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The Wonder Years, ‘Christmas’ – Engagingly Warm and Funny

25 Days of Holiday TV Specials

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Join us as we spend the next 25 days writing about some of our favourite Holiday TV specials! Today, we look back at The Wonder Years.

What’s it About?

It was Christmas in 1968, and Kevin and his brother Wayne fell in love… with colour TV. It was more than love, it was lust. They were witnessing it as a modern miracle, and it was the first time the two boys agreed on liking the same thing. As they set out and try to convince their dad Jack to buy a new idiot box for the family on Christmas, Kevin tries to find the perfect present for his dream girl Winnie after she unexpectedly gives him a present at school. In the end, the family doesn’t get the TV, but Kevin does learn the valuable lesson that Christmas is about more than just presents. It is about family and friends, memories, and those very special moments you share.

The Wonder Years Christmas Episode

A Brief History

For the unfamiliar, The Wonder Years is often cited as one of the greatest half-hour American drama series ever produced. Created by husband-and-wife producers Carol Black and Neal Marlens, The Wonder Years ran for six seasons on ABC from 1988 through 1993, and ranked as one of the most-watched shows on television during that time. After only six episodes aired, The Wonder Years won an Emmy for best comedy series, Fred Savage became the youngest actor ever nominated as a lead, and the series also grabbed a Peabody Award for achieving two seemingly contradictory effects: “evoking a traditional family sitcom while pushing boundaries and using new modes of storytelling”.

Review

While the Christmas episode titled “Christmas” pales in comparison to some of the series’ best (such as “My Father’s Office”), this episode runs with the charm that made the show a success in the first place: it takes everyday slice-of-life incidents and brings it to the small screen with warmth and sincerity. Everything rings true to reality and nothing is ever exaggerated for a quick, cheap laugh. Not much happens in “Christmas” outside of the family’s desperate attempt to convince their father to buy them a colour TV, but as with most episodes of the Wonder Years, a significant part of the episode’s appeal emanates from Kevin’s infatuation with Winnie Cooper. Seeing him so desperately trying to find her the perfect perfume as a gift and in the end, settling for a snowglobe is utterly adorable.

As great as Kevin is, the standout moments in “Christmas” all come from Jack, a tough-as-nails dad, who every once in awhile opens up to reveal his love for his kids. The holidays can be an especially tough time for any parent, particularly those who try their hardest to make their children happy. Not everyone is blessed with the finances to go out and purchase a television priced at $469. In a way, Jack is the complete opposite of Scrooge, as pointed out by Kevin. We see him grumble about and bargain with the cost of just about everything, but it’s not that Jack cares about money, he just can’t afford to be irresponsible with what he does with that money.

David Stern’s narration gave The Wonder Years a unique feel and rhythm and a clearer look at life through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy. His narration usually offers the biggest laugh, but the funniest moment in this episode actually comes from Karen, Kevin’s sister, who tells him: “You’re backing dad in to a corner. He wants to buy a TV, but he wants to surprise us. It’s complicated.”

wyc1988

Few series have been able to capture the pain and triumphs of adolescence as The Wonder Years. Their first Christmas special pulls off the neat trick of affirming that money can’t buy happiness while serving up enough tender moments to recommend it highly. It’s expertly directed, emotionally engaging, warm, funny and manages to be sweet without getting sticky. As the family gathers in the final scene to sing Christmas carols, we are teased with a glimpse of the first snowfall. Thankfully for the Arnolds, it started to pour instead, and somehow under the rain, the Arnold family rediscovered the true spirit of Christmas. And as we learn before the credit roll, Jack does buy the family a television set, after all, only it came two years later.

Ricky D

How Christmassy is it?

100 % – The entire episode takes place during the Christmas holiday and features the following songs:

“Silent Night”
Performed by Glenn Campbell & Cher

“Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy”
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

“Twelve Days Of Christmas”
Performed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

“Jingle Bell Rock”
Performed by Bobby Helme

“White Christmas”
Performed by Bing Crosby

“River”
Performed by Joni Mitchell

You May Like It If…

Anyone who likes comedy-dramas and good TV writing.

Other observations:

The final narration of the series beautifully summed up the experience that was The Wonder Years:

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place…a town…a house like a lot of houses…a yard like a lot of other yards…on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is…after all these years…I still look back…with wonder.”

