the lady sparkler and i are watching our way through our annual list of christmas specials, and as far as i can tell, there is a grand total of five unique storylines:

  • cute [animal/small child/old person/magician] is [sick/growing up too fast/angry], and [believes/is recently doubting/never believed in] Santa’s existence, and [protagonist] goes on a crazy caper which saves Christmas, and proves Santa is real in the process.
  • [protagonist] is a [cute child/bumbling adult/cartoon character/muppet/angry hermit] who [finds out Santa is sick/finds out Santa is in trouble/accidentally injures Santa/un-does all of Santa’s work] and goes on a crazy caper involving a unique but belittled talent, which saves Christmas.
  • [protagonist] is [home for Christmas/someone who never understood Christmas/haunted by three ghosts/a disgruntled relative of Santa or Rudolph/sent to an alternate world where he had never been born], and is driven by a dysfunctional but ultimately well meaning [self/family member/group of friends/unwitting arch-nemisis] to go on a crazy caper in order to save Christmas, and thereby remembering the meaning of Christmas in the process.
  • [protagonist] is [looking for the perfect gift/concerned someone’s list didn’t make it to Santa], but doesn’t have any money, so he goes on a crazy caper where he [sells his favorite possession to get the money/earns the money through some crazy scheme/steals the present/builds the present from scratch] and even though the [attempt/gift exchange] is ultimately unsuccessful, he remembers the true meaning of Christmas and [Santa/intended gift recipient] saves the day.
  • [protagonist] is disilusioned by the commercialization of Christmas when he [goes on a crazy caper/directs a school pageant, often with repetitive dance moves] and thereby remembers the true meaning of Christmas.

i’ve run through a list of 54 christmas specials and movies, and each one falls into at least one (if not more) of these five buckets. if i am missing a storyline, i can’t come up with it …