Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Everybody Hates Chris: "Everybody Hates Easter"

Premiered March 23, 2008
"Growing up in Bed-Stuy, one holiday I looked forward to was Easter.  You were dressed up, girls were dressed up and it was a good day to pretend you were on a date." 
-Chris Rock's opening narration

It's 1986 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.  Easter is approaching and Chris (Tyler James Williams) is bemoaning the fact that Tasha (Paige Hurd), the girl he likes, is dating someone else.

After Tasha has a fight with her boyfriend Robert (Lee Davis), she has no one to escort her at the church Easter pageant.  When she asks Chris if he'll be her escort, he jumps at the chance.

Meanwhile, Chris's mother Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) is shopping for a new Easter hat.

She visits a new hat shop in the area run by a woman named Hattie (Anna Maria Horsford).  Rochelle mentions that she's won her church's annual Easter Hat contest several years in a row and plans to win again this year.  Hattie tells Rochelle that won't happen because SHE intends to win the competition herself!

Chris' plans to escort Tasha are complicated when she tells him the pageant will be held at her grandmother's church in Queens.

Rochelle says she wants him cheering her on at the hat contest at her church, which means Chris needs to be in two places at once.

Plus, Chris's siblings Tonya (Imani Hakim) and Drew (Tequan Richmond) plot to win the church Easter Egg hunt by cheating.  And their father Julius (Terry Crews) pretends he has to work so he can sneak home and watch baseball. 

Will Chris be able to pull of his scheme?   Will Rochelle be able to defeat Hattie in the bonnet contest? 

RigbyMel says: 

"Everybody Hates Easter" is an entertaining holiday-themed episode.  The Everybody Hates Chris series did a pretty good job in general of applying sitcom tropes to 1980-something Brooklyn and it's always nice to find mainstream shows that feature people of color.    

The series featured funny narration by comedian Chris Rock, who also worked as an executive producer and writer for the series, as it was semi-autobiographical.  Rock's narration strikes me a somewhat more sarcastic take on adults looking back on their childhoods in the vein of series like The Wonder Years and helps the series to have its own unique flavor. 

Chris daydreams about terrible things happening to Tasha's boyfriend (note the sneakers sticking out from under the meteor)

There's also a touch of influence from 
A Christmas Story in this Easter episode not only because of nostalgic voice over narration, but because of the protagonists' imaginative vignettes (like Chris's meteor strike fantasy).  

"Everybody Hates Easter" has a lot of heart and has fun with Easter traditions like egg hunts,  going to church, and showing off your Easter bonnet.  

The Easter bonnet originated in Europe when it was customary for people to wear new clothes and hats on Easter.  This tradition came over to the Americas with various waves of immigrants.  
In the late 19th century, seeing and being seen at the New York Easter parade where the became a tradition of its own, as did increasingly elaborate headgear.  This in turn, inspired the popular Irving Berlin song "Easter Parade" from the 1930s, which reinforces the notion.    

The Easter bonnet tradition was enthusiastically embraced by African Americans and provides a great source of conflict and comedy in this episode. 

The "trying to be in two places at once" plot is one of the biggest TV sitcom tropes of all time, but it's well used here. Chris's pursuit of Tasha parallels Julius's pursuit of watching baseball in peace.  

The younger siblings' pursuit of ALL THE EASTER CANDY by any means necessary is also amusing and has predictable stomachache-y results,  but again, the comedy is well deployed.   

"Everybody Hates Easter" is a delightful and festive spring episode from a fun sitcom and definitely holds up to repeated viewings.  It's well worth taking the time to watch (or re-watch) as part of your Easter viewing. 

RigbyMel's rating: 

4 Easter eggs!

J.A. Morris says:
"Everybody Hates Easter" is a fun and entertaining episode that touches on most of the religious and secular traditions that surround Easter.  It's also always nice to find an Easter episode, since there aren't many.  

I was a regular viewer of
Everybody Hates Chris (until the network started moving it around the schedule) and this is a good Easter episode. As my co-blogger says, it hits all the major Easter tropes.  

Chris wasn’t perfect, but he was usually a sympathetic protagonist.  Tyler James Williams carries most of the episode and he’s great as Chris.  The scenario Chris find himself in, committing to be in two places at once in order to please everyone, is old as comedy itself.  However, it's executed well in "Everybody Hates Easter."  

Tichina Arnold also does a great job in the “Easter Hat” storyline.  In fact, the whole cast is excellent and all the regulars gets at least one moment to shine.  During the hat contest, the church's choir performs a catchy and hilarious gospel-style song about Easter Hats that adds to the fun of the episode.    

Some notes about the supporting cast:
Two well-known actors play small roles in “Everybody Hates Easter.”  Rochelle’s friend Vanessa is played by Jackee’ Harry, who has dozens of film and TV credits and is best known for her roles on 227 (which Harry an Emmy) and Sister, Sister.  

