Saturday, December 16, 2006
I can't say for certain how many series regulars ever met the REAL Santa Claus, (I'd have to study that book by Diane Werts!), but two of them stand out in my mind because it's yet another thing they have in common.
I'm referring to Lucy Ricardo of 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour', and Samantha Stephens of 'Bewitched'. ('Bewitched' has certainly been mentioned a lot these last few days in connection to Santa Claus. Better not tell the fundamentalists!)
Although Lucy met Santa Claus first from our viewing vantage point, Samantha more than likely knew him from long before that.
Lucy's encounter with St. Nick happened on Christmas morning, 1956, and it demonstrated how the jolly old elf had a mischievous sense of humor. Hoping to bolster Little Ricky's belief in Santa, his parents Lucy and Ricky and his honorary aunt and uncle Fred and Ethel all dressed up as Santa and showed up in the apartment at the same time. But when they took a head count, there were five Santas in the room. Once they figured that out, the real Santa magically vanished.
Apparently, Santa Claus never tired of that trick. About ten years later, when five members of 'The Addams Family' household dressed up in the red suit, he joined them as the sixth. It may have been his way os saying "Thank you" to adults who just wanted to keep the belief in Santa Claus alive for the kids.
And adults sometimes need a boost to their belief as well.
As mentioned previously, Samantha visited with Santa Claus on two occasions (that we know of).
I mentioned that Lucy and Samantha had something else in common: they both lived in Westport, Ct. The Ricardos moved there early in 1957, and Samantha moved to Morning Glory Circle after marrying Darrin Stephens less just over five years later.
I'm not a fanfic writer, only an enabler, so here's the idea I had: What better theme for mixing the characters of 'I Love Lucy' and 'Bewitched' than one about "Christmas In Connecticut"?
Aunt Clara wants to help Darrin close a deal with a client in time to be free for the holidays. But the client is proving to be a tough sell when it comes to hiring Darrin's fellow Westportian (?) Ricky Ricardo as the celebrity spokesman. Even though Ricky would be a natural in connection to the product, whatever it is (Hey! I can't do everything for you!), the client is a rabid anti-Communist and he equates all Cubans with Castro.
So when Aunt Clara casts her spell, she unfortunately (but expectedly) messes things up and turns Lucy into Fidel Castro just before the client is supposed to come over to their house for dinner. The fatigues, the cigar, the beard, the works! Although they don't know how it happened, Lucy and Ethel go to great lengths to disguise the fact that she now has a beard.
Luckily Samantha is able to save the day and find not only a reasonable explanation as to why Lucy looks like Castro, but also how it might be a great presentation for the product.
And everything is brought back to normal just in time for the big Christmas feast. And for good measure, maybe Santa Claus could revisit with both Lucy and Samantha.
That's my Christmas fanfic wish, anyway.
Friday, December 15, 2006
I think I satisfactorily presented my theory that even though the Santa Claus of the main Toobworld resembles an actor named Charles Durning, he still had the power to alter his appearance. And he did this so that no two groups of people could agree on what he actually looked like.
As the embodiment of the Christmas Spirit, Santa Claus wanted our belief in him to be based on faith, not fact. And as Dr. Miguelito Loveless (my all-time favorite TV character) once said, "All faith must have a little doubt mixed in. Otherwise it's just flabby sentimentality."
There have been countless TV episodes where we've seen characters who impersonated Santa Claus, most recently (in our timeline) Chris' Dad on 'Everybody Hates Chris'. (It actually happened back in the early 1980s.)
Yet nobody, except for maybe very small children, ever mistook these characters fro the real St. Nick. (For example - just picture Deputy Barney Fife as Santa on 'The Andy Griffith Show'.)
But there was a time when a Santa Claus impostor was believed to be the real deal, because of the magical things that happened because he was present......
Episode Number: 99 Season Num: 5
A fitting story for Christmas--Santa is arrested for freeing reindeer. He asks what each wants for Christmas. Jody wants a 'white' Christmas in spite of the current heat wave; Colt reluctantly says he needs a new truck. There is a child care center threatened with eviction and some crooks want the bonds Santa's cellmate is hiding.
Writer: Philip John Taylor, Doug Heyes Jr.
Director: Bruce Bilson
Show Stars: Nedra Volz (Pearl Sperling), Lee Majors (Colt Seavers), Douglas Barr (Howie Munson), Heather Thomas (Jody Banks)
Guest Stars: Bernard Fox (Santa [Chris Winter]) , Hakeem Abdul Samad (Leon) , Tom Hallick (Max Diehi) , Robert Donner (Edmund Trench) , Stephen Liska (Kane) , Connie Lew (Jenna) , Elliott Scott (Daniel) , Judith Barsi (Little Girl) , Lynn Whitfield (Jeanne)
He gave his name as "Chris Winter", which would seem to be an obvious alias for the real Santa to use. And magical happenings did occur because of him, so that the bounty hunters were left to ponder whether or not he was the true Santa Claus after he vanished.
He was able to perform magic all right, but not because he was Santa Claus.
He was actually Dr. Bombay from 'Bewitched'!
