Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Goldbergs: "A Christmas Story"

Premiered December 9, 2015

"My mom got the Hanukkah she always wanted:Christmas!"
-Adam Goldberg

It's Christmas vacation 1980-something and the Goldbergs' matriarch Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is frustrated by her family's lack of interest in celebrating Hanukkah.

Her husband Murray (Jeff Garlin) and their kids Erica (Haley Orrantia), Barry (Troy Gentile) and Adam (Sean Giambrone) are disappointed Hanukkah presents are less interesting on each of the eight nights.

Erica gets school supplies for Hanukkah.
This in contrast to the "Christmas Wonderland" at the Kremp house across the street.  Virginia Kremp (Jennifer Irwin) and her kids are smiling and excited about Christmas.

This makes Beverly feel like she is "not good at family."  So she invents a new holiday which she calls "Super Hanukkah."  Instead of eight nights of gifts, they will save up presents, put them under a "Hanukkah Bush" and open all of them on one night...or one morning.

Since school is out, Adam and his older brother Barry pass time playing games and watching their favorite holiday film, A Christmas Story.  Adam gets upset when Barry would rather spend time with his girlfriend Lainey (AJ Michalka). 

In order to get Barry to stay, Adam "double-dog dares" Barry to put his tongue on their freezing-cold tether ball pole.  When Barry stalls, Adam ups the ante and issues a triple-dog dare.  They both wind up frozen to the pole.

Murray finds himself getting (inadvertently) wrapped up in the spirit of the season.  The Kremps had hired a "Santa" to stop by their house and drop off gifts.  When that falls through, they ask Murray to play Santa.  He finds that strangers treat him nicer and give him free stuff when he wears the Santa suit.

Beverly's father Al (George Segal) is disgusted by the idea of Super Hanukkah and is also unhappy to see Murray in the Santa suit. He thinks his daughter's made-up holiday is an insult to their ancestors who made great sacrifices in order to carry on their Judaic traditions.  Al decides to dress up a character he calls "Hanu-Claus" in order to make Beverly and the others feel guilty.  This leads to an ugly argument between Beverly and Al.

The jar stores all the traditions Beverly has passed down to her children (it's empty).
Will Al ruin Beverly's new holiday?  Will Barry and Adam be recused from the frozen pole?

J.A. Morris says:

There isn't a lot of holiday programming that focuses on Hanukkah, so this episode of The Goldbergs is a welcome addition.

It's understandable that Beverly would feel envious of her neighbor's holiday celebration.  I also sympathized with Al when he felt like their family traditions were being disrespected.

It's not an accident that the title of this episode is "A Christmas Story."  We see the Goldberg boys watching the movie of the same name several times and of course the "tether ball pole" scene is a reenactment of Flick's encounter with a flagpole.  There are other references to A Christmas Story, but I won't spoil them.

George Segal sings a Hanukkah-themed version of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and accompanies himself on banjo.  It's worth noting that Segal is an accomplished banjo player and has released several albums.

"A Christmas Story" is a very funny episode that parodies a classic Christmas movie while featuring a great story about holidays and family traditions.

J.A. Morris's rating:

4 dreidels!

RigbyMel says:

As J.A. Morris points out above,  there is a distinct lack of Hanukkah TV programming, so it's nice to have this episode attempt to include both Hanukkah and Christmas.

I rather suspect that Beverly's feeling of "not being good at family" is universal whether one is Jewish, Christian or nothing in particular, especially during the holiday season when familial expectations seem to run especially high.    I also quite like that "A Christmas Story" does a good job of demonstrating that this is a feeling that can be pretty common.

I can see both sides of the Beverly vs. Al Haunkkah argument -- Christmas and Hanukkah are both holidays rooted in religious tradition, but the cultural permeation of Christmas into pretty much every aspect of life in the U.S. in December means it's also a secular holiday.   This leads to tensions from a strictly religious point of view and balancing that tension can be tricky.  I have known of other Jewish families who choose to fold secular Christmas into their festive season as well as Christians who choose to include menorahs in their holiday decorating,  but recognize that these choice might not work for all. 

I appreciated the references to the film A Christmas Story as well as to the 1980s SNL "Hanukkah Harry" sketches that were folded into the episode.   Nostalgia is an important part of the mid-winter festive season as it is practiced today regardless of religion -- and as The Goldbergs trades on 1980-something nostalgia year round, it feels natural in context.

Just like in A Christmas Story, the Kremps and Goldbers celebrate the holidays with "Chinese Turkey."
"A Christmas Story" is a fun and funny festive addition to your holiday viewing  -- especially if one grew up in the 1980s -- and is recommended.

RigbyMel's rating:


3 and a half dreidels.

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