Thursday, August 16, 2018

Ask Me Anything: 2018


I'd like to return to something I did a few years back. Here's your opportunity to ASK ME ANYTHING and get a response.

Ever wanted to ask me a question about Christmas entertainment--or being a Christmas entertainment historian? Ever wondered how Christmas on TV has changed over the decades? Curious about my research methods? Want to know what the hardest part of my job is? How I got started? My future book plans? What's the number one Christmas movie/special I'm asked to comment on? Why I create a Christmas in July blogathon each year? How I choose which program to review on my blog? What books I read? What's going on with the DVD Netflix dress? Or even why Christmas entertainment? Maybe you have a better question than these. Let me know in the comments below and I'll respond.

I've been meaning to do this for quite a while--now seems like the perfect time.  I realize not everyone has a chance to meet me at a book signing, speaking engagement, or convention. Often when I am asked these sort of questions by journalists or on the radio, there are inevitable time constraints and I'm edited down or I don't have the opportunity to go into much detail. So now is your chance--ask me about my experiences and I'll do my best.

If your question requires a long response, I'll create a blog post for it. I might even combine several questions and responses into one blog post. We'll see. It sort of depends on your questions. So ask away.



Some of you may remember I did this before in 2015 and I got a good response from readers. Here are the questions to which I was able to respond. Click on the title for each link:

ANSWER TIME #1 -- about British TV

ANSWER TIME #2 -- best decade, and most interesting celebrity I've met

ANSWER TIME #3 -- about a confusing set of Christmas episodes from Father Knows Best.

ANSWER TIME #4 -- research methods and finding old Christmas programs.

ANSWER TIME #5 -- about nostalgia and the differences in Christmas TV specials over the years.

ANSWERS #6 & #7 -- pageants as portrayed in pop culture, and the wealth of older holiday programming that is no longer aired on TV.

Looking back over these answers from 2015, I can already see some of them are out of date! That's exciting. Feel free to ask what you like. You can pose your questions in the comments below, email me, or ask on social media. (I can be reached @TistheSeasonTV on Instagram, Twitter and on Facebook).


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com







Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: RECAP




Did you check out all the responses by our Christmas in July participants? In case you were late to the party this summer, here's your chance to catch up. Below is a complete list of links to each of our guests who participated this year. It goes by quickly, doesn't it?

If you're curious, most participants selected A Muppet Christmas Carol as their favorite Jim Henson Christmas production in question #1. It should be noted that Carol only won by a slim margin of 2 votes--Emmet Otter, John Denver, and Muppet Family all tied for 2nd place! And, 1986's The Christmas Toy received no votes. The other result of some interest may be the unexpected consensus on question #5 about the time capsule. Most people selected A Charlie Brown Christmas. The next runner-up was It's a Wonderful Life. Fascinating, no? However, my favorite question and its answers turned out to be #4--I'm so impressed by everyone's wishes and creativity! I feared most might hate that question but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole party for me. Thank you for surprising me :D

Thanks to everyone who participated in Christmas in July and to all who left comments. If you would still like to leave comments, please feel free to do so--the discussions don't have to end just because the blogathon is over.



Original introduction--answers by Joanna Wilson

Drew Flowers, Co- Moderator Christmas Movies and Music

Randall Buie, Henderson, Nevada, author of The Education of a Country Hick

Page G. 




Wanda Stella

Cathie Kahle

Phairhead



Sleepy Kitty Paws

Hugh H. Davis

Ed South - host of What's Your Favorite Movie podcast

Jim Inman - Christmas Movies & Music




Jeff Fox from NameThatChristmasSpecial.com

Linda M. Young, www.flyingdreams.org

Sherry Duplessis

Aaron Henton (Der Bingle) www.merryandbright.blogspot.com
 



Kevin A. Bowman

Mike Westfall from adventcalendar.house

Donna Bock

Dominic Caruso, 1701 Press


 

Laura Rachel, What to Watch

Dean S.