The celebrated witch doctor would just as likely know Santa Claus personally as did Samantha Stephens. It's likely that he introduced the younger witch to the jolly old elf.
We don't always see everything that occurs on Toobworld. (My favorite example - when Khan met Chekov on 'Star Trek'.) So there might have been a reason as to why Kris Kringle himself could not come to the rescue of those reindeer, which is why he probably called in a favor from his friend Dr. Bombay.
As to why he tried to pass himself off as Santa, the witch doctor probably wanted to protect his own identity. it's one thing to magically appear in a mortal's home wearing an antique diving suit; at least there he was in the presence of other witches. But if he was detected performing magic spells by the mortal majority, it would be better to mistaken for a universally beloved figure like Santa Claus.
Sadly, we've seen in the Real World what happens when mentally disturbed parents think they're children are possessed. Just imagine what would happen if some jerk in Toobworld discovered that there were witches among us. It would be Salem all over again!
So Dr. Bombay played out the escapade in the guise of Santa Claus, giving himself the double-blind alias of Chris Winter, and never let on as to who he really was.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
For the main Toobworld, as well as for most of the alternate dimensions (and for the Trueniverse as well), Santa Claus is an eternal spirit, the same man who has always held the position.
But in several TV dimensions, Santa Claus is a job title that must be filled every so often by a new candidate as the old one either retires or dies. (Much like the situation in those Tim Allen movies.)
This was established in a TV movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, "Call Me Claus".
But it looks as though it may also be the case for the Santa Claus of the evil mirror universe made famous in the 'Star Trek' franchise.
Not that Santa ever met Spock or Whorf... that would be jumping the shark to be sure! But we know there are doppelgangers of the Greek gods living in that evil mirror dimension, thanks to 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys', and they were never mentioned in the episode "Mirror, Mirror" of 'Star Trek'. So why not assume that Santa Claus has a counterpart over there as well.
I'm not saying that Santa would also be evil over there. It's true that powerful figures of myth are transformed over there - Ares is the God of Love, for instance, in the evil mirror dimension. But I think Santa Claus is too powerful a figure for good to be corrupted by his surroundings, no matter how pervasive that evil atmosphere may be.
And I think the portrayal of Santa that best suits this dark dimension would be that by Art Carney in three different TV productions:
"The Twilight Zone" .... Henry Corwin (1 episode, 1960)
- The Night of the Meek (1960) TV Episode .... Henry Corwin
Art Carney (Santa Claus/Cosmo the Wizard, King of Evil)
. . . Great Santa Claus Switch, The (1970) (TV)
Art Carney (Santa Claus)
. . . Night They Saved Christmas, The (1984) (TV)
[thanks to the IMDb.com]
In 'The Twilight Zone' episode, he is seen as a down-on-his-luck bum being recruited for the job magically. It wasn't an easy transition, as Corwin was brought in for questioning and accused of stealing by his former employer.
Like most Christmas stories, it all worked out by the end of the episode. Henry Corwin was not just assuming the role of old St. Nick, he became the new Santa. And even though Art Carney passed away several years ago, I think he would still be alive as Henry Corwin, aka Santa Claus.
The Muppets have doppelgangers in that dimension as well. Yes, there would be evil Muppets and Lothar would be one of those. He was seen in a Christmas special called "The Great Sanat Switch" in which it was revealed that Santa Claus had an evil twin brother who became the King of Evil. (I think it's safe to assume that his name was originally Cosmo Corwin.)
And then there's that last TV movie in which an evil conglomerate tried to drill for oil at the North Pole.
All three featured situations in which Santa was assailed by the evil that men (and Muppets) do, but he was able to conquer each time, thanks to that inexhaustible Christmas spirit.
And not even the Evil Mirror Universe can stop that!
We're happy little Christmas elves.
We never are forlorn.
We fill up all of Cosmo's shelves
With the money Christmas morn.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
First up - Santa Claus!
For the purpose of the TV Crossover Hall of Fame, the official portrait of Santa Claus would have to be that of Charles Durning, who has played the jolly old elf in four different productions on TV:
Charles Durning (Santa Claus)
. . . Boyfriend for Christmas, A (2004) (TV)
Charles Durning (Santa Claus)
. . . Elmo Saves Christmas (1996) (V)
Charles Durning (King Nicholas XX (Santa Claus))
. . . Mr. St. Nick (2002) (TV)
Charles Durning (Santa Claus)
. . . Mrs. Santa Claus (1996) (TV)
[thanks to the IMDb.com]
Two of those productions deal directly with the legend and one incorporates the fact that in Toobworld, puppets are alive. And as a block they make a powerful argument for Charles Durning to be the official look for Santa.
With the many TV movies that portray Santa Claus - and I think we've gained three new ones this year alone! - it's easy to say that they should all be assigned to alternate dimensions of the TV Universe. With the countless cartoon versions, we can assume that they are all one and the same since the differences in artistic style do not separate one cartoon from another. The inhabitants of the Tooniverse can't tell the difference.
(I can't remember if 'Jimmy Neutron' and 'The Fairly Oddparents' made any reference to the fact that both shows had different artistic designs when they did their crossover, but that would only prove that those characters are tele-cognizant.)
