Saturday, August 1, 2015

Christmas TV Party 2015: Randall Buie

Christmas TV Party 2015: Randall Buie from Henderson, Nevada

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other?
For TV it would be A Charlie Brown Christmas.  For movies it would be the 1951 Christmas Carol although I must admit that Ernest Saves Christmas is coming up on the rail.





2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie?
TV special would be John Denver and the Muppets - A Christmas Together (why oh why is this not on official home video).  I don't have a variety performance that I can think of and I need to alter the last part of the question.  My favorite song from a TV special once again appears on the the John Denver and the Muppets special.  The title is A Baby Just Like You.




3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
For TV I will fall back on an answer I gave last year -- Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol.  And as mentioned above, my favorite movie Christmas Carol is the Alistair Sim version.  Of course I also like the Charles Dickens short story, too.




 

4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated?
I could probably write a term paper answering this question.  

I know I'm in a very small minority here, but if I had to pick one movie I would have to say It's a Wonderful Life.  I first saw this movie in the mid 80s when it was in public domain.  I could see why it appealed to people of that era because it mirrored the events that were happening in American finance.  A person takes a Savings and Loan, runs it into the ground, and in the end has the people bail him out.  Also I found the main character very self centered.  Moping around, wishing he had never been born, when he had nearly everyone in the town as his friend, a happy home life, and his own business.  I should be so unhappy!  

Other bad movies (with no comment) -- the Santa Clause franchise, Mixed Nuts, the Polar Express and White Christmas.

As far as worst TV movie -- well, just go to the Hallmark or Lifetime network and take your pick.

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest?
First, continue having ongoing series devote at least one show per year to the Christmas season.  Second, remember your senior celebrities.  When you cast a musical variety program, every guest doesn't have to be currently on Billboard's Hot 100.  I would much rather see Olivia Newton-John doing holiday favorites than Silento or Fetty Wap.  And thirdly, remember that Christmas is about nostalgia.  Dive into your library of old promos and specials for clips from the past.  NBC could show 30 second snippets of Bob Hope or Perry Como specials between programs, CBS could bring back their animated holiday greeting cards by R.O Blechman, etc.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Christmas TV Party 2015: Joseph Moore

Christmas TV Party 2015: Joseph Moore at Christmas Wishes Book

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other?
That would be a tie between the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol and Charlie Brown's Christmas. I remember seeing the premier of the latter when I was 5 years old, my mother reminded me all day and it really built up the excitement. I was not disappointed.

2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie?
Too many favorites to choose, so I will go with what I feel is the most underrated: the song "One More Sleep Till Christmas" from the movie The Muppet Christmas Carol. This Paul Williams tune really should have become a standard by now.




3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
I am a connoisseur of all versions of A Christmas Carol, and the best movie version (IMHO) is still the 1951 version. The most underrated movie version is the 1935 Seymour Hicks adaptation, which reveals more of the story's 'ghost story' origins. The TV Movie retelling that I love best is Karrol's Christmas, which I think was originally an A&E production, but now sometimes pops up on the Hallmark Channel. The various Radio Play versions should all be checked out wherever they can be located.

cast from 2004 TV movie Karroll's Christmas.
4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated?
I absolutely HATE Bad Santa. I'm not generally against films, books, or TV programs that make fun of the Holiday Season, but that movie was just mean-spirited to such a degree that it contained zero redeeming value.

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest?
Please, please, PLEASE! stop using up all of the Christmas-oriented programming by the second week of December. Try placing those movies, specials, and other related programs during the 7 days before December 25th. Load Christmas Eve up with as much Holiday-themed fare as possible, a la the fictional network in Scrooged in the hope and belief that families will want to be together sitting around the TV, trimming the tree and wrapping gifts and enjoying watching good, so-called "old fashioned" entertainment, whether it be movies like White Christmas, reruns of old sitcom Christmas episodes, old variety shows, or better yet new variety shows inspired by the old ones.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Christmas TV Party 2015: Dominic Caruso

Christmas TV Party 2015: Dominic Caruso, editor at 1701 Press

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other?
Probably A Christmas Story, because I always tune in and let it run in the background during the 24-hour marathon. Although, I suppose it depends on how you count what constitutes a viewing. A Charlie Brown Christmas is up there too in terms of viewings.




