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Xmas Story

August 17, 2012

Original airdate: December 19, 1999

Written by David X. Cohen; Directed by Peter Avanzino

How do you take the corny cliché of a Christmas special and make it entertaining? You turn it on its head, by making “Xmas” (and it is now pronounced) the most feared day of year, where Santa is real, but he’s trying to kill you. Well, people still enjoy it for mostly the same reasons as us, but you just can’t go out at night and you need to board-up your windows because Santa, who is a robot, has a very low threshold for naughtiness. It’s “Xmas Story”, a 20 minute oddball of randomness.

Fry is sad because it’s the first Xmas he’s celebrated since leaving the 20th Century. This is all the more heightened because many traditions have changed in 1000 years, so he is reminded once again of the stuff he misses from his old life. Leela is also lonely because she is the only Planet Express employee to not receive an Xmas card (even Fry and Zoidberg got one). This sets up the episode’s main focus: the latest chapter in Fry and Leela’s relationship, built on its core of mutual loneliness. Leela’s plight is worse than Fry’s (who is actually far happier and more successful in the future) because she is an orphan, seemingly the only one of her kind and also has the hideous eye thing. Fry’s resolves to cheer Leela up by buying her a great present. There are many reasons why this relationship is great, but “Xmas Story” emphasises that Fry’s feelings for Leela actually make him use his brain and legs, trumping his usual lazy, selfish ignorance, in what is the first of Fry’s many attempts to get Leela to like him by showing her he isn’t a jerk. Presumably forgetting the existence of Nibbler, Fry buys Leela a $500 parrot, which proceeds to fly away soon after leaving the store (“Stupid bird! I know where you live!”) Fry nearly falls to his death trying to catch it but is saved by Leela and the two reconcile, deciding once again to be lonely together. Aw.

But the sweet moment can’t last long, because Santa Claus is coming to town. Yes, much like “Hell is Other Robots”, the fun only really kicks into overdrive when the mythological robot appears. Robot Santa isn’t quite as insane as Robot Devil, but he’s a great character nonetheless, particularly in his fastidiousness for total list completeness with regards to Bender’s latest crime. Santa attempts to kill Fry and Leela for disregarding the feelings of others but the parrot inadvertently flies in front of Santa’s T.O.W. missile, saving them. For now. They flee back to Planet Express, but Santa gets in before they can use the armour plated chimney cover. Zoidberg saves the day (via his new pogo stick, which he gets for being the only person there who is actually listed as ‘nice’) and Santa is shut out before he can kill them all (by exploding; this whole end sequence must have been great to pitch, it’s madcap randomness). And we end with the crew having a golden Xmas family moment around the dinner table and piano. Well how else could you end a Christmas show?

Trivia and Quotes

  • So the opening scene at the ski-trip is like the fourth day-off they’ve had in about seven episodes – Hermes really should be pushing them harder…
  • Conan’s guest spot is pretty nice, with his freakishly huge forehead, “Well I’m out of material” and so forth. I always love self-deprecation. Some fairly good stuff here: they only fixed the Y2K problem 900 years ago, the Professor’s SSX style moves (when asleep), Hermes’ Jamaican bobsled/Cool Runnings reference, the unstated bandages on he and Fry after their trip down the sled-run, “aks” has replaced ask etc. Oh and because I like being a continuity dick: the whole global warming/nuclear winter joke contradicts basically every other joke about global warming in the show, but whatever, they’re funny. Oh and if pine trees are extinct how come the ski-slopes were covered in them? Ah, who cares.
  • Fry longing for his rather depressing and quasi-abusive past life where Christmas consisted of gooseburgers, and “special eggnog” made out of bourbon and ice cubes.
  • About time we had some Zoidberg gold: “Today’s comedians could learn from this card,” “Simply get down on your claws and do the apology dance.”
  • I love how everyone has a go at Fry – who is justifiably sad at his loneliness – for upsetting Leela – who is likewise justified – yet they themselves don’t actually do anything to make either of them feel better.
  • And gold from Bender as well: “Xmas Eve. Another pointless day where I accomplish nothing,” “I’m very generous, what about that time I gave blood?/Who’s blood?/Some guys’.” Bender’s fraud/robbery/orphan framing sub-plot is pretty meh, but we get to see Tinny Tim for the first time, and who doesn’t like orphan humour?
  • The whole mall scene is great, with everyone hurriedly preparing their defences for Santa, and Fry still not quite getting what’s about to happen. And Fry’s relationship with the parrot is just brilliant, as Fry says they are equals. Particular praise for the helpful warning sign “Dangerous ledge, no banana peels” and the parrot shuffling along the ledge to get away from Fry, rather than just flying straight away.
  • “I hear that. I aks him to set the table, instead he goes out to buy you a present. Selfish dog.”
  • “You’ve been very naughty Fry and Leela, I’ve checked my list./Well check it twice!/I perform over 50 megachecks per second.” – It’s a shame John Goodman couldn’t come back to voice Robot Santa. Not that John DiMaggio’s performance is bad. “But what about your other co-workers. Did either of you ever stop to think about Dr. Zoidberg’s feelings?/No I swear!”
  • “I never thought it would end this way: gunned down by Santa Claus. Honestly, I didn’t see it coming.” – “Er, you’re present may need some assembly.” This is probably the closest Fry and Leela got for a while.
  • The highlight of the episode is the utterly ridiculously Amy, Hermes, Zoidberg hair-selling/comb-buying triangle. “Finally I look as pretty as I feel!” The whole thing is just so absurd (not least because they had their hair before the Xmas Eve lockdown, so had no way of actually performing their transactions.) Just mad.
  • “Look, the food isn’t important/I’m so hungry/The important thing is that we’re all together for Xmas. And even though I’m surrounded by robots and monsters and old people, I’ve never felt more at home.”
  • “I’ll be back. Back when you least expect it. Next Xmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!” Santa Claus is gunning, you down.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2012 11:26 am

    One of my favourites.

  2. August 22, 2012 3:04 pm

    The parrot coming from nowhere, giving out that annoying Frank Welker squawk and exploding just kills me, made even better by Fry’s nonchalant response (“Umm, your parrot may need some assembly.”)

  3. August 25, 2012 7:52 am

    I just wanna axe you something.. isn’t it cool how Fry hangs on the digital time clock tower in real time?

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