Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the Tenth Day of our second annual The Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration. Our previous review featured something endearingly hopeful and pleasantly wholesome: a thrilling yet sentimental adventure that celebrated both the Christmas holiday and the better angels of our nature. Today's special strives for all of that, but like the comic strip source material upon which it's based it fails spectacularly to achieve it, instead creating twenty-four interminable minutes of grating, maudlin and insufferable torment. Its only intrinsic value is in providing spiteful, middle-aged pop-culture critics such as myself an easy target for their misplaced vitriol, the energy from which might be better channeled into honestly confronting their own copious shortcomings and questionable life-choices. As Pythagoras once said: "Know thyself and thou shall know the universe and God"...or we could just keep trashing shit and pretending we're fine.

Shitmas loves me, yes I know,
for my Monkeys told me so.

We're posting a brand new review of a Christmas Special every other day, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning, with each candidate hand-picked by a party of our most discerning and capable monkeys and voted on by the entire million of them. It's not a perfect system. In fact this year the red state monkeys sued the blue state monkeys in an attempt to nullify their votes and pick the specials themselves, but the Million Monkey Supreme Court refused to hear the case due to lack of standing. It's all over now but the shouting and the poo-slinging.

I really love comic strips, particularly from the golden era between the two World Wars. There are classic strips I adore and idolize from that time, like Billy DeBeck's "Barney Google," E.C.Segar's "Popeye" and especially the humanist high art that is George Herriman's "Krazy Kat." There are other classic strips I love and read for pleasure, too like Walt Kelly's "Pogo," Al Kapp's "Li'l Abner" and Berkely Breathed's brilliantly bonkers "Bloom County." There are strips from today I enjoy and read regularly, as well, such as Stephan Pastis' "Pearls Before Swine," Mike Peters' "Mother Goose and Grimm" and Brian Crane's consistently funny "Pickles," which is probably my favorite contemporary strip. There are some I'm hot and cold on, some I'm mostly indifferent to, and a very few I actively dislike, but there's only one for which I harbor a seething, eruptive--and dare I say gleeful--hatred.

"You used to eat your own shit, Jeffy. I can still smell it on your breath."

Sweet Chocolate Jesus I fucking loathe "The Family Circus." It's an offensive 1950's throwback of a white-washed patriarchal nightmare, a scourge, an outrage, a banal and insipid obscenity against God and nature, a hideous and painful goiter on the collective neck of an American society already struggling to claw itself forward on the moral arc of the universe. I would say more, but as you all know I'm very shy when it comes to expressing my opinions.

Suffice to say I know that of which I speak. I read "The Family Circus" every single week just so I can savor the perverse pleasure of despising it that much more.

"Why don't you fuck right off, Dolly?"

Bil Keane's "The Family Circus"debuted on February 29th, 1960 and for its first few years it was actually a bit edgy and risque, with frequent gags centering on Dad's fondness for the bottle and his propensity for ogling shapely ladies other than his eternally bob-haired wife.

This at least doesn't make me want to puke.

When a strip where son Billy walks into the living room and asks for a hug elicited a wave of positive responses from the middle-American Bible-belt crowd, Keane saw an opening to secure a loyal following, and he began steering the strip's content towards the cloying and infuriating anti-humor that's been its central hallmark ever since.

Bil Keane died in 2011, but his son Jeff continues to abuse the impressionable minds and sensitive stomachs of hapless readers in 1,434 newspapers across the United States today.

The comic strip equivalent of ipecac.

Jeff Keane has, if anything lowered the bar for insufferable bilge--a bar that was already dug several feet into the cold, unforgiving bedrock of comic strip hell--but thankfully there are like-minded folks out there in the wonderful interwebs who have taken it upon themselves to retool the strip to appeal to a more broad-minded audience than the Sunday school fundamentalist crowd who make up its usual target audience.

Now this I can appreciate.

A Family Circus Christmas was the second of three television specials based on the strip, with the others being A Special Valentine with the Family Circus (1978) and A Family Circus Easter (1982). It was the only one produced without direct input from Bil Keane or his family, and they were disappointed enough with the results that they would not allow any more spinoffs to be made without script and final cut approval.

