Plot: It’s Chanukah and the babies are trying to figure out exactly what it is. While Boris prepares for a Chanukah play, he feels overshadowed by a longstanding frenemy, Shlomo, who enjoyed plenty of business success while Boris was busy with his family. The babies assume that Shlomo is a ‘meanie of Chanukah’ after mis-hearing Boris talk about Shlomo ruining the meaning of Chanukah. They believe the only way to save Boris from the meanie is to put him down for a nap. All the while, the babies learn about the story or Chanukah and the miracle behind it.
Breakdown: One of my favorite things about Rugrats was that it would sometimes take somewhat more mature topics than the norm and give us a baby’s perspective on it, not only allowing younger audiences to gain a better grasp on the topic but also making said topic quite funny.
This is one of the shining examples in Rugrats as we go through the story of Chanukah, both directly and from a baby’s point of view, and we get the babies’ plot in the episode which takes the topic and makes it very funny.
The fact that the babies are trying to ‘save’ Grandpa Boris from ‘the meanie of Chanukah’ is funny enough, but the ways in which they try to do it are even funnier. The adults are given a bit of a stronger role here, allowing us to also see the situation from an adult’s perspective, which is just the babies goofing around like babies. It’s actually funnier now that I am an adult. The instant shift from the babies going towards Shlomo like they’re facing a huge threat to Shlomo seeing a bunch of babies dancing around in a pillowcase, babbling and waving around a book is a great example of this contrast.
I also like how Shlomo wasn’t made out to be a complete jerk. His story is actually a suddenly depressing shift in the episode. He and Boris have been at odds for years because Boris always thought he was upstaging him with his business success. However, in a twist, Shlomo says Boris has always been upstaging him with his family. Boris believes Shlomo never had a family because he was too busy with his work, but he reveals that his now deceased wife simply never got pregnant. It can be assumed that she was unable to bear children. Shlomo wanted a family, but he could never have one. All he had was his business, and now he has no one to share his Jewish traditions and the celebration of Chanukah with.
You really feel for the guy after only a few lines, and that’s pretty damn good. I also appreciate that he got a happy ending here, and hopefully Shlomo celebrated many other Chanukahs with the Pickles’ family after this.
You simply don’t get many Chanukah specials. I mean, a character might state that they’re Jewish and celebrate Chanukah in a Christmas episode. It may even be a subplot to a Christmas episode. But rarely do you ever see a full-on Chanukah special, especially for a kids’ show. While I am not Jewish, I feel like this special really does Chanukah justice. It’s a full celebration of not just the holiday but the traditions and history behind it, and it doesn’t skimp on the quality of the writing at all. This is such a good special that I try to watch it every year around the holidays. It’s become a classic to me, and really the only criticisms I have are with the tiny subplots of Angelica wanting to watch A Very Cynthia Christmas and Stu trying to build a huge decked out menorah for Boris’ play. They’re just predictable and not very funny side-plots, but they don’t really ruin the flow of the episode or anything.
HAPPY (albeit late) CHANUKAH!
Recommended Audience: E for everyone!