Rob Martinez - producer/host of "The Nights Before Christmas"

Brian Earl from Christmas Past




Tony Adams

Jim Randle, from Paris, Tennessee

Patrick Labelle, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sowers




Angela McQuiston

Mitchell Hadley, It's About TV!

Jakki Hanna - Christmas Movies& Music

Rick Stoneburner




Andrew Gillman (www.sparklyprettybriiiight.com)

John D.

Craig of Weird Christmas tumblr

Jennifer Lundgren




D.X. Ferris, Suburban Metal Dad

Tom Beiter, http://garagesalin.blogspot.com/

Jim Fanning, from Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood

Jason Morris - Holiday Film Reviews




If you're interested in our mini-questionnaires from years past, here are the links:



Christmas in July 2017

Christmas in July 2016

Christmas in July 2015

Christmas in July 2014


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com


 

Christmas in July 2018: Jason Morris


from 1977's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Christmas in July 2018: 
Jason Morris-Holiday Film Reviews
Links: https://holidayfilmreviews.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/holidayfilmreviews/

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. The characters are very lovable and beautifully designed, Paul Williams’ songs are catchy and fun, and the story is touching. I’ve watched this every Christmas since I first stumbled on it in 1980.


2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

The 1960s, because that’s the decade that gave us the “holy trinity” of Christmas specials: Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Grinch.


from 1951's A Christmas Carol

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert. 

Appetizer: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Entre: A Christmas Carol (1951) with Alastair Sim
Dessert: A Christmas Story

4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

The Rockford Files was an event in my house every Friday night when I was growing up, my parents and I loved the series. I wish they’d made a Christmas episode, if for no other reason than it would give me an excuse to watch the series every December. We could’ve seen Jim and Rocky celebrating, putting up a little tree in the trailer, or Angel Martin working on some scheme that involved a Santa suit. 


 from 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

A Charlie Brown Christmas, because it’s still the best Christmas special more than fifty years after its debut. Its message still rings true today, Vince Guaraldi’s music still sounds amazing and it’s also very funny (I still laugh heartily every time I see Snoopy dance on Schroeder’s piano!). 




Monday, August 6, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Jim Fanning

LP soundtrack to 1979 TV special

Christmas in July 2018: Jim Fanning, from
Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood https://jimattulgeywood.blogspot.com  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmeliusBrowne 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jim.fanning1/



1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Though I’m inclined to choose A Muppet Family Christmas, which is sheer Muppet AND Christmas perfection, I think I will go in a different direction and choose John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. There are many reasons to appreciate this 1979 TV special, including the chemistry between John and the various Muppet characters and also the Nativity Story, featuring some unique (stylized human-character) Muppet figures. The highlights throughout, however, are the songs. The special is almost non-stop music, not surprising given how musical Denver as well as the Muppets are, featuring a multitude of both old favorites and also new songs that become your favorites upon hearing them. The record album based on this TV special is actually my all-time favorite Christmas album.


from the 1970 Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
 
2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?  

Though I love Christmas specials and programs from every era for me the 1960s presented the best TV Christmas specials. From the first animated holiday TV special, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol in 1962, to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in 1966, The Little Drummer Boy in 1968, Frosty the Snowman in 1969, and many more, the 1960s offered specials of every variety that are still broadcast and enjoyed today. I’d like to bend the rules a bit and expand to the early 1970s as well, so as to include The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (the TV special that inspired The Waltons TV series) in 1971 and The House Without a Christmas Tree is a 1972. Such an expansion also encompasses “Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II“ the first season (1970-1971) holiday episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, my favorite TV series. This is the Christmas TV episode that I watch without fail every year. 

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entree, and dessert.

When I share media with friends I most enjoy sharing programs that they haven’t seen before. So the selections below are both eclectic and, to some at least, esoteric. Again I stretched things a little by adding a course or two.

