A Marathon Of Marathons

What's your favourite marathon? Twilight Zone? MST3K? Futurama? Footballer's Wives? Ron lists his, revealing just how he got through Christmas...

Futurama: Groening's masterpiece?

I spent a lot of time over the holiday season watching television. Actually, I spent a lot of time watching television period, especially this year, but the holiday season is always a time in which lots of television is watched because when you don’t have to get up for work the next day and you can’t go out because you’re handcuffed to your family, there’s not much else to do. Sure, you could talk to your relatives, but after about half an hour of that you remember why you only see those people a few times a year.

Regardless of where you are, television always changes for the holiday season. Whether it’s a Doctor Who holiday special, the annual showing of It’s A Wonderful Life, or the omnipresent special sporting events that fill the televised landscape between Halloween and New Years Day, you never really know what to expect when you turn on that box full of pictures and noise to distract your relatives from the fact that you’re still not married, have a crap job, and live in your parents’ basement.

One of the big time killers is the marathon. If you own the rights to a lot of something, then the holiday season is the time to force it on your viewers whether they want to watch it or not. It gives those hard-working programmers a much needed break, allows you to avoid competing with Santa Claus and company, and gives Grinches like myself something to fall asleep while watching in the midst of a holiday drunk.5. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon – This one’s been gone for quite some time, but for a MSTie like myself, there are many fond memories. Every Thanksgiving, Comedy Central would run a marathon of the best turkeys riffed by the MST3K gang, with newly-filmed segments to fill in the commercial spaces. Will it be TV’s Frank eating 27 whole roasted turkeys in a weekend, or MST3K favorite Adam West’s pre-Family Guy tongue-in-cheek introductions of the guys making fun of him? Either way, it’s a nice antidote to parades and sports, and a great way to spend those long digestive hours.

4. The Last Futurama Marathon Ever – Starting on January 1,, the syndicated episodes of Futurama moved from Cartoon Network to Comedy Central. To celebrate five years of Futurama being the big ratings winner and lynchpin for Adult Swim, they played all five seasons of Futurama from December 26 until December 31. For four days, they took all their programming off the air in their block from 11PM to 5AM and just showed nothing but Futurama. It was amazing.

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3. Any Halloween Horror Marathons/The Monstervision Christmas Nightmare Marathon – I’m lumping these two together because they’re two sides of the same coin. If there’s a horror movie marathon on, no matter what the theme, I’ll watch it. I have particularly fond memories of the Christmas Nightmare Monstervision marathon from the mid-90s on the cable channel TNT. My dislike for Christmas sweetness has been present for, oh, going on 14 years now. I don’t see it going away any time soon. Unless something comes on that I absolutely hate, I’ll sit down and watch people die for as long as I can. It’s nice to have background noise, even if you’re involved with other things like wrapping presents. The screams of the dying are a good indicator to put down my magazine and look back up at the TV.

2. The Twilight Zone Marathon – I don’t see how any proper geek could not watch this marathon. I think it’s one of the best television programs ever, and it’s completely worth waking up early and hung over on New Year’s morning to watch the show. I have a friend who has seen nearly EVERY surviving episode, and when the marathon comes on, she scours the program listing for the few she hasn’t seen so she could record it or wake up regardless of the time and watch it.

Now, I haven’t seen all of them, but I’ll always tune in for the classics. It was a tough call to pick my favorite marathon, and this was much closer than I would’ve expected, because I’m such a fan of certain episodes of the Twilight Zone; however, there are some very bad episodes towards the end of the show’s run once the budgets dropped and they tinkered with the show’s format.

1. 24 Hours of A Christmas Story – There’s one Christmas movie I like, and that’s A Christmas Story. Yes, it is about Christmas, and yes, it can be a bit sweet, but it’s also hilarious and a brilliant piece of film that I meant to write about for DoG’s Christmas Special but never got around to until it was too late. I blame, er… my hate.

From 8 PM on Christmas Eve to 8 PM on Christmas Day, there was nothing on one channel but commercials and A Christmas Story. While I was getting cleaned up after work to go to my aunt’s house, I turned on A Christmas Story. When I got home from the family get-together, I turned on A Christmas Story. When I woke up the next morning? Right, you get where I’m going with this.

There’s no big maudlin message; A Christmas Story is simply a cute and funny movie that adults can relate to and kids can appreciate. It never talks down to its subjects, or makes kids into perfect little angels. It doesn’t insist upon itself like certain other holiday classics do, because it doesn’t take itself seriously.

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It’s relaxing to know that you can, over the course of two days, watch the entire movie in pieces without missing anything. There’s no rush to catch the only showing, which is good because you’re rushed enough buying and wrapping last minute presents or trekking across town to pay visits to folks you barely know. Call it a necessary panacea.

There’ve been other marathons that I’ve watched that haven’t made the cut (I wish someone would do an X-Files marathon, and I have fond memories of Doctor Who marathons) and there are also plenty of bad marathons (the many BBC America Footballers Wives marathons, for one). What say you? Have I left out your favourite historical program marathon, or do you have other good recommendations for marathons?

Ron Hogan realizes that a marathon article about marathons is pretty ironic. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics.