Hi ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Twelve of our Twelve Days of Shitmas Celebration for 2023. Our penultimate special was a classic bait-and-switch, writing checks it couldn't cash and making promises it couldn't keep. It raised our hopes sky-high then dashed them to the ground like a hapless skydiver with a defective parachute. Now we find ourselves at the final special of our annual celebration, our traditional slot for the worst of the worst we've found in any given year. Having been once burned we're twice shy, so we're going with a cash-on-the-barrelhead special we just now dredged up from the bottom of that selfsame barrel, guaranteed to deliver something that'll curl your toes and curdle your eggnog. We started this season with some Christian batshittery and that's how we're gonna end it, because as we've learned from bitter experience, Christian batshittery always delivers the Shitmas goods.

A fleeting fly-by of floating flatus.

We're posting a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day beginning December 3rd, and culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning. As the final day of Shitmas approached this year I looked back on some of the godawful shite we've presented and had what I can only describe as a crisis of faith. How could I possibly top for sheer awfulness such unmitigated dreck as Roll Out, Kathie Lee's Rock 'n Tots Cafe and Rubik the Amazing Cube? Was it really possible that after only five years and fifty-nine Shitmas articles I'd already reached a fatal impasse? Had I already found all of the worst specials and would therefore have nothing left to advance my soul towards a perfectly awful Shitmas? I fell into a deep depression, unable to eat or sleep, brooding on what might be left for me if I no longer had The Twelve Days of Shitmas to look forward to each year. Desperate for guidance I spoke with a priest I'd met while doing some important research at an all-night adult bookstore, but he told me Shitmas was a holiday the Church did not officially recognize and was therefore beyond the scope of his vocation. I received similarly evasive and dissatisfying answers from a Rabbi, an Imam and a Buddhist monk, all of whom suggested that I should perhaps just drop Million Monkey Theater entirely and stop wasting my life on such frivolous pursuits. With no one else to ask I turned, as desperate rogues often do when they've hit rock bottom, to speak directly to a higher power, and so I dropped to my knees and engaged in deep and earnest prayer.

"Dear God, or Goddess, or gender neutral, intersex or androgynous Being," I began, trying to cover all my bases, "Please send me a sign! Where can I find a special so cheap, dreadful and awe-inspiring in its ineptitude that it may restore both my faith in Shitmas and my joy in living?"

Suddenly, my small, dark room was filled with a dazzling light. An angel appeared, clad in brilliant samite, golden and glowing, with a countenance of gentle beneficence and understanding on its translucent face of indeterminate race or gender. Its shining eyes pierced the veil of my ennui and filled my heart with newfound delight in the Shitmas season. It spoke to me in a half-heard, half-sensed voice, like the distant echo of a thousand children laughing, and revealed its message to me in three words, each by themselves so seemingly small and insignificant, that would bolster my faith and alter the course of my life.

"Public Access Television."

As the vision faded, I rushed to my laptop to do an internet search and immediately found the special I'll be reviewing for you today. Thank you, God, or Goddess, or gender neutral, intersex or androgynous Being, and bless us, everyone!  

The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program! ran on Los Angeles Public Access from 1988-2008, featuring singer, songwriter and puppeteer David Liebe Hart, a Christian Scientist moved by the spirit to share his creepy puppets and fringe religious views with the children of central California. The program is a combination of aimless proselytizing, anti-drug rants, poorly sung spiritual hymns and uncanny-valley cognitive dissonance, all presented in glorious low-fi video with state-of-the-art 64-bit chyron titles and occasional cheesy chroma-key effects. Hart also produced a single season reboot of the program in 2016, but it's only available behind a paywall on Amazon Prime, so fuck that shit.

Christian Science is odd enough all on its own, without glazed over, poorly operated puppets chanting and singing about it. Founded in 1887 by Mary Baker Eddy, a New England hypochondriac and all-around whack-a-doodle with serious daddy issues, the central tenets of the faith are that physical reality is an illusion, medical treatment is bunk and personal prayer is a panacea for all the ills of the body...that doesn't actually exist anyway. In the words of modern practitioner Frank Prinz-Wondollek: "There is no person to be healed, no material body, no patient, no matter, no illness, no one to heal, no substance, no person, no thing, and no place that needs to be influenced," which is a huge relief to me personally, as I can now tell my wife that my chronic wind isn't really there so she should stop complaining about it.

In sum, Christian Science is a woo-woo, new-age-y cult that's thankfully shrunk considerably over the past few decades in the wake of multiple scandals involving children who died of easily curable ailments because their parents declined to provide them with medical care. David Liebe Hart takes the Christian Science fringy weirdness a step further, espousing the conspiracy theory that Catholics, Protestants and Jews have historically teamed up to scrub all references to space aliens from the bible.