If you've read the strip you'd think that would be a promising sign, but sadly A Family Circus Christmas is every bit as miserable and abhorrent as anything made by the Keanes. Still, there are a few baffling, not-quite-peachy-Keane elements that add some uneasy dissonance to the squeaky-clean tone, and for me at least, they just barely made it worth the sickening pain, if only because it gave me something a bit extra to really dig my claws into.

Okay, I think I'm ready. I've got aspirin, soda water, saltines, dramamine and emetrol. Let's do this! this whole thing gonna be about Jeffy? 'Cause he's the one I hate the most.

We open with a song called "Dreamer," and immediately my ears begin to tingle...and not in a good way. I know this voice, it's an unmistakable voice, yet could it really be the divine Sarah Vaughan, one of the most celebrated vocalists in the history of jazz? Sadly it could, and tragically it is. Honestly I'm more of a Billie Holliday fan anyway, but couldn't the poor woman have just rested on her laurels a bit and enjoyed the fruits of a stellar career without having had to sully herself by association with this holiday monstrosity? As for the song shit.

As the credits roll we're introduced to the famous Family Circus characters we all know and hate in a series of Rockwellian tableau, and if the following images don't make your stomach cramp and your anus clench you should probably click away now and go watch The 700 Club instead.

Breeding host and Seed-Provider.



Church-state-approved parasitic companion animals.

Santa flies by in his sleigh a few times and we see the family's old station wagon driving along with a tree on the roof, and as the credits end we see Dolly and Jeffy looking up in wonder at the untrimmed tree leaning sadly against a wall in their living room, already anticipating its inevitable walk of shame to the edge of the curb in the second week of January.

Jeffy confidently declares "It's the best tree we ever had," but considering that he's only four years old and the total number of Chistmas trees he could possibly have any memory of is three I don't really think he's qualified to make that judgement.

The two brats pass by the open doorway to the room where Mommy keeps her sewing machine and Dolly whispers to Jeffy that they should go have a peep in the gift-filled closet, which is standing temptingly half-open at the opposite end of the chamber in what is doubtless an attempt by their parents to entrap them. Jeffy knows they're not supposed to go in, but Dolly is defiant, saying they'll just look at the boxes and not touch anything. As soon as they get there, however she picks up a small box labelled for Jeffy and tries to hand it to him.

"Not until you sanitize. I've seen where you put those hands."

As Jeffy shakes the box and comments "it has a lot of pieces," Mommy appears behind them, frowning sternly and clearly loaded for bear. Little instigator Dolly casually but expediently cheeses it, leaving Jeffy holding the box, and Mommy reminds him that "Santa is watching you every minute" in a tone that's not so much "gentle parental admonishment" as "dire warning from a well-connected true believer in a Clausian theo-fascist dystopia."

"Yes, they're real. No, you can't touch them."

Jeffy is suitably traumatized by this unspoken threat of festive death-squad retribution and runs to his room to hide under the bed with the scruffy little dog Sam. When he pokes his head back out he sees a ghostly Santa Claus sitting on a toy chest and angrily wagging a finger at him.

"I'll send Blitzen to burn down your house and slaughter your motherfucking family."

Jeffy flees in terror and runs right into Dolly, who's been pacing the hallways looking for new and inventive ways to stir up some holiday shit. He tells her Santa is in his room and she runs to see, but of course when they get there Santa is nowhere to be found and she's mighty upset at Jeffy for lying to her.

"Don't make me out you as a dissident, Jeffy."

Later we see Mommy in the kitchen, which as any long-time fan of "The Family Circus" will tell you, is exactly where a woman should be, a least when she's not cleaning, vacuuming, sewing, doing laundry or fulfilling her sacred duty to her husband as a designated brood mare for the church-state.

Jeffy, Dolly and Billy all come running in, begging for permission to start trimming the tree, but Mommy tells them they have to wait for Daddy to get home from work first because the patriarchy must be honored and deferred to in all things. Billy asks if they can at least go down to the basement and fetch the decorations. Mommy says yes, so long as they just bring up the boxes and don't actually open them. Yeah, that'll work with kids.

Mommy's whole-grain thorazine cupcakes are delicious and nutritious, and also ensure compliance with societal norms.

I need to talk about the music for a moment. It's some weird, improvisational flute-and-percussion shit that's completely detached from anything that's happening on-screen. It sounds like a couple of beatniks riffing at a coffeehouse, and you half expect somebody in a black turtleneck and a porkpie hat to show up and start reciting a free-verse poem about concrete pavements and window panes and living in this cardboard box called life, while everybody snaps their fingers, smokes Pall Malls and drinks straight bourbon and chamomile tea

Dolly can dig it.

