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Yesterday was the premiere of Kristin’s Christmas Past, the latest in Lifetime’s winter-long series of schmaltzy holiday films.

This “event” (named “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” — GROAN) trades the usual tales of murdering babysitters and revenging mistresses for non-stop Christmas-themed slurm. The quality is what you might expect for a series that “premieres” a new “movie” every Saturday for two months. (Yes, all of those quotes are necessary.)

What the hell am I going to watch from now until New Year’s?

I started the viewing session with two classic pairings: a giant bottle of BBC Steel Rail and Twitter. The beer was an immediate success, but the tweeting didn’t go as well. It turns out that even the hardest-core LMN bloggers can’t stomach Lifetime’s holiday treacle.

The only people using the lengthy hashtag “#KristinsChristmasPast were me and the corporate Lifetime Twitter account. That’s like trying to have a stimulating conversation with a Teddy Ruxpin doll.

I stuck it out anyway and was SORT of rewarded in that it was oddly watchable in spite of being not that good. It reminded me of getting sucked into an episode of Devious Maids.

The opening exposition/montage introduces us to protagonist Kristin who, despite being nearly 35, is still living an empty, unfulfilling life. I should clarify that on Lifetime an “unfulfilling life” means having a successful career in New York City, friendships, and a bangin’ wardrobe. What a horrific tragedy that merits redemptive time travel!

It’s a terrible life.

After complaining that she’ll be spending Christmas alone with her cat, Kristin takes a swig from a magical bottle of champagne and wakes up next to her teenaged self way back in 1996.

Kristin proves her identity to Teenage Kristin and they come up with a cover story for the rest of the family. I clearly watch too much sci-fi because I was sure Future Kristin wouldn’t want to pollute the space-time continuum or whatever by meeting herself and revealing a bunch of stuff about the future. I guess magical holiday booze works differently than a regular time machine.

Style Corner: I have no clue what the stylists/costume designers were thinking. Teenage Kristin has Beetlejuice-era Winona Ryder hair (passé by 1996) and wears modern-looking jeans and a T-shirt. Where are the chunky pixie cuts, chokers, doc martens, and tiny backpacks? The flannel shirts? The plastic tattoo bracelets? The bra strap headbands? Making the setting look like the mid-nineties — the era of dumb but recognizable trends — shoulda been a piece of cake. They do get one good nineties joke in, though. A character says he’ll see if someone is on AOL chat and Shiri Appleby totally nails the “Wait, WTF?” and then, “Oh right, people really did that back then” reaction shot. That’s right – I’m admitting to laughing at a joke in a Lifetime holiday movie. In my defense, BBC bottles are pretty big.

Because all teenagers want a time-traveling control freak in their lives, Future Kristin gets right on critiquing her younger self’s fashion sense and taste in guys. On top of the “To Meddle” list is Teenage Kristin’s decision to go to NYU to be with her cheater boyfriend.

You can smell the cheat.

Future Kristin blames this single decision for setting her on the rocky path to eternal unhappiness (i.e, good health, a cat, and a NYC apartment). Of course, Teenage Kristin fights all of Future Kristin’s well-meaning advice and stubbornly does what she wants.

Even though I can tell the audience is supposed to be all, “Haha, teenagers are the worst,” I don’t think Teenage Kristin is that annoying of a character. I actually found the parents (played by Judd Nelson and Juliet from Lost) to be much worse, namely because of the following:

  • Mom has permanent resting bitchface
  • Mom tells insecure Teenage Kristin she doesn’t think she’ll be able to cut it at her dream career. Supportive!
  • Dad and Mom threaten to pull college funding unless Kristin goes to the school they want, and then they actually do it.

The movie ends with Kristin accepting that she can’t change the past (ooh, a message). She downs another swig of the magical champagne and resolves to fix her life in the present. She starts up a quickie romance with her male besty (who was in love with her all along) and reconciles with her (only slightly abusive) parents just in time for Christmas.

As the credits rolled, I conferred with Mr. Max on the conclusion.

Me: “I’m confused about the ending. I thought she was disappointed with her life. Now it’s great?” Mr. Max: “She’s settling. It’s heartwarming.”

Awww.

Did you know that Season 3 of The X-Files was sponsored by Salon Selectives? Not really, but thank GOD they finally did something about Mulder’s hedgehog hair. Season 3 Scully looks slicker, too — minus the obligatory 1990s Jennifer Aniston-style layer cut.

It’s more of a mullet, really. Well, I guess it’s kind of both. An Aniston mullet?

But that’s enough about hair product. My love for The X-Files blossomed right around Season 3, and it was nice to recapture a little bit of my youthful enthusiasm for the show with these episodes. Frequent Lower Crust commenter Halfwatched LMN also recently went on an X-Files Netflix binge, but opted to stick to remembered favorites instead of doing the full-on soup-to-nut-warts-and-all rewatch.

