Monday, October 25, 2010

Garfield Holiday Specials

Every year, the television networks treat us to a new crop of holiday specials. These shows used to be built to last, with memorable characters and stories that families would tune in to see year after year. These days, holiday specials seem pretty much disposable, running for two or three years and then decomposing into the mulch used to fertilize the next year's crop.

I've found it distressing that over the last decade or so, the Garfield holiday specials seem to have slipped into the disposable category. As far as I can tell, the networks have pretty much stopped airing them altogether; even the upper-numbered cable channels whose sole purpose is to recycle old stuff.

This is a mistake. The Garfield holiday specials were not only built to last, they are -- prepare yourself for controversy -- every bit as good as the Charlie Brown holiday specials. Different, certainly, but just as good. When I was a kid, the networks used to air the Charlie Brown and Garfield holiday specials back-to-back, so I've always associated the two; they were together in the newspapers, and they were together on TV. But while Charlie Brown (rightly) remains a stalwart perennial, Garfield has apparently been chewed up and spit out by Father Time's cruelly insatiable appetite for The New.

Garfield's specials contain everything a classic holiday special needs: a good story, funny jokes, catchy songs, and a lesson learned at the end. In "Garfield's Halloween Adventure," Garfield schemes to take Odie's share of the trick-or-treating candy. But when the two have an encounter with pirate ghosts, Garfield realizes that friendship is more important than candy. And by the way, those pirate ghosts are genuinely creepy!!

"Garfield's Thanksgiving," like Charlie Brown's, is the weakest of the three holiday entries, but still enjoyable. Jon invites Liz, the veterinarian, to Thanksgiving dinner at his place. Liz has just put Garfield on a diet, and Garfield is none too pleased. When Jon ruins the meal he was cooking, Garfield clues him into the best way to solve the problem: call Grandma over to make a new meal. Liz, impressed with the meal, loosens the strictness of Garfield's diet and gives Jon a kiss on the cheek.

"A Garfield Christmas Special" is loaded with classic moments. Garfield eating his way to the Christmas tree via a stack of "Christmas lasagnas" Jon has prepared for him. "The gift that keeps on giving." Dad's dramatic reading of "Binky: The Clown Who Saved Christmas." Jon and Doc Boy arguing the semantics of when Christmas Day begins, so they can open their gifts sooner. But most importantly, this special has a lot of heart, mostly centering around the relationship that forms between Garfield and Grandma.

Garfield's holiday specials were great when I was a kid, and I'm happy to report that they've aged well. So as the holidays approach, I recommend that everyone rent or buy these classics. The TV networks may have stopped airing them, but they can still be a valuable addition to your holiday entertainment.