2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie?
I like the song "Christmas Dream" by Perry Como (written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice!) from the movie The Odessa File. It has an old-world sort of sound that reminds me of my childhood. I wouldn't have discovered this song were not for Joanna Wilson, who shared it and the Odessa File with me! The movie takes place at Christmas, but it's a thriller starring Jon Voight as a journalist tracking down Nazi war criminals.




3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
I like The Odd Couple episode "Scrooge Gets and Oscar." Oscar makes a hilarious Scrooge.



4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated?
It's difficult to choose the worst. If something is really bad, I have a tendency to like it because it's so bad. For instance, I think the Christmas episode of Knight Rider is really bad. But I love it, because it's awful. So for something to be the worst in my eyes, it would mean that I wouldn't even be interested in tuning in. Many of the reality shows that do Christmas episodes are unwatchable in my opinion--like the Bam Margera / Jackass stuff. I'd say, for me, that constitutes the worst.

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest?
I'd like to see a block of programming, or a marathon, that's made up of adaptations of literary Christmas stories, like O. Henry Christmas stories (Red Skelton did the Cop and the Anthem--there are versions of Gift of the Magi out there), Junkie's Christmas by William Burroughs, A Christmas Carol (of course), Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales, the TV adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's The Star, and others. That'd be fun and pretty cool, I think.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Christmas TV Party 2015: RigbyMel

Christmas TV Party 2015: RigbyMel at Holiday Film Reviews

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other?
Well,  I cannot think of a year where I have not seen A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or How The Grinch Stole Christmas at least once. 

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas and Christmas Eve On Sesame Street are probably near the top of the list as well.
  
In terms of Christmas movies,  the top contender is most likely A Christmas Story, thanks largely to the 24 hour marathons of it that have shown up on cable in recent years.   
I've also watched The Bishop's Wife (1947) and It's A Wonderful Life (1946) quite a few times over the years. 



2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie?
This is a TOUGH one!   I definitely have loved David Letterman's Christmas Spectaculars featuring Darlene Love singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".  The holidays will not be the same now that Letterman has retired.  Le sigh.  

I also love "Keep Christmas With You" and "True Blue Miracle" as sung by Bob and the rest of the Sesame Street gang in Christmas Eve On Sesame Street.  They're sweet songs, with nice sentiments to bear in mind "all through the year."   Am I a total sap?  Possibly.  But I don't really care.  

I also really like 2008's A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!  for its affectionate sending up of the classic Bing Crosby/Andy Williams/ Perry Como etc style holiday specials. 




3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
My favorite adaptation of A Christmas Carol remains the 1984 made for TV version featuring George C. Scott as Scrooge.   It was the first live-action version of the story that I recall seeing as a child.  It's wonderfully well acted and I adore the attention to period verisimilitude.   I also like the fact that this version gets the fact that it's a GHOST STORY and that there are horrors inherent in the festive season for the less fortunate (lots of adaptations seem to miss this aspect of the story.)   It's brilliant!  

Scrooged  is another great favorite because is also gets the scary vibe just right (but balances it with some wickedly funny material as well.)   Also because Bill Murray makes most things better! 


George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge.
4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated?
Well, there is an unfortunate amount of dreck out there (Lifetime and Hallmark channels?  I'm looking at you!).  But one person's dreck could be another one's favorite, who am I to judge?     

That being said,  I recall being deeply disappointed/disturbed by One Magic Christmas which was released by Disney in 1985 and which my family saw in the theater.   Despite having a great cast (Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton, et al), it was just deeply and unrelentingly grim, dark and disturbing.   The plot involves crabby mom (Mary Steenburgen) needing to find the true meaning of Christmas, Dad loses his job and the company is kicking the family out of their house over the holidays to boot.   Dad takes the kids to the bank to get some money out for Christmas presents and gets SHOT by an even more desperate dad who is there to rob the bank and who then proceeds to steal the family car (containing the children) and drive it off a bridge into an icy river.)   Believe it or not, there is a happy ending to this, but goodness do you have to work to get there!!  Don't believe me?  Check out Roger Ebert's review from the time: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/one-magic-christmas-1985   
Its heart is (sort of) in the right place but the execution is ... ummm ... lacking.   
Maybe I should re-watch it and see if it plays better to cynical adult me than it did to tender-hearted 9 year old me?    