Sounds reasonable.

The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program! is a low-rent, low-energy phantasmagoria of preachiness and technical ineptitude, and one of the very worst Christmas offerings I've ever come across, and though the article I've wrung from it is a bit shorter than my usual offerings, I feel it's bizarre and hypnotic hideousness is the perfect conclusion to this year's Shitmas festivities.

A title card proclaims today's guests as Pat White, Chip the Boy and Tim the Monkey, who'll be delivering Christian-Scientifically modified gospel and songs, with Ms. White also providing the music via a tabletop electronic church organ that sounds like a cross between a plastic melodica and a tubercular cat. The opening number is an instrumental of Silent Night, played at a snail's pace with minimal ornamentation, beginning the slow, mesmeric process of initiation into Leibe Hart's twisted worldview. When Ms. White finishes up, she looks over towards the little black Chip the Boy puppet, sitting inert on what appears to be a large speaker cabinet. Apparently, Liebe Hart, billed as "Mr. David" in the credits, has been daydreaming about Alien Jesus during the intro, because he misses his cue and there's a pause of almost ten seconds before he suddenly realizes he's supposed to be talking and jerks the puppet to life.

Apparently "life" is a relative thing.

Chip the Boy welcomes the approximately seven Los Angeles area children being forced to watch this at home, and immediately goes off on a didactic rant about not using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, during which he helpfully lists all the specific substances a budding young addict might be offered by a pusher on the streets as a handy menu of the mind-altering options available. He goes on, insisting that alcohol, drugs and tobacco are the source of all human ailments. Now, I don't wish to get into a metaphysical debate with a fucking puppet, but if illness is an illusion and the physical body doesn't really exist, then does it really matter what other presumably illusory things you dump into it? Answer me that, puppet boy!

Chip the Boy ends his rant and switches gears to briefly discuss the upcoming Christmas holiday and today's star-studded celebration thereof. He says they're going to start with a song, and thus rushes headlong into a duet with Ms. White, singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain." There's a huge, headache-inducing disconnect between the puppet's mouth and head movements and what we're hearing it sing and speak. The mouth seems to open and close randomly, like a carnival automaton, while the head jerks violently to one side or the other completely at random and completely arrhythmically to the music. The overall effect is like some murky, out-of-synch, half-recalled nightmare brought on from eating too much cheese before bedtime (something I have considerable experience with, by the way) and I can't help but be reminded of another sinister puppet from another microbudget production, Chester Novell Turner's infamous shot-on-video opus Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984).

If you've seen it, you know. If you haven't, don't.

The two hit the right notes, but that's about it. When the song ends, Chip the Boy recites The Lord's Prayer, replete with Mary Baker Eddy's superfluous interjections between each of the key phrases, as read by Ms. White in a soothing tone one might use to comfort an animal that's about to be euthanized.

"It'll all be over very, little buddy."

Next Chip the Boy suggests they continue their "healing service" with another song, which will be "Rise Up Shepherds and Follow." During the song something goes wrong with the chyron titles, and it takes the engineer three attempts before it displays clearly, and when it does it shows the title as, "Dere a De East Rise Up Shepherd," which is a typo featuring most of the first line of the lyrics spelled out in the dialect of slave-era spirituals, which in that case should actually read "Dere's a Star in De East."

Dere it? Oh, it dere.

Chip the Boy now announces a solo song by Tim the Monkey, but first he introduces Ms. White and gives her a moment to talk about her church of choice, which is the Fifth Church of Christ Scientists at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Perhaps you know it. It's right next to the bookstore with the private booths in the back where I met that priest I mentioned earlier.

The church is great and all, but this temple is open all night.

Now we see Tim the Monkey being clumsily oriented to a seated position next to an inert and silent Chip the Boy. He announces in a piping falsetto "I'm Tim the Monkey and I'm going to sing "Angels We Have Heard on High," which is...not a thing I ever expect to hear again. He doesn't sing it well, mind you, as Mr. David isn't particularly good at singing to begin with and is even worse at singing in a character voice outside his normal register. Tim the Monkey moves around a little more than Chip the Boy, though, mostly because he's only got one ass cheek on the speaker cabinet and is about ready to tip over at any instant.

Never has a Monkey been so close to God.

