"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Special Christmas TV Review by the Author of The "Tis the Season TV" Encyclopedia

Buffy The Vampire Slayer “Amends,” the 1998 Christmas episode

A Review by Joanna Wilson

In this monumental third season episode, Buffy is hoping for an uneventful Christmas break.  Unfortunately, Angel is being haunted by horrible nightmares and visions of former victims.  One nightmare is a flashback to Dublin, 1838 at Christmas but other visions are pushing him to hurt his former lover, Buffy. 

Buffy begins to understand his emotional struggle when she’s drawn into his nightmares and sees that Angel’s former victims are drawing him towards evil.  Trying to help, Buffy seeks the Bringers, the beings that may be behind Angel’s conflict.  She finds their location in Sunnydale by the tell-tale sign that no tree thrives in the Christmas tree lot above their underground dwelling. 

In the meantime, Buffy’s mother Joyce encourages her daughter to invite Faith, who lives alone, to join them for Christmas Eve despite the awkwardness. 

Xander camps out in a sleeping bag on his lawn in order to avoid his family’s drunken fights on Christmas Eve.  Though Willow is Jewish, she spends her Christmas Eve with her boyfriend Oz trying to convince him to trust her again after a past indiscretion.

The emotional heart of this 1998 episode is watching Angel being pushed by the visions to end his pain and guilt by committing vampire suicide in the early morning dawn of sunlight on Christmas morning.  We watch as the complex character Angel struggles with the all too familiar weaknesses of his humanity--not the monstrous evil that comes with being a demon. 

Other Christmas stories play off of the much anticipated sunrise on Christmas morning--daybreak is usually the time young children rush down from their bedrooms to discover what Santa Claus has left them under the Christmas tree.  However in this Christmas story, viewers may be surprised by their own depth of emotion in wishing that Angel’s self-destruction on Christmas morning never comes.  When the story resolution finally comes, it’s satisfying and in keeping with the holiday spirit.  Feeling sympathetic to hunky vampires is a fairly recent experience for most of us that has since become much more common place in films and television.  This Christmas episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the first time I remember feeling it as strongly as I ever would.  Re-watching this third season episode is nostalgia at its magical Christmasy best. 

About the book Tis the Season TV by Joanna Wilson

Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials and Made-For-TV Movies, by Joanna Wilson, is the comprehensive guide to Christmas television programming. Spanning over 60 years of television history and containing more than 3,000 entries, Tis the Season TV is the first reference book to catalog information and synopses about episodes, specials, made-for-TV movies, and theatrical release movies that have gone on to wider viewership on television. Or, as Savannah Schroll Guz wrote for Library Journal, “Wilson’s compilation is the most comprehensive guide now available to Christmas-, Hanukkah-, Kwanzaa-, and New Year’s themed TV.” This nostalgic reference book places entries alphabetically at the reader’s fingertips in a wonderful easy-to-use resource for enjoying holiday-themed programming all year long. It covers everything from All in the Family to Ziggy’s Gift, and from Bob Hope’s Christmas Specials to Larry the Cable Guy. Wilson’s book contains an index of guest stars for further ease of use, and 17 sidebars which present informative lists of related programs such as different versions of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, as well as programs with a similar theme, such as Christmas and the Old West, and Television’s First Christmases. Tis the Season TV also includes listings from programming devoted to New Year’s, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations.

The complete Library Journal review:
In the works since 2002, Wilson's compilation is the most comprehensive guide now available to Christmas-, Hanukkah-, Kwanzaa-, and New Year's themed TV. The book appears to be a thematic expansion of her 2009 guide, The Christmas TV Companion, which surpassed Diane Werts's 2005 title, Christmas on Television. Here, entries are alphabetized first by program name, then by episode title. Each details year, director, and production staff, with a synopsis of program contents. Although it focuses solely on U.S. programming, it offers an engaging read for pop-culture enthusiasts and American television history buffs. ­Savannah Schroll Guz, formerly with Smithsonian Libs., Washington, DC --Library Journal

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In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.