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest?
I really would like to see more of a nice mix of classic Holiday performances from years past and high-quality current productions as well.  Admittedly, this is a hard balance to strike.  Some of the cable marathons come close, but they also seem to err on the side of loud and dopey sometimes.   I also wouldn't mind seeing some more action oriented episodes of shows like Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Christmas TV Party 2015: Susan

Christmas TV Party 2015: Susan, Christmas movie super fan

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other?
That’s probably a tie between Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story. Both are watched multiple times per season in our household, and quoted endlessly throughout the year. It’s not really Christmas until Cousin Eddie pulls up to Clark’s in the tenement on wheels and that darn “icicle” breaks Ralphie's glasses.


Who can forget Cousin Eddie?
Honestly, I just adore Christmas programming in general. Everything from classic movies like Christmas in Connecticut or a The Bishop’s Wife, to modern releases like The Polar Express and Love, Actually, to just about every TV Christmas movie Lifetime, Hallmark, UP, et. al. produce. Animated specials, Christmas-themed episodes of our favorite shows. We love, and watch, them all!

2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie?
This is a tough one, because there are so many. For a single song, I’d have to say that the Heat Miser/Snow Miser song from The Year Without a Santa Claus is one that’s impossible not to sing along with, but there are so many specials I remember from my own childhood that I’ve got great joy from sharing with my own children. It’s just not Christmas without watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Chipmunk Christmas and Frosty the Snowman. I remember watching those with my own parents, and hope my kids will someday be watching them with their own little ones, too. There are so many great ones, old and new, and we have so many on DVD and record others as they air on our DVR, that we actually try to watch an animated special as a family every single night from Thanksgiving through Christmas, with the Grinch always being our final hurrah on Christmas morning.



3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
It’s a tie between the kid friendly, yet classic take of the Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Bill Murray’s irreverent, but ultimately good-hearted portrayal, in Scrooged. As an off beat pick, I have a weird affinity for Tom Everett Scott’s TV-movie, Karoll’s Christmas, which I find myself watching almost every year.



4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated?
I think it’s hugely disappointing that they attempted to make a sequel of A Christmas Story; the unimaginatively titled A Christmas Story 2. I admit I haven’t seen it, but the universally dismal reviews it’s received pretty much confirmed what I already guessed.

As a “bonus” answer to a question you didn’t ask, I think there are a lot of very UNDERRATED Christmas movies and specials that deserve to be classics, but aren’t. Our family loves The Happy Elf starring Harry Connick Jr.; Olive the Other Reindeer, starring Drew Barrymore; Robbie the Reindeer, starring Hugh Grant and all of Disney’s Prep and Landing adventures. I think every one deserves to be far better known. I’d also add the British movie Nativity!, which we discovered last year, which is not only funny and touching, but features some amazing original music, and the also-UK-themed Arthur Christmas. Both are delightful family films many have never seen.

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest?
Really, just more. More original Christmas programming. Airing more classic Christmas specials, movies and episodes. Not all will be gems, but everyone has their favorites, and it is so nice to have that variety. It also obviously works. Look at ABC’s “Great Christmas Light Fight” the last two years, which is low-cost programming that got very good ratings for December. Hallmark Channel, UP and ABC Family all get their best ratings of the year with their dedicated Christmas programming, so the demand is definitely out there.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Christmas TV Party 2015: Bryan Curtiss

Christmas TV Party 2015: Bryan Curtiss from DJBC Adventures

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other? 
Wow. This is a toughie. I would have to say Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.



2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie? 
This is not an easy answer to choose from. Very hard. But I think that The Stingiest Man in Town (yes, the Rankin/Bass one) has to stand out, because that was one special I watched over and over again almost every year.


from 1978's animated The Stingiest Man in Town.

3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol? 
Another tough one. I like the 1978 Rankin/Bass animated special The Stingiest Man in Town, more than most. Not to say that other versions of A Christmas Carol aren't that great, I also recommend A Muppet Christmas Carol (with Michael Caine as Scrooge, and the Muppets as various characters) and the 1970 musical version, Scrooge with Sir Albert Finney in the title role.


Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley in 1970's Scrooge.
 
4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated? 
(Kirk Cameron's) Saving Christmas

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest? 
An updated Americanized version of A Christmas Carol, set in the present.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chrstmas TV Party 2015: Daniel Budnik

Christmas TV Party: Daniel Budnik at Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things and co-author of book Bleeding Skull.

