Sunday, July 10, 2011

1990s Christmas: Living Single

'Living Single' ran for five seasons on Fox
Is the heat of the summer getting to you?  Maybe you could chill out with a classic sitcom Christmas episode to mellow your hot July afternoon.  I know I could.  Today's post comes to us from John, or Aunt John as some of you may recognize, from the coolest site in the blogesphere, Kindertrauma.  Have you been traumatized for life by a movie, TV show, book, or toy?  Are you into horror movies and scary things?  Then Kindertrauma is for you.  Click here to check it out.  Thanks again to John for his passion about this TV show and his willingness to share it with us today.  BTW: Sign me up for your class on female driven sitcoms at the Learning Annex!  This episode is available for viewing on DVD and Netflix as well as my Youtube channel Tisthe SeasonTV under the 1990s playlist.


Synclaire (Kim Coles) has the right Christmas spirit
In a post-‘90s kind of world, I am glad I got my Living Single girls to not only remind me of the true meaning of Christmas but to also serve as a cautionary reminder of the perils of wearing over-sized plaid vests on television (more on the latter later.) The holidays are in full swing in the Season One episode “Living Kringle” and the yuletide action centers around simple-minded Synclaire’s (the hilarious Kim Coles) thwarted attempt to imbue her self-centered friends with the Christmas spirit via a tree-trimming party. Shortly after Synclaire gets a little frisky under the mistletoe with dreamboat building handyman Overton (John Henton, who, by the way, has an open invitation to stuff my stocking!), her holiday soiree is derailed as every last one of her lousy friends suddenly find themselves with better things to do with their time than sing carols, string cranberries and hang balls from a dead pine tree.

Overton (John Henton) with the mistletoe, "My, My My..."

Fashion plate pal Régine (Kim Fields) cares more about earning boutique commissions, Max (Erika Alexander) gets a booty call, Kyle (T.C. Carson) has to close an important business deal of some sort, and Overton has to fish another fruitcake out of another tenant’s toilet.  Rather than stay with her visibly crushed cousin, Khadijah (Queen Latifah) makes a break for the door to put the finishing touches on the next issue of Flavor magazine. Holidays be damned, that Monie Love cover story has to get to the presses!

Sad and disappointed, Synclaire goes to a bar on Christmas

Doing what most people do at the holidays when they are disappointed by friends, family, and the overall shitty state of humanity in general, Synclaire takes refuge in a dive bar and shares her merriment with the weirdest looking set of extras sent over from Central Casting. And as our sad Synclaire drowns her sorrows in a double ginger ale, each of her aforementioned fair-holiday friends discover the true meaning of Christmas in the little gifts she has left for them.  And when you think about it, what are the holidays really for, if not to bitch-slap our supposed loved ones with a little guilt? (Hey, I was raised Catholic; that’s what my family does.) Go Synclaire! Not so simple-minded after all.

Regine (Kim Fields) rethinking her holiday selfishness
In the midst of making her monstrous 15% commission, Régine finds a gift bag with the Barbie Corvette she had never gotten as a child. Khadijah discovers a starfish on the Flavor magazine office tree that her Mother would not let have when she was little. Max scores a pair of tickets to see the Nutcracker to relive her grade school glory as the Rat King. Overton gets a VHS copy of his favorite holiday special “The Little Elf That Could,” and Kyle ends up some bizarre Kwanzaa paperweight that is never fully addressed after he flashes it at the camera.

Synclaire caroling with her new friends
Realizing their selfishness, the five friends track Synclaire to the hole-in-the-wall bar, confess the err in their ways, and beg her to come home and finish trimming the tree. Rightfully hesitant, Synclaire only agrees after her friends join her newfound plastered pals in a rousing rendition of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” Which of course they do, because really, if you think about it, Synclaire has them by the proverbial Christmas balls; if anyone bothered to buy me the Jaime Sommers doll my Mom wouldn’t let me have for Christmas when I was a kid, I would gladly perform an impromptu version of “Deck the Halls” acoustically with a pack of ne’er-do-wells.

Oh no he didn't!
Originally airing December 19, 1993, “Living Kringle” still holds up some near 18 years later as highly enjoyable, multiple-camera situation comedy. I rented Disc 3 of Season 1 from Netflix specifically for the purposes of this review, and I bet you can guess what other discs have since made their way to the top of my queue. The writing is super tight, aided by a non-intrusive, studio-enhanced laugh track and the timing of the actresses is really something to behold. Seriously, whenever I get around to teaching a master class in female driven sit-coms at the Learning Annex, Living Single will be required viewing on the syllabus. 


Would a hip and powerful NYC magazine publisher wear this plaid bag? really?
My only gripe with the show lies with the Costume Department. Who thought it was a good idea to dress Queen Latifah in this unflattering plaid vest? Her character is not going fly-fishing nor is she a check-out girl at the Quilt Barn. Khadijah James edits the most important hip-hop magazine to ever come out of Brooklyn. Flavor Magazine, and don’t you forget it. All hail the Queen!

4 comments:

  1. Hilarious. I always felt Living Single was second rate but thanks Aunt John for helping me to see the true spirit of the sitcom (if not Christmas).

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  2. I don't think I've ever seen an episode of this show, but you make it sound worth a watch! Fun stuff!

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  3. I just happened upon this. I love your piece! I co-wrote the "Living Kringle" episode and am pictured in two of the photos you posted. (I'm the guy in hat and red beard in the bar scenes.) Feel free to find me on Twitter (@CohenDS) or Facebook (David Steven Cohen) and say hi!

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  4. Adding to my above comment, as a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, I've written more than my fair share of Christmas episodes and specials.

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