Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The PJs Christmas (2000)

Thank you for continuing to support Black History Month.  I enjoy celebrating BHM on my blog because there are so many excellent Christmas episodes, specials, and TV movies with exceptional African-American cast members.  There are also many outstanding or touching Christmas TV story lines aimed at black audiences.  Throughout the month of February, I'll highlight a few of my favorites.


The PJs originally ran for three seasons (1999-2001)

The animated series with an attitude, The PJs, seems to be another one of those shows that is too often overlooked.  Were you aware it's currently airing on MTV2?  The writing on this show was quick, sharp and filled with pop culture references.  No wonder it still stands up.  Are you familiar with the 2000 yuletide episode "How the Super Stoled Christmas?"

The voice work on this series is star-studded.  Thurgood is voiced by Eddie Murphy and Muriel by Loretta Devine.

Our main character Thurgood Stubbs, the superintendent of the Hilton-Jacobs projects, is counting on using his holiday tips from the tenants to buy his wife Muriel a computer for her Christmas gift.

Thurgood's response when he finds only empty envelopes where he expects his holiday tips, "Don't these people know I work 24 hours a week, 7 days a month for them?"

Desperate to buy a computer for Muriel, Thurgood takes on a second job for the holidays.

When Thurgood doesn't receive any tips, he takes on a job working for the owner of the local pawn shop.  Knowing the tenants and his friends will despise him, Stubbs wants to keep his new job, working as a repo man, secret from the others.  As the superintendent of the building, he possesses the passkeys to every apartment in the building and repossessing items turns out to be fairly easy.

Thurgood is playing Santa in the local Christmas pageant entitled Toyz n the Hood.  During the performance, he slips out and repossesses the last of the items on behalf of the pawn shop.

This is, until he's asked to repossess items from his friends.  Thurgood attempts to resign from his job but Muriel is excited to discover that he has already purchased her new computer.  Poor Thurgood can't break his wife's heart at Christmas.  Still trying to keep his second job a secret, the Super decides to repossess his friends' items while they are all attending the neighborhood Christmas pageant.

In reference to the familiar image from the original Grinch, here Thurgood slithers across the floor under the Christmas tree on his belly like a snake.

Recreating the scene with Cindy Lou Who, here Stubbs is caught stealing items by another adorable young girl.

While Thurgood is entering peoples' homes and taking their stuff, we can see many clear references to the 1966 animated TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Not only is the sequence accompanied by the song "You're a B*stard, Mr. Stubbs"--a funny re-write of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"--but we see familiar shots of a toy train rolling into his bag, Thurgood--like the Grinch--slithering across the floor on his belly, and getting caught by an adorable young girl that questions what he's doing.  Don't you just love when a Christmas episode references popular Christmas TV specials from the past?  I know I do.

Stubbs is racked with even more guilt after his friends admit they have been saving their money for his Christmas gift.

Though he regrets being the local repo man, Thurgood returns to the Christmas pageant to be with his friends.  There he finds his friends have surprised him with a gift--the item at the top of his own Christmas wish list--an expensive massage chair.  Turns out his tenants and friends have been scrimping and saving to pay for the chair.  Some of his friends admit they didn't make their usual timely payments to the local pawn shop in order to save to afford this gift to Stubbs!

Thurgood is caught in a car's headlights trying to return his friends' repossessed items.  Notice that Smokey is tied by a rope to the sled (shopping cart) attempting to pull it--much like the Grinch's dog Max. 

Feeling more guilty than ever, Thurgood decides to sell his new chair and use the money to pay off his friends' debts at the pawn shop.  In a continuation of the references to The Grinch, we now see Stubbs packing all his friends' repossessed items back up in order to return them.  The oversized sack sitting atop the shopping cart should remind you of the familiar images of the Grinch on Christmas morning with his large bounty on the sleigh returning to Whoville.

Returning to the Hilton-Jacobs projects, Stubbs rides atop the large sack of items he is giving back to his friends--much like the Grinch sitting atop his sleigh traveling back to Whoville.

In addition to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, this episode's story and dialogue also makes brief references to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Miracle on 34th Street.  I absolutely love it when Christmas episodes make reference to popular Christmas culture.  Are you good at spotting these type of references?

Another detail that makes this Christmas episode a special experience is that this stop motion animated series was produced by Vinton Studios--the animation company behind the unforgettable A Claymation Christmas Celebration from 1987.  Though The PJs was, I believe, made with foam figures and the 1987 Christmas TV special was made entirely with clay, Will Vinton and his team have always been at the top of the list of stop motion animators.  How long has it been since you've watched A Claymation Christmas Celebration?


Among the many musical segments in A Claymation Christmas Celebration, most people instantly recall the California Raisins singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."  Enjoy.


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