Chris’ boss Doc is portrayed by Antonio Fargas, who played a very memorable role as Huggy Bear on Starsky & Hutch and also appeared in films that include Putney Swope and Foxy Brown.  

"Everybody Hates Easter" features great storylines and humorous moments.  It's good enough to get my highest rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:
4 Easter Eggs!

Monday, March 29, 2021

M*A*S*H: "April Fools"

Premiered March 24, 1980.
"The festive spirit of April Fool can scarcely be contained within a mere 24-hour period."
-Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester

In the midst of the Korean War, at the 4077th M*A*S*H unit, army doctors Capt. "Hawkeye" Pierce (Alan Alda), Capt. B.J. Honeycutt (Mike Farrell), Maj. Charles E. Winchester (David Ogden Stiers) and Col. Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) are feeling more down and disillusioned than usual about their wartime surroundings.  Their mood is brightened when a package from B.J.'s wife arrives containing brownies and a can of pralines.  Charles is particularly excited about opening a can of pralines, only to be shocked when he learns...

...the can contains rubber novelty snakes!  

At that exact moment, nurse Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Loretta Swit) screams in horror when she finds dead minnows in her pocket!  Winchester takes credit for the fish and he says it's an April Fool's Day prank, even though April 1 hasn't arrived.  

Col. Potter says they can prank each other, but he wants nothing to do with the seasonal festivities.  The April Fool's pranks continue the next morning when Hawkeye wakes up to find oatmeal in his boot (courtesy of Maj. Houlihan).

The humorous atmosphere is broken up when Potter learns his M*A*S*H unit will receive a visit from Col. Daniel Webster Tucker (Pat Hingle), who Potter calls "lord high executioner of the surgeon general's office!"  Col. Tucker will be inspecting their medical facilities and he's a stickler for details who does not suffer (April) fools gladly.  Potter orders his company clerk Cpl. Max Klinger (Jamie Farr) to organize files and order every medical supply he can think of.  

Potter fears that a failed inspection from Tucker will hurt his career and bans April Fool's pranks until Tucker has departed.  However, Charles, B.J. and Hawkeye decide to pull one last prank on Margaret.

Klinger has a history of dressing in women's clothes in order to get a Section 8 discharge from the Army.  After getting some advice from Sgt. Luther Rizzo (G.W. Bailey), Klinger decides his ticket out of the military is to act like the world's greatest soldier in front of Tucker and then go back to his old methods.  

Later on, Margaret's tent is ransacked by the doctors.  Col. Tucker arrives to witness Houlihan swinging a pillow at the pranksters. 

Potter is furious at them for continuing their April Fool's activity.  Tucker is disgusted by everything he sees, with the exception of Klinger...

...who has put on a dress uniform and transformed himself into a model soldier.  

The next morning, Tucker observes the nurses and doctors during surgery and tells them he is not impressed.  Hawkeye gets fed up and confronts Tucker directly when he interferes with Pierce's patient.  The others back up Hawkeye and ask Tucker to back off.  Tucker accuses them of conduct unbecoming officers and gross insubordination and plans to court-martial them.  

When Tucker visits Klinger, he is instead greeted by Cleopatra!  Tucker believes Klinger has lost his mind and needs to be discharged and sent home.  Potter is NOT amused.  

Facing a court-martial, Hawkeye believes they have nothing left to lose and he decides to cook up the mother of all April Fool's Day pranks for Col Tucker.  Charles is ready to "nail the swine."   

Will Hawkeye and friends be court-martialed?  Will Klinger get the discharge he's been chasing for years?  

J.A. Morris says:
First off, let me say that I'm excited to announce that this is our first review of April Fool's Day programming!

M*A*S*H was a big part of my childhood TV viewing (I can recall a few nights when I watched 3 different episodes in syndicated reruns), but I’d forgotten about “April Fools” until I stumbled on a re-run a few years ago.  It’s a good episode of M*A*S*H and there aren’t many April Fool’s Day episodes, so it was nice to rediscover it.  

Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) becomes an April Fool's victim when his bathrobe is replaced with a house frock!

M*A*S*H was a series that started out as a more traditional comedy but it gradually shifted to more serious comic-drama format during its later seasons.  “April Fools” shows that M*A*S*H could still pull off the sillier episodes during the show’s 8th season.  Alan Alda cackles in a way that’s more reminiscent of Hawkeye’s earlier less-evolved stage.  

Harry Morgan has some great scenes in “April Fools.”  Col. Potter gets more exasperated with every prank.  Potter was always a nice guy, but his worries about his career being jeopardized by the doctors’ pranks are justified.  

It's also fun to see the straight-laced Margaret and stick-in-the-mud Winchester take part in the pranks.  

In addition to the M*A*S*H series regulars, “April Fools” features guest star Pat Hingle as Col. Tucker. 