The other kids are joined now by the youngest sibling, the pre-verbal moppet PJ, who serves absolutely no function in this special or the comic strip other than to demonstrate that the Keane family opposes all forms of birth control.

As soon as they've dragged all the boxes up to the living room, Jeffy opens one up and peers in, contrary to Mommy's explicit instructions. Dolly calls him out on it, but he says "Mommy didn't tell us we couldn't peek," and following this flawed child-logic tangent to its inevitable conclusion all four of them soon have their boxes open and are pulling out baubles, bells and bibelots and dropping them all over the floor. Mommy comes in and catches them in the act, but since she's left her electric cattle prod in the kitchen she simply picks up the phone to report them to the authorities instead.

"Hello? Santa? Do you have room for four more at your Siberian reeducation center? Also what are you wearing right now?"

As soon as she mentions the name Santa Claus the children all panic and scatter. Jeffy ends up behind a curtain, and when he looks out the big picture window he's standing in front of he sees the transparent form of the jolly red tyrant again, this time taking Mommy's call at the top of a utility pole.

"I'm wearing pasties, a thong and a smile."

Jeffy runs over to Billy to tell him about Santa up on the pole, but by the time he drags him over the fat man has gone and made him look like a liar once again.

Daddy gets home from work, looking crushed and soulless from a long hard day of coggin' in the wheels of the integrated theo-civic industrial complex, and the kids come up one by one to nag and harass him about presents and making snowmen and decorating the tree. He deftly deflects all of their requests and concerns to go and get a little bit of sugar from his wife.

"Perhaps we can provide Lord President Santa with a fifth child next year, if it pleases God."

The kids are particularly persuasive about the tree, promising to do all the work while their parents sit back and watch.

We cut to Daddy putting the tree in the stand with the bare spot to the wall and the best side out towards the room, and we get a montage of the kids doing stupid kid things with the decorations, like throwing tinsel in clumps and licking the candy canes that are supposed to be hung on the branches "to get the dust off of them." With each new transgression Dolly turns parental informer, just as the visiting commandant instructed during the previous week's compulsory school assembly on disloyals and insurrectionists.

Finally they finish placing the decorations and it's time to put the star up on top of the tree, which by sacred law and honored tradition is the exclusive duty of the divinely anointed Husband. Sadly the star is missing and despite a furious search through all of the boxes no one can find it.

"Why are you looking at your ass like that, Daddy?"

Mommy and Daddy go down to the basement and comb through the shelves and remaining boxes and worry aloud that it may have been thrown away with the old wrapping paper the previous year. As the children watch from inside what appears to be a priest hole or bootlegger's tunnel, Mommy says "The tree won't look like Christmas without Granddad's star."

It was a very popular house during prohibition.

Next we see Billy and Jeffy in their shared bedroom, and as Mommy tucks Billy into bed he observes that Daddy isn't having a very nice time this Christmas and that when he couldn't find the all-important star for the treetop "his eyes got watery." Mommy explains that Daddy's got conjunctivitis, and also that his own father made that star ornament when he was just a little boy, that he used to love Christmas, singing songs and telling funny stories about Santa and his elves to make everyone laugh.

"Every one of those stories ended in an orgy. Do you know what an orgy is, Billy?"

Jeffy asks if they know Daddy's father, and Mommy has to explain that he was the kids' Granddad. Jeffy still doesn't quite get it and asks where Granddad is. Mommy says he's in Heaven, and when Jeffy insists they should invite Granddad over for Christmas Billy says "Don't you know anything, Jeffy? He's dead!"

"We all hate Jeffy, but damn, Billy!"

Mommy completely ignores Billy's stone-cold shade-slinging and tells them both to go to bed, that "tomorrow is a big day...we're going to meet Santa Claus," ostensibly to ask about that fifth child Daddy was angling for earlier.

Mommy leaves and turns out the lights, and no sooner has she gone than Jeffy hops out of bed to go annoy his brother with a bunch of questions about Santa Claus. He says he saw one Santa outside of a store then another on a street corner, and another out by the mall, so how can there be more than one Santa? Billy says there's only one Santa, but he moves so fast you can't see him, which I've got to admit is a pretty solid thesis.

