News of the Week: E.T. Is Back, Peloton Causes Trouble, and What Exactly Is “Wassail”?

In the news for the week ending December 6, 2019, a Christmas extraterrestrial, a stationary bike, a new James Bond Movie, your favorite Christmas movies, and more.

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There are several film projects that studios shouldn’t attempt unless they want to feel the wrath of film lovers and social media, like remaking Citizen Kane or colorizing Casablanca (wait, they actually did that).

Another film-related update that people have dreaded? A sequel to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, where the little alien returns for more adventures. But if you’ve actually wanted to see that happen, Xfinity has done the next best thing, just in time for the holidays: a commercial where E.T. comes back to Earth (that’s the full-length ad — they’re also showing an edited version on television).

Xfinity has wisely turned off the comments on the video.

Oh, it’s not that bad. I don’t think E.T. necessarily needed a sequel ad, but in the end it’s probably better than having a full-length sequel, which would be compared to the original and dissected and criticized. This is a quicker, nostalgic, feel-good thing.

Maybe I’m engulfed by the Christmas spirit, but I think it works. It features Henry Thomas, young Elliott from the original, now grown up with kids of his own and a ton of new Xfinity products to show his space friend. It’s actually better than some movie sequels I’ve seen. Sure, some fans aren’t happy about it, but most people are angrier at Comcast/Xfinity customer service and are upset they actually like something the company produced. Even Steven Spielberg gives it a thumbs up.

It’s been 37 years since the original, by the way. How come Elliott isn’t bald like me?

Let’s Go, Grace from Boston!

I must really be in the “joy to the world” and “have yourself a merry little Christmas” mood, because I’m about to defend another controversial commercial.

Have you seen that Peloton spot, the one where the husband buys his wife an exercise bike for Christmas and she films a video of herself using it over the course of a year? It has become this year’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” something that people have really strong opinions about and seem to be reading more into than is shown.

People are angry for two reasons. One is because the husband — whom people see as the villain of the commercial — might think his already-thin wife needs to lose weight (good thing this wasn’t a Dyson commercial where the husband gets her a vacuum cleaner instead). Another reason people hate the ad is because the price of the Peloton is out of reach for many (it starts at $2,245), plus the characters in ads like this seem to have great homes and live incredible lives.

But hold on. Aren’t there other reasons to exercise, like general health and making your life better? Are the only people who like or need to exercise the ones who are overweight? And can you imagine the uproar if the woman in the commercial was overweight and the husband bought her the bike? Twitter would implode and people would be marching in front of Peloton HQ with torches like they were hunting down Frankenstein.

What if the ad had the wife buying the bike for her already-in-shape husband? Do people also get angry at ads that show already-thin people drinking Diet Coke or switching to skim milk?

There are a couple of legitimate reasons to dislike the ad, one being the fact the “I’m casually taking this video of myself” footage in commercials always looks obnoxiously fake, and the second being the fact that the ad seems to run 47 times a day. But all the other reasons are really reaching.

By the way, just because I don’t see anything wrong with the ad doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh out loud at this.

Here’s the Trailer for the New Bond Movie

Daring stunts? Check. Beautiful women? Check. Fast cars? Check. Disfigured and/or mask-wearing supervillain who says cryptic things with an accent? Check. No Time to Die has it all! The trailer gives away too many cool scenes, but it does look great.

Hey, When Is My Favorite Christmas Movie On?

If you’re like me, and there are Christmas movies and specials you have to watch every single year, this schedule will be a big help to you. It lists every holiday-themed movie and special that will air until New Year’s Day, from It’s a Wonderful Life and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town to Elf and all those Hallmark movies where a woman at first hates a guy she meets at Christmas but then falls in love with him and they help save a toy factory/bookstore/charity. This is a great service, and it’s constantly being updated, so you should bookmark it. For holiday episodes of your favorite TV shows, check out Christmas TV History.

According to all the schedules I consulted, no channel is showing the original Miracle on 34th Street or Christmas in Connecticut this year. Bah, humbug! Though I guess that’s why God made DVDs.

Buddy Holly

This is an interesting query, and my very first thought was Buddy Holly. Imagine what he could have done in the ’60s if he hadn’t died in that plane crash at the age of 22 (a crash that also took the life of two other young musicians, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson). My second thought was Kevin Gilbert, who died in 1996 at the age of 29.

RIP Clive James, Shelley Morrison, William Ruckelshaus, D.C. Fontana, and Joan Staley

Clive James was an acclaimed literary critic, poet, and novelist who also appeared on the British series Clive James on Television. He wrote for several publications, including The Observer, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker and released several volumes of his essays, TV criticism, and poetry. He died last week at the age of 80.

Shelley Morrison was probably best known for playing Karen’s maid Rosario on Will & Grace. She was also a regular on the ’60s sitcom The Flying Nun and appeared on shows like Dr. Kildare, Laredo, The Fugitive, and Home Improvement. She died Sunday at the age of 83.

William Ruckelshaus was the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency and later quit his post as deputy attorney general when he refused President Nixon’s order to fire Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. He died last week at the age of 87.

