Simpler Times seeks to excavate and luxuriate in the pop culture relics of yesteryear by sifting through the staticky depths of the Internet Archive’s VHS Vault.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, as has been established here in the past, is a master of DVD commentary. Following the release of his family friendly Christmas movie, Jingle All The Way, this under-discussed skill of a man known best for his acting, bodybuilding, and political career was tapped for a half hour behind-the-scenes feature aired by HBO in 1998. While Schwarzenegger doesn’t enjoy as many opportunities here to wax rhapsodic about scenes featuring his and other’s naked bodies, he does get to act as a helpful tour guide for a look at the movie where, in his words, he plays a man with “a son that is dying for playing with his father, [who’s] dying to have the latest of the toys, and that is talking about this Turbo Man doll.”
Everything about the video is a powerful reminder of just how much has changed over the past two decades. First, and most sadly, we see the late Phil Hartman introduce the feature in his trademark diction. Then Rita Wilson, who plays Schwarzenegger’s wife in Jingle All The Way, shows up, her pre-COVID presence acting as a reminder that there used to be a time when we weren’t all living in quarantine. Lastly, just by showing up on screen at all, a pre-Star Wars Jake Lloyd and the era’s foremost comedian, Sinbad, act as living time machines that allow us to dwell for a few pleasant minutes on what it was like to experience the era that gave us stuff like Houseguest.
The video consists of the cast explaining what their characters do in the movie and the crew describing its premise a bunch of times. (It’s funny, it turns out, that an action hero is stressed out about last-minute Christmas shopping). There’s also footage showing Hartman goofing around on set, Schwarzenegger getting mobbed by eager fans in public, him wearing a sleeveless shirt and explaining to a kid that if they can’t figure out why people on set are laughing, it’s because he’s “in the shot” (“There has to be no other reason”), and a shot of the man himself smoking a cigar in his Turbo Man suit.
Before the video proper even begins, we’re greeted with advertisements for HBO’s new seasons of Oz and Sex And The City, as well as a ska-soundtracked Good Burger trailer. This was obviously a simpler time, but it’s always hard to tell if it was actually a better time. That is, until you consider the evidence that back in the late ‘90s, Jingle All The Way was in no way associated with Larry The Cable Guy (we didn’t even know who Larry The Cable Guy was!) and that, as is made clear every time Phil Hartman deadpans a new segment’s introduction, some of the world’s best comedians were still with us.
Watch the full video for more good stuff, like Hartman in a tuxedo crooning “Jingle All The Way” and exclusive interview footage with the movie’s director, an artist responsible not just for the Arnold holiday film, but also Beethoven, Beethoven’s Big Break, and the revered live-action Flintstones duology.