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

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Greatest Royal Rumble Matches Casket Match

Royal Rumble 1998

WWF World Heavyweight Championship

The 1998 Royal Rumble was the eleventh entry in the annual pay-per-view event. It took place on January 18, 1998, at the San Jose Arena and is remembered best for two things: Stone Cold Steve Austin winning his second Royal Rumble by eliminating The Rock– and the thrilling Casket Match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Unfortunately, it is also remembered as the match that temporarily ended the career of Shawn Michaels.

It was ‘The Last Outlaw’ Undertaker versus Mr. WrestleMania a.k.a. The Main Event a.k.a. The Heartbreak Kid a.k.a. The Showstopper. After costing him the Championship in a match against Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart at Summerslam 1997, The Undertaker was out for revenge.

Shawn Michaels was the champion heading into the match, and he was also the favourite thanks to ample support from his fellow Degeneration X members Triple H and Chyna standing ringside.

Undertaker and Michaels had previously met in an outstanding match at Ground Zero: In Your House before going on to star in the first Hell in a Cell where Undertaker beat the hell out of Shawn, only to lose in the end no thanks to Kane interfering. This time around, however, Kane and Undertaker were now on good terms— or so we thought.

Needless to say, expectations were high for this one!

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

Despite his age, Shawn Michaels was in the prime of his career, and every one of his matches with The Undertaker during this era became legendary. Unlike many other rivalries in WWE history, every time these two men went toe-to-toe in the center of the squared circle; fans knew they were in for something special.

The match itself isn’t necessarily their best work but it’s arguably the best Casket Match ever and it culminated with a truly unforgettable ending that had many fans glued to their seats.

The Undertaker controlled most of the match despite the constant interference from Triple H and Chyna, which in retrospect makes sense since early in the match, Shawn Michaels herniated two disks in his back and completely crushed another after receiving a back body drop on the side of the casket. Being the champ that he was, Michaels continued to wrestle, and Undertaker eventually began to lose his dominance as things moved outside of the ring with Michaels delivering a piledriver on top of the steel steps. Following a high-flying elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music, Shawn Michaels seemed to have the match finally in his control but as all good heels do, he blew the opportunity to seal the deal and instead chose to taunt his opponent, giving Taker enough time to recuperate.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

The rest of the match saw the two men go back and forth, rolling in and out of the casket and delivering their respected finishers. Eventually, the two men made it back to the ring where Undertaker gave Shawn Michaels a chokeslam before dragging him to the edge of the ring and hitting a jumping tombstone piledriver into the casket. The match looked to be over but before Undertaker could close it, the New Age Outlaws and Los Boricuas ran in and collectively pummeled Undertaker until the lights went out in the arena. Kane’s music played and the Big Red Machine made his way to the ring to save the day.

Only he didn’t…

Kane instead turned on Undertaker, and choke slammed his own flesh and blood into the casket thus allowing Triple H and Chyna to shut the lid, and end the match.

Royal Rumble 1998 Casket Match HBK Undertaker

As mentioned above, the match itself isn’t the best match we would see from HBK and The Phenom but in my eyes, they are two of the ten greatest superstars in WWE history and even their worst match is still far better than 90% of the other matches the WWE offers. But what really made the night memorable was the ending!

With the Undertaker trapped inside, Paul Bearer came to the ringside carrying giant padlocks and with the help of Kane, they locked the Undertaker inside the casket and proceeded to roll it to the top of the entrance ramp where Kane took an axe and began to dispatch the coffin before dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire. And the entire time, Undertaker was supposedly inside.

If you were a young fan watching at the time, the ending of this match might have given you nightmares. It was like something straight out of a horror movie and it was an ending everyone was talking about for months.

As we watched various emergency officials extinguish the fire, Commissioner Slaughter and others desperately tried to break open the casket to free Undertaker. And when the casket was finally wedged opened, Undertaker was nowhere to be seen.

Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker Casket Match

Regardless if you agree this is one of the greatest Royal Rumble matches, the match itself is historically significant for many reasons. It was the match that forced Michaels to take an extended hiatus due to a legitimate back injury and it also marked the last time Undertaker wrestled Shawn Michaels before their historic WrestleMania XIV match. Meanwhile, Kane’s interference set up an o ongoing rivalry between the brothers of destruction. In the end, the 1998 Royal Rumble Championship Match delivered a great story complete with stellar performances from everyone involved.

