grouse that Futurama has fallen far over the years, basically turning into a somewhat better version of Family Guy that is set in the third millenium A.D., but I will always owe a debt to Matt, Billy, John, Katey, et al. for all the good work they did... especially in those early seasons.
Once such example of the sweet, yet insane, adventures of the Planet Express Crew was their first Christmas episode, "Xmas Story," which starts them off on a ski trip in the first act but quickly turns into a race for survival against Robot Santa in acts two and three.
This episode happens pre-Leela's Homeworld and still predicates on the notion that she is the last of her kind, a single cyclops alien with no one to love during the holidays, a fact that Fry agitates by deciding to mope over being a man out of time, alone himself. There's never much in the way that shows things from Leela's side, and Fry's realizations concerning how he hurt her with his careless words are a little too quick, but there's only so much you can do in 22 minutes. At least, that's the excuse I want to use, but I've seen quite a few examples of better characterization from the series that would serve as a counterpoint (Luck of the Fryish, Jurassic Bark).
I think the strength of this episode lies in its many gags. The future ski vacation allows pretty much everyone to shine, from "Trees Down!" to Amy's thinly-veiled cast fetish to the Professor sleep slaloming, that first act is packed full of great one-off jokes. I think my favorite is when Hermes goes bobsledding and fails, first with Zoidberg accidentally following suit and Fry saying 'the heck with it' and doing it a third time. Great stuff.
Acts two and three lose a little bit of that momentum, thanks to the Fry/Leela melodrama, but manages to stay somewhat strong despite that. It helps that Robot Santa is voiced by John Goodman and Bender is off fleecing the poor and destitute. Tinny Tim is so cute in his misfortune and the digital clock gag is just beautiful.
This was also back before Zoidberg was the butt of every joke and even got to be the hero now and then. The fact he's the only one of the crew (possibly the world) whom Robot Santa hasn't deemed "naughty" is deliciously funny. I'm rather glad he was able to find the love of his life in the last season. Plus, I love his Apology Dance!
Xmas Story is one of my favorite Christmas episodes of any series... ranking pretty darn high up there. One of my others will be my pick for the twenty-fifth, which shall remain a mystery until then. Sadly, my absolute favorite isn't available on Netflix in the US (though, I think it is in Canada), but I'll save that for the twenty-fifth as well.
Until tomorrow, Potatoes~