tek's rating: ¾

How Murray Saved Christmas, NBC
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This animated special first aired in 2014. It's based on a 2004 book of the same name, which I don't think I'd ever heard of. Both the book and the special were written by Mike Reiss, who had previously written for The Simpsons and The Critic, among other things. It was directed by Peter Avanzino, who had previously directed several episodes of Futurama, among other things. And I'd definitely say the special has a similar sensibility to those shows, although the show whose sensibility it most reminded me of was Animaniacs... though I have no idea why that is. Anyway, it's also got a really good voice cast, including Jerry Stiller as the title character, Dennis Haysbert as the narrator, and... well, you can click one of the links to find out more. Anyway, I found the whole thing terribly clever and funny, including some of the sight gags. Almost the entire dialog is in rhymes, which I suppose some people might find annoying, but I didn't. There were also several songs, which I didn't find memorable, but I did think they were fun, and served the story reasonably well.

So, um... it takes place in a town called Stinky Cigars, so-named in order to ensure that outsiders would pass it by without ever stopping. And the reason the townsfolk don't want visitors is because all the citizens are the personifications of all the various holidays of the world. There's an elf named Edison who is an inventor. One Christmas Eve, he shows one of his inventions, the Jack-in-the-boxer, to Santa Claus. (It's like a Jack-in-the-box, but with a boxing glove instead of... a Jack.) The glove ends up knocking Santa out, and giving him a concussion. Because of this, he's unable to deliver toys that night, so Edison has to find someone else to do Santa's job. He decides to enlist Murray Weiner, the grumpy owner of the local diner, but Murray pretty adamantly refuses. At least at first. Eventually he agrees, so Murray and Edison go to work delivering toys. Things don't go very well for them at first, but after awhile, Murray gets into the spirit. And we eventually learn about his past, and just why he was so grumpy. Meanwhile, Santa briefly regains his senses, just long enough to discover his sleigh is missing, so he reports it stolen, to a motorcycle cop named Officer Bender.

And... I'm not sure what else to tell you, except of course there's a happy ending. I will reiterate that it was amusing and clever, and rather snarky, occasionally even a bit risqué. And maybe a few of the jokes could be seen as borderline offensive. But mostly the special was just a lot of fun, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. I certainly wouldn't say it has "classic" potential, and in fact I probably wouldn't care to rewatch it anywhere near as often as the Christmas specials that are classics... but even so, I found watching it once a lot more fun than I do some classics.

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