Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lois & Clark: Season's Greedings (A 25 Days of Shitmas Post from Secondhand Terror's Chris Roberts)

I am a huge nerd.  My penchant for movie love goes far beyond horror (though that's where it primarily stays) and delves deep into sci-fi and yes, superheroes.  None more than Superman.  I have tomes of back issue comics, graphic novels and almost every incarnation of the character on DVD.  In fact, when my wife and I named our son Clark, both sides of our families assumed my connection to Superman when, in fact, I hadn't even given it that much thought.  We just liked the name.  My love for the Man of Steel didn't start, however, with Christopher Reeve, as it did with most people.  My Superman was Dean Cain. 

I am a die hard fan of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  I always loved the idea that Clark Kent just happened to be Superman, as opposed to the other way around.  Yeah, the show got crazy in it's last two seasons (anybody remember the Lois Lane clone?), but the show was a huge part of my growing up.  So this year, I decided to stroll down memory lane, blow the dust off of my series box set, and have a look at one of the craziest Christmas episodes of any television series in, well maybe ever.
Season's Greedings was the Christmas episode of L&C's second season and featured a calvacade of famous (and soon to be famous) guest stars. It also happened to be written by Cain himself.  The episode opens with Lois Lane and Clark Kent (Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain) walking to work and discussing the holiday season.  A man is hanging a wreath from the gated entrance of the Coates Orphanage.  He drops the wreath and, of course, Clark is there to catch it.  Lois is not a fan of the commercialism of Christmas, considering it just another holiday, like Arbor Day (no joke, that's the line).  Sitting on a park bench are George and Louise Jefferson.  Well, it's Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford, reunited as a disgruntled toy maker (Mr. Shott) and his long time secretary/sidekick (Ms. Duffy).  Technically, Sherman Hemsley is the closest this series will get to The Toyman, but in name only.  By the way, for the remainder of this article, I'll just be calling Mr. Shott and Ms. Duffy "George" and "Weezy" respectively.  It's easier.

George has created a ridiculous toy called the Atomic Space Rat.  It sprays a foul smelling mist that makes children greedy and makes adults act like children.  So George calls some children over who are building a snowman in the park and says he has something special for them.  That line would never fly now unless this was an episode of Law and Order: SVU.  But at least one of the kids has a brain in his head and asks "You aren't some kinda weirdo, are ya Mister?".  George introduces himself as a toy maker and hands him the Atomic Space Rat (ASR).  The kid runs around, spraying all of his friends and then they all decide to gang up on the little girl from the orphanage, Danielle.  She'll show back up later.  Clark's super hearing picks up the sounds of the children picking on Danielle and races to the scene, making up an excuse to Lois regarding last minute shopping.  A one-sided snowball fight ensues and Danielle is rescued by Superman.  He uses his super breath to blow the snowballs back into the faces of the would-be bullies.  Superman tells Danielle "Merry Christmas" and flies on his way.  
After the opening credits, we cut back to Lois and Clark.  Clark is once again trying to explain to Lois why the holiday is so great when they're stopped by very special guest star Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough, Spaceballs) as Santa.  Not the real Santa, but the man from Coates Orphanage who'd dropped the wreath that Clark caught during the cold (get it?) open.  He thanked Clark again as the disguised Man of Steel puts some money in his collection bucket.  We get another thank you from Santa (he is literally credited in the IMDb as "Santa" for this episode) and a line that no one is really donating money or gifts this year to the orphanage and how these kids deserve a great Christmas.  Lois decides not to be so frigid (the cold puns keep coming kids) and donates some money as well.  Clark decides to stick around and talk to Santa some more.  We discover that Clark wants to help the orphanage by using Superman's influence to get more stores to donate.  The weird thing is, he never just comes out and says "I'll talk to Superman".  He gives some bull about "I know a guy", "the guy would love to help" and "he was an orphan too".  When Santa even asks if he knows Clark's friend, we get a real cheesy "You might, he flies into Metropolis from time to time!".  This Santa must be really dim if he can't just figure out who is going to help.  Then again DVP seems too humble to go asking superheroes for assistance.
As we make our way to The Daily Planet, we are treated to Perry White, the late, great Lane Smith (The Mighty Ducks, Son-in-Law), on the phone with his wife Alice.  He's telling her he's gonna put on that "special" Santa suit and ask her if she's been naughty or nice.  Gross.  Moving on to something a little sexier, we get a very early on screen appearance from Denise Richards (Wild Things, Valentine) as Angela.  She notices Jimmy Olsen, as played by Justin Whalin (Child's Play 3) getting ready for Secret Santa, of which he is in charge.  She starts talking to him, but he is so blown away by the lovely future ex-Mrs. Charlie Sheen, all he can muster is "I'm in charge of it".