D.C. Fontana was the first female writer for Star Trek, penning such classic episodes as “Journey to Babel,” “The Ultimate Computer,” and “The Enterprise Incident.” She also wrote for Star Trek: The Animated Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as episodes of The Big Valley, Dallas, Logan’s Run, and Babylon 5. She died Monday at the age of 80.

Joan Staley was on many TV shows in the ’50s and ’60s, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Street, Hawaiian Eye, and Broadside, and will be remembered for her role in the classic Don Knotts comedy The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. She died Sunday at the age of 79.

This Week in History

Walt Disney Born (December 5, 1901)

Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, told the Post what the early days of her father’s career were like. I wonder what he would have thought of Disney Plus?

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: “Crossing Guard Fixing Her Makeup” (December 3, 1960)

People will have different opinions about this Richard Sargent cover and they’ll notice different things about it. What stands out to me is that the sign on the telephone pole is for a bazaar that ended in August. Someone should take that down.

Let’s Make Some Wassail

We hear the song every Christmas, but what exactly is “a-wassailing?” It’s an English term for caroling door-to-door. Some versions of the song say “Here we come a-wassailing” and some say “Here we come a-caroling.” You probably say the latter.

But “wassail” also refers to a medieval Christmas drink, usually a mulled cider made with apples, sugar, cinnamon, and other juices and spices. Scrooge drank it, but it went by the name Smoking Bishop.

Here’s a recipe from Taste of Home that includes orange and pineapple juices, and here’s one from A Spicy Perspective that has hibiscus tea bags and juniper berries. If you’re looking for a more adult version, this Modern Apple Cider Wassail from The Spruce Eats adds some rum.

So this Christmas, if you go a-wassailing, make sure you bring some wassail with you, so you can impress everyone by having some wassail while you’re a-wassailing.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7)

Check out several of the features the Post has on the Pearl Harbor attack, including this first-person account from a pilot who got caught in the battle in the sky that day, and this podcast about America’s role in the war before Pearl Harbor.

Christmas Card Day (December 9)

Do me a favor? Send a real Christmas card this year, with a personalized greeting for each recipient. Ecards and email are convenient, but there’s nothing better than someone who takes the time to address an envelope and walk to a mailbox.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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  1. The musician whose early death will always haunt me is Bix Beiderbecke. Imagine this: a 15 year old Midwest boy who had been a piano prodigy, became obsessed with jazz because of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recordings his older brother brought back home to Iowa with him from a New York stopover on his way back to the Midwest from World War I, and taught himself to play cornet from scratch so well that by age 23 he was considered as great and important an influence as Louis Armstrong, but who, in the last two or three years of his life, returned to the piano, and to his primary interest in composition.

    Poor Beiderbecke was only 27. His piano piece, “In A Mist,” which never fails to give me chills, is like a combination of Jelly Roll Morton, Maurice Ravel, and a dash of Scott Joplin.

    There are so many others: Charlie Christian at 25, the extraordinary trumpeters Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown, both 26, the nonpareil Fats Waller at just 39.

    And what if George Gershwin, who died at 38, had lived? His last year of life, when his brain was being turned into a tumor, betrayed no diminution of genius affecting his work at all.

    And oh yes, Mozart was 35, Schubert 31, and Georges Bizet 37.

  2. I’ll drink to that opening photo, it’s a beauty! This is the first I’ve seen of the Peloton commercial. The main thing I noticed was the ‘P’ in their logo looks a lot like Pinterest’s. So the ad is this year’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I’m not touching that one again with a 10′ pole! Oh no; not after last year’s chastising comments per link.

    The ads I really can’t stand (mentioned recently) are the ones for where the husband surprises the wife with “his & her” Cadillac’s in the driveway that come to just a little under $100k, like it’s nothing!

    Thanks for the ‘Bond’ trailer. I know you meant well, but I’ve seen variation of these scenes thousands of times. Never go to films like that. This is also why I haven’t bothered to go to the L.A. Auto Show in years. I always check it out online of course, but that’s enough. Never-ending SUV’s, trucks, 4-door sedans, crossovers… SUCH a bore. Beautiful as they may be, the exotics have long bored me too. Aston-Martin, Ferrari, Lotus, Lamborghini; see them on a daily basis. ANYWAY, that’s why I’m skippin’ ‘No Time To Die’.

    On the other hand, I LOVE the ’27 Laurel & Hardy silent film with sound. Diamonds are forever with a ’20s treat like this. (The fact the new decade weeks away up is the ’20s makes me want to throw up, Bob!)

    I’m getting my ‘real’ Christmas cards out within the next few days. My back East cards last year were a disaster because most people didn’t get them! I sent one to you. I went all-out with the arts & crafts too. The plain ones in 2017 I did during the fires with my eyes burning, complaining, everyone got of course. Sorry.

    Love that ’60 Post cover. Beautiful lady. I’m afraid there would be no ‘Mother’s Safety Patrol’ nowadays. Like it or not, she’s got to be at work earning a paycheck.


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