Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dec 14 - Family Ties and The Real Ghostbusters (1983 and 1986)

I'm gonna cheat with my chronological order approach just a bit to put two TV specials together, These are the only "special Christmas episode of a TV show" versions I'm covering so I thought I'd do them at once. There are plenty of other shows that have their own Christmas Carol pastiches, but I didn't want to cover a dozen shows and so limited it to these two shows which I love in general. 

Family Ties is a show about two liberal parents who grew up as hippies in the '60s raising their kids in Ohio, but the twist is, somehow, their son Alex grew up to be a hardcore Reagan republican! So Alex is a pretty natural fit for fiscally conservative Scrooge. Though, at least in my recollection, they amp up Alex's personality a bit too much in this episode to make him a more heartless and Scrooge-like than is typical for his character.

So it's Christmas Eve and Alex is not feeling any of the festivities-doesn't want to decorate the tree and pose for photos, resents the notion of getting presents for anyone, and will not tolerate a single line of Christmas carol being sung. So two years before doing so to escape Libyan terrorists in a microbus, Michael J. Fox travels in time thanks to two ghosts who've taken the appearance of his sisters.

It proceeds about how you might expect. In the past, Alex felt the joy of Christmas and in the future the Keaton living room is a hilarious, nigh-dystopian scene of indoor clotheslines, filthy, raggedy shirts and a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Alex is more cynical than ever and wealthy for one reason or another and lives out of state. Poor little Jennifer has to tote a wheelbarrow around selling dirt to help the family get by. I'm not sure exactly why the family has fallen into such terrible poverty because Alex doesn't love Christmas..but I guess these things happen sometimes. Alex sees the error of his way and when he wakes up the next morning he makes merry hardcore.

So it's a charming enough episode, but the problem for me is it's sitting in between being an episode of Family Ties and an adaptation/homage of A Christmas Carol. It's not a fully realized adaptation, and in trying to squeeze in a half-adaptation, it's only half a Family Ties episode and doesn't have room to be as smart and funny as a typical episode is. I'd be fine watching this anytime I'm watching a Family Ties marathon, but I'm not going to go out of my way to squeeze it into the annual Christmas movie rotation.

After Ghostbusters was released in 1984, they had to find a way to sell toys to us crazy kids and in the '80s that meant there had to be a cartoon. This episode is the one with the flimsiest reason to be on the list, as far as retellings of the novel, but I couldn't pass up a chance to include Ghostbusters.

The gang is returning from a far off job upstate when they drive into very heavy snow on a rural road and...go back in time through a portal thingy. Oh, and transported to England. They don't really seem to notice at first, the fact that everyone is speaking with accents and modern technology is nowhere to be found passes them by. When they stumble upon Ebeneezer Scrooge's house, all they see is an old man being harassed by three ghosts and so they do what comes natural. They trap the ghosts, eventually pry a shilling from Scrooge as payment...still not curious or overly surprised by their situation.

But! When they finally make it back to New York City, everyone is humbugging around the town. Being a Scrooge is just the norm because a hundred and fifty years ago Ebeneezer Scrooge, not transformed, wrote a book decrying the holiday! I'm impressed that one man's book could apparently tear down almost two thousand years of Christmas love, but that's what has happened. And a weird thing is that the Ghostbusters know all about A Christmas Carol and Scrooge, they just thought it was fiction.

Getting the Christmas ghosts out of the containment unit may be tricky, so the next obvious plan is to, of course, go back to the portal thingy, go back in time and Peter, Winston and Ray will pretend to be the three ghosts and turn Scrooge around. They do their thing and the real ghosts are freed and returned just in time to get back to Scrooge and finish the job. The Ghostbusters return to the present and all is right with the world.

So it's by no means an adaptation but as far as special episodes go it's a great success. It takes the premise of the book, a story just about everyone has heard and knows at least in broad strokes, and turns it on it's head so it fits perfectly within the world of the show. It doesn't just try to pointlessly, limply rehash the story for easy sentimentality points, but makes something uniquely its own. It won't be the only cartoon Christmas Carol you watch, but it would be fun to check out after watching a couple of the good feature length movies.

  1. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  2. Scrooge (1970)
  3. A Christmas Carol (1938)
  4. Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)
  5. A Christmas Carol (1971)
  6. The Real Ghostbusters-X-Mas Marks the Spot (1986)
  7. An American Christmas Carol (1979)
  8. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
  9. Scrooge (1935)
  10. Family Ties-A Keaton Christmas Carol (1983)
  11. A Christmas Carol (1910)
  12. Rich Little's A Christmas Carol (1978)
  13. A Christmas Carol (1977)
  14. Shower of Stars: A Christmas Carol (1954)
  15. Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost (1901)
  16. The Christmas Carol (1949)

No comments:

Post a Comment