Lois comes in and starts ranting about Christmas being so commercial and how she just wants to find what Christmas means to her on her own terms.  So she gets out her Rolodex (hey kids, remeber Rolodex?) and proceeds to call her father who puts her on hold and her younger sister who blows her off to spend the holiday with her new boyfriend in Venice.  Specifically Venice, California, not Venice, Italy.  That's supposed to be a joke, but it falls as flat as Superman on Kryptonite.  
Meanwhile, George and Wheezy are mixing up more chemicals to put in the ASRs.  We get the origin story for this Toyman and it ain't that fantastic.  He used to work for Metropolis Toys, but got fired when no one wanted to buy his teddy bears.  And Wheezy was his secretary.  So he is getting his revenge by using chemicals to make everyone want his new toys.  And also to punish children.  Kind of like an even lamer Halloween III.  That's when we discover that George has a warehouse full of ASRs that he is going to unleash on the world.  Well, actually, he has about twenty or so.  But he also somehow possesses green screen technology that makes it look like he has a warehouse full of ASRs.

Perry White just caught wind of the Black Friday-style riots going on over the ASR in various toy stores in Metropolis and wants Lois, Clark and Jimmy to go get the scoop.  When they get to the toy store, they find a mob in front waiting to get inside.  Lois and Jimmy push their way to the front, leaving Clark in the crowd.  They show press passes to get a glimpse of the ASRs and when the store manager unlocks the door, chaos ensues.  This poor guy is thrown out of his own store.  Literally.  Some parents pick this guy up and toss him like a rag doll so they too can get into the toy store before it opens.  Before he can get trampled, Superman swoops in and picks him up off of the snow.  While Superman is asking the store manager about donating to the orphanage, George and Wheezy have made their way inside the store as well so they can see if the spray works on adults like they'd hoped.  Sure enough, Lois gets sprayed in the face.  Now, one thing I didn't mention earlier when I spoke of my love for this series is that it premiered when I was about 10 years old and ended right as I was becoming a teenager.   Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane was my sexual awakening.  I still think she's beautiful.  Not enough that I watched Desperate Housewives, but she still holds a place in my nostalgic little heart.

