A Bowl Full of Telly

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Unless you’re some kind of atheist or communist, you’ll no doubt be spending thousands of hours this holiday season with your fat butt parked in front of the TV. The television wizards have cooked up enough Christmas programming to make you as cheerful as a crack whore at Robert Downey Jr.’s house.

First, many regular series will have Very Special Episodes to warm your heart and fog your brain. On a Very Special Episode of “ER,” for example, they’ll be injecting you with 10cc’s of holiday merriment — stat! — when Santa Claus himself stumbles into the emergency room with congestive heart failure. Ho, ho, ho … CLEAR! Then, on a Very Special Episode of “The X-Files,” Scully’s search for Mulder leads her to the North Pole, where a vicious, man-eating elf devours Scully’s new partner, whatever his name is. “Saturday Night Live” will show for the 750th time that clip of Bill Murray introducing Santa Claus as his co-host, the characters on “Friends” will become involved in a hilarious imbroglio over a parking space at the mall (many are injured), and in the most Very Special Episode of them all, on a truly touching “Touched by an Angel,” the entire episode will be spent manipulating the emotions of all 12 viewers.

But don’t fill up on the regular TV shows, because there are plenty of holiday specials, too! Yule be glad you have nothing better to do than sit like a loser in front of the TV when CBS premieres “Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Are Denied Entrance into the Boy Scouts.” There’s so much holiday warmth in this animated program that if Frosty came near it, he would immediately convert from solid to gas form, bypassing the liquid stage altogether! (This process is called sublimation.) And if you’re wondering whether there’s yet another version of “A Christmas Carol” this year — admit it, you were — you can chop up those worries and stuff ’em up a Christmas goose, because there are SIX new versions of “A Christmas Carol” this year! Scrooge will be played by Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Wilford Brimley, the sea captain from “The Simpsons,” Ruth Hale, and the reanimated corpse of George Burns. Christmas was never merrier, at least not before Prozac was invented! But there’s more! Jerry Seinfeld teams up with Woody Allen in “A Very Jewish Christmas,” Jimmy Stewart murders children in their sleep in “Freddy Krueger’s Christmas,” and Richard Paul Evans’s unbearable five-page novel “The Christmas Box” is turned into a hammy two-hour movie that will make you want to sleep in heavenly peace … FOREVER!

What’s that you say? You want music with your Christmas? Coming right up, Hector! Britney Spears’s new special, “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front … Um, Teeth,” will perk you up on even the nippiest of winter nights, and she’ll be joined by her friends from *NSync, who will *nsing “Silent *Night.” *Ncredible, that’s what we call it now, as a result of the accident. And don’t forget the world premiere of Utah artist Michael McBestor’s “Forgotten Holiday Carol Concert Extravaganza,” with special guests Janice Kapp de Azevedo and Kenneth Cope Oaks Baker! It’s sure to fit your holiday plans as perfectly as an article that is exactly the length of the left-hand column of a newspaper page!

Is this column only four paragraphs long? Yes. Yes it is.

The phrase "crack whore" in the first paragraph did not make it into print in The Daily Herald, despite my many pleadings with my editors. I suspect I could squeeze in one word or the other, but not both of them in one phrase. I said "coke addict" instead, which is not nearly as funny to me as "crack whore" is. Oh, well.

Michael Caine played Scrooge in "A Muppet Christmas Carol," and Patrick Stewart did it in a made-for-TV version. Ruth Hale, for you non-Utahns, was the ancient matriarch of Utah's vast Hale Center Theater empire. I thought she'd have made a fine Scrooge. She died in 2003.

Other explanations: Michael McLean, Kurt Bestor, Janice Kapp Perry, Lex de Azevedo, Kenneth Cope and Jenny Oaks Baker are all LDS musicians, all of them doing both religious and more pop-ish things now and then. McLean and Bestor each have annual Christmas shows (McLean's is "The Forgotten Carols") that are quite successful in Utah and environs. I actually like all of them (except Janice Kapp Perry) as artists; I don't know if the column makes it sound like I'm making fun of them or not. It's hard for me to tell anymore.

Jimmy Stewart appeared in a Mormon-produced film called "Mr. Krueger's Christmas" (co-written by the aforementioned Michael McLean). It also features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The part at the end about the column being exactly the right length is an inside joke for me and my editors. You may recall that several weeks prior to this, the decision was made that my column would be exactly the length of the left-hand column of the newspaper page, and wouldn't "jump" onto another page. This meant making it about 200 words shorter than I had done before, which in my mind limited some of the comedic potential. Fortunately, I had two editors who, like your mom and dad, could be played against each other. The big boss, Mike, was laid-back and basically let me do whatever I want. His right-hand man, Mitch, was more like a grown-up and made sure we didn't get away with too much. It was he who thought the column looked better if it didn't jump; Mike, however, didn't care.

After some whining, I got them to agree to this: I would aim for the right length. But if I went over, I would have to go at least five inches over, so that the continuation on the inside page didnt look silly. (A two-inch jump really does look sloppy. Imagine reading most of a story, then turning the page to continue it ... and discovering it was almost over anyway.) In this case, I knew the crazy TV thing would get old after a while, so I quit at the 550-word mark.

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