The song goes on for an uncomfortably long time, and to be honest I ended up fast forwarding through most of it because after everything else I've watched over the past few weeks there's only so much more of this sort of thing I can take. Finally, and thankfully, it ends and Tim finally falls off the back of the cabinet. A second or so later we see Mr. David's hand surreptitiously creep back up inside Chip the Boy, who springs into action to inform us that today's "lesson" will be next, with a sermon on the theme "God, the Christmas Show," Which I've got to admit, is a novel, very show-bizzy way of referring to the most sacred of Christian holidays.

The sermon consists of Chip the Boy reciting disjointed bits and pieces of various bible verses concerning the birth and purpose of Christ with "interpretations" by Mary Baker Eddy read between them by Ms. White. Chip's portions are read in a halting, robotic fashion, like one of those annoying AI voices that recite the text in a TikTok meme, and it's incredibly distracting because we all know there's an actual human down there doing it who apparently has no idea how actual humans are supposed to speak. Meanwhile, Ms. White continues her portion of the sermonizing with the same condescending, "sorry Mr. Whiskers, but it's for the best" intonations, and by about halfway through I was half-hoping a vet would come by and euthanize me.

My overall impression of the entire sermon is that it wouldn't feel out of place as an overhead announcement in some post-apocalyptic sci-fi dystopian autocracy, such as in 1984 (1949) or THX1138 (1971), except at that one point where Ms. White refers to Jesus as "The Bethlehem Babe," which instead sounds like a naughty DVD you might find at the bookstore next to her church.

Did I mention this sequence goes on for a full ten minutes?

Meanwhile, Bunny Monkey Furby Guy sits back quietly and bides his time...

The "lesson" portion of our program concludes with a rendition of "Royal Baby Rest So Lowly," sung very badly to music by Jaques Offenbach, as it seems these few songs and recitations are rapidly wearing out our co-hosts' voices. The song is followed by a brief overview of the central doctrine of Christian Science, with Chip the Boy assuring us that our bodies are not real and only the infinite mind of God truly exists. To hammer home how very serious and vital this information is to the heart and soul of a Christian Scientist, and to further demonstrate the illusory nature of everything we see, hear, taste, smell, think and feel, the guy operating the chroma key goes full-on Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Bro is trippin'.

After this brief foray into the world of the Merry Pranksters, and without so much as a pause to take a breath, Chip the Boy hurriedly instructs us, "Don't forget to help the homeless and poor at Christmastime and visit the senior citizens that are in rest homes and have a wonderful merry Christmas and stay away from drugs and smoking and drinking and also sex out of marriage with this AIDS and you'll live a long, happy life amen the end!" Then he suddenly hunches over, goes dead silent and motionless as Ms. White plays a closing, unaccompanied reprise of "Silent Night."

Chip's spirit has clearly departed.

Well, there you have it. With all the low-budget trash I watch it's not often I see something that really floors me, but this thing did. The questionable theology and dazed, cultish recitations are weird enough, but having them come from one glassy-eyed human and a couple of clumsily operated puppets with blank, expressionless faces puts it straight over the top and squarely into creepypasta la-la land. It sure as hell doesn't feel like Christmas, at least not any Christmas I've ever experienced...and for that I am eternally thankful.

I don't believe I've adequately captured the feel of the thing, but as I was watching I was reminded of a viewing I once attended in the basement of a run-down funeral home in Camden, New Jersey, sometime around 1989. It was for a coworker at the market where I worked at the time. I didn't know the guy well, but a few of us thought it would be a nice gesture for the family if folks from his workplace attended. The viewing room was dingy and dimly lit, with the stale, musty aroma of plaster nearing the end of its useful life. There was cheesy canned organ music playing, and the corpse was on display in a worn presentation casket that had clearly seen decades of previous use. A gaudily colored, almost cartoonish picture of Jesus hung in an alcove behind the casket, and when I walked up to the casket to pay my respects the body was so badly embalmed it looked more like a painted wax replica than the mortal remains of a real human being.

Everything about the experience seemed contradictory, absurd and somehow unreal...and perhaps that feeling, so illustrative of the foundational beliefs of the Christian Science faith, was what David Liebe Hart and company were trying to evoke. If so, they stumbled upon it naively, not through any discernable skill or taste, but through the sheer oddity of their haphazard presentation. There's a rare variety of utter artlessness that somehow goes full circle and accidentally becomes art, unwittingly expressing something profound despite itself. I wouldn't go so far as to say Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Program! managed to turn that trick, but it did make me feel something. Then again, it may have just been my chronic wind.

At any rate, that's our pared down, bare bones, no frills Shitmas for 2023, people. Makes you feel lucky just to be alive, doesn't it? From all of us here at Million Monkey Theater we wish you a very happy Christmas and a New Year filled with love, peace and abundance!

See you next year!

That's all folkses!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2023.

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