Jeffy now asks how Santa can visit every house in the world in one night, and Billy explains that Santa stops his watch and makes time stand still until he's finished. At any rate, he explains, only 31.4% of the world's population identifies as Christian, so it's less than a third of the world's households at most, and of those he only stops at the ones with an income level well above the poverty line, because only middle-and-upper class people deserve nice things.

"Was Santa elected in a free and fair process according to basic democratic principles or did the elves rig the vote?"

Billy gets the shits of the conversation and as a pre-emptive strike against any more stupid questions he lays out the all-encompassing statement "Santa can do anything!" Then he tells Jeffy to fuck off and go to bed.

We fade to a commercial break now and when we return Jeffy has a trippy dream about Santa Claus, probably from eating too many of Mommy's special cupcakes.

It starts out innocently enough, with Jeffy hitching a ride on Santa's sleigh, but it goes off the rails pretty fast as Santa shows Jeffy the many wonders of his magical kingdom in the clouds. What's that? You thought Santa lived at the North Pole? This is Lord President Santa Claus of the Fourth Christian Reich, bitches. He can live wherever the fuck he wants.

"I could have you executed just for talking to me, kid. You know that, right?"

We see a bunch of giant candy canes sticking out of a cloud and Jeffy stares in mesmeric joy as a bunch of elves pick up normal-size candy canes off the ground all around them. Santa says they need to harvest them "before the dust storm comes...we don't want our candy canes to get dusty!"

Does it look like the elves are shitting in those bags or is it just me?

Next Santa shows Jeffy the Christmas tree farm, where the elves are busily working at them with hedge clippers to make bare spots so people will "know which side to put against the wall," which seems like a massive waste of time and energy to me, but when all of your labor is slave labor I guess you just keep finding ways to keep the little bastards busy.

There are other, more esoteric sights, too.

"This is where we process the raw coca leaves and refine them into pure cocaine!"

Jeffy is suitably impressed, particularly with Santa's massive drug operation, and finally he must acknowledge that Santa can, indeed do anything. He asks Santa for a special wish for his Daddy, to bring Granddad down from Heaven so they can all be together at Christmas. Santa agrees without missing a beat and Jeffy says "Gee, thanks Santa!" as if he'd just promised him a bike or an erector set.

Now we have to hear the fucking "Dreamer" song again as the psilocybin in the cupcake icing really starts kicking in.

That's some pretty potent shit.

Jeffy wakes up at the crack of dawn, strung out as fuck and spewing off to Billy about his trip with Santa and all the wondrous things he saw. He tells him about the candy canes and the trees and the angels and the cocaine, and finally he tells him the best part, about how Santa is going to bring Granddad down from Heaven so that daddy won't be sad on Christmas. Billy tells him he's totally bugging and needs the calm the fuck down, but Jeffy insists it's all true.

He needs a strong coffee with about twelve sugars to help kill that jones.

Jeffy brings up the rather valid point that Billy had himself told him just the previous evening that Santa can do anything, but Billy tells him that was just pillow talk, that he doesn't care what he said last night it just ain't happening, toots.

We cut to Dolly thumbing through a stack of catalogs and carefully compiling a notepad full of gift requests for when they meet Santa later that day. Billy Comes in and tells her to hold everything because they have a serious little brother issue on their hands. He explains about Jeffy asking Santa to bring Granddad from Heaven, and Dolly, ever the cold, solipsistic Randian bitch says "So what?" Why should she care if her little brother's hopes and dreams are dashed like a resistance fighter's brains on the cold stone pavement of logic and reality?

Billy rather misses the point and objects to her dismissive tirade with "but Santa can't do that!" She cautions him "How do you know? You'd better watch what you say about Santa, he's watching you all the time!"

"As Commandant Blitzen told us last week at school 'Dissent will not be tolerated!'"

Next we cut to the crowded Christmas village in the party-run shopping center where citizens in good standing are encouraged to purchase government-sanctioned consumer goods. At the head of a long line of eager children is Santa himself, or rather one of his Kim Jong-Un-style doubles, ready to graciously take gift requests and propagandize on behalf of dear leader. Dolly gets up on Fake Santa's lap and pulls out her list, quipping "do you want me to give you the prices, too?" Fake Santa does a cheesy double take at the camera like Chester Conklin in a Keystone comedy from the 1910's.

