|UP ON THE HOUSETOP (syndication, 1992)|
|Why was it such a
You might have been to this page before....well, now it's different. There's so little information about this rare special out there, the original version was entirely based on theory. But the special's creator, Jerry Reynolds, or G. Brian Reynolds as he calls himself now, Emailed me recently to give me the correct story behind Up On The Housetop. Good thing, because aside from this page there is virtually nothing on the Internet about this special. And the Internet's supposed ta know EVERYTHING!!
The only documented proof of its existence, besides the videotape I caught of it, is its listing in a large animation encyclopedia. The listing gave the name and a brief description of its plot, and said it was made in 1992. When I had no info on this special, I was positive this was NOT a 1992 production. Judging by the way the animation is limited, the kind of music used and the kind of font typefaces seen, this had to be an early 80's cartoon that was shelved for ten years.
But it actually wasn't....it was just made under a really, really tight budget. Reynolds and partner Russ Harris made the entire thing themselves in response to The Simpsons and the newly born grown-up cartoon genre. The result is that this Christmas special is very different in tone from what's typically thought of as one. The top billing--and main character--is a man named Curtis Calhoun, who Reynolds made up yet based on himself. Reynolds did the voices of Curtis and everyone Curtis is related to. He can't recall where the name "Curtis Calhoun" originated, but noted that in the original draft his name was "Dweeb."
Not only am I one of the only people on Earth who holds a copy of Up On The Housetop, I'm the only one who's made it through the entire special. I can't get anyone else to sit through this thing. "Uh, can we watch something else?" they groan, and reach for the remote that is still in my hand. Maybe I'm alone, but I don't think Up On The Housetop is THAT bad. I kinda like it--for its realism. It's not overtly corny, unbearably sappy or any of the other typical problems that make Christmas specials unwatchable. It is, however, whiny. Very whiny.
And it's Curtis's fault. Mr. Calhoun is one sad sack of a man, and every minute he gets on the screen (which is every minute) he is complaining about something. "Ohh, I'm not in the mood for Christmas this year!" "Ohh, why do I always wait until the last minute to buy gifts?" "Ohh, why does my nose itch?"
Curtis also has a huge guilt problem. He can't pass a stone-faced bell-ringer without getting pulled into dropping a few more coins. "Ohh, I gave at the office! Why won't you just leave me alone! Ohh, I'll give again..." He faces at least five of them, so he loses a lot of cash to this. Reynolds is also intimidated by bell-ringers, but said "The difference between Curtis and I is that he gives them money, and I just feel guilty."
Calhoun is so depressed, when he's
confronted by a news reporter asking what he thinks of
Christmas, he yells "IT STINKS!"
I told Jerry if he'd had him say "NOT!" and "I'm gonna HURL!" then I might have gotten a more accurate date on this piece. I also informed him that while it was theoretically possible for someone to have big hair and ripped jeans in 1992, Springsteen bandanas were definitely out. Jerry's response: "Maybe we were behind the times here in Indiana. That wouldn't surprise me."
Curtis gripes several times that he wishes Christmas would just go away, not expecting to get his wish. This doesn't happen via the Good Fairy of Christmastide poofing out of thin air and showing Curtis a grim world without Christmas...no, there's none of that typical stuff here. Instead he gets two calls in succession: one from his dad and another from his brother, both saying they won't be able to make it up to his place on time this year. This cancels his planned celebration altogether, effectively erasing his Christmas.
And he's really unhappy when bad TV reception forces him to adjust the roof antenna. Upon turning back, he finds he locked himself out on the roof! All night!
If Curtis is stuck on the roof, on Christmas Eve, and on a would-be prime-time Christmas special, who do you think he's going to meet? Right.....exactly. Curtis finds Santa trying to squeeze down the chimney and accuses him of being a burglar, but he shuts up when Santa knows his name and all the events of the past 24 hours. "What you don't realize, Curtis, is that you haven't lost Christmas. Christmas is where you find it. Think about that." With that Santa leaves.
The next morning, one of the apartment tenants comes to the roof to water her plants and finds Curtis there. Curtis whines away his whole story, and the woman admits that she, too, will be missing Christmas as she can't afford to fly down to where her other relatives are. Gash's relatives don't care about him, and the poor old lady downstairs has no family anymore. Upon hearing all this, Curtis gets an idea....
Within seconds of television transition time, a large apartment Christmas party is organized. "Where did you get the idea for all this?" someone asks Curtis, who's cheery for the first and only time. "Oh, a friend told me...up on the housetop." Having dropped that song cue, the special ends with Curtis and the others singing a loud rendition of the title holiday song.
Why didn't it fit in?
Reynolds' other partner, Mike Ruggiero, shopped the special around to the networks, but they all turned it down. The only reason it hit public airwaves at all was because it made it into barter syndication, covering 90% of the country....and Portland's former WB affiliate, who was looking for lots of material to fill time the infant network was not.
That's the tale of how I got Up On The Housetop, one of the rarest specials around. And now available on DVD from GoodTimes, the makers of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and other beloved low-budget Disney ripoffs!