|CHRISTMAS COMES TO PAC-LAND (abc, 1982)
Why was it such a misfit?
The first time I reviewed this, I had to get the footage from the only place I could find it: AOL's In2TV website, which only worked on about 4% of American computers. Fortunately I was somehow within that percentage.
The problem with comments like this is, I can never tell when they're serious or not.
But anyway, thanks to an awesome reader and his awesome donation of the original airing of Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, I can now review it properly, with ancient ads and everything. At his peak, Pac-Man had his own show, and at the peak of that peak, he had his own prime-time Christmas special too.
We begin this slice of archaic arcadia with Santa Claus in mid-flight, doing what he's known for doing. Except for one element. "It's a good thing my list is computerized, or I'd never get the job done! HO! HO! HO!"
Santa's been around a while; how'd he do it before computers got small enough to install into sleighs? I don't think they were that small in '82 either. Methinks they were just playing with tradition because PCs were new and it was funny to slip in a reference to one, similar to that one Popeye cartoon from 1947 where Olive Oyl says, "Oh boy! Now I can go watch television!!"
It never holds up very well. Those dumb jokes they make about iPods on "The Simpsons" these days are along the same lines, and will sound just as bad twenty years hence when nobody uses an iPod anymore.
Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man enter the scene making snow-ghosts, so Baby Pac-Man can chomp them to bits as target practice. To their surprise, a giant Snow-Pac zooms into the screen and eats the ghosts, then races after them. But no worries; it turns out to be Baby Pac-Man covered in snow.
Next on the snowly agenda for the Pac-Family is motorized sledding. Unfortunately for them, the Ghosts (Blinky, Inky, Pinky, Clyde, and Sue) show up while they're in the middle of this activity and, being the scoundrels they are, spoil it.
Clyde (the orange ghost with the matching orange derby) appears to be the leader, and he remarks "There's the Pacs! Now's a good time to chomp 'em! Actually, anytime's a good time to chomp 'em!" He laughs at how clever he just was.
A possible better line could have been, "Hey, there's a baby! Let's eat it!" They mean the same...
The Ghosts chase the Pac-Family off a cliff, and show no signs of slowing. If only there were some Power Pellets around, like the kind you find lying around in mazes...oh wait, there's some now! Clearly labeled in an orange box with "Emergency Power Pellets" on it!
But the deux ex machina was not to be. Pac-Man finds the box empty. "HEY PAC-MAN! LOOKIN' FOR THESE?? HAHAHAHA!!" The Ghosts took them out ahead of time--they planned this well in advance!
That's as clever as the Ghosts get. They're actually very stupid, even by classic cartoon villain standards. The Pacs start throwing snowballs at the Ghosts, and they don't like it. "TWO can play it THAT way!" yells one, and starts throwing the Power Pellets at them.
For that alone, they deserve to get chomped, and Pac-Man is more than happy to oblige. Hanna-Barbera came up with a decent explanation for the Ghost House: the Ghosts are wearing sheets to be seen, and since Pac-Man can't eat a supernatural body, he bites their clothes off instead. They have to rush back to their house as eyeballs and put on new sheets again. That's some admirable work, uncredited writer. Making narrative sense of the mechanics of Pac-Man isn't a job I'd envy.
In their progress back to the Ghost House, the Ghost Eyeballs fly past Santa, and his reindeer are severely spooked. The encounter causes the entire sleigh to spiral out of control and crash into the snow! Cue commercials!
"What do you make of
......."Pepper"? In this cartoon, they gave the female Pac an unofficial name, as it'd be awkward for Pac-Man to address his wife as "Ms. Pac-Man." And yes, "Pepper" calls her husband "Paccy."
Shown on the right screen are Officer O'Pac, somebody hidden behind the chair whom I forgot the name of, and the Pac-Pets, Sourpuss the Cat and Chomp-Chomp the dog. Get used to hearing the word "chomp," it's used at least fifty times.
Back at the Ghost House...
A net? Syrup? These are plans? I had the suspicion during this special that, despite their deep voices, the Ghosts were actually six-year-old kids and Clyde was their sole adult guardian. None of these actions should make sense to a developed mind.
So the Ghosts set out to find and chomp Pac-Man again, but they end up finding the toy sack before Pac does. "OOOH! TOYYYYS!!" they squeal, and immediately start playing with their new discoveries. And that only bolsters my theory.
Pac-Man and Chomp-Chomp devise a plan to get the toys away from the Ghosts: they'll burrow underground like Bugs Bunny, surface right under the toys, grab them and then burrow back down before the Ghosts know what's happened. Chomp-Chomp calculates correctly and surfaces next to the sack, but Pac-Man pops up right in the middle of the Ghosts....
"Quick, Chomp-Chomp! I've got their attention!"
While the Ghosts are after Pac-Man, Chomp-Chomp gathers up the toys and puts them back in the bag.
Things are going well for ol' Packy until he trips over a rock, and the Ghosts catch up to him.....AND THEY CLOSE IN FOR THE KILL! COMMERCIAL TIME AGAIN!! NATURALLY!!
CHOMP! PAC-MAN IS DEAD!!!
.....wait, I guess he isn't. Is that it? That's what he's been running from? All they planned to do was bite him once and then run off? I think everyone here is six years old.
Pac-Baby contradicts that theory, but maybe he's adopted.
Weary and humiliated, the round man and his round dog haul the toys back home as best they can. By the time they return, it's past midnight and too late for Santa to start back up again with any hope of reaching every child by Christmas morning. EVEN with a Commodore 64 installed in his sleigh!
"I can't believe it! This is the first Christmas in history I can't make!" Santa sobs. From all the 15,977 other close calls he's had in the other specials, you'd think he'd quit assuming he can't make it when he usually gets over whatever hump is in his way. This time is no exception; Pac-Man gets the notion to introduce Santa's reindeer to Power Pellets.
Here we find out Power Pellets grow on trees. No argument from me. It makes sense. Rudolph is first to nibble and his nose "hasn't shone that brightly in years," according to Santa. Within seconds, the reindeer are turbocharged and can go faster than ever. Christmas 1982 is saved!
As thanks, Santa leaves a surprise back at Pac-Man's house. Pac-Land gets its very first Christmas, as every resident finds a present under Pac-Man's tree. Even the Ghosts, who have clearly been worthy of the Naughty List, get something. Well, it could always be wrapped coal. Nwaka-nwaka!
Why didn't it fit in?