Dolly sounds like a thirty-something Jewish lawyer from New York.

Billy foolishly asks Jeffy what he's going to ask for and he tells him he already told Santa what he wanted last night, leading to another fruitless plea to forget about the stupid dream and ask for some goddamn toys like a normal kid instead.

It's Jeffy's turn now and he asks Fake Santa if he remembers what he wants, and the guy says yeah, sure, kid, of course I do, but maybe you could just remind me again to make sure. Jeffy rattles off his entire list, consisting of a telescope, a rocket launcher, a fire engine, a robot, a sled and, of course, Daddy's present.

"A rocket launcher? Lord President Santa would like to know exactly what it is you're planning, son."

As Jeffy hops down from Fake Santa's lap he turns and admonishes him "Don't promised!"

Billy walks up now and Santa reaches out to grab him to put him on his lap, but Billy puts his hand up instead and says "That's okay, I'll just stand." Fom sharing a bedroom with Jeffy he knows all too well about his younger brother's struggles with incontinence.

"Also you've got a reputation for getting a little handsy, mister."

Next we see Daddy and Mommy elsewhere in the shopping center, the former burdened with parcels and looking mighty glum. Mommy asks if he bought a new star for the tree but he says no, he just couldn't find one he liked.

Back at the Fake Santa grotto it's PJ's turn to get up on the old perv's lap. He instinctively recoils and runs crying into Mommy's waiting arms. She say's it's totally fine, they'll just write Santa a letter instead, apologizing for the insult to his exalted person and begging forgiveness for this grotesque transgression of his divine law.

Back home later that day Jeffy is jumping on Billy's bed and Billy comes in to tell him to knock it off and go jump on his own. Jeffy complains that his springs are worn out, and Billy explains again that Santa marks down every bad thing he does and that he'd better have more good than bad on his list come Christmas or he'll be sent to the gulag.

Jeffy looks around suspiciously for a moment then looks up into the corner of his room and sees Ghost Santa again. This time he's got a book and a pencil and he's writing down all of Jeffy's tresspasses and peccadillos.

Or possibly he's just on the toilet doing a crossword.

This spurs Jeffy into a frenzy of tidying-up and general compliance, where he puts his toys away, makes his bed and folds up his clothes neatly in a drawer to please the all-powerful supreme leader/demigod who's currently busy dropping a transparent deuce in the upper corner of the bedroom.

Dolly and Billy ask Jeffy what the hell he's doing, and when he explains himself he adds that they'd better get some good marks for themselves, too, because he hasn't forgotten that messy incident with the hapless drifter and the wood chipper last June.

Hint well taken, Dolly gets in on the action now and grabs one of those little push broom plastic carpet brush things that never fucking work and Billy casually kicks a pair of tennis shoes into a closet.

That's all that's left of the drifter. They sure don't want Santa to find those.

We cut now to Daddy about to pour some water into the tree stand, and suddenly Billy and Dolly are on his back, riding him like a rodeo clown and begging him to read "The Night Before Christmas" to them. We cut to a close-up on him telling them it's past their bedtime, and when we cut back to a long shot we see that Jeffy and PJ are now on top of him, too. Pinned down and helplessly outnumbered, Daddy agrees to read them the story.

Now we get some alleged domestic comedy where Daddy tries to read to them but can't get past the first line without being interrupted with various questions, complaints and observations like "Can I turn the page?" "My doll can't see the book!" and "When you hit a hobo in the head with a shovel his eyes roll back real good."

Eventually Mommy walks in with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk and Billy excitedly cries "Oh boy! Room service!" Dolly has to explain to him that those are for Santa when he comes down the chimney later with their presents, and as the interruptions to Daddy's recitation seem unlikely to abate she hops off his lap and heads into the kitchen to tell Mommy about Jeffy asking Santa to bring undead zombie Granddad down from Heaven.

"Oh, dear! I didn't think to buy any brains! What will I serve him for supper?"

On that riveting cliffhanger we cut to a commercial break.

When we return Mommy is tucking Dolly into bed, and Dolly is lamenting that Jeffy is going to be mighty disappointed when Granddad doesn't show up. Mommy agrees and decides she'd better go try to explain it to the the little tow-headed asshole. As mommy exits Dolly puts her hands behind her head, arches her eyebrows maliciously and says "I wonder if Mommy is going to scold Jeffy," except it sounds like she says "scald," and I have to wonder if that tootling flute is actually a steaming tea kettle.

