Monday, December 26, 2011

What to do today?

So this is Christmas celebration day – as opposed to celebrating Christmas on Christmas day. The real reason for this of course is to squeeze an extra day off from work. It’s an idea I heartily approve and you non-Americans should definitely try to get it instituted in your country, too. Jews have Hanukah, which is eight days, and trust me -- we tried to get all eight days off from work. It didn’t fly. It’s hard to justify missing over a week for a holiday whose spelling no one can agree on. But one extra day, that our workforce can manage.

The trouble is, honestly, what is there left to celebrate? Once you’ve opened the presents, sung the songs, decorated the tree, eaten the ham, watched A CHRISTMAS STORY and LICENSE TO KILL, and suffered through a day of your relatives you’re pretty much done for the year. Monday is spent returning crap or looking for things to do. Hardly a gala celebration.

This is very reminiscent of whenever we have to write a two-parter on a sitcom. Usually what happens is this: We come up with an idea for an episode. As we start to break the story we find there are too many scenes for one episode. Sometimes we can find a way to pare things down so it fits. But more often when this occurs we’ll think, “Great! Two-parter! One less story to dream up!” And we’ll continue plotting.

But here’s the unfortunate truth that we ignore every time. With rare exceptions what you have is enough story for a show-and-a-half. Too much for one, not enough for two. So we find ways to pad to fill up part two. Not the best storytelling, but the lure of not having to come up with another story is too enticing.

So the next time you see a two-parter, be on the lookout for this. Where are scenes stretched? Where does the narrative start to drag? Where so they go off on tangents for no apparent reason?

What am I saying “the next time you see a two-parter”? What else have you got to do today? Go to Netflix. Check out your favorite sitcoms and screen two-parters all day. The first Christmas celebration day tradition is born!

It sure beats working. Or more caroling.

19 comments:

Johnny Walker said...

Haha. Aren't two-parters usually reserved for season arc twists? Guess I should just break out Netflix and see for myself.

FYI - Today is known as "Boxing Day" here in the UK. It's another holiday, usually reserved for seeing extended family... and (presumably) re-boxing unwanted presents.

RyderDA said...

We Canadians have Boxing Day too, and it too is a holiday. It's main purpose is to put Black Friday to shame in an orgy of spending, buying next year's Christmas wrapping paper. And flat screen TVs to watch two-parters on.

RS Gray said...

The padding is also pretty apparent whenever NBC does one of their "special" hourlong episodes. Even on The Office they had trouble filling the time and keeping the momentum.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I thought you were Jewish. What happened to Hanukkah?

Paul Duca said...

Speaking of Christmas traditions, did my gift to you start a new one...cold cuts instead of Chinese?

I know what you asked for...but Chevrolet wasn't involved by this time--and besides, you already HAVE a Jew.

Johnny Walker said...

Well I wouldn't consider myself a Christian, but I still celebrate Christmas...

D. McEwan said...

You joke, but I'm watching License to Kill today. (If there is more than one movie with that title. I'm watching the one with Timothy Dalton.)

RCP said...

I will keep this in mind with the next two-parter. Meantime, I hope you and your family are enjoying the holidays, Ken.

In my family, an array of the non-religious (including myself), stubborn Catholics, a Buddhist, and my older sister who converted to Judaism and lived in Israel for 20 years provides an interesting mix. We're hoping for a Muslim relative sometime in the future. Whatever I do today, it will be accompanied by traditional Christmas music alternating with Radio Hannukah.

By the way: We get this entire week off, but don't worry - we're worked like slaves the rest of the year.

Tom Quigley said...

I worked for a company for several years which had an office in Brentford, London, UK. Following British work tradition, they not only had Christmas off, but the following 10 days to two weeks depending on what day the holidays fell.

Must be they needed all that time to recover from dipping into the wassail bowl...

Wendy M. Grossman said...

As Johnny Walker says, the tradition of Boxing Day is long-standing. There's a tube strike today in London, and I have to laugh because as recently as 15 years ago there would have been no trains at all, by plan.

I think today is a holiday in all European countries, and in some industries people will have this week off and not go back until Jan 3.

wg

Johnny Walker said...

Yep, I wish I could say that it's true that we get 10 to 14 days off as per British tradition, but it's more like 8, if you're lucky. Still, not complaining! :)

We do get Christmas, Boxing and New Year's Day off, and if they occur during weekends, we get the following Monday (and/or Tuesday, in the case of Boxing Day) off to make up for it.

We also get five Bank Holidays, which are national holidays, throughout the year. Everybody also gets 20 day's worth of holiday per year with their job.

That said, when I worked in the USA, I felt it was less stressful than the UK, despite not getting any such perks. Hard to explain why.

Ref said...

I wish we had something approaching the British season. Christmas is traditionally twelve days, and I could do with a little more. It depresses me to drop by a market for a bottle of milk on December 26 and find Valentine's Day stuff on the shelves. BTW, I'm an atheist with a soft spot for druids.

Paul Duca said...

Ken, I stumbled across this English made piece on YouTube...."How to Conduct Oneself in the Synagogue"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s31vZHkV_ew&feature=related

JannieMac said...

Nobody does 'any excuse for a holiday' better than us Aussies. We have Boxing Day and we also get the 27th as a public holiday in lieu of the fact Christmas Day fell on a Saturday this year.

Paul Duca said...

Could you clarify that, JannieMac? I thought a day of the week was always the same--i.e., using the same calendar--everywhere in the world. I didn't think crossing the International Date Line meant everything moved back a day.

WV: blest--fitting for discussing something connected with Christmas

HogsAteMySister said...

Ken, so what are your top 5 two-parters?

Paul Duca said...

A bonus gift for you, Ken--I know your affection for Stephanie Edwards, and I came across a clip from her on A.M. AMERICA....ABC's precursor to GOOD MORNING AMERICA. Her regular co-host was away, but see with whom she's holding down the desk:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&NR=1&v=PfmS-DM8Jc0

Plus...she had a supporting role alongside Sally Field and John Davidson in the short-lived 1973 sitcom THE GIRL WITH SOMETHING EXTRA
(in return for remaining earthbound, Screen Gems gave Sally ESP).

Sebastian said...

We have 11 holidays in my state (NRW) in Germany. But other than in the US those don't get shifted to the following monday if they fall on a weekend.

On the other hand we have this neat little law instituted in 1963 called the National Vacation Law (Bundesurlaubsgesetz).

We get a mandatory 24 vacation days. This results in roughly 30 workdays off each year - with 5 workdays each week that means we have 1.5 months off each year - in case we are not self-employed. Like me *sadface*

But hey, I got both the best and the worst boss in the world that way :-)

Scribe said...

those of us in commonwealth countries already had an extra day off, boxing day. so this time we got 2 of them.