Pop Culture Blind Spots: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Jonathan Taylor Thomas – J.T.T., if you were born between about 1980 and 1990 – perfectly illustrates the life cycle of a tween hearthrob. He was Randy Taylor on Home Improvement, Young Simba in The Lion King, and a Certified Hottie in the pages of Tiger Beat. When I was in fourth grade (the 1995-1996 school year), all of the girls in my class were obsessed with him. A few short years later – 1998, when I’ll Be Home for Christmas was released – we had all but forgotten about JTT. A lot had happened since 1996 (Hanson. Leonardo DiCaprio. Puberty). That’s how I, a one-time J.T.T. fangirl, got to 2015 without seeing his foray into Christmas entertainment. Here goes:

  • This is the most high-school looking college I’ve ever seen. J.T.T. is in a hallway covered in lockers; his dweeby friend is STUFFED INTO ONE.
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. uses the phrase “on the net.”
  • 1998 thing: a flock of girls are wearing Biore pore strips and J.T.T. asks if they work (1998 thing: they don’t).
  • 1998 thing: J.T.T. (Jake), wearing one of those button up bowling shirt things, flirts with a Mary Camden-era Jessica Biel (Ally), who has a Smashmouth poster.

  • Ribbed shirts sure were all the rage, weren’t they?
  • I think Mary Camden  is wearing a skort.
  • So Jake wants Ally to spend Christmas with him instead of her family. Is this a thing 18-year-olds do? My 18-year-old cousin went to Florida with her girlfriend’s family last Christmas and we all thought it was a little extra for someone who didn’t exist until 1996.
  • J.T.T. and his bros are in a cafeteria. This is the weirdest, most high-schoolish college.
  • J.T.T’s little sister is roughly the age we were when this came out, and she is the late-90s awkward stage personified.

File under: lime green mock turtleneck, stripey zipped thing, half of your hair pulled tightly back. Yep, all checks out.

  • “Is the convenience of technology worth the loss of our privacy?” – a very prescient J.T.T.
  • J.T.T.’s father offers to GIVE HIM A PORSCHE if he comes home for dinner at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve. If I am home for dinner at 6:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I get dinner.
  • So how’d I end up watching this? I’m watching a nephew and niece while their brother is in the hospital (note: this will be relevant later). Anyway, the 8-year-old boy requested a Christmas movie that neither of us had seen. He pronounced J.T.T.’s dad’s offer “a little extreme.”
  • 1998 thing: A group of boys cheat on a final with the aid of beepers and antique dial-up internet.
  • Mary Camden is wearing her second chunky-knit awkwardly short ribbed sweater.

  • The bros drop J.T.T. in the desert wearing a Santa Suit and I have questions. They leave a note: “Let’s see you sweet talk your way out of this one.” So. They knocked him unconscious, changed his clothes, and drove him to a secluded location to die? God, this is dark.

  • Mary Camden: “if you make me listen to any sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes I’m gonna have to slug you.” Add that one to my to-cross stitch pile. (She’s driving cross-country with J.T.T.’s enemy bro.)
  • 1998 thing: Eddie, the enemy bro, is in a sensitive mood, wants to listen to “Jewel, Sarah, Fiona.”
  • Tracey, Jake’s sister, is wearing giant terrible overalls.

Can’t find a pic of the overalls, but here’s a vest. A vest and I guess a spoiler.

  • J.T.T. and a car full of blue-haired Tom Jones fanatics listen to What’s New Pussycat.
  • It starts snowing on J.T.T. in the desert, I scoff, 8-year-old reminds me that deserts have dry climates but can be extremely cold at night. Which is true.
  • Jessica Biel slug’s Douchebag Eddie “as per our agreement.” I miss this teen movie archetype.
  • A van driver swerves about the road while he’s trying to retrieved a dropped sandwich and Charley and I both laugh out loud. FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. GIGGLES FOR ALL AGES. No but really, this movie is not bad on the separate rating scale I use for Christmas movies.
  • Douchebag Eddie calls himself a “millennial type of guy” who likes yoga and macrobiotic food. I could have sworn we were still going by Gen Y in 1998.
  • J.T.T. and the sandwich guy lie to a cop and say they’re giving presents to children in the hospital. They hand out kitchen appliances.
  • THEN a little boy says that all he wants is to go home and be with his family. My nephew looks a bit glum thinking about his brother, and I learn a lesson about trying to entertain a worried child with Jonathan Taylor Thomas movies. See, that’s why the Babysitters Club used to bring Kid Kits with them. ANYWAY. The hospital boy is never seen again, so there was no point in the movie turning serious for like 20 seconds.