Apéritif: The Sesame Street Muppets (featuring the Monsters) performance of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” from A Muppet Family Christmas
Appetizer: The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow. This gentle and little known Rankin-Bass “Animagic” show is truly unique, featuring as it does the voice, of Angela Lansbury, a blind shepherd boy and a performance of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,”
Entree: This course needs to be a substantial dish so It’s a Wonderful Life, the Alistair Sim-starring A Christmas Carol or Scrooge with Albert Finney would all be fine fare, but I chose The House Without A Christmas Tree. This still largely unknown TV special features delightful Christmas customs, and humor, but also includes moving poignancy and powerful drama that takes the viewer’s breath away.
Dessert:  The Flintstones episode, “Christmas Flintstone,” which aired on December 25, 1964. A sweet, lighthearted, entertaining TV episode perfect for dessert.
Digestif:  The Nativity Story from John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. This segment is followed immediately by the Muppets and John singing “Silent Night.” Seems the perfect way to end a Christmas Eve dinner and to start off Christmas Day.


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

The Don Fedderson-produced successes of the 1960s-early 1970s were My Three Sons and Family Affair. To my knowledge, My Three Sons never had a Christmas episode, while its sister-show had a sort of anti-holiday episode, the affecting “Christmas Came A Little Early.” So why not a crossover of both to create a truly special Christmas episode? The plot could involve aeronautical engineer Steve Douglas visiting New York City to consult with engineer Bill Davis in December. Uncle Bill learns that since work on the project will continue into January, Steve is flying the entire Douglas clan (sons Chip, Ernie, and Robbie, as well as Chip’s wife Polly, Robbie’s wife Katie and their triplet toddler sons, Uncle Charlie, Steve’s wife Barbara and daughter Dodie) from Los Angeles to Manhattan for the holidays. He invites his new colleague and his family to join him, nephew Jody, nieces Buffy, Cissy and Mr. French at their Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment home for Christmas dinner. Steve accepts only when Uncle Bill assures him that Mr. French will not mind extending the Christmas dinner for so many guests. When the Douglas family arrives at the Davis penthouse, the Davis kids are overjoyed, but it turns out Mr. French is indeed concerned about extending the dinner on such a short notice. Luckily Uncle Charlie pitches in to help, and the two duet on a song based on “All I Want for Christmas“, but with new lyrics indicating that all they want is a quiet home. Of course, when “Frency’s” part-time household helper, Emily Turner arrives for dinner, she too helps with the dinner, and, joining in the song, gets French and Charlie to reveal that underneath it all they enjoy the chaos of their respective households. Other musical numbers feature holiday music provided by Steve on the saxophone, Uncle Charlie on the cello, Robbie on the trumpet, and Chip and Ernie on electric guitar. Miss Faversham drops by to help explain some British Christmas customs. With the stagehand assist of Jody and Cissy, Dodie and Buffy employ Myrtle and Mrs. Beasley to put on a puppet Christmas pageant which features an unscheduled appearance at the end by the triplets as the Three Wise Men, wearing Christmas crowns courtesy of Mr. French’s Christmas crackers. Uncle Charlie’s brother, “Bub” O’Casey, the sons’ grandfather and original cantankerous caregiver of the Douglas household, is remembered in a poignant segment centering around the song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Just then, “lost” family members, Mr. French’s brother and Mike (the eldest Douglas son for the first five seasons of My Three Sons) and his wife Sally arrive unexpectedly just in time for Christmas dinner all for an extra festive touch for the combining of these two family favorites.


"Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!"
 
5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

A Charlie Brown Christmas. This greatest of the great Christmas TV specials includes so many holiday elements, such as a pageant, writing a letter to Santa, decorations, and carols. There’s also a distinctive score that has become part of the holiday soundscape, and a reimagining of one of the most iconic of all Yuletide symbols, the Christmas tree. Best of all, it includes Linus' superb proclamation of the Nativity narrative from the Gospel of Luke. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Sunday, August 5, 2018

DVD Dress Update--Part 2

Celebrating with coffee the morning Alyssa accepted the assignment.

