By Joseph Walter
We're dealing with two hugely popular, Emmy award-winning series, too, so you're more than likely familiar with at least one of them.
First up is "Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special!"
But then Mr. C turns the tables: Yes, he brought everything, but because of it, there was nothing left to bring all the other good little boys and girls in the world. Pee-Wee then recalls his forgotten statement at the beginning of the episode: "Christmas is the time we should be thinking about what we can do for others." With newfound selflessness, Pee-Wee says he'll give up his gifts so the children of the world will be able to have Christmas. Santa, rewarding Pee-Wee for his selfless act, then tells him that he needs to come for the sleigh-ride and help distribute the gifts.
Pee-Wee, beyond ecstatic, thanks the jolly old elf by saying "you're the greatest Santa there ever was!" to which Santa, in a legendary burn, responds "I know you are, but what am I?"
Despite this, it manages to have an very heartfelt conclusion, that proves, despite all the tongue-in-cheek antics, the "Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special's" heart is in the right place.
And thus begins Joker's wild and wacky (and exceedingly lethal) Christmas Special. He's kidnapped Commissioner Gordon, Detective Harvey Bullock and reporter Summer Gleeson, holding them as bait for Batman to rescue while he causes mayhem for Gotham City by blowing up train bridges and firing a cannon towards the heart of town.
Of course, Robin (who is especially miffed about being unable to watch "It's a Wonderful Life") and Batman are able to save the hostages, the city and the day, only to find that the Joker's true agenda was nothing more than to give Batman a Christmas present... which turns out to be a spring-loaded pie to the face.
It shows sharp, funny writing (such as when Dick suggests that he and Bruce watch "It's A Wonderful Life," to which Bruce responds "I've never seen that. I could never get past the title") while also injecting serious drama, such as when it's revealed that the train racing to its doom has Summer's mother as a passenger, a fact that makes Joke cruelly and exuberantly erupt with laughter.
Speaking of the Joker, this episode (and much of the entire series) proves that it truly gets the character. He's incredibly evil and menacing, as shown by his kidnapping, wanton destruction and laughter and despair, but also equal part harmless trickster, exemplified by his main goal being giving Batman a pie in the face.
In terms of Christmas content, it does a great job. The 1940's art deco setting helps give the right, nostalgic atmosphere, as does the focus of the episode being a malevolent version of the old-fashioned Christmas Special classics. The story itself is also a skewed Christmas Special: Instead of the focus being on enjoying the holidays with friends and family, friends and family are instead threatened and need to be rescued.
There are also so many cute little moments, such as when Dick compares Batman's crusade to George Baily's revelation that a single man can make a difference in the world. However, my personal favorite moment is when the Joker, seeing that Batman and Robin have tracked down his lair and are already making their way through, giddily skips and giggles into a room where he puts on a record of the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," cueing giant Nutcracker robots to attack the duo. I love the idea that he is attempting to make his antics as Christmasy as possible.
Another great moment is during the conclusion, where we see that Bruce and Dick have just completed a long-due viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life." When asked how he felt about it, Bruce responds "it has its moments," no doubt reflecting on what Dick said earlier.
It's humorous, dramatic when need-be, nostalgic, yet also extremely heartfelt.