Still, Santa Claus has appeared in many different TV shows that exist in the main Toobworld, and yet they all look different (which of course is due to casting here in the Real World). So how do we splain that away and yet keep them all in Earth Prime Time.
Santa Claus is a mythic figure of a power level equal to, if not greater than, the legen - wait for it! - dary "gods" of Greek mythology. And as we saw with Zeus in just one series ('Hercules: The Legendary Journeys'), he was able to change his appearance several times over.
So it is with Santa Claus. He appeared at least twice on 'Bewitched' and yet both times he looked different. (Once he was played by Cecil Kellaway; the other time by Ronald Long.) And yet Samantha Stevens recognized him as THE Santa Claus both times.
It just shows to go ya that Santa's powers to mask his own looks are more powerful than Sam's ability. (She masked the looks of her husband so that he looked like an actor named Dick York one spring, only to have him look like an actor named Dick Sargent the following fall.... and yet nobody in Toobworld ever noticed!)
Santa probably employs this technique to keep the spirit of faith in his existence alive. If he was to be proven as a reality, then all the magic of the Christmas spirit would be gone. And where's the sport in that?
By the way, regarding the Santa Claus that looked like Cecil Kellaway - there is no truth to the rumor that he was actually an android named Wickwire helping out the real Santa Claus. That android, seen in an episode of 'The Twilight Zone', just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Santa and it exists in the future anyway.
But if you can't have everybody involved from the original production, it will always feel as though the heart has been divvied up. This held true with the 'Gilligan's Island' movies (with no Tina Louise) and the reunion special for 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' (minus Morey Amsterdam and Richard Deacon).
Peter Boyle Dead At 71
The veteran character actor died Tuesday evening in New York after a long battle with multiple myeloma and heart disease, his publicist, Jennifer Plante, told The ShowBuzz Wednesday.
A Christian Brothers monk who turned to acting, Boyle gained notice playing an angry working man in the Vietnam-era hit "Joe." But he overcame typecasting when he took on the role of the hulking, lab-created monster in Mel Brooks' 1974 send-up of horror films.
The movie's defining moment came when Gene Wilder, as scientist Frederick Frankenstein, introduced his creation to an upscale audience. Boyle, decked out in tails, performed a song-and-dance routine to the Irving Berlin classic "Puttin' On the Ritz."
It showed another side of the Emmy-winning actor, one that would be exploited in countless other films and perhaps best in "Everybody Loves Raymond," in which he played incorrigible paterfamilias Frank Barone for 10 years. He received five Emmy nominations for that role.
"He's just obnoxious in a nice way, just for laughs," he said of the character in a 2001 interview. "It's a very sweet experience having this happen at a time when you basically go back over your life and see every mistake you ever made."
When Boyle tried out for the role opposite series star Ray Romano's Ray Barone, however, he was kept waiting for his audition — and he was not happy.
"He came in all hot and angry," recalled the show's creator, Phil Rosenthal, "and I hired him because I was afraid of him."
But Rosenthal also noted: "I knew right away that he had a comic presence."
Boyle first came to the public's attention more than a quarter century before. "Joe" was a sleeper hit in which he portrayed the title role, an angry, murderous bigot at odds with the era's emerging hippie youth culture.
Although critically acclaimed, he faced being categorized as someone who played tough, angry types. He broke free of that to some degree as Robert Redford's campaign manager in "The Candidate," and shed it entirely in "Young Frankenstein."
The latter film also led to the actor meeting his wife, Loraine Alterman, who visited the set as a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine. Boyle, still in his monster makeup, quickly asked her for a date. [Note from Toobworld: John Lennon would be his best man.]
He went on to appear in dozens of films and to star in "Joe Bash," an acclaimed but short-lived 1986 "dramedy" in which he played a lonely beat cop. He won an Emmy in 1996 for his guest-starring role in an episode of "The X Files," and for the 1977 TV film "Tail Gunner Joe," in which he played Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
In the 1976 film "Taxi Driver," he was the cabbie-philosopher Wizard, who counseled Robert De Niro's violent Travis Bickle.
Other notable films included "T.R. Baskin," "F.I.S.T.," "Johnny Dangerously," "Conspiracy: Trial of the Chicago 8" (as activist David Dellinger), "The Dream Team," "The Santa Claus," "The Santa Claus 2," "While You Were Sleeping" (in a charming turn as Sandra Bullock's future father-in-law) and "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed."
Educated in Roman Catholic schools in Philadelphia, Boyle would spend three years in a monastery before abandoning his studies there. He later described the experience as similar to "living in the Middle Ages."
He explained his decision to leave in 1991: "I felt the call for a while; then I felt the normal pull of the world and the flesh."
In Toobworld, I'll always remember him for his portrayal of Senator McCarthy as well as for that lost, lonely soul for which he won the Emmy in 'The X-Files'. The part was written for Bob Newhart, but Peter Boyle made it inconceivable that anybody else could have been Clyde Bruckman.
He's a man who made Toobworld richer... and a hell of a fun place.