Series: Advent Calendar 2016: Holiday TV Episodes
Season 2 Episode 14
"The Santa Experience"
Originally broadcast December 6, 1992
This is another one that I never really watched before now. I didn't have cable as a kid (or ever, really), so Nickelodeon was just something that happened to other people. This episode was highly recommended by the Internet, though, so I figured I would give it a shot. I'm totally not padding out my list or anything.
What is the show?
Rugrats is an animated show about three (I think) families who hang out all the time. The families all have roughly toddler-aged kids who can talk and interact basically like adults (because it's a cartoon). Episodes are usually split into two 10 minute stories, and each story is actually told from two perspectives. We see the kids having some sort of adventure while the parents are having their own in the other room. It was a pretty successful show, spawning at least one movie.
It is actually a fun show, not just because of the crazy animation style, but because that split perspective leads to a lot of interesting stories. By following both the parents and the kids at the same time, the show is able to tell both sides at once. The parents are all trying their best to provide a good life for their children, and the children are, well, children, so they ultimately try their best to foil those plans. The humor doesn't come at the expense of the characters, by showing the parents being bad parents or the kids being awful kids. Even though it's a pretty crude and strange art style, there's something about it that feels real. I guess it illustrates that "uncanny valley" thing I talked about a few days ago.
Also, a lot of the voices are done by Tress Macneille, who is fantastic. You might have recognized her in Futurama, or of course, in The Simpsons.
What is the episode?
This is a somewhat special episode of Rugrats in that a single story takes up the entire 22 minute running time. I think it was kind of framed as a sort of Rugrats Christmas Special by Nickelodeon. It's listed as an episode of season 2, though, so it doesn't violate my rules.
Angelica (a bratty girl, and oldest of the kids) has an incident with a mall Santa, where he gets "de-bearded" and she throws a fit about it not being the real Santa. Her father, worried that her childhood innocence is shaken, organizes a huge Christmas outing for the whole gang. They get a cabin out in the woods and hire a professional to come in and give the kids the "real Santa experience." Being a TV show, things don't exactly go as planned, but being a children's cartoon, everything works out great in the end.
It has a lot of fun moments. Two of the young boys are afraid of Santa, which is a fun twist on the Christmas story. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we're telling children that some strange fat man breaks into your house (no matter if you have a real chimney or not), watches you even when you sleep, and knows everything about you. It's perfectly legitimate (and probably more common than you might think) to be a little afraid of that. We also get another take on the Gift of the Magi.
It's another simple fun time, without any baggage. If some of those shows that were earlier on the list are to be believed, watching children open presents is the best thing you can do on Christmas. If so, a cartoon about children on Christmas should be pretty solid. Besides, there's nothing like Sunday morning for watching cartoons. Hey, it's Sunday today!
Where can you watch it?
Let's see, what's next on the list . . . Ah, yes. So . . . I guess one of the kids in this episode was scared. What's more scary . . . than murder . . . ?