Hingle was a recognizable and prolific character actor who appeared in lots of memorable movies like On The Waterfront, Hang ‘Em High, Splendor In The Grass, Norma Rae, Sudden Impact and he portrayed Commissioner Gordon in four Batman movies.  On the holiday films front, Hingle played the Ghost of Christmas Present in Carol For Another Christmas

"April Fools" is a fun episode of a classic series and I believe it'll be something I watch around April Fool's Day every year from now on.

J.A. Morris' rating:


3 and a half April Fool's Day whoopee cushions.

RigbyMel says: 

I've definitely watched a few M*A*S*H reruns in my time and was delighted to learn of this prank-filled April Fool's Day episode.   

One of the basic tenants of the M*A*S*H series is that the medical team uses pranks and humor as a way to cope with the horrors of war, and this episode uses April Fools Day as a means to crank up the stakes a bit in this instance - I found myself genuinely worried that our heroes would be facing court martial and jail for taking on a spit and polish stickler for the rules like Col. Tucker.  

Here we see Klinger literally clinging to Col. Tucker in his Cleopatra get-up (said costume is likely inspired by the 1934 film Cleopatra, which starred Claudette Colbert) 

Some of the pranks on offer in this episode are truly impressive.  For instance, one wonders how Hawkeye et al succeeded in absconding with Maj. Houlihan's tent undetected. 

In point of fact, the folks of the 4077th draw the festivities out over a couple of days which is NOT traditional in terms of April Fool's Day celebrations.  But in a war situation, you've got to do what you've got to do to stay sane, I guess.  

Seeing the gang try to one up each other feels very "on brand" for the show and the April Fools milieu makes for an extra funny episode of a great TV series thanks to the ensemble cast's comedic timing and skill.  

Like J.A. Morris, I rather suspect this will become regular springtime viewing. 

RigbyMel's rating: 

April Fool's Day whoopee cushions (no fooling!) 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Looney Tunes: "The Wearing of the Grin"

Premiered July 28, 1951

It is a dark and stormy night and 12 miles to Dublin.   

Porky Pig (Mel Blanc) spies a "quaint old" castle in the distance and decides to see they can give him a place to stay for the night. 

On the way to the castle, he sees a sign that says "Beware the Leprechauns" and scoffs at the idea. 

Upon arrival, Porky is greeted by a "picturesque caretaker of the auld sod" who introduces himself as Seamus O'Toole  (an uncredited John T. Smith).  O'Toole informs him that nobody lives in the castle - apart from himself and the leprechauns. 

Porky scoffs at this again and demands to be taken to a room, slamming the front door.  This causes a mace above the door to fall, knocking Porky out cold. 

The caretaker is revealed to be a couple of leprechauns (calling themselves O'Pat and O'Mike) who, in true fairy fashion, decide to mess with Porky's head after concluding that he has come to steal their pot of gold. 

When Porky comes to, he is escorted to a room by HALF of the caretaker and doesn't notice at first. When he does notice, Porky is terrified and hides in the bed, which turns out to be a trap door! 

Porky drops down a shaft, landing in a leprechaun courtroom.  There the leprechauns charge and convict him of attempting to steal their pot of gold and sentence him to the "wearing of the green shoes." 

At first Porky admires the nice shoes, but soon comes to realize that they are cursed, as his feet begin a frantic Irish jig that dances him through a nightmarish landscape full of Irish symbols while O'Pat and O'Mike laugh at him. 

Will Porky be able to escape the leprechaun's trickery?  Or is he doomed to the "wearing of the green shoes" for all eternity? 

RigbyMel says: 

This Chuck Jones-directed short is the last solo appearance of Porky Pig in the classic era of Looney Tunes.  Porky was Warner Brothers' breakout star when he debuted, but had since been eclipsed by Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny.  

"The Wearing of the Grin" also stands out since there are not all that many St. Patrick's Day themed cartoons out there.   Some might argue that the short doesn't explicitly take place on March 17th, but with all the leprechaun mischief and Irish symbols (like harps and shamrocks), I think it has enough Irish detail to qualify as a "holiday" short.  

The green shoes plot point in this short borrows heavily from Hans Christian Andersen's 1845 fairy tale "The Red Shoes," which concerns a pair of ballet slippers that never let their wearer stop dancing.  His jig through an amazing surrealist Salvador Dali-inspired landscape is quite memorable.  

It's also interesting to note that the title of this short is a reference to "The Wearing of the Green," an old Irish street ballad. 

The animation is a lot of fun to watch and the voice work is - as always - great.  If there's a complaint to be made about this short, it's that the "Irishness" is a bit overly broad and stereotypical, but as this is a cartoon, broad and stereotypical work reasonably well for comedic purposes.  

"The Wearing of the Grin" is a silly and enjoyable short and is worth including in your holiday viewing this March.  

RigbyMel's rating: 

3 shamrocks