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Thursday, December 10, 2015

"The Finster Who Stole Christmas"

Today marks Day #10 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, and I thought that I would feature a holiday special that combines two, two, two holidays in one!

I figure that it's only right, given that Hanukkah is going on at this moment and that Christmas is just around the corner.

So, what am I going to talk about that incorporates Christmas and Hanukkah together?

Well, there was the wonderful Christmas special "Arthur's Perfect Christmas", which not only referenced Christmas and Hanukkah, but other seasonal festivals from all over the world.  The only problem is that I already covered that one.

There's also the Nickelodeon series "Rugrats", in which the Pickles family have celebrated both Christian and Jewish holidays...but I'm afraid that I talked about those too.

Ah, wait.  I think I may have found a loophole, and I think it involves those cute little Rugrats characters.

Only...they were all grown up.

I guess I should explain.  The original Rugrats cartoon debuted in August 1991, and managed to run for a grand total of thirteen years!  That's longer than Garfield and Friends, You Can't Do That On Television, and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!  And, the original series featured toddlers Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, Phil and Lil DeVille, Angelica Pickles, and Susie Carmichael having all sorts of adventures as they try to navigate through the first few years of their lives.

By the show's tenth year on the air, the producers of the show decided to make a special one-off episode that featured Tommy and his friends as pre-teens and teenagers, and in August 2001, the episode "All Growed Up" debuted.  It was a cute episode, and it really showed just how much Tommy and his pals had changed, but also showed how they stayed the same.

Apparently, that episode was a huge hit - reportedly twelve million viewers watched that program!  So, Nickelodeon decide to commission a full series based on what Tommy and his friends - along with new additions Dillon "Dil" Pickles and Kimi Watanabe-Finster would be like as teenagers.

Now, the spinoff series "All Grown Up" didn't nearly last as long as the original series (it ran from 2003-2008), but that's not to say it was a bad show.  It was still just as clever as "Rugrats", just a little bit more mature.

So, the episode from All Grown Up that I am featuring today is one called "The Finster Who Stole Christmas".  And, I'm guessing that you probably already know that the episode features Chuckie in a prominent role.  But Tommy and Dil have the B-plot, which is Hanukkah related.

As the winter break from school starts, we learn about what all the kids are going to be doing for the holiday break.  Phil and Lil will be doing Christmas shopping, Susie will be singing a solo in the church choir (which should be easy given that her voice actress Cree Summer is also a singer), Angelica is skiing in Aspen with her family, and Tommy and Dil come up with the idea to create their own Hanukkah song to sing at the holiday festivities at Susie's church.

The only person who is acting like a Scrooge this Christmas is Chuckie.  His step-mother and Kimi are stuck in Japan (they were bumped off their flight just before Christmas), and Chuckie is dreading the decorating of their Christmas tree.

The reason?  Chuckie is embarrassed that his father keeps buying the worst looking Christmas trees available for sale.  I'm telling you, Chuckie does make a point.  The Finster trees made Charlie Brown's little tree look like a 25-foot spruce in comparison!  And Chuckie tells Tommy that this has been a tradition since before he was even born - at least twenty years!

Tommy gives Chuckie the idea that he should go along with his dad to go tree shopping so that he can tell his dad to get a nice tree...but when Chuckie goes to the tree lot, his father picks out a nice dead branch that makes Chuckie embarrassed to be a Finster.

All Chuckie wanted for Christmas was a nice tree, and he would have done almost anything to get it.

So when Chuckie happens to come across a tree just sitting in front of someone's yard, he believes that the people in the house are going to throw it away.  He grabs the tree, not realizing that it actually belongs to another family, and not telling his father where he got it, puts it up in the living room to surprise him.

But then Chuckie is feeling awful nervous about it when he drops by the coffee shop that his father owns and he hears Phil, Lil, and Mrs. DeVil talking about how there is a Christmas tree bandit who has stolen a Christmas tree right in front of a person's front yard in the middle of the day, and Susie remarks that anyone who would steal a Christmas tree should face the punishment.

Naturally, Chuckie is mortified that his mistaken assumption about the Christmas tree ruined a family's Christmas, and in his guilt, he confesses all to Tommy expecting him to get angry.  But Tommy is very encouraging, and tells Chuckie to tell the truth about where he got the tree from.  Then they can buy another tree and Christmas will be saved.

But by the time Tommy and Chuckie arrive at the tree lot, all that is left is a sickly Christmas tree...which promptly gets run over by a car and is destroyed.  And to make matters worse, Chuckie is unable to tell his father the truth about the tree because his father has bought eighteen boxes of decorations for the tree and has planned a huge holiday party for the whole neighbourhood complete with carolers he hired.

Enter more guilt for Chuckie.

Now, if you've ever watched "Rugrats" before, you know that when something is bothering Chuckie, he obsesses about it ad nauseum, and at the mall after yelling at a department store Santa Claus, he confesses his crime to Phil, Lil, and Dil (holy rhyming names).

So, Tommy, Phil, Lil, and Dil all help Chuckie conspire to come up with a solution that will help remove Chuckie's guilt, restore Christmas to the family that lost their tree, and bring the Finster family back together again. 

While I won't spoil the ending for you, I will say this.  It's refreshing to know that Tommy, Chuckie, and their pals have kept their strong friendships going all this time, and the fact that all of them will help each other out in a bind is very nice!  It proves that the holiday spirit is present in all of them.

Also, the Hanukkah song that Tommy and Dil work on turns out to be a great success - even though Dil couldn't find a word that rhymed with dreidel.  (How about cradle or ladle?)

All in all, I strongly recommend Rugrats and All Grown Up for anyone who is looking to watch cartoons (because let's face it, at 34, I find some cartoons to be better to watch than some of the reality garbage on television these days).

In fact, here's another gift recommendation for all of you.  The episode that I just talked about in this blog is available on DVD!  It's a DVD called "Nick Picks Holiday", and you can watch this episode, as well as classic episodes of Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants, Fairly OddParents, and three more holiday specials!  I bought myself a copy just for the Rugrats episodes (Rugrats was one of my favourites growing up), and I think if you have little ones at home, they'd love it too!

(I only wish they had the Christmas episode of "You Can't Do That On Television" included on this.  It's been years since I watched that one!)

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