In the olden days of network TV, many stations would do what is called a “burn off.” They would more or less dump a show that they had invested a lot of money and time in that they knew was awful during the summer months or during the hiatus periods of more popular months. These shows sometimes were shown in two-to-four episode blocks depending on their length and even on many nights of the week.
With streaming services, now, these series are shown all at once. It’s seems revolutionary but it’s really smart. Netflix did it with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, but some critics say that’s because the shows were slow to get going that audiences wouldn’t return every week. Disney-Plus was smart enough to end the first episode of The Mandalorian with the reveal of Baby Yoda, or Grogu, so fans would return.
If you go back and watch a lot of old show favorites such as Cheer, Friends, Seinfeld or The Golden Girls back with their pilot episodes, you’d be wouldn’t want to return the following week. That being said, even though HBO Max dumped all eight episodes of an adult-themed stop-motion animated Christmas special Santa Inc. at once, making it just through the first episode is hard.
The title alone means this show thinks it’s smarter that what it really is. Almost immediately after beginning, the first episode is loaded with so much profanity and raunchy/gross-out jokes, that I knew where the series was headed and I didn’t like it. I would say blame it on South Park, but Ralph Bakshi was making adult-themed animated movies when Trey Parker and Matt Stone were still giggling when someone said “Duty” and it sounds like “Doodie.”
Despite how further down the political incorrect downward spiral South Park has gone over the years, Parker and Stone could still find some relevant humor amongst the profanity. Team America: World Police and The Happy Time Murders were able to turn vulgar marionettes and puppets into something that was funny because of the absurdity of it. For lack of a better word, they did it tastefully.
Santa Inc. is created by Alexandra Rushfield, who worked as a producer on Parks and Recreation and helped developed Shrill with Aidy Bryant, a comic who has worn out her “large and in charge” persona halfway through the first season of Saturday Night Live she was on. And this review no way criticizes plus-size women or women in general, but I think being a woman or plus-size woman doesn’t automatically warrant great talent.
The premise features Candy Smalls (voiced by Sarah Silverman) as an elf at the North Pole who is suddenly bumped up to Santa Claus’ right-hand person after her predecessor leaves to take a job at Amazon. It also turns out that Claus (voiced by Seth Rogen, who else?!) is an opportunist who sees himself as progressive and since Candy is a Jewish woman, well elf woman, it’ll help his image. But Santa is a crude, vulgar person because the writers couldn’t think of anything else to make him.
Santa in the Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was also a dick, but they toned it down. Almost every word out of Santa’s mouth is vulgar or narcissistic. I was only able to see the first two episodes so far, because I couldn’t sit through the rest. But this is a horrible show. Rogen who produced the show with his partner/friend Evan Goldberg, has went public over the past weekend talking about how white supremacists are review-bombing it.
I’m not a white supremacist even though I grew up in a community surrounded by them. I’m all for fairness and inclusion, but even the most kindest people would find this show hard to watch. By trying to be too topical, it’s coming off as an Aaron Seltzer/Jason Friedberg movie with all the nauseating topical humor of South Park since about 2015-2016.
It seems that in the era of Trumpism and “being woke,” there’s a presumption nothing is funny anymore and it might be offensive. I see a lot of people criticizing that movies by Mel Brooks of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker parody movies wouldn’t work today. No, they’d work, because they used another four-letter word – plot.
There’s no plots anymore in comedy movies or shows. It’s just a bunch of comics quipping trying to have the last laugh. And it’s spread throughout other genres, most notably the Marvel Cinematic Universe post-Guardians of the Galaxy. Brooks knew how to tell a plot. You look at Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein and he has a story to tell with jokes. Airplane! had a plot to it. More importantly, Brooks and ZAZ used traditionally serious actors to propel their jokes. Take John Hillerman who appeared in Saddles as well as the mystery drama Chinatown. He was effective in both roles.
And while the supporting cast of Gabourey Sadibe, Leslie Grossman and Nicholas Braun have appeared in more serious roles on TV and movies, they seem to go overboard in their roles here. Silverman, who also produces, has been in search of her leading role for 25 years. She did some good work in Wreck-It-Ralph and its sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet but I think her controversial comedy has come in the way. Some comics just don’t transition well into TV or film roles. Look at Richard Pryor of all people.
I don’t really see this series coming back for the Christmas 2022 season. It’s probably going to be a one-and-done series. There’s no telling if HBO Max will purge it from it’s streaming services come Jan. 1. There’s a lot better things to watch.