Sunday, September 9, 2018

DVD Dress Update--Part 3

A fitting for the top half of the under-layer of the dress.

The dressmaking process is moving along. Alyssa's Fall semester in school has started and she shared with me that she's learning things in her new classes already that she's excited to bring to this project. The photo above was taken during a recent fitting. It was 90 degrees outside but we were working on a dress inspired by Rosemary Clooney's red dress, seen in the finalé of the 1954 movie White Christmas! The air conditioning was turned up and we were singing along to the movie's song "Snow." Our deadline is October and there's much work to be done.

My designer Alyssa explained to me that the bodice of the garment she's making--or the upper portion of the dress--needs a fabric layer that she will eventually attach the paper Netflix envelope fronts upon. That's what the muslin layer seen in the above photo captures. Once the bodice fits me just right, she'll be able to create the paper layer. Then the bottom portion of the dress too will be created. Alyssa has also been busy creating a paper interpretation of the white fur cuffs and trim that are on the White Christmas dress. If you follow her on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/a_zdesigns/ ), you may have seen the videos she's made about the paper rosettes she's creating. Just to catch you up, we're not making a cosplay outfit of Rosemary Clooney, but rather we're just taking inspiration from that gorgeous red dress in the movie. As you can see, the neckline is already slightly different. We're working on capturing the same classic Hollywood glamour, style and maybe even a bit of Christmas with our red paper dress. I can't wait to see it when it's finished!


Gorgeous Rosemary Clooney (right). How will the paper dress translate this look? I don't know--we'll soon see :)

Working on this project this year has given me an opportunity to reflect back on the journey I've made to this point. I initially started the research for what eventually became the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV book almost twenty years ago. I started re-watching old Christmas TV specials in 2000, and by 2002 I was collecting information and writing summaries of Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies. My first book on Christmas programs came out in 2009, and by then I had started this website and blog. Next year will be the blog's 10th year.

 Currently I have four books on Christmas entertainment: Christmas TV Companion, Tis the Season TV, Merry Musical Christmas Vol. 1, and Triple Dog Dare. I was even lucky enough to be invited to participate in the anthology Yuletide Terror that came out last year from the Canadian press Spectacular Optical. My next book will be an updated edition of Tis the Season TV, coming in 2020.  This new edition of the encyclopedia will include the 120 to 150 new Christmas programs created each year, since the first release of the book in 2010. And, it will include more comprehensive information, summaries, and commentaries on hundreds of older titles. Since 2010, I've gotten a better understanding how readers want to use the encyclopedia too so I've worked hard to improve the index, and I've created several new indices to make searching categories and music possible as well. It already feels like a whole new book.
 



One of the things I've learned along the way about researching Christmas entertainment is that--as I mentioned above--there are between 120 and 150 new yuletide episodes, specials and movies created each year. Quite frankly, that number continues to grow with each successive year. Christmas entertainment is big business for television and it continues to bring ratings, sales of commercials, and new subscribers to online streaming services. Not only does Hallmark Channel continue to make more, new Christmas TV movies each year, but now TV One regularly airs new holiday movies--along with Lifetime, Ion, and Up TV--the networks that have been doing it for a while. The major networks still feature their annual specials, such as Christmas in Rockefeller Center and CMA Country Christmas, among others. And, Netflix and Amazon and the like have joined in with offering viewers new original holiday programming as well. In updating the listings for the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV, I have my work cut out for me!

Certainly subscribing to Netflix DVD service has been an important resource in this research, but I also subscribe to Netflix's streaming service. The kind of massive research that I do also involves using my local library's resources and interlibrary loans, accessing museums and archives, and watching an awful lot of television and streaming services. Getting the opportunity to wear a glamorous dress made from the packaging of my research materials seems like a beautiful tribute. This dress couldn't "fit" anyone but me. Thanks for joining me in the adventure :)


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






Thursday, August 30, 2018

Answer Time #8




In 2015, I opened the door for readers to ASK ME ANYTHING. That request brought about many thought-provoking questions and I enjoyed responding too. So we're doing it again. Need to see the request again? HERE ya go. The following question came in last week:

Kevin asks: What do you think is the definition of a "Christmas Special?" How does the American definition differ from the English? Have home recording, cable television, and Youtube changed what makes a "special" special?

Thanks for your question, Kevin. I'm super glad you asked this--I'm not surprised. I regularly see a bit of confusion over this term. My response will attempt to unpack this and add clarity. Here goes:

The TV industry has already defined what makes a television special. To paraphrase, a TV special is a program outside an episodic series. Specials are fundamental to Christmas TV entertainment. I usually distinguish between three types of Christmas TV programs: episodes, specials, and TV movies. (Sometimes industry people qualify TV movies as specials--whatever. Since I focus my discussions solely on Christmas programs and there are hundreds of Christmas TV movies, it's much easier for me to classify them distinctly from other types of specials). So the definition of a TV special doesn't have anything to do with content. The most common Christmas TV specials are music/variety, animated specials, and documentary-style informational programs.

Discussing specials can get even more complicated. Marketing, sales and advertising are also a large part of the entertainment industry and some TV episodes (or home video releases) confusingly include the word 'special' in the title. Sometimes the title purposefully evokes a double meaning of the word 'special' to help sell a program to viewers as outstanding, exceptional, or remarkable. (Don't count on advertisers in the entertainment industry to stick to clear, consistent usage of 'special' as a noun or an adjective). Don't believe everything you read on DVD boxes or descriptions in streaming services!

What makes some TV specials a more rare experience is that some are intended to air only once, which means they aren't created with the permissions and licenses to be broadcast year after year, or to be released to home video markets. These TV specials become a more "valuable" experience because we only have a very limited chance to see them airing on TV.




Another part of the initial question asked How does the American definition differ from the English? This is also another complication. Although things are always changing, British TV has a long established history of series that run MUCH shorter than American TV series. 20 years ago when our average network series may have run 24 episodes per season, it was far more common to see British TV series run only 6, 8, or 10 episodes per series. This means more series ran on each channel or network during the 52 weeks of each year. Often a British TV Christmas Special is an installment of the series that hasn't aired in months. (This ends up being a smart way to keep viewers interested in the characters from their favorite series--especially if it hasn't aired in months). Are these Christmas Specials specials? Not really, and many times you'll find them released on DVD with the run of the series. Sometimes a British TV Christmas Special is a return to favorite TV characters long after the series is over. If I've counted correctly, Only Fools and Horses had TEN Christmas Specials after the run of the series ended!? Yeah--American TV doesn't do this.

It's kind of tricky because the British TV title "Christmas Special" doesn't always imply a holiday theme. (Sometimes they are set during Christmas, but many times they aren't!) If a program is titled "Christmas Special" on TV in the United States, it is almost always Christmas themed. (There are a few exceptions).

Did this make any sense? Thanks for your questions Kevin!

Anyone else have a question about Christmas TV entertainment? Ask me on social media or place your question in the comments HERE.



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





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