"I wish I could be there to watch. Jeffy's gonna be red as a lobster."

Back in the boys' bedroom Mommy tucks Billy into bed and he says he's so excited he doesn't think he can sleep. Mommy tells him not to worry because she put a roofie in his cocoa and he'll be lucky if he can even remember what Christmas is when he finally wakes up.

As Billy slips into sweet pharmaceutical-induced oblivion Mommy heads over to Jeffy's bed, sits down and says "I want to explain something to you." She opens a family album and shows him a photo of his Granddad.

It seems Granddad was former president Warren G. Harding. Who knew?

Mommy asks him if he understands what it means that Granddad died before he was born, and he says, sure, he knows all about it. Granddad had a cardiac arrest while his wife read him calming bromides from a flattering article in The Saturday Evening Post back on August 2nd, 1923, but because none of the many scandals that plagued his administration were made public until after his death he'd already been admitted to Heaven by the time they became widely known.

"And that's why we don't talk to the press. Dolly says they're the enemy of the people."

Mommy tries to explain that you can't ask the all-powerful Lord President Santa to do impossible things because he's far too busy delivering gifts and oppressing the masses, but Jeffy just gets angry that his siblings told on him, insisting "It was supposed to be a surprise!"

Mommy figures she's put in about as much time as she can spare trying to reason with him, and she leaves Jeffy crying into his pillow while she heads off to the bedroom, where Daddy is waiting to start working on that now officially sanctioned fifth child.

"I gotta go, kid. I've got church-state duties to perform."

Up to this point there's been a triangular tug of war between the secular trappings of Christmas, represented by Santa and Christmas trees and presents and shopping in the first corner, the religious and spiritual significance of the holiday represented by visions of angels and talk of loved ones passed on to Heaven in the second, and the magical whimsy of childhood imagination in the third. Now we get to the inevitably maudlin and infuriating threading-the-needle conclusion we've been hoping to avoid from the instant the plot device of Granddad's Christmas star was introduced, where the makers of the special blithely expect us to believe in absolutely everything without their taking a definitive or principled position on anything.

The first tentative step on this steep descent towards sloppy narrative madness is Ghost Santa appearing again, this time next to Jeffy's bed. Jeffy asks if he brought Granddad with him and Ghost Santa silently nods and points for him to head towards the living room.

"I also brought some V.A. tokens just to take the piss out of him.

Jeffy creeps over to the living room doorway and sees the ghost of Warren G. Harding standing by the Christmas tree.

"One mention of 'Teapot Dome' and I'm outta here."

So Jeffy walks up to Ghost Granddad and rails triumphantly against all the stupid, faithless non-believing scum who said Ghost Santa couldn't bring him. Ghost Granddad just shrugs. Jeffy says "I know you like Christmas so what do you think of our tree?" and this is where Ghost Granddad notices that there's something missing up on top. He points Jeffy over towards a closet at the other end of the room, and when Jeffy opens it he sees a little blue box on the very top shelf.

Jeffy drags a table, chair and, oddly, a toy xylophone over to the open closet and stacks them up as a makeshift ladder. He scampers up the precarious structure to try to reach the box.

This can only end in tears and blackmail, like Harding's affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips.

As Jeffy struggles up the rickety pile, we see Daddy waking up confusedly in his bedroom down the hall, not too spent apparently from his perfunctory lovemaking to hear the tinkling noise of the xylophone beneath Jeffy's feet.

As Jeffy reaches the box he loses his footing and tumbles off the top of the pile in oh-so-dramatic slow motion, only to be caught in the waiting arms of Daddy who has arrived just in time to save him from an ignominious death, splattered like a rancid tomato across the living room carpet.

Usually I love a happy ending but in this case I'll make an exception.

In the fall the lid has fallen off the box, and Daddy is astonished to see his father's handmade Christmas star that he'd all but given up on as rotting in a landfill somewhere off the New Jersey Turnpike.

I see Granddad used radium-based paint, which explains all the hair and tooth loss shortly before his death.

Daddy suddenly remembers that he himself had put the star in the box and put the box in the closet after the previous Christmas, wanting to make sure it was in a safe place so he wouldn't lose it...and that's pretty much the only thing that rings true for me in this entire fucking special because I do that shit all the fucking time.