21 Reasons You'll Want To Watch "I'll Be Home For Christmas" This Holiday

  • Sandwich Guy sings to his estranged wife Marjorie at her workplace. Her workplace is a restaurant where you, I guess, choose which cow you want to eat.

  • Douchebag Eddie wonders why more breakfast places don’t serve food right in the skillet. Same. But also, tort liability probs.
  • I’ve somehow stopped noticing that JTT has been wearing a Santa suit this whole time.
  • Douchebag Eddie and Mary Camden stay at a honeymoon suite decorated by my grandma during one of her mid-90s craft sprees.
  • JTT steals a man’s gross meat sandwich, which sounds like a euphemism but isn’t, and says it’s a liver transplant so that his bus goes where he needs it to.
  • This is an OK Christmas movie, but you know what would be the BEST Christmas movie that I’d watch every year? If they cut together all of the Christmas or wintery or snowy parts from all the Harry Potters. I’d pay probably not evening admission for that, but definitely matinee.
  • Allie and Jake meet up and have a boring fight. You could skip it.
  • J.T.T. enters a Santa 5K to get money to fly home. He wins after a cluster of Santas gets taken out by a friendly dog. The whole thing would make a fantastic Where’s Waldo page.

  • Jake donates his winnings to homeless people.
  • Tracey has a plane ticket’s worth of money in her “ballerina bag.” The best thing I had in my Irish Dance bag was maybe like a newish Werther’s Original.
  • Jake stows away in a dog crate because he doesn’t have an I.D.
  • Charley: “How did Allie and Jake get there at the same time, if he flew and she took the bus?”

Me: Wait. How DID they?

Honestly the geography of this trip is very confusing to me.

  • Jake steals a sleigh to get home in time. My nephew notes that Jake “steals a lot” and he isn’t wrong.
  • Jake makes it home at 5:59, but refuses to go into the house until after 6 because he is silly.
  • The Porsche is parked in the snowy front yard by a set designer who doesn’t know how snow works.

 

  • Jake, a silly goose, refuses the car but accepts his father’s love. AWWW.
  • Jake and his stepmom exchange sweater sizes. She is an 8.
  • 1998 thing: a size 8 woman in a movie.
  • Bottom line: this Lifetime-quality Christmas movie that was perfectly serviceable. On my separate rating scale for Christmas movies, it was “cute.” In Christmas movies, cute isn’t a bad thing.

 

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Whatareyoudoinghere: Unexpected Guest Stars of Veronica Mars

I was one of those latecomers that only got into Veronica Mars when was available on Netflix Instant a year or two ago. I was immediately hooked, and scolded myself for judging the show by its name (Veronica MARS who lived in NEPTUNE??? Def some kind of sci-fi show I wasn’t interested in). But fast forward to my Netflix marathon days and I watched eps nonstop, then proceeded to purchase the DVDs once they took it off instant.

Anyways, from the beginning, I noticed that a lot of random celebs appeared on VMars. Some were famous before the show, and some reached their fame after their appearance. The obvious one is Amanda Seyfried, who played Lilly Kane, Veronica’s bestie, Duncan’s brother, and Logan’s main boo. Oh and she was mysteriously killed, so pretty much the all of season one and season two focus on her murder. Ugh Harry Hamlin.

Because of the future Mamma Mia star, I proceeded to make a list of some notable names who I was surprised to see in Neptune.

PS: gold star and +50 points if you got the Californians ref in the post title.

