Snow Job: The Terrible Ethics of Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

This year marks the fifty-third annual broadcast of Rankin/Bass’s classic Christmas TV special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That means it’s also time for the fourteenth annual posting of this essay, possibly the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It originally appeared December 4, 2004 on my defunct ethics site

Hermey and RudolphWednesday night marked the fortieth annual broadcast of the “classic” holiday television show, Rankin/Bass Production’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I tuned in for probably the twenty-fifth time (but the first in many years) expecting to find a rudimentary moral lesson tucked amongst all the holly-jolliness and evil-looking puppets. Instead I had the frightening realization that, for forty years, RtR-NR has been cramming several sleighloads of bad ethics down our chimneys. In this holiday nightmare, nearly every character demonstrates a distinct lack of moral integrity bordering on turpitude, and none other than Santa himself comes away as the worst of the bunch. Here’s an ethical play-by-play.

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Watch Me on Jeopardy! Friday May 5

Is this the only question I got right? Find out when I’m on Jeopardy Friday May 5, 2017. Check your local listings.

I’ve Been Trebekked

After three online tests and as many auditions over the course of five years, I played Jeopardy! for real yesterday. It was a joy. I can say no more right now, not even whether or not I won the mandatory fist fight with Alex Trebek. Stay tuned for an air date.My New Jeopardy! Hat

Stuff I Liked in 2016, pt. 4 – TV

Watching TV is hard. I swear that once I used to just turn on a box, but now I have to navigate dozens of platforms across multiple devices to sit through hundreds of old episodes of 17 seasons of a show to understand what’s happening in the one on Sunday so I can decide that I don’t like it. These 10 shows were worth all that.

BasketsBaskets (FX)
Most comedies have lazed out of being funny, original, and sincere and just go for two out of three. Baskets hits the trifecta. Everyone rightly talks about Zach Galifianakis’s and Louie Anderson’s performances, but its Martha Kelly’s deadpan guilelessness that holds the show together.

Beyond the WallsBeyond the Walls (Shudder)
A French miniseries about a woman who inexplicably inherits a Parisian townhouse and then disappears into it. I was lucky enough to watch Beyond the Walls in a theater, and the world of the house expanded to envelop the room. Turn off the lights and turn on your big-screen TV and you’ll come close enough.

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I Wrote a New Pilot About Baseball. Someone Should Read It.

This weekend I finished a new half-hour pilot script. It’s titled The Perfect Game, and it’s about a hipster artisanal baseball team that goes pro. They’re called the Portland Zeitgeist. I love it. It’s my ninth pilot.

Yes, nine pilots. Seven of which I wrote since I moved to LA and which, when added to two specs and a screenplay, means I’ve written 10 scripts in six years. 1Plus work for MADPuppet Nation, BBC America, etc. Along with creating and producing a full episode of a radio comedy that the Los Angeles Times loved, starring one of Hollywood’s most talented actors who also happens to co-star on one of TV’s most successful shows.

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1. Plus work for MADPuppet Nation, BBC America, etc.

Stuff I Liked in 2015, pt. 4 – TV

2015 was more about the shows I intended to watch than the ones that I actually did. That list is far longer and probably far better. But, no one cares about the buildings Christopher Wren only intended to build, and if there’s a reason I do these lists, it’s to compare myself to Christopher Wren. So here are 10 shows I enjoyed this year.

ArcherArcher (FX)
After last year’s failed experiment of Archer: Vice, Adam Reed et al. returned to format with the show’s funniest season yet. I love how, hiding behind the dick jokes, this show secretly strives to succeed as an animated action-adventure (and does).

Blunt TalkBlunt Talk (Starz)
I’m cheating by including this one because, not having Starz, I only saw the first two episodes, but they were so remarkably hilarious that it would make the list even if the other 18 were dogs. I sincerely almost shelled out my monthly Lexapro money to Time Warner so I could see the rest. The excellence of SirPatStew aside, let’s talk about how Executive Producer Seth MacFarlane uses his clout to get other people’s great ideas on the air.

Brew DogsBrew Dogs (Esquire)
This year’s winner for my favorite little known, digital cable, unscripted series, Brew Dogs follows a couple of Scottish microbrewers around America, drinking and creating regional beer. It succeeds by conquering the two elements that usually conquer similar shows: rather than comprising eight minutes of interesting stuff orbiting in 36 minutes of dark matter filler, each episode of Brew Dogs is crammed with interesting and inventive content, guided by likable hosts who can actually handle the material the producers hand them.

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Some Jokes I Wrote are Nominated for an Emmy

Early in my career I decided I’d only ever write for one South African political satire puppet show. I picked the right one. Puppet Nation is on a global tear. After seven wins at the South African Film and TV Awards, it’s now nominated for best comedy in the 2015 International Emmy Awards.

The show’s up against heavyweights like Sensitive Skin, a Canadian comedy starring Kim Cattrall and Elliott Gould by the co-creator of the beloved Slings & Arrows.

Anyway, this very funny hot mix from the Academy includes some jokes I wrote.