out on Christmas Eve, and more surprised still when he returns the gift she had given him earlier that day and asks her to give it to Sad Sack Kid instead, whom he insists needs it more than he does because it might be the only present he gets.

Snark aside, it's an extremely sweet gesture, and as somebody who works in the non-profit sector, often partnering with charitable organizations around the holidays, it gets me right in the feels. Well, what few feels I have left after working at MMT for the past four and a half years.

Later, we see Love Lady at the home of the crappy actress Mom, deadbeat alcoholic Dad and their children, with everyone smiling as they watch the Sad Sack Kid open his present and go completely fucking over-the-top apeshit.

He's happy today, but tomorrow he'll have to burn it to keep warm.

And so, we fade back to Gerbert, sitting in his bedroom window and watching the snow fall in the vast field beyond, musing that he is a mere living toy in a flesh-and-blood world, who shall be forever pitied as an unnatural abomination. He sings a brief, sleepy reprise of the opening number, then stares into the frigid night, wondering if there are others like him somewhere out there, and if he'll perhaps get to meet some of them when he moves to Jersey City next month after the production shuts down. A puppet can dream, can't he?

The End.

Shitmas Bonus!
Magic Crystal Valley!

Here's an object lesson in why investing in fad toys is not a prudent way to fund your retirement: Magic Crystal Valley is the world's only Cabbage Patch Kids museum, with a collection of over 5,000 toys and 3,000 bits of CPK memorabilia. Its proprietors, Pat and Joe Prosey literally bet the farm on it, and having long-since sold their southern Maryland home to fund their lumpy, puff-faced doll addiction. They now live in a trailer attached to the museum.

Whatever makes you happy, I suppose.

Magic Crystal Valley began as an officially licensed Cabbage Patch Kids "Adoption Center" but when the brand went into decline in 1989 it became a shrine to the fickle nature of consumer tastes instead.

That's a lot of ugly dolls.

The couple continued to purchase the toys, including some rare specimens for as much as $10k a pop, but since 2015 they've been trying to sell the whole kit-and-caboodle, which they believe to be worth nearly $900,000.

If you're interested, you can adopt the whole collection for the bargain-basement, everything-must-go price of only $360,000.

"Golly! This sure looks different from the brochure!"

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 15th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2021.

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