Our walk down memory lane, exploring Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in the absence of Supergirl until late January, has taken an abrupt yuletide turn today.
Instead of digging through a single episode for Easter eggs like we've done for the last couple of weeks, we figured it was as good a time as any to take a look at "Season's Greedings," "Home is Where the Hurt Is," and "'Twas the Night Before Mxymas," better known as the Christmas episodes of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
So...which was the best? What were the things that happened over and over again?
Read on, and let us know what you think.
The first Lois & Clark Christmas special came in the show's second season when -- fittingly enough -- Superman (or more accurately, Lois and Clark) took on the Toyman.
In an episode that had a few nods to A Charlie Brown Christmas, Schott turned from toymaker to master criminal after a previous invention of his had been rejected by children and the market. He invented a "Radioactive Space Rat" toy meant to appeal to kids's baser instincts -- and then to enhance them in everyone who came near the toy, as it sprayed a chemical mixture that turned people into petulant, squabbling, spoiled brats.
Lois & Clark often laid bare the inherent silliness in superhero stories, for better or for worse, and that's this episode's flaw: the villainous plot sounds better on paper than it does when performed by live-action actors forced to talk and act like pre-pubescent children driven by their selfish, fleeting desires.
But everything else about it is pretty great. Seeing the Kents dealing not only with life in Metropolis, but life in Metropolis during the busy, frantic holiday shopping season with half the population doped up on Atomic Space Rat and acting crazy.
The casting -- oh, man, the casting in this episode is just out of the park. In the days before racebending traditionally-white characters was really a thing (let alone a "controversy"), Schott became a black man -- but he wasn't just any old character actor. This was Sherman Hemsley, better known to the world at large as George Jefferson from The Jeffersons -- and his secretary/love interest in the episode was played by Isabel Sanford, who played George's wife Louise. In 1995, and with the slightly-older audience that Lois & Clark tended to draw than the average superhero show, that probably made Schott's indignant cry of "She's been with me for twenty years!" resonate even more. Add to that the legendary Dick Van Patten (Westworld, Spaceballs, Wonder Woman '77) as Santa and a so-young-she-wasn't-famous-yet Denise Richards as Angie, the gorgeous girl flirting with Jimmy Olsen, and you've got one of the best guest-star lineups in any episode of TV in recent memory.
They all turned in solid-to-great performances, and aside from the silliness of the central conflict, the writing was great, with solid character beats from Lois, Clark, Perry, the Kents (especially Martha, and K Callan is woefully underrated), and Hemsley's Toyman.
The episode also delivers a solid interpretation of Toyman that rang very true to what the character had been like in the '80s and early '90s, and used that characterization to inform a bold, heartwarming story point in the final act of the episode.
And last but not least, for those of us who love a good Easter egg, the Coates Orphanage, which played a major role in the episode, was named for The Adventures of Superman's Lois Lane, Phyllis Coates.
HOME IS WHERE THE HURT IS
While it's arguably the weakest of the three, "Home is Where the Hurt Is" proves that when it came time for the holidays, the Lois and Clark team liked to bring something special to the table.
And something very, very silly.
When Mindy Church (Jessica Collins) decides she wants to put Intergang -- the notorious mob once headed up by her now-incarcerated husband -- she enlists the aid of a high-tech weaponsmith known as the Handyman to create a virus that could take Superman out of the picture. It works, and it's up to Lois Lane's father -- a doctor, rather than a military man, in this version of the story -- to bring the Man of Steel back from the brink of death and save Christmas.
The episode itself sounds on principle like probably the most traditional Superman-on-TV story of the bunch, although there are a few elements -- Mindy's high-pitched, whiny Jessica Rabbit voice and a fully-operational sex android Sam Lane has created to marry him -- that drag it well and truly into the territory of the absurd.
Still, it's always good to see Jonathan and Martha Kent (again!) and we get another little bit of Superman-and-the-orphans stuff. These are the elements that run through all three of the Christmas episodes, and it's, frankly, some of the best stuff.
'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE MXYMAS
If "Season's Greedings" was about a lot of people feeling alone, "'Twas the Night Before Mxymas" is about an embarrassment of riches. Especially for poor Lois's Christmas dinner.
Like the first of the Christmas specials, this one features an honest-to-God villain from the comics -- and this time it's Mr. Mxyzptlk, coming soon to Supergirl!
Played by Howie Mandel, Mr. Mxyzptlk is here the troublesome imp of the comics, but he's a bit less anarchic. Scared to be sent back home to the Fifth Dimension, he decides to destroy hope in order to take away Superman's "power" by taking away what he symbolizes. His performance is charming as hell, and his idea -- to trap Superman in Christmas Eve forever, a la Groundhog Day -- is a fun little bit of business.
This one takes the best advantage of the tropes of superhero storytelling, and without falling too much into absurdity -- mostly becuase Mxy is an inherently silly idea, so the writers can indulge their desire for comedy without it hurting the episode at all.
One of the best episodes of the series, this capably juggles the needs of being a Christmas episode (more orphans! The Kents! Lois's mom!) with the superhero action and the relationship drama; it explores the meaning of Superman and gives Lois a shining moment as a reporter.