The Curdled Nostalgia of Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clauses”


Daniel Arnold, Contributor

Christmas is, for better or worse, the holiday of nostalgia. Why else would the radio continue to play songs that are upwards of 80 years old? Nowhere else is this more evident than with the Christmas movie. There hasn’t been a single noteworthy addition to the canon of Christmas classics in years. The oldest Christmas movie that my family and I watch is Arthur Christmas, and that’s a decade old. (And an outlier to boot; most popular christmas movies are at least twenty years older than that.) We live in a system of capitalism, however, and capitalism does one thing and one thing only with nostalgia. They strip mine it of every dime they can.

The remake is one of Hollywood’s favorite methods of exploiting nostalgia, but has the key flaw that everyone hates remakes. They hate them. In accordance, studios have mostly moved away from remakes into requels. They’re functionally reboots of the original movie or franchise, but technically sequels to it. Examples from this year alone include Disenchanted, Hocus Pocus 2, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lightyear, Hellraiser, Scream 5 (as much as I love it), A Christmas Story Christmas, and the movie we are here today to discuss, The Santa Clauses. If I had a nickel for every requel to a movie starring Tim Allen that released in 2022, I would have two nickels.

The Santa Clauses is a Disney Plus original created by Jack Burditt, best known for being a writer on 30 Rock. 30 Rock is an actually funny show, so you have to wonder where all that went, because The Santa Clauses sure isn’t. The Santa Clauses (plural) is about Scott Calvin, played by Tim Allen, the main character of 1994’s The Santa Clause (singular) growing weary of being Santa Claus and searching for a successor. Kind of. For one thing, this premise isn’t introduced until almost halfway through the second episode. The show has massive pacing problems. The show inexplicably loves to use archive footage of The Santa Clause, which is just awful, (Imagine if every time the Star Wars sequel trilogy mentioned something that happened in the original trilogy, it showed a clip from that movie. Wouldn’t that be condescending? Wouldn’t that really kill the pace?) but also makes you notice just how poorly the show is lit. The scenes outside at night are bad enough, but even the indoor scenes are extremely dark for no reason. There’s zero overhead lighting, god knows why.

However, the issues with the show run deeper than that. The Santa Clauses is a show with an identity crisis. Fundamentally, the audience it wants to capture is people who enjoyed The Santa Clause as children. The early Millennials/Late Gen-Xers. Yet, the tone of the show is clearly for a much younger audience. The jokes are weak and juvenile. I can’t see anyone over the age of 10 finding anything to like here. And even for the younger kids, there’s stuff they’re just not going to understand. The references to the movie series will fly over their heads. The stale jokes about living with your parents are beyond the kids but not for the parents either because they’re not funny. And then you realize who the true audience is. It’s not Gen X, or the Millennials, not the Zoomers or even Generation Alpha. To find The Santa Clauses’ target audience, we must look to those who came before.

Hey, did you know the woke mob has declared war on Christmas? I know, I was surprised too. But Tim Allen thinks it’s important you know. The Santa Clauses is for Baby Boomers who think there’s a war on Christmas. It’s the sad, dirty truth. Boomers have had the Christmas market cornered for some time, which is why we’re still listening to Bing Crosby, and this is no exception. The show is chock full of whining about “kids these days” and the subtext of the show is generally that Generation Z has given up on Christmas, and that this is a moral failing. It’s not all subtext either, there’s a revolting joke in the very first episode about how “saying Merry Christmas has become problematic.” It’s pathetic, there’s no other word for it. Similarly, there’s a scene in the second episode all about how you can’t call kids naughty anymore in the current woke political climate (a scene in which a woman of color is strawmanned as a Woke Fool™ in case you needed more fuel for the fire) that just reeks of the traditional Boomer whining about how nobody disciplines their kids anymore.

Christmas is all about tradition, for better, or often for worse. Tradition can become restrictive, a snake eating its own tail. We, as a culture, need to be less hung up about tradition, and take a good long look at why those traditions are there to begin with. They’re not all keepers. And let’s not add a yearly watch of The Santa Clauses to the list.