Paris Hilton

Season 1, Episode 2

Props to Paris for signing up to be a guest star so early on in the show. Although she probs would’ve taken any role she was given money for, so nevermind. I will admit that I was super jeal of her because she played Logan’s new GF. Logan *sigh*

Jessica Chastain

Season 1, Episode 7

Jessica was recently on Jay Leno recalling how although it seems like she’s an overnight Oscar nominee, she graduated from Julliard and was in various TV shows – including V Mars. She played a character involved in one of the darkest storylines ever done on the show, a pregnant woman who lived next door to Veronica, who went missing. Turns out her stepfather raped her, and just as she was going to shoot him in self defense, Veronica’s dad shoots him to safe her life. Srs business, y’all.

Aaron Paul

Season 1, Episode 11

Before he was a maker of meth, Jesse Pinkman was accused to being a serial killer. So I mean, he has a history of playing troubled characters (RIP Gale).

Leighton Meester

Season 1, Episodes 14 & 21

Spotted: Young B playing Carrie Bishop, queen of the rich ’09ers (sound familiar?). She accuses Veronica’s favorite teacher, Mr. Rooks of having an affair with her, so VMars sets out to prove that he’s innocent. She finds out that not only did Rooks have an affair, it was actually with Carrie’s BFF, who got preggo from the scandalous tryst. So Carrie decided to press charges against him for herself.

Adam Scott

Season 1, Episode 14

Oh, BTW, the guy who played teen predator Mr. Rooks? THIS GUY.

Ben Wyatt/Knope, I still love you. Even if you were a creeper.

lit’rally took me forever to decide which pic to use because i love him so much

Lucas Grabeel

Season 2, Episode 14

The High School Musical alum played Kelly Kuzzio, a baseball jock who was secretly gay. Not like he’s ever played a gay guy before.

Kristin Cavallari

Season 2, Episode 14

Kristin, the only villain who looked sane next to Speidi, made her scripted TV debut and she played a cheerleader. Oh sorry, a LESBIAN cheerleader. It was great. I mean her acting wasn’t but just the entire thing it general was great.

Zachery Ty Bryan

Season 1, Episode 15 & 17

Usually the middle child gets the shaft, but on Home Improvement, I always thought eldest kid Brad got the short end of the stick. I mean the middle child was Jonathan Taylor Thomas, like how do you compare with that? I remember as much about Brad’s plot line as I do of his brief stint on VM. Which is that he played basketball and drove a car.

JTT

Season 1, Episode 18

Speak of the devil. I was never one of those girls who fawned over JTT. I didn’t get it. Still don’t. Which is why that although I appreciate his rare TV appearance on a UPN show in 2005, I remember his guest starring role mostly because this was the first episode where Veronica and Logan kissed. I mean he played an ATF agent who went undercover as a high school student, so that was cool, I guess. But VERONICA AND LOGAN!! They had an epic kind of love, you know? One that  spanned years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed, epic.

Rider Strong

Season 3, Episode 2

Good old Shawn Hunter played an asshole classmate of Logan and Wallace in a college class, where they participated in some prison experiment. IDK, basically he made the kid from Freaks and Geeks pee his pants.

Matt Czuchry

Season 3, Episode 4

Logan Huntzberger from my fave Gilmore Girls uses his reporter skills as he pretends to be Logan Echolls’ half-brother just to get a story. Whoa, that got confusing even for me. Again, forget about Matt for a sec because this was a great episode for Jason Dohring who got to show his dramatic side after he found out he still didn’t come close to getting to know his half-brother.

Dianna Agron

Season 3, Episodes 5, 15, & 19

Incidentally, Dianna played a college kid in VMars, and then went on to play a high school cheerleader/wheelchair bound/walking Yale student miracle on Glee.

Paul Rudd

Season 3, Episode 17

The great Paul Rudd is actually BFFs with show creator Rob Thomas, which explains his involvement with VM and with Rob’s follow up show, the hilarious Party Down. Paul plays a washed-up rock star who’s playing at Hearst College, and is a drunk nut job. One of my all-time lines from the show comes from this episode, as seen above.

Max Greenfield

Recurring character

I saved the best for last. Before New Girl was New Girl, I saw promos for the show, and put it on my list immediately because Max Greenfield was in it. At the time, he was only Deputy Leo to me, the handsome, smiley, police officer who Veronica canoodled with in the first season. Unfortunately their love dwindled, but only because she was falling for Logan. And I was ok with that. But now, he can’t be anything else but Schmidt.

Logan TYFYT