'Edith Ann' Gives Offbeat Twist to the Holidays

Darkly comic, quirky and bittersweet, "Edith Ann's Christmas," featuring that 6-year-old observer of life created by Lily Tomlin and writer Jane Wagner, is a terrific animated holiday special.

Tomlin gives Edith Ann just the right blend of pathos and spunk, and the Bob Kurtz & Friends animation is enjoyably offbeat, but it's not for anyone looking for ho, ho, ho jollity.

This smartly written half-hour finds Edith Ann suffering guilt because she told about her older sister's latest tattoo, and the ensuing parental fallout caused the defiant, spike-haired, body-pierced teenager to run away.

While the family worries--when Mom and Dad go to bed, they lie awake, with tears sliding down their faces--Edith Ann prepares to act in her school's Christmas pageant.

The pageant is a fund-raiser for the town's "latest" drive-by shooting victims, Edith Ann's critically injured classmate and his dog Shorty, who has lost his back legs.

Yes, it's grim. It's also tellingly funny, as Edith Ann's teacher struggles with her "yo-yo" smoking habit, Dad is amazed the school board is allowing the kids to do a religious holiday program, the local tattoo parlor owners show Christmas spirit in their own nightmarish way and Edith Ann, between cleverly animated flights of fancy, decides to give the Christmas story a happy twist--there is room in the inn--and brings hope not only to her family, but to the whole town.

* "Edith Ann's Christmas" airs at 8:30 tonight on ABC (Channel 7.)

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