1) What Christmas program/movie have you seen more times than any other?
I spent some time thinking this one over. To my surprise, I think it’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. And, that is completely accidental. I first watched it around 1986. I taped a copy (on Beta) off of a 4AM showing and watched it several times that Christmas season. Since then, I have watched it at least once a year.  But…  in 1991, Mystery Science Theater 3000 aired an episode where they watched it. So, I watch that every year and the movie without MST involved. That’s a lot of viewings. But…  in 2008, Cinematic Titanic released a DVD where they riffed on it. I watch that every year. So, for the past seven years, I’ve watched it at least three times a year. And, since I got the movie on Blu-Ray a few years ago, I watch it even more. As I said, Purely Accidental. Apparently Droppo visits my living room more often than Rudolph. 



2) What is your favorite musical Christmas TV special, variety performance, or holiday song in a movie?
I thought I’d try all three:
As a kid, I generally zoned out when songs started up on Christmas specials. But, one song-filled special  I did enjoy very much was A Claymation Christmas Celebration from 1987. Very funny, rather weird and each segment had something a little different.
Variety performance? That would be John Candy as Divine singing “Santa, Bring My Baby Back To Me” in the SCTV Staff Christmas Party episode.
Holiday song in a movie? “We Need a little Christmas” from Mame. During the hottest times of the year, I find myself whistling this song a lot. In fact, I’m whistling it now. If I’m in a melancholy mood and don’t want to be lifted out of it, the song in my heart is “Christmastime in Hoboville” from The Last of the American Hoboes.
Plus, as far as musical Christmas stuff goes… there is a wonderful 1964 LP called A Merry Monster Christmas by Len Maxwell. It’s a series of sketches and songs with monsters celebrating Christmas. And it is fantastic! The songs are good and the sketches are pretty darn funny. I recommend finding it and giving it a listen. 

The California Raisins sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in 1987's A Claymation Christmas Celebration.
3) What's your favorite TV or movie adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol? 
I’m going to go with the Doctor Who episode A Christmas Carol. A crotchety old man who owns the sky on a distant planet won’t open up said sky to allow an out-of-control spacecraft to make a safe landing on Christmas Eve. The Doctor must re-shape the old guy’s past to make him a better man. Our Favorite Time Lord gets some help from the “Ghost” of Christmas Present and the Surprise of Christmas Future. It’s a wonderful episode that does a bit of everything I love about Steven Moffat’s era on the show. Matt Smith is as fantastic as ever. There isn’t much Amy & Rory but when they do show up it’s wonderful. Plus, there are flying sharks.

2010 Doctor Who Christmas episode, "A Christmas Carol."
4) What do you think is the worst Christmas program/movie--or your least favorite, the most disappointing or most overrated? 
Elf. I like Will Farrell but only if I see his name or Adam McKay’s name in the writer/ director credits. If their names aren’t there, I frankly don’t trust it. (Although, I’m normally a Jon Favreau fan.) I wasn’t that interested in seeing Elf but my wife wanted to. So, we rented it one chilly December night. (I haven’t watched it since that night so I’m going off of 10-year-old memories here.) We watched it and laughed quite a bit in the beginning. Then, Buddy the Elf has less and less to do. And the generally uninteresting secondary characters began to take more of the center stage. Then, everyone began learning lessons, which I wasn’t so thrilled with. My wife fell asleep but I was determined to stick it out.  I made it to the end but it’s not something I’m proud of. I wish the whole thing had been set at the North Pole.

5) If you were asked to give advice to a TV network executive in charge of holiday programming, what would you suggest? 
I’d love to see a month of holiday shows from a December past re-created in the TV schedule of a modern December. For example, the Christmas TV schedules of December 1982 reappear, as originally aired, in December 2015. Go back to the TV Guides and schedule evenings accordingly. So, maybe 2 or 3 nights a week, from 8 PM-9 PM, they would show Christmas specials on the same days as the corresponding year from the past.  For example, Rudolph on one night (maybe on, say, a Sunday)…  then they would show Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales on Tuesday or Wednesday. And so on and so forth, down the line. Mix in Christmas commercials from the year being mirrored. (Maybe even some local ones if possible.) There you have it. There wouldn’t be specials every night so the network wouldn’t have to devote all their time to this but it would mean that on the nights when they aired it would become more of an event, exactly the way they used to be.