Quite a bit has happened with the DVD Netflix paper dress project since I last wrote about it in May. See the introduction to this discussion again HERE.  In May and June, I heard from almost twenty fashion designers interested in the project to make a paper dress from my collection of more than 1,500 Netflix envelope fronts--a project sponsored by the subscription service DVD Netflix to help commemorate their 20th anniversary. I ended up interviewing ten designers. My decision was not an easy one--I met quite a few extremely talented, creative, and ambitious young men and women.


Alyssa showing me the gorgeous gown she made from styrofoam plates and cups--a dress featured in People Magazine.

One woman stood out from the crown and I'm grateful that she accepted the assignment. Her name is Alyssa Hertz and she's a sophomore in the renown fashion program at Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio. She has experience working with non-traditional materials to create innovative fashions, and she's articulate and confident. I'm very pleased to be working with her on this project.


Another impressive dress Alyssa made--this one from newspaper.
At a meeting last week with Alyssa discussing the project.

Early in the process, Alyssa and I were discussing our dreams for the dress and we came up with a concept that made us both happy. Hold on to your seat! We're taking our inspiration from glamorous classic Hollywood to create a dress inspired by Rosemary Clooney's red dress seen in the finalé of the 1954 movie White Christmas! Alyssa is making something wholly original but our paper dress made from the red DVD Netflix envelope fronts will evoke the spirit of Clooney's gown. Doesn't that sound like fun? I get goose bumps every time I talk about it.


I have to start working on channeling my inner Rosemary Clooney!

Alyssa is already hard at work on the bodice.

Alyssa has already begun work on the bodice--that's fashion-speak for the top portion of the dress. If you'd like to follow along with the progress of the dress, you can follow the hashtag #DVDdress on social media. Both Alyssa and I will be sharing our photos on Instagram and Twitter using that hashtag. You can also follow along on the website here. Our deadline for the project is October so we'll be sharing more before then. As Alyssa continues to work on the dress, I'll be reflecting back on the 10 years I've been writing and maintaining this blog/website. 10 years!? I know--where has the time gone? This exciting project feels like a good time to reflect on the wonderful opportunities and adventures I have enjoyed along the way.  Thanks for reading--and more on the dress coming soon :)


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

Christmas in July 2018: Tom Beiter

from 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol

Christmas in July 2018: Tom Beiter, http://garagesalin.blogspot.com/


1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

It has to be Muppet Christmas Carol.  I didn't see it until a few years ago, but it may be the best (and closest) adaption to the story I've seen.  The interaction between Michael Caine and the Muppets is entirely believable.

2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?



That's a hard one.  The '60's gave us the standards with Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and Frosty, but the '70's expanded so much upon Christmas specials, not mention it was the decade of my childhood. I'm going to have to give it to the '70's.

from the 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story


3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer: The House Without a Christmas Tree
Entré: The Homecoming (The Waltons)
Dessert: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Mid-evening Snack: An American Christmas Carol
Late Night Snack: A Christmas Story



4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.



That's a tough one.  Some of my ideas have already been proposed (like a special on department store windows), but I'll go with one devoted to the Toys of Christmas, 1900 through the 1980's. The History Channel touched a little on that a few years ago with their Christmas through the Decades mini-series (on which I got to be featured in the '70's episode with a home movie of my Mom and I having a tug-of-war with Stretch Armstrong on Christmas Eve of 1976), but I'd like to see one devoted entirely to toys.


from 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas


5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

I'm struggling over A Charlie Brown Christmas which best represents the meaning of Christmas and A Christmas Story which best represents the reality of Christmas in America, not to mention childhood in general. I refuse to decide. They both go in!



