Sister, Sister: Christmas

On tonight’s very special episode of Sister, Sister, Sherman Hemsley comes to visit because he is the twins GRANDPA!! Oh how I love a very special guest star. To be clear, he’s playing Ray’s dad and Ray is Tamera’s adoptive father while Lisa is Tia’s adoptive mother. And they’re all living together in a gorgeous house in suburban Detroit so that the twins can be reunited after being adopted separately at birth.

RetroNewsNow on Twitter: "🎄WB Primetime, December 1995: — On 'Sister,  Sister,' Grandpa Campbell (Sherman Hemsley) returns for Christmas & gets a  job as a mall Santa… https://t.co/RztgM9ek16"

While the sisters are shopping, Grandpa talks to Lisa at her booth in the mall. He reveals to her that he’s deeply indebted to a loan shark. And later that same day, a mobster stops by the house. Tia pays him partially with the twins Christmas money, which is just under half of what her grandpa owes. She’s told that he better pay the rest tomorrow — or else…

Tia rushes to the mall to tell her mom what happened and discovers that their grandpa is trying to earn extra cash as a mall Santa. She then explains to Tamera that she bailed out Ray’s dad, and Tamera is like a little annoyed she didn’t consult her before giving the loan shark the money??? I mean!! There was no other option, Tamera!!

With their Christmas money now in the loan shark’s possession, the twins have to get jobs to cover the cost of Christmas gifts. Tamera works in retail and her boss is a really annoying girl from their school, Rhonda. But to be fair, Rhonda’s dress is super cute.

Tia works as Santa’s helper and uses her new job as an opportunity to update Grandpa on what happened at the house earlier. She encourages him to ask Ray for help, but Grandpa refuses because he feels like he wasn’t a good enough father to Ray growing up and he doesn’t want to be a burden now.

When the loan shark returns to the house again, Lisa pays him the rest of what Grandpa owes. Ray is almost none the wiser except the loan shark comes back to the house because he forgot to return the IOU. Damn, this guy is an ethical loan shark. I mean, comparatively speaking. So Ray goes down to the mall to confront his dad, who is still on the clock. Ray can only speak to him if he visits Santa lol. It’s all very sweet, actually.

Realizing that the twins and Lisa have spent all their money on helping his father, Ray treats them all to a very generous amount of Christmas gifts. And Grandpa repays the twins their money! He’s gotten a job training other mall Santas!

Very Special Lesson: If you ever find that you truly learn that consumer goods are not what’s important at Christmas, American capitalism will reward you with a last minute influx of cash so you can continue to feed the Christmas Industrial Complex. Or maybe it’s that hard work is rewarded. Yeah, let’s go with the latter.

Sadly, All in the Family is Still 100% Relevant in 2019

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First of all, I didn’t really know anything about this other than that Marisa Tomei was involved and I was totally and completely on-board. Secondly, I started thinking about how Archie Bunker’s Nixon-era logic fallacy-driven paradigm of bigotry and misogyny (okay that’s it for the one’s that end in y so go ahead and insert all of the ones that end in “ism”) is sadly relevant to our current political climate.

Even in the 1990’s with all of it’s poorly aging depictions of gender (ahem I’m looking at you, many of the jokes from Friends), I could at least look at All in the Family and feel like “my we have come so far” but nowadays I feel like I may just meet Archie Bunker anywhere I go except he’d be wearing a MAGA hat and scrolling through Fox News on his iPhone News app and then sharing some weird shit on Facebook and then probably getting into a fight with Mike Stivic in the comments section — okay, have I taken this run-on sentence far enough?

None of this will come as a surprise to anyone. Norman Lear even said it in his intro. So here’s my bullet point thoughts on this one-off reboot:

  • Woody Harrelson is a wonderful actor, but he’s no Carroll O’Connor. There were also moments where I felt like his accent was more Boston than Queens–too much time behind the bar at Cheers?
  • Ike Barinholtz KILLED it as Michael Stivic.
  • I love Ellie Kemper and I think she’s a great comedian, but something about her line delivery/timing as Gloria felt off. Maybe she isn’t used to live shows? It seemed a little like she didn’t know how long to wait for the laughs and wasn’t sure what to do when she was in the background of a wide shot. Her accent was also problematic as it oscillated between bad and nonexistent.
  • I loved the interplay between Marisa Tomei as Edith and Wanda Sykes as Louise. I forgot how the women were more progressive than their husbands. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen either of these shows!
  • Marisa Tomei really captured Edith’s sweet spirit.
  • Ike Barinholtz and Woody Harreslon had such good chemistry that I kinda got over my Carroll O’Connor issue from earlier.
  • I don’t remember the original Henry Jefferson — apparently he was only in twelve episodes — but I really love Anthony Anderson and I feel like he was very well cast in this role.
  • Lionel Jefferson was one of my favorites in the original cast. He was so easy-going but also so quick-witted. He could out-argue Archie with a joke. I’m sure that wouldn’t be fun to have to do in real life, but it was always fun to watch. Anyway, I’ve never seen Jovan Adepo in anything before. But he did such a good job as Lionel that I have a crush on him now.
  • I also had a hard time with Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson because, like Carroll O’Connor with Archie, Sherman Hemsley is SO iconically George Jefferson. I also felt like Jamie hammed it up so much that was kind of distracting. If I was watching a Sherman Hemsley George Jefferson impression I would say this nailed it, but I didn’t want to watch an impression. I do have to give Woody Harrelson props for staying out of impression territory with Archie. (Or maybe it’s just that his impression was so bad it didn’t feel like an impression?) However, once Jamie Foxx messed up his line in the flub heard round the world, he seemed to drop a lot of this impression schtick, and I think his portrayal of George was all the better for it.
  • Did not know Jennifer Hudson was going to sing the theme song from The Jeffersons! This was a lovely surprise!
  • Will Ferrell and Kerry Washington were great, but I just never really liked the Willises and I still don’t.
  • Heheh the old bait and switch with Marla Gibbs in the role she originated as Florence instead of Justina Machado was wonderful. Also have fun would it have been to have been Justina Machado and have been in on the con???
  • Also, major shoutout to Stephen Toblowsky and Sean Hayes who each did a fabulous job.  Although I couldn’t stand the character Sean Hayes had to play, I seriously didn’t recognize him. He did a great job.
  • If I had to pick an MVP from each family it would be Ike Barinholtz and Wanda Sykes. Like I could straight up watch them in a full order of episodes for both All in the Family and The Jeffersons. (But can I also add Jackée Harry on as a bonus MVP since she was technically a guest star?)

It makes me sad that we needed a little 1970s refresh to hopefully sort our shit out, but I really hope this got people talking. It’s definitely still relevant and I hope one day we’ll really have moved past it. I truly believe the only way to do this is through meaningful intimate conversations with friends and family, which is what was so great about these shows in the first place. They modeled how to do that and we need them now more thane ver.