When Daddy asks Jeffy how he knew the star was in the closet Jeffy explains that Granddad showed it to him, that he was there in the room with him and he's totally not making shit up, and Daddy says quite sincerely that he believes him.

Mommy and the other kids come running in now, asking what's all the noise and just what the dickens is going on, and Daddy explains about Jeffy finding the star.

"Throw it away! I can feel the tumors growing!"

Billy figures fuck going back to bed now, they should just put the star on the tree and light up the room so they can all have one of those famous elf-orgies Granddad so enjoyed of a crisp December night. Daddy puts the thing up and plugs it in, and Jeffy, not at all chastened by his near-fatal fall, climbs up on another chair to flick the wall switch and turn it on.

I hear raw honey is good for radiation burns.

Billy asks Jeffy how he found the star and Jeffy explains again, just in case we the audience haven't had it pounded into our fucking brains hard enough yet, that Granddad showed him where it was and that Granddad was there.

Daddy gazes ecstatically at the shining star atop the tree and says mistily "Granddad is here, Jeffy," Jeffy replies "Santa brought him," and I'm suddenly very thankful I remembered the Emetrol.

Billy shouts in amazement "Santa was here! The milk and cookies are gone!" As Mommy and Daddy look at each other perplexedly as if to say "I didn't eat 'em? Did you eat 'em?" "No, I didn't eat 'em!" we slowly pan from the empty plate at the base of the fireplace to the supercillious little resource drain that is PJ, sitting carelessly self-satisfied behind a chair with a halo of milk around his lips and scarfing down the last remnants of the cookies.

The world is made up of "makers" and "takers," PJ. Don't be a "taker."

It's now morning, and as the rising sun sends its first tentative rays through the living room window the gut-churning strains of "Dreamer" begin again, and we get a noxious montage of these smug, affluent, Christian white folk living in their maddeningly entitled, 1950's suburban conservative Christmas wet dream.

Can we get a hazmat team in here, please?

After a brief commercial break we return for a gratuitous coda where the kids open up their presents and crack wise, because sometimes they're just plain old regular kids but sometimes they're precocious little adults.

Mommy and Daddy, meanwhile lounge sleepily on the sofa surveying the yuletide carnage of tinsel, ribbons and wrapping paper. Mommy says "This is a wonderful Christmas," to which Daddy replies "the best one ever."

"I think we should name the new kid Rudy Guiliani...after your mother."

Wisenheimer Dolly gets the last word, though with the cutesy-queasy-cheeky-jokey-emetic question "Mommy, how many days til the Easter Bunny comes?"

The End.

Well that was fucking brutal. Still, even in the face of recent, unresolved trauma life marches on, and we must quickly return to the mundane tasks of our daily lives, lest we descend into a vicious spiral of brooding flagellation and ultimate self-destruction. It was in this grimly determined spirit that I set down my laptop at the conclusion of this review and went to work on completing my household chores, which my wife had been hinting about at every brief pause in my writing for the past several days.

I went to the pantry for some spray cleaner, sponges, a mop and a bucket and a few other things I might need to clean up after my nine cats, whom I love and adore from the deepest wells of my soul but who also know how to make a fucking mess, and that's when I noticed that there were inspirational quotes printed on the paper towels.

Da fuq is this shit?

I'm not talking little one-line snippets, either. I'm talking whole goddamn paragraphs of soothing bromides and carpe diem pep talks straight out of a Hallmark page-a-day calendar a coworker might buy for a name-by-lottery, Secret Santa gift in an office full of 100 people, not knowing or caring who the hell was ultimately going to get it. As you may have surmised I don't much like empty inspirational platitudes to begin with, but putting them on my fucking paper towels is a goddamn bridge too far.

There. Fixed it.

I grasped the offending roll with the fury of an outraged saint and marched upstairs to where my wife was eating popcorn and catching up on The Mandalorian. I demanded to know how these noisome and offensive paper products infiltrated our home, and without missing a beat or even raising her eyes she replied "Bil Keane sent them."

I turned away from her roll-in-hand, stormed downstairs and used them to clean up a hairball.

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 23rd!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2020.

Questions? Comments? Expressions of disgust? Why not skip the middleman and complain to me directly?

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