Think: National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" without Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Randy Quaid, keep all the Christmas lights, and add rednecks, lots of facial hair, and an old, grumpy, bearded elf with glasses.
If you're like a lot of people come Christmas time, you're looking forward to the traditional re-run of "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer" and "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown" and a few other shows, some in the variety vein, like "Blake Shelton's Not-So-Family Christmas." But there's just so many Christmas specials on television these days that their saccharine faux-ness and materialistic-founded cheer simply leaves a person wishing for a cessation of the holidays and a quick leap into the new year. But every now and then a show comes along with a Christmas theme that you just have to watch. Such was this year's addition to the holiday special madness via AETV's "Duck Dynasty" -- "I'm Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas."
Everybody's trying to get into the Christmas spirit at the Duck Commander warehouse by decorating a tree when older brother Jase Robertson walks in. He's having none of it, finding the entire decorating and putting up of lights thing a simple waste of time. Uncle Si, complete with director's chair and his ever-present blue plastic glass of tea, has been doing what he does best: directing the decorating. Of course, he calls Jase a "Scrooge" and the discussion leads Jase to tell everyone that he loves Christmas, just not all the crap that goes with it, preferring his holidays to be more traditional, more focused on the "true meaning" of Christmas (the birth of Jesus Christ, the Christian messiah). Si calls him a "Grinch." Jase counters by telling his uncle that the Grinch is another fictitious character, to which Si seems genuinely -- and amusingly -- unaware.
Willie shows up and his wife informs him of his promise to be Santa Claus for the kids at the church. Willie informs the viewers via confessional that he's gotten out of Santa duty for seven straight years by telling his wife he has to work. However, this year she's outmaneuvered him and he's forced to agree to the job. At the same time, she asks if he's talked to his brother about his expected role in the gift-giving event. Of course, Willie has not...
It's an emphatic "no" from Jase. Why? They want him to dress up like Santa's elf. Not happening.
Si, who has remained outside the conversation, surprises everyone by volunteering. Jase is all for it. You can already see Willie contemplating all the things that can go wrong in the seconds that transpire between Si's volunteering and he and his wife, Korie, finally agreeing to let the wizened old redneck be Willie's (uh... Santa's) elf.
Fast forward to the church parking lot, where Korie questions Willie about the sack of toys for the kids. Willie tells her that he's delegated that job to Santa's helper, Si, the six-foot-tall scraggly-bearded elf. Korie scolds Willie for not doing it himself, knowing, like most family members, that if Si is involved, things can go haywire in a matter of seconds. But her fears are allayed when Si shows up and informs her he has the sack.
But they are reignited when Si pulls a big black garbage bag out of the bed of his pickup truck. Korie says it doesn't look like the Santa's sack of toys she had left in the warehouse.
Turns out it's not.
Santa Willie and his grouchy elf get down to business. After a question-and-answer session with the kids where Si begins his traumatization -- as if a six-foot, gray-haired, bespectacled, camo-wearing, green-slippered, big-eared elf slouching up behind Santa wasn't traumatic enough -- of the kids by informing them that it took so long to get from the North Pole because one of the reindeer had a heart attack (but it was alright because they ate him -- the deer) from pulling the heavy sleigh. Then there was Santa, whose white beard is riding low over his much darker real beard, who finally opens up his sack of "toys."
Korie had every right to be worried. Si had grabbed a garbage bag full of stuff from the warehouse. When Willie scolds Si, his uncle informs him that he told him to grab a sack of stuff from the warehouse ("Stuff," Si says, "is a broad term."), which is what he did. With Korie looking on in horror and parents and other church members watching in bewilderment, Willie gives out duck calls, a "Duck Dynasty" book, and office supplies (except to this one kid that hilariously told Santa he didn't want his gift, a blue dust pan) while Si grouchily offers elf wisdom to toddlers and little children. To a jumping child: "You'll never make it in the NBA, kid." To a little girl that says she wants to be an artist: "There ain't no money in that." To the child that didn't want the dust pan: "You'll go home with nothing."
(Viewers get a few Si-isms with regard to the sack of toys. About getting the warehouse stuff: "It's called improv-isavation." And: "If you want something done right -- don't ask me.")
One thing Willie most likely got out of playing Santa as he'd promised his wife he'd do: He most likely got out of ever playing Santa again.
The second story -- there's always at least a second story running alongside the first on "Duck Dynasty" -- revolves around Miss Kay and her gearing up for the holidays. This includes showing the grandkids what their Christmas dinner looks like raw. (She's decided on turducken with a twist: a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey inside a pig, the latter being the twist.) But besides doing the cooking, Miss Kay is all about getting her house decorated for the holidays. (Miss Kay lets viewers know that Phil would be happy with just a tree in the living. Not lights or decorations, just a tree.) That means getting a Christmas tree.
And putting up lights. Lots of lights.