I think Halfwatched LMN may be on to something; even though I love(d) the show… it IS hella uneven. There’s great stuff but the bad episodes are really bad — like Sliders bad. Now that I’m more than 50 episodes in, I’ve gotten pretty good at separating the wheat from the chaff. The rules are simple:

How to Tell if an Episode of The X-Files will be Good Based on the Netflix Description

Don’t Auto-Reject the Mytharc

The Mytharc — the long form conspiracy plot — gets a lot of hate, mainly because Chris Carter started pulling crap out of his ass in the last few seasons. But — believe it or not! — the early Mytharc episodes are kind of great. They’re well-written and successfully weave real-life depressing historical stuff (like the WWII-era atrocities of Unit 731) into supernatural storylines – and not in a corny “ancient aliens” way. Howard Zinn would be proud. Give the Mytharc a chance (at least for a few seasons).

Just Say No to Anthropology

If you see any of the following words in the description, do NOT watch the episode. Go watch @Midnight on OnDemand or something.

Artifact
Reservation
Anthropologist
Tribe
Ancient Culture
Native American
Archaeological Dig

Why? Because for whatever reason The X-Files just can’t do “cultural” storylines. The minute someone starts retelling a South American myth or a Native American healer shows up, the whole thing goes to Lame Town (but not before making a pit stop at Cultural Insensitivity City).

Evidence: Teso Dos Bichos (the evil housecat one) Hell Money (the goofy Chinatown one), every episode in every season that fits the above description.

Serial Killer Episodes Are Good
Season 3 is heavy on traditional cop drama plots — kidnappings, murders, and serial killings — with a side of the supernatural. Even though this kind of thing isn’t normally my bag, it works for The X-Files. Plus it’s nice to have Mulder actually solve a case every once in a while.

Offbeat Episodes are USUALLY Good

The semi-comedic episodes (typically written by Darin Morgan) are definitely worth a watch. Fan favorites Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose and Jose Chung’s From Outer Space are two of the best in the entire series.
BUT sometimes it goes wrong. Like when the writers decide it’s hilaaaarious to have Scully act like a jealous schoolgirl for no reason (Syzygy, War of the Coprophages). I suspect they started doing it to make Mulder seem like a cool sexy dude or something. Anyway, it’s really annoying and out of character. And a little bit sexist. Pro tip: Just hit the remote if Mulder starts sidling up to a sexy lady side character. You won’t miss anything.

Season 4, here I come!

I see lots of people talking about lots of things, doing lots of things, and some people warrant a Yelpish review of their behavior in public places. I will end by awarding stars.

I saw a man order a glass of wine for his date. She, his date, seemed to revel in her inability to choose a wine or even chat up the helpful bartender for some tips. She announced, blushingly, that since her date was a wine expert, she would be leaving the choice up to him. The conversation that ensued was intolerable, so I didn’t listen closely. The tone of his voice said it all. She enjoyed her taste, accepted the glass with polite enthusiasm, and remained silent for the rest of their time at the bar.

XXOOO  2 stars

Why two? At least the guy had okay taste, even if he was a domineering pseudosnob. And she enjoyed her wine, quietly.

 

 

We’ve got two piping hot entries for this installment of TAOPBGD. And, unlike the pizzas contained within, these boxes won’t give you heartburn for four straight days.

City Scenes, Again

Visual Assessment: I never noticed the abundance of street scene-themed boxes until I started documenting the trend here on The Lower Crust. I’m guessing boxes like these are supposed to invoke a romanticized vision of Little Italy (primarily drawn from that spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp). Like generic product claims (“Fresh dough daily!”), this is pure fiction; modern pizza joints aren’t found down quaint cobblestone streets — they’re sandwiched between a nail place and a Dollar General in a dilapidated strip mall. Because that’s America. 

Italian Stereotype(s): There’s a pair of them standing right between the bored-looking couple and the guy on the bike who looks like he was drawn by The Oatmeal. Two for one!

Pizza: Not a Symbol

Visual Assessment: Red and green printing and a script font put this box squarely in the “classic” design category. I’m a little confused by the regal imagery, though. It makes me think I’m looking at a Medieval Times takeout box.

Generic Product Claim: This one’s a little weird. Instead of being “Hot” or “Fresh,” we’re told that “pizza” is a “symbol of quality.” Uh…I don’t think pizza is a recognized symbol of anything. Also, “symbol of quality” is one of those expressions that makes less and less sense the more you think about it.

Presumptuous Thank You: “Thank you from your favorite pizza shop.” How do you know it’s my favorite pizza shop? Maybe it sucks — you don’t know. (Actually, this pizza was pretty tasty. But don’t tell me what to think, dude.)