Ok, right up front, this will be the last post here at FFDC until sometime after Christmas. FFDC is going on vacation. Our whole staff. Meaning me and Jonathon Cabot. Could be back right after Christmas, or it could be next year.
Either way, my New Year’s Resolutions are to post more here and step up my fitnessing (just like everyone else).
But forget New Year’s because Christmas is so close that I’m getting a funny feeling in my stomach. I haven’t watched all my Christmas specials yet! Sure, I’ve watched the main ones, but what about Frosty’s Winter Wonderland? Sure it sucks, but since I have it on dvd, I feel it must be watched by Christmas. So much to do, so little time. Thankfully, I’ve been done with my shopping since like Thanksgiving.
I don’t know if Seasons of Belief falls into any sort of strict definition of what a Christmas Special should be. But maybe it does. It is a Christmas-themed episode of a regular show that was aired around Christmas (actually, a few days after Christmas, which seems weird to me).
This is, probably, my favorite episode of TFTD.
As I have mentioned, I love things that mix scary stuff and Christmas (yes, including Nightmare Before Christmas). And this mixes them both beautifully. It also has a sort of Terry Gilliam “what you believe is real, is real” aspect to it, but you’ll see that, if you haven’t already.
The story opens with stereotypical Christmas-y shots from around the set of the show. I guess this is to set the mood as jolly, and also to let us know that this is going to be a Tale from the Darkside of Christmas…
After establishing the mood and time of year, we are introduced to the characters: a family, seated around the kitchen table, enjoying dinner together. Very Christmas-y, yes? Well, no. Not really. This Christmas-y mood will quickly drop as soon as the kids start being bratty.
The dad, who is old enough to be the mom’s father, and definitely looks more like a grandfather to a couple kids this young, is played by EG Marshall, whom you will recognize from Creepshow and, coincidentally, as Ellen’s dad in Christmas Vacation.
Just like Clark Griswold, Dad in this story wants to have a good old-fashioned family Christmas Eve, but the kids want to watch Christmas specials. Well, the little girl does. The little boy just wants to be a brat and claim that there is no Santa Claus. EG tells him, “That’s a wicked thing to say, at any time of year, but it’s especially wicked to say on Christmas Eve.”
So we know that it’s Christmas Eve.
The mom asks the kids, “Do you know what Santa does to kids who say there is no Santa?”
“He flips a switch with your name on it, and every toy you get for Christmas breaks within a month.”
Then it cuts to the Christmas Tree train, which promptly derails and goes up in a puff of smoke. This is foreshadowing of two things:
1. Things are already starting to go bad.
2. Whatever you believe, and say, on Christmas Eve is real.
Although Santa has sent a warning with the busted-ass train (the mom tells the daughter that), it doesn’t take long for our family to settle down into their comfortable, Christmas Eve, roles. The only thing that could make this shot better is if EG Marshall was smoking a pipe. Instead, I think he’s having a little nip of moonshine.
This idyllic setting does not last long, however, before the kids start bitching that they’re bored.
The little boy wants Grandpa Munster to tell them a story. When they claim that they do not know any stories, the kids say, “Come on! You make up stories all the time!”
“Are you calling your parents liars?”
“No, we just want a story.”
Boychild explains that they’ve heard all the old stories before, and that now they want a “good story”.
EG leans over to his young wife and says, “Maybe I should tell them about the mumble mumble mumble…”
You can’t hear the last part of what he says, but the mom gets a look and says…
Mom already knows this story. Given the outcome of this episode, you hafta wonder what these parents were thinking. At this point, it seems like they are baiting the kids to beg for this particular story, even though, and because of, it’s “too scary” and might even be dangerous.
The kids beg for it, as we suspect the parents wanted them to, so dad relents and begins a terrifying tale about a creature who lives at the North Pole… but it ain’t Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.
And It’s called…
Dad has to write it down, because if you say His name on Christmas Eve, He’ll come get you… He does not like to be talked about. In fact, I may have gone too far already.
At the North Pole, Santa lives on the protected side of a mountain, and it’s a wonderful place. But on the other side is where It lives, in a cave that is the coldest, wettest, place in the world…
… and can hear it anytime His name is spoken, anywhere on Earth, because His ears get a little bit bigger every time someone speaks His name.
The boy finds this hilarious and rolls over laughing and saying His name over and over and over again…
The mom warns that now His ears are bigger than ever, and worst of all….
He is far away, but now he has begun his journey towards their house. It’ll be awhile before He can get there though.
The little girl starts getting scared, because things start happening around the house (lights blinking, the telltale sign of something bad is afoot, and the storm shutters start banging around)….
But Jimbo is still incredulous. And bratty. And keeps saying His name.
He, the Creature, has huge fists, arms like boa constrictors, and the only people who have ever seen Him are the ones He has eaten up.
And you can hear Him coming, because he sings a song about Himself. The dad and mom sing it for the kids, to the tune of “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful”. What’s interesting here is that the parents now have no problem with saying His name repeatedly. I guess they figure He’s coming anyway, so you might as well say it as much as you like.
This song scares the kids. But to be honest, since it was to the tune of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, as a kid I would have taken that as proof that the entire story was bullshit.
The kids say the song doesn’t even rhyme, and that the parents made it up. However, they both knew it before now, so they obviously didn’t make it up on the spot. And they tell the kids that, “Monster songs never rhyme” and that there are other verses that explain what He looks like. He’s as tall as a poplar, He looks like a road map because His skin is very, very white and the veins show through. The blue is for fear, and the red is for rage.
