Christmas is the time when even the Grinchiest of hearts can grow three sizes with love and the most selfish can take time to think of others, even if they’re vain, sunglass-wearing goofballs that talk like bad Elvis impersonators. At least, that’s what Johnny Bravo’s “A Johnny Bravo Christmas” taught me.
His show premiering in 1997, the eponymous Johnny Bravo is a muscular moron and a self-proclaimed ladies’ man. If he’s not busy admiring his well-coiffed hair or chiseled good looks, he’s out looking for a pretty woman to admire him with him, which often gets him into trouble (Strangely enough, girls don’t seem to like it when you flirt with them by flexing your muscles and talking about how great you are).
A main character that could only exist in the 90s, he’ not exactly role model material, but trust me when I say he’s harmless. It’s not that he thinks less of others. Rather, in a strange mix of confidence and obliviousness, he just thinks very highly of himself. He often strikes out with the ladies, usually getting beaten and bruised by them in the process, but never gets phased, quickly moving on the next one. You can’t help but admire his persistence. And, really, his pickup lines are so over the top that you can’t help but snicker at the lovable goofball and his amorous antics, even if he does tend to be a jerk.
If he has one redeeming quality would be this: he loves his momma. Sure he’s a grown man-child who still lives at home with her, but he does his best to be a good, obedient son while she dotes on him. Besides his blissful ignorance, Johnny’s love for his momma, as well as her love for him, is what makes him so endearing, and, in the spirit of the holiday, his Christmas special shows what they’re willing to do for each other.
The special starts with Johnny doing his morning routine on Christmas Eve, excited for Christmas, or rather, all the free stuff he’s gonna get from Santa on Christmas. His Christmas high takes a blow, however, when Johnny stumbles upon a horrifying discovery: he forgot to mail the letters he and his momma wrote to Santa. He attempts to mail the letters to Santa within the same day but gets laughed out of the post office. Not wanting to miss out on his free presents, Johnny, joined by his neighbor Little Suzy, resolves to deliver the letters to Santa in person, so it’s basically one of those “travel to the North Pole” scenarios you see in a number of specials.
(This is why no one likes going to the post-office)
Above all else, this special is goofy and snappy. Johnny himself tends to move rather abruptly, his quick actions often accentuated with a cartoony sound effect or two. The humor mostly consists of him doing a bunch of silly things or a bunch of silly things happen around him. Either way, it’s nothing that no one but the audience can really bat an eye to, and you just have to go along for the ride in order to keep up. Johnny cleans between his sofa cushions and pulls out loose change, an old sandwich, which he eats, and a trapped dog scolding him to clean more. Suzy teaches the meaning of Christmas to a bunch of talking circus animals in the cargo hold of a plane, and easily-distracted Johnny plays with a bunch of circus stuff in the background. Honestly, I think this would be a fun special to watch with friends, if only to snicker at their reactions as they try to process everything that’s happening.
Another peculiar thing about this episode is that it’s packed with Pop Culture, specifically with references to 80s and 90s music. It’s a Christmas special that references Vogue, Scooby-Doo, New Kids on the Block, Charlie Brown, Wang Chung, and Janet Jackson. Donny Osmond even randomly appears towards the end, inadvertently guiding our heroes to Santa’s village. Admittedly, as a Christmas special, Pop Culture saturation probably makes it feel less timeless and less like a Christmas special, but its spirit of love and giving comes in full force during the third act.
After stowing away in a commercial flight, hitchhiking with a trucker, and nearly crashing in a rickety plane with a screwy pilot, Johnny and Suzy finally arrive in Santa’s village. Johnny finds Santa and delivers the letters, but, when Santa reads off the list Johnny’s momma wrote, Johnny discovers something important: his momma only asked Santa for gifts for her Johnny. Johnny, who was so focused on getting his own gifts, is immediately struck by his momma’s selflessness, desiring nothing else for Christmas than her son to be happy. Humbled, Johnny throws away his list and requests that Santa give whatever gifts he has left to his momma, wishing to make her happy instead. After Johnny returns home and tells her what happened, his momma tells him the most important thing about Christmas is being together. After hearing about his selfless act, everyone in town comes over to wish Johnny a merry Christmas and celebrate the holiday with him. Schmaltzy, but still a little endearing.
As anyone would tell you, Christmas is an annual reminder to think beyond ourselves and value others, but, like with Johnny, we have something that can inspire this sentiment within us better than any commercialized holiday and on a daily basis: our families. We know how to love and value others because we have people in our lives who did the same to us first, and continually do so. When we think about the times our loved ones loved us, without any rhyme or reason, we can’t help but get the urge to love them back or share that love with others. Even Johnny, the macho meathead who’s always full of himself, can’t help but value his mother more than himself when he thinks about how much she values him. This infectious love is foundational to Christmas, and even a goofy, dated special like “A Johnny Bravo Christmas” understands this. Be sure to take a page from Johnny Bravo’s playbook and show the loved ones in your life how much you appreciate them by sharing the love they shared with you. You might not score any ladies, but you might just stay on the Nice list.