Saturday, August 4, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: D.X. Ferris

from 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol

Christmas in July 2018: D.X. Ferris, Suburban Metal Dad at http://checkoutmybutt.com/

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Muppet Christmas Carol really works. It hits all the notes: dejecting sorrow, oppressive fear, redemptive joy... and catchy music, too! It has it all. It's a full-on drama, featuring Muppets.

And no, it doesn't make me cry — I don't know who told you that. It airs during allergy season. It makes YOU cry. You don't know me!




2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?



I have to go with the 1960s and that Big Bang of the Big Four Christmas Specials. My favorites are Charlie Brown, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph, and Frosty. I'm not a Sound of Music fan, but John Coltrane's transcendent jazz take on "My Favorite Things" is one of the great moments in art, whether it's the three-minute edit or the 13-minute free-jazz freakout.


from 1982's The Snowman


3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer: Charlie Brown. Get the Christmas magic flowing with a short program.

Entré: Scrooged. Watch the passion of the Scrooge. See a man reject selfishness and embrace the human race. "NOW MORE THAN EVER, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS... YOUR LIFE MAY JUST DEPEND ON IT."

Dessert: Depending what the kids feel like, whether I'm watching solo, and/or how tired everybody is...

If you're sleepy and running short on time: The Snowman, which will send you into sleep with a fantastic journey into the heart of Christmas itself. I don't have to specify the original version, not the one with the Bowie intro, do I? (All respect to Bowie.)

Or if everyone's awake and the eggnog hasn't gone to your head, A Very Murray Christmas, Bill Murray's melancholy musical extravaganza.



Did you mean it literally? Then a shuffle of the Donnie Iris, Frank Sinatra, and Sia Christmas albums. Plus the record C'est Le Père Noël by Henri Des — he's a Swiss singer who performs children's music in French. But this quiet little Christmas album stands on its own, no matter how old you are.



4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.



I think a great way to introduce my comic strip to network TV would be the Suburban Metal Dad Christmas Special. I have some plots, but I can't divulge them here.

I've never been able to track down a full copy of Bob Goulet's Cajun Christmas; I'm starting to suspect the Scrooged people made it up.

A Marvel Christmas movie, maybe a Power Man-Iron Fist teamup, "Luke Cage's Sweet Christmas Holiday Special"?

If you look online for "Christmas in Carcosa," you can see my dubious argument that True Detective, Season 1 is a Christmas special. I'd say they should run it as a Christmas marathon, but I see why they don't. I'm probably kidding about at least one part of this bit.

And I'd love to see some kind of musical special like the Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, either from one genre, or a big harmonious crossover hosted by Rick Rubin or Bill Adler, the producer and renowned Christmas connoisseur who had the idea for "Christmas in Hollis." Have a bunch of metal guys, Sia, DMX, the Reverend Run, the Beasties, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, some hot younger artists, and Roseanne Cash celebrate the holidays in a country cabin. Invite Cypress Hill, have them change "Hand on the Pump" from "fa la la la" to "fa la la."

Or I think Ian MacKaye, his Fugazi pals, and Henry Rollins could reunite for a sincere celebration of friendship and the TRUE meaning of Christmas -- you know, the things that don't come in a box.


from 1984's A Christmas Carol
 

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

Some kind of Christmas Carol, probably the George C. Scott version from 1984. It hits all the right notes in the human cycle of character growth. And while it is very old-timey, it doesn't have the kind of cultural details that will be unrecognizable 1,000 years from now, like, say, Scrooged would.

D.X. Ferris is way into Christmas. He wrote books about Slayer and Donnie Iris. Set for October 2018 release, Suburban Metal Dad: Compendium Two will compile seven years of holiday funnies from his ongoing comic strip. Check out the 2017 edition of his annual Christmas music, "DXmas 2017: Snow Lightning," here: https://open.spotify.com/user/dxferris/playlist/1uPb6J4cwREvewJgQ6wSL1