  • Ricky D

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

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Podcasts

The Mid-Season Replacements Podcast Episode 3: “Big Space Energy”

On this week’s episode, Randy and Sean exit the atmosphere to examine the state of space science fiction in today’s TV landscape.

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Lost in Space

On this week’s episode of The Mid-Season Replacements Podcast, Randy and Sean buckle up and head into the great beyond of space-based science fiction on television, and what happened to a genre that used to be an American institution. After a larger discussion about cultural attitudes towards exploring the stars, and the impact of changing TV habits and the proliferation of superhero stories on the genre, our esteemed explorers have an extended conversation about The Expanse and Lost in Space, the two most prominent non-Star Trek or Star Wars outer space shows on TV.

Opening Track: “Main Title Theme,” Lost in Space OST, Christopher Lennertz (original theme by John Williams)

Shows discussed: Star Trek: Discovery, The Orville, Other Space, Avenue 5, The Expanse, Lost in Space (2018)

The Mid-Season Replacements Podcast is a weekly show hosted by Goomba Stomp and TV Never SleepsRandy Dankievitch and Sean Colletti, with new episodes debuting every Wednesday.

Listen here on iTunes, YouTube, follow us here on Spotify, or listen/download using the embedded player below.

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Wrestling

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches: The First-Ever Tag Team Tables Match

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First-Ever Tag Team Tables Match

Royal Rumble 2000

The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz

The 2000 edition of the Royal Rumble, which was held at the Madison Square Garden on January 23, is without a doubt one of the best WWE pay-per-views ever! It’s an absolute classic filled with memorable moments such as The Rock’s unforgettable Royal Rumble win and the street fight between Triple H and Cactus Jack. It also featured the first-ever Tag Team Championship Tables Match between two of the most significant tag teams a the time.

The WWF WWE has always had some truly amazing tag teams— from The British Bulldogs to The Rockers to The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express— but it was at the turn of the century that the tag team division really started heating up with competitors taking it to a whole new level in jaw-dropping hardcore matches, table matches, ladder matches and of course, TLC matches.

Leading this resurgence were The Hardy Boyz and the recent ECW defectors, The Dudley Boyz and at the 2000 Royal Rumble, the two teams would showcase their stuff in an unforgettable championship match that featured high-flying, no holds barred action.

The First-Ever Tag Team Tables Match

It was the second match of the night and it was a match that would foreshadow the legendary TLC series between The Hardyz, The Dudleyz and fellow tag team competitors Edge and Christian. Taking the opportunity to impress a large pay-per-view audience, the two teams delivered a phenomenal showcase filled with several high-octane stunts and high-risk maneuvers.

In order to win the match, you had to put both members of the opposing team through a table. This meant that fans would be treated to seeing at least three tables smashed before the end of the match. However, these trailblazers wouldn’t settle for just three; by the time the bell rang, at least nine tables had been destroyed.

The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz Royal Rumble 2000

The match only lasted about twelve minutes, but it was an astonishing tag team match no less, and one filled with plenty of highlights including a mid-rope Powerbomb that sent Matt Hardy through a table. At one point, the Hardy Boyz gained the advantage with a double superplex to Bubba Ray and after a devastating chair hit across Bubba’s forehead, Matt and Jeff Hardy simultaneously performed a diving leg drop and a diving splash, sending their opponent through the table.

The match eventually carried onto the entrance as the Dudley Boyz stacked two tables on top of two other tables under a balcony. In a moment that would define what the tag team division would like over the next several years, Jeff Hardy dove off the balcony and delivered a Swanton Bomb to seal the victory.

The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz Royal Rumble Tag Team Championship Tables Match

There are many reasons why wrestling fans remember the Attitude Era as the peak period of the WWE. Not only did it have edgier, controversial storylines, often pushing of the boundaries of what could be shown on national television, but the Attitude Era also featured a plethora of incredible performers, and yes, that includes many legendary tag teams. In the eyes of many wrestling fans, the Attitude Era featured the best tag team matches — and you’d be hard-pressed to find any other era in the WWE that had as much talent in the division.

The match between the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz at the Royal Rumble not only put both teams on the map, but it set up one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the WWE. It was the first-ever Tag Team Tables Match, and in my opinion, it is also one of the most underrated matches of the pay-per-view.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series. Click here to see every entry.

  • Ricky D
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