Now, having said that, I can't say the same feelings apply for Teri Hatcher acting (and talking) like a five year old.  I already have an actual five year old running around my house, I have no room for it running around my BluRay player or my nostalgic little heart.  But, we're gonna get exactly that for the next 10-15 minutes.  Complete with a high pitched baby talk voice.  Lois starts fighting over the ASRs with a woman, coincidentally played by Dean Cain's mother (thank you, audio commentary) and Clark and Jimmy get her into a cab, bound for the Daily Planet.  
As they return to work, Lois is still playing with a few of the rats, but won't let Clark or Jimmy get a look at one for the article they need to write.  Clark asks for just a quick look, causing Lois to stop, spray Clark and Jimmy with the ASR mist, laugh like a child and run away.  Clark and Jimmy now are acting like children too.  The two man-boys have a candy eating contest.  Clark does a "What's that?!?" to distract Jimmy, then uses his super powers to quite literally inhale Skittles like a vacuum cleaner.  As the adult children turn the bullpen into a playpen, Perry White comes out of his office and has to start acting like a stern father to calm his employees down.  Then he takes the ASRs from Lois as a punishment for drawing hopscotch lines on the tile floor with a Sharpie.  
Johnathan and Martha Kent (Eddie Jones and K Callan respectively) stop by the Planet, gifts in hand, to visit Clark.  Only to have Lois grab their presents and find Perry White, who got misted off screen, dancing on his desk to Chubby Checker.  Martha catches Clark using his powers to play a prank on Lois, so we get a good old fashioned scolding, complete with full names (Clark Jerome Kent) and ear pulls all around.  It's about this time that Clark snaps out of it and starts trying to piece things together.  It apparently lasts a little longer on Earthlings than on Kryptonians. 
Now, George and Wheezy are heading to skid row to offer work to the homeless.  And by offer work to the homeless, I mean taunt the roughest looking S.O.B.'s you've ever seen around a fire in a barrel.  He offers them money and booze to break into the toy stores of Metropolis and replace all of the toys with ASR displays.
Lois and Clark catch a break on the case and find out that the ASRs are being distributed by a man named Harry Hecklebaum (Dom Irrera, The Big Lebowski).  When they ask Harry about who makes the rats, he won't answer them, claiming he's "too busy making money".  So, to cause a distraction, Lois puts the baby doll voice back on and, while she grabs one of the rats, Clark grabs an invoice, throws Lois over his shoulder and runs out.  Journalistic integrity at its finest.  
While George and Wheezy are buying Cadillacs and fur coats (We're mooovin' on uh-up....), Lois and Clark are picking out a Christmas tree to put in Lois' apartment.  Lois shares a story about her first Christmas after her parents' divorce.  She got a crappy little Christmas tree and decorated it by herself.  Good times.  So, Lois has decided to save another scrawny tree from the local lot and have a Christmas dinner with her friends.  As they get back to work, they use the invoice to discover George and Wheezy's mist concoction is made up of ingredients that are harmless if boiled.  Rememeber that for later, ok kids?
The next day, we are handing out Secret Santa gifts and, uh-oh, Jimmy Olsen under the spell of the mist, rigged the whole thing so the entire office bought him presents.  Angela was the first to give him his gift and now she's upset with her new found beau.  While all of this is being sorted out, Santa comes into the Daily Planet bullpen with Danielle to warm up and talk to Clark.  Santa tells us that Danielle hasn't spoken since her parents passed away three years ago, but she's excited about Christmas.  Lois and Clark start calling around town to have the ASRs taken off of the shelves and they find out where the warehouse is located.  News anchors (including original People's Court commentator Doug Llewelyn) are warning viewers of the newfound dangers as Wheezy decides to cut her losses and donate George's original idea, a simple teddy bear, to Coates Orphanage.  George, on the other hand, decides to dump a truck full of his chemicals into the Metropolis water supply!  He's laughing loudly and maniacally as he does it. Talk about swinging for the fences.  Does Superman come to save the day?  No.  We still have fifteen minutes of air time, plus commercials.  
Lois and Clark find George in his warehouse sometime later and, for some reason, just go for a walk with him.  Lois decides to take one of his teddy bears with her.  As they're all approaching the orphange, they see Wheezy passing out the teddy bears.  Next to them, in the cross walk, they see three old women fighting over an ASR.  Apparently, they don't watch the news.  Clark explains to the old ladies what's been happening and takes it away, passing it to Lois.  Danielle remembers Lois and sees her holding the two toys.  As she sneaks away from the orphanage to meet them across the street, she doesn't see the horse drawn carraige that wasn't shown anywhere else in the episode.  George runs out to put himself in front of her when a $2000 digital blur of red and blue (Dean Cain's words, not mine {thanks again, commentary!}) sweeps out to scoop them both up and away from the horses.  So then, all of our major players come together and George and Wheezy fess up to Superman.  George loves children, but was so upset at how they didn't like his teddy bears, that he decided to create something that would turn them into little snots.  Because that's what you do when you love kids.  Danielle chooses the bear over the ASR and gives it a hug.  Then, Danielle says "I love you Mr. Bear".  Merry Christmas, everyone.  They stole the mute kid thing from Scrooged, so I'm not too impressed.  George and Wheezy go to jail, Superman uses his laser vision to boil the water in the city reservior, making what George did harmless (told ya to remember) and Superman flies Lois, Jimmy and Perry around Metropolis in a sleigh.  As it turns out, Perry's "special" Santa suit is a red Elvis costume.  Classy guy.  
Lois told Angela that Jimmy was high on ASR mist when he ruined Secret Santa, so the two run off to spend Christmas together.  I found it almost impossible to write this article without mentioning that Denise Richards played a character named "Christmas" in a James Bond film.  So there's me mentioning it.  
Lois goes back home to prepare a Christmas dinner that no one has come to eat.  As she looks around, saddened, a knock comes on her door.  Clark is there, claiming he was snowed out of his flight to Smallville.  Lois knows it isn't snowing and hugs him, knowing he chose her over his hometown Christmas gathering.  And as it starts to snow for real, they hold one another as carolers come to sing outside of the apartment building.

I've ragged on this episode a lot, but in all honesty, I watched it three or four times to prepare for this article and had forgotten how much I loved this show growing up.  It really does grasp the Christmas spirit in a sappy, 90s way.  As a Christmas gift to all of you, below is a link to this episode so you all can see how good (or bad) it truly is.  Don't say I never gave you anything.  

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