Sounds like a fearsome Creature, no doubt.
He was born on a ship that got stuck in the Arctic. Everyone aboard died, and He was born out of their fear and rage. Why does He kill people? No one knows. Maybe they made fun of His ears, which are so big that He can use them as wings.
Someone shows up at the door, singing the song about Him! (The little girl flips out, of course, because by now she’s scared out of her wits) It’s good ol’ Uncle Mike, which is who taught mom the song, who taught it to dad.
Part of the legend of Him is that the story must be finished before He can get to your house. If you can finish the story, I guess He’ll leave you alone. Before the adults disappear into the kitchen for some Christmas Eve cordials, the kids beg that the story be finished.
Dad decides to break the news that the story isn’t any more true than the story of Santa Claus. And you don’t believe in Santa Claus, do you? No? Good. Because no one lives at the North Pole, and neither one is coming to this house tonight.
What a terrible thing to say to kids. The boy, sure. He’s older and a man. The little girl, not so much. She probably still believes, and that’s what this episode is all about: Belief, and if you believe something hard enough, in some ways it is real and true.
Stepha, the little girl, still believes, and I think that is what makes all the difference. Despite being told to her face that Santa and the Bad Guy are not real, she’s still worried that the story has not been finished.
That’s when the front door flies open.
The parents, and all of us, are about the find out the power of believing in something on Christmas Eve, the scariest damn night of the year….
After they get the front door closed, two huge arms, white and veiny and the size of basketballs, burst through the front windows!!!!
The huge arms palm mom and dad’s heads and break their necks!
“It wasn’t Santa Claus….”
And that’s the end of it. Why were the parents the only ones killed? Both the kids said His name, as did Uncle Mike, but they didn’t face His wrath. I like to think that it was the parents’ own disbelief that led a real Creature to their house to murder them on Christmas Eve. As I said, it seems that if you truly believe something is real on Christmas Eve, then it is real.
Anyway, great episode. It useta be on youtube, but like anything good, it’s probly been taken down by now.
There was so much that I wanted to get to this holiday season. I had several great posts planned:
– The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. The most pagan Christmas special you will ever see.
– 5 Things in A Christmas Story I Never Noticed Before
– Letters to Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien
Oh well. I’ll get to them next year, if I’m still around. Until then, just imagine the greatest blog posts you have ever read, and imagine that, while I’m writing them, I’m lifting dumbbells. Heavy ones.
I hope you all have a great Holiday Season, a wondrous Yule, and a merry Christmas, and etc.
“Monster songs never rhyme” I really like this train of logic. How did I not know this?
Hope you guys have an incredibly Merry Merry Christmas! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Yeah, it kinda takes a lot of burden off the monsters to not hafta make their songs rhyme. Monsters are more concerned with breaking disbelieving parents’ necks and eating children than writing masterful hit songs, anyway.
Hope yall have a great one as well! Merry Christmas!!!
I can still remember seeing this one the night it aired.
I was under the impression that he-who-shall-remain-unspoken wasn’t an old story that the parents were relating to the kids, but that it was just something completely ad-libbed by them, playing off of each other and laying it on thicker as they went. It’s been a long time, but if I remember right, there was a moment when the phone rang (unbeknownst to us at the time that it was the uncle), and E.G. took the phone to the other room. *This* was, they explained later, how Uncle Mike knew the words to the song.
Yeah, the dad says that he taught Uncle Mike the song, while on the phone with him. I have a feeling that there was a deleted scene that involved something about Him calling on the phone, because right before He strikes, the phone starts ringing.
So, any theories on why it was only the parents who got dealt the death card??? Or if there was any hidden meaning behind this episode? I’m curious about other people’s takes on it all.
I also remember seeing this when it originally aired. It made a hell of an impression, one that made me both excited and frightened on Christmas Eve which, of course, made that night even more thrilling. .
Most likely the onscreen killing of kids would’ve been a line they weren’t willing to cross for primetime. Or it could be that they figured that the longer His appendages were on screen, the sillier it would have started to look–get ’em through the windows, off the parents quick and sweet, and get outta there while it was still shocking and long before anyone the viewers at home could have a chance to point and laugh.
Okay, did a little research, and learned that this episode was based on a short story by Michael Bishop.
–In the story however, the impression is given that no one survives. In the last scene of the story, Jimbo and Stefa are picking up their crayons while the adults go into the kitchen for coffee and doughnuts. As they tidy up they happen to look out the window and see the Grither looking in at them. The last line of the story is as follows:
“But because they weren’t a bit surprised, Stefa and Jimbo didn’t even scream….”–
Both of these are probably good reasons for them not to show the kids getting killed. I didn’t even consider the “not appropriate for primetime tv” angle. I guess the most practical answer is probably the right one, in this situation. And those big arms do look kinda goofy, even though from the parents’ description, He would like completely ridiculous, until He wrecked your soul.
I had no idea it was based on a story, but now I must find it. I would have liked it better if He would have wiped the whole crew out. I think it would have been more realistic, if a creature with giant ears and arms and hands, who lives inside a wrecked ship at the North Pole, could ever be seen as “realistic” at all.
Tales from the Darkside did not air during what is considered primetime. It aired at 1 a.m. on Monday mornings.
Really? Somehow I doubt that was the case for the entire run of the show because I definitely watched it while it was on the air and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t stay up until 1am on Monday mornings when I was 5 to 10 years old. Maybe it aired at different times in different markets.
the season is 3 episode 9, not 11