Jase brings over the crew, set on going hunting. Father Phil is ready to join them when he's informed by Miss Kay that they've got to get a Christmas tree. Phil, always one to give in to Miss Kay, begs off going hunting. Then Miss Kay informs the guys she needs her Christmas lights strung up. She bribes them all (although it took Jase a longer than the rest) with the promise of sweet potato pie. (New catchphrase from the Robertson clan: "Never underestimate the power of sweet potato pie.")
While the guys were breaking lights trying to string them on the house, Phil and Miss Kay went off into the wilderness that is Robertson land (outside West Monroe, Louisiana). With Miss Kay talking a mile a minute and Phil being his reticent self (her never-ending litany interspersed with a Phil confessional of how he loves the quiet and serenity of the outdoors, delivered in the driest of tones, of course). After hours of walking and pointing and Miss Kay finding something wrong with every tree, they decide to visit a Christmas tree farm, something that Phil has never done before.
On the tree farm, Miss Kay is struck by how uniform and pretty all the trees are and again Phil is forced to endure a great length of time of Miss Kay's deliberations. She finally decides on a tree and Phil fells it with his chainsaw.
Back at the house, Jase confides that his ruined hunting day is turned around by the sight of Willie and Si in holiday get-up. He believes he's got the best end of the deal. Smiling, he says, "Si, you look like a Vulcan in those green slippers." Cut to the best Si confessional ever, where Uncle Si butchers two iconic science fiction pop culture mainstays: "Hey, I'm proud to be Spock, boys. He's the guy that blew up the Death Star. He can kill a man with that Volkwagen death grip." He then performs the Vulcan split-fingered greeting from the "Star Trek" franchise, but instead of the double-digit "V," he splays a one and three combo.
After Jase and little brother Jep, Martin and Godwin have arranged and rearranged the lights, they're finally done. Miss Kay, back from tree hunting inspects the job. They're only partially done. Jase, still set on doing some Christmas hunting, tells her there are no more lights to string. Miss Kay informs him that they haven't strung half her lights and opens up a shed with boxes and boxes of lights.
Inside the house, the new tree is found to be too tall. Phil has a quick redneck solution. With about twenty members of the Robertson clan -- kids, wives, Miss Kay -- watching in surprise, gets his chainsaw and cuts about a foot of tree off the trunk, sawdust flying around the living room. Perfect.
Willie's daughter, Sadie, finds a photo album and halts production of the Christmas meal, much to Willie's consternation. He stands behind the photo gawkers and makes insinuating comments about not being fed and looking at old pictures seen hundreds of times is not getting the food cooked, turducket and all. He is generally ignored, except for an occasional soft rebuke from one of the womenfolk.
But Christmas dinner is finally done, about the same time that Jase and crew finish stringing all the lights. He calls everyone outside. As the clan gathers, one is reminded of Chevy Chase's big moment in "Christmas Vacation." Jase plugs in the lights and the house lights up. But something's missing. "Says 'Oy,' Jase," Willie says. "Missing a 'J'." Not to be defeated after losing a day of hunting to string Christmas lights, Jase says there's more. He plugs in another cord. Phil says, "We're getting there" as more lights flare up around the house. Then Jase announces the "crescendo," to which Miss Kay asks the meaning. He tells her it's the grand finale and Si, apparently dreaming of redneck nirvana, says wistfully, "He's gonna blow something up." He didn't but the family is bathed in lights from the house, the shrubbery, and the various outbuildings around the main house. There's even a lighted polar bear in a boat. Self-inflating Santas and reindeer spring to life. The guys even decorated Willie's truck.
Miss Kay is happy, even likes the lighted truck. Si expresses his approval of the redneck Christmas pickup. Everyone applauds. Jase just wants his sweet potato pie. Willie wants those lights taken off his truck.
(In confessional, Jase notes that he lost a day of hunting, something he really enjoys, doing something he does not. But it was worth it, he said, to annoy his brother by wrapping his vehicle in those lights. "You're welcome," he deadpans. "Merry Christmas.")
So was it all saccharine and faux cheer? Absolutely not. Call it a combination of the bittersweet wistfulness of "A Christmas Story" merged with the family spectacle and the ridiculous display of lights of "Christmas Vacation," condense it from four hours to one, add chainsaws, camouflage, and beards -- and you have what could very well be a modern Christmas television classic: "I'm Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas."
Take Away Message: Family might drive you crazy during the holidays, but, as Willie points out, there's no place he'd rather be and no other people he'd like to share the holidays with more than his family and friends. It's a time when simply being together, enjoying each other's company, and doing things for others (even if you don't really want to do them) matters most. In the end, the rewards are as expansive as a mother's happiness, handing out gifts to children, the mischievous satisfaction of wrapping up your brother's truck in Christmas lights, and as gratifying as the taste of a sweet potato pie.
"Oy to the world," Willie says. "Just sayin'." And there you have it: Nothing's perfect, but that shouldn't stop you from making the best of what you have.
"Duck Dynasty" airs new episodes on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (EST) on AETV.
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