A Not So Wonderful Life Anymore

If you are truly strong-willed and stout of spirit this holiday season, you will manage to avoid watching even a millisecond of one of the greatest and most popular movies ever made and a movie I'm sure you love and cherish, Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life.

Frankly you've seen this damn movie enough. Young or old, rich or poor, Jew or gentile, you've already spent enough time in Bedford Falls to qualify for residency status and a special parking permit in front of Mr. Potter's office.

A few years ago when it was still in the public domain, It's a Wonderful Life was shown on virtually every television channel on the viewing spectrum except the Whips and Chains Network. It was shown in black and white, color, upside down, with captions for people who like to brag about how much they read, and in a specially processed version in which George Bailey is rescued not by Clarence the Angel but by Michael Keaton as Batman.

It was actually possible to race It's a Wonderful Life by switching back and forth between different channels showing the movie. Which of the versions would end first - one of those on non-commercial cable or PBS or one with commercials but with a good half hour to 45 minutes head start? And you could also readily switch to a channel lagging seconds behind the one you were watching and get an instant replay; "here's the action once again, fans, as Uncle Billy screws up and hands the money to Potter!"

But even if you missed that era, you've still seen the movie enough times to know all the words to Buffalo Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight,laugh about the names Bert and Ernie, and do a fair to middling impression of George Bailey shouting out Zuzu's Petals!

So why keep watching a movie you deeply love but are so manifestly sick of? This year you won't. This year you're going to fight it!

First: Check the television listings for the two times that Wonderful Life is going to be shown on NBC this year. Be nowhere near a television set or any other electronic device when the movie is broadcast, especially when the Clarence sequence is on. Don't be seduced by that unbridled Capraesque sentimentality any longer!

Keep in mind this movie has its creepy aspects too:

"Clarence, what's become of Mary?"

"You're not going to like it, George. She's an old maid; she's about to close up the library!"

The way Clarence says this you'd think he was saying "she's a crack whore, George; she's about to go down on Mr. Potter!" What's wrong with being an older single person? What's wrong with being a librarian? And why does pretty Mary look so awful as a librarian? Too much exposure to Ayn Rand?

And "No man is a failure who has friends?" Hitler had friends; what are we to make of that? You and I have friends and we're not exactly indispensable to the Great Chain of Being. Chances are if Clarence took us around to see the world as it would have been if we'd never been born, it would have been pretty much the same, if not better. Probably way better.

"No man is a failure who has friends?" Judging from what happens at the end of the movie a more to-the-point credo would be "No man is a failure who has friends with oodles of cash."

Finally, if all this doesn't stop you from sliding into yet another viewing of the most loved/hated movie of all time, imagine that Clarence the Angel is showing you what your life would have been like if Frank Capra had never been born.

Doubtless countless productive hours would have been saved not watching It's a Wonderful Life!