Around this time o’ year way back in 2009 and 2010, I did a series of posts under the banners of Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs, with at least one example of each for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day. I chickened out trying to do that again this year because I feared running low on material, but I think there are still some gems buried in the earlier posts that could do with some new exposure, if I do say so myself.
In that spirit, please enjoy any and all of these Holiday Horrors/Triumphs of years past, whether you’ve just been hipped to Scratchbomb or you want to reread these classics of yesteryear because they’re so awesome. Hubris!
Continuing the fabled tradition begun all the way back in 2009, Scratchbomb presents Holiday Horrors and Holiday Triumphs: an advent calendar of some of the more hideous aspects of this most stressful time of year—with a few bits of awesomeness sprinkled in.
We’re starting Holiday Horrors off with a bang this year, folks, because I believe I may have found the worst Christmas special ever.
I don’t take such an accusation lightly, believe me. I’ve seen more than my share of Christmas specials, and as I scour my brain for comparisons, I can’t think of one that plumbs the depths of the human spirit any more than the special I share with you today. In fact, I debated sharing this with the world at all, because I thought it might be the Hadron Supercollider of Christmas specials—a show so extraordinary, it could unleash forces that would destroy the earth itself.
I haven’t seen many slasher movies or horror films or Human Centipede, but I can’t imagine any of those things could make me feel worse than I did after I watched Candy Claus.
Here’s how it all started: In one of my many fits of VHS digitizing, I ran across an ad circa 1988 for a 900 number where kids could call up Candy Claus. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, there were literally hundreds of such numbers that tried to get gullible children to call them up and amass enormous phone bills for their parents.
I remember many of these ads, particularly the one for the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince number, since I had a friend who snuck out of CCD one afternoon to call said number on the church office phone (needless to say, he got into an assload of trouble). However, I have no memory of the Candy Claus commercial. According to Santa’s narration, she was the Christmas Seals Child. I don’t recall her being elected to that position. Perhaps it’s appointed by Congress?
So unmemorable was this ad that not only did I not remember seeing it as a kid, but I completely forgot about the commercial after first posting it to YouTube. Initially, I assumed it was just an attempt to introduce a charity’s mascot, one that presumably did not take off.
But after looking through my YouTube inventory recently, I watched the Candy Claus ad again and began to wonder about it. It’s doubtful a charity would’ve bothered to animate all of this material just for a 30 second spot. I sensed a long-forgotten holiday special was involved somehow.
One fringe benefit of discovering the Steampipe Alley tapes (other than being able to expose the world to the genius of Mario Cantone): they were also full of some “classic” ads from yesteryear. Anyone who reads this site with any regularity will know that I have a thing for old commercials. Because I think commercials say a lot more about their respective eras than other media do. After all, art wants to be timeless, but ads are aimed at The Now.
These ads are even more special to me. Why? Because they ran on WWOR, an independent station. So the spots are a little cheaper and a little more home grown.
I realize that many of the ads you’ll see below only resonate with me because I remember them from being a kid. I’ll cop to that. Because if you can’t indulge yourself once in a while, you can you indulge, really?
For instance, this spot for Young People’s Day Camp. This ad ran, virtually unchanged, for my entire childhood. The narration, music, and footage stayed the same for at least ten years. I imagine their PR/marketing department was run by one tyrannical, crusty, cigar-chomping veteran who refused to acknowledge that times change. “Look, the ad worked in 1979, it’ll work in 1995. Why shouldn’t it?!”