For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls
Christmas is coming, and I’m more jazzed about the season than I’ve been in a long time. A lot of good things are coming together to put me in a cheerful mood. My family is coming up to visit for the holiday, and I’ll be able to host them instead of invading their home for a change. I got to go out and cut down a Christmas tree for my new house, and I haven’t done that since I was a little kid. Most of my shopping was done online, so I haven’t even needed to go into a mall that often. Most importantly, I’ve been jazzed for the past few months because my wife Sarah is pregnant, which is enough to put me in a good mood no matter what.
With Christmas coming and me being in the holiday spirit in a way that I haven’t been for many years, it seems like a good time to check out some holiday programming. Sarah was one step ahead of me, and picked this year’s American Dad Christmas special on Hulu, “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls.” And it was awesome.
As a show, American Dad started out as a rip-off of Family Guy. Partway through its first season, though, it found its stride and became something great. Personally, I think the turning point is when Stan’s boss (played by Patrick Stewart) slept with his daughter and then tried to assassinate her boyfriend when she left him. The show has always had some weirdness to it, but it gets upped big time around Christmas. The four American Dad Christmas specials have gone something like this:
- Season 1: Stan is frustrated by everyone’s insistence on using the politically-correct “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” So he travels back in time in an attempt to kill Jane Fonda and inadvertently turns America into a Soviet-controlled state.
- Season 2: Stan’s perfectionism when it comes to Christmas causes him to ruin the celebration for his family so he can cut down “the perfect Christmas tree.” He dies and proceeds to go on a rampage through Heaven, ultimately holding a gun to God’s head.
- Season 3: Just…just the most awesome thing ever. I can’t even begin to describe how great it is.
That formula continues this season. Stan wants to buy his son a gun for Christmas, but Francine says it’s too dangerous. Stan does so anyway, Steve shoots somebody. That somebody turns out to be Santa Claus, Santa’s elves bring him back to a regeneration chamber, he emerges from stasis, and leads an army of homicidal elves, reindeer, and a FREAKIN’ SNOW TROLL against the Smiths in bloody vengeance. Oh yeah…and along the way, Stan learns to accept his son in law…while fighting off a group of machete-wielding magical elves.
Maybe it’s my love of comic books that makes me adore particularly bizarre situations, but these Christmas specials are great. American Dad has started to show some signs of flagging in the last season, but the Christmas specials are still top notch. Every Christmas, the show goes from something loosely grounded in reality to something totally absurd, over the top, and wonderful.
Swarms of flying reindeer and gun-wielding elves, led by a cigar-chomping, murderous Santa Claus. Just…damn.