About Christmas TV History

Monday, December 20, 2010

Make Your Own Marathons

Last year, my friends and I gathered for a private special screening at a friend's home to watch some cool Christmas programs. The above photo is from our program guide. We watched:

--"Too Many Christmas Trees" the 1965 episode of The Avengers (pg. 80)
--"The Star" the 1985 episode of The New Twilight Zone (pg. 36)
-- Franz Kafka's It's A Wonderful Life from 1993 (pg. 13)
-- My Santa, the 2005 anime (pg. 104-105)
--"Christmas Shopping" the classic episode of The Jack Benny Show (p.114-115)
--1957 Russian-made cartoon Christmas Visit (pg. 42-43)
--the short film, Santa Claus' Story from the 1950s (pg. 124-125)

The above page numbers reference where in The Christmas TV Companion these selections are discussed.

This year, my friends and I are gathering for another marathon of Christmas programs. We're watching:

-- The Junky's Christmas (pg. 358)
--"Hey, Hey It's Knishmas!" the 2008 episode of Chowder (pg. 120)
--"Low Tidings" the 2009 episode of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack (pg. 434)
--"Rebel With A Claus" the 2006 episode of Squidbillies (pg. 660)
--"Mr. Grumpy-Pants" the 2008 episode of Superjail! (pg. 676)
--"Christmas With the Addams Family" the 1965 episode of The Addams Family (pg. 6)

The above page numbers reference where in the book, Tis the Season TV, these programs are discussed.

I organized last year's selections to include several science fiction stories and several others that my friends had asked to see. This year's selections I've chosen in order to include another literary one (last year had Franz Kafka--this year is William Burroughs) and then several weird ones in increasing bizarreness, closing with the feel-good episode of The Addams Family.

Christmas is certainly a time when we work extra hard to make ourselves happy. Watching television programs and movies is one way to make ourselves feel the way we want at the holidays. Have you compiled your own marathon of Christmas programs to watch? is it gathered around a theme? Share your experiences.

Set Your DVRs: Doctor Who Christmas Marathon

On Christmas Day, Saturday Dec. 25th, BBC America is running a marathon of Christmas episodes of the hit British sci-fi series Doctor Who. Fans of the show know that there have been several holiday-themed episodes produced since the show's recent reincarnation. Christmas day's marathon includes: "The Unquiet Dead;" "The Christmas Invasion;" "The Runaway Bride;" "Voyage of the Damned;" and "The Next Doctor." The episodes will repeat throughout the day so check the schedule on BBC America for the listings--or search on TVGuide.com.

But the best news is that the newest Doctor Who Christmas episode debuts on Christmas night at 9pm (EST) after the marathon. 2010's "A Christmas Carol" stars the latest Doctor played by Matt Smith with special guest, actor Michael Gambon. I can't wait!

2007's "Voyage of the Damned" with special guest Kylie Minogue

2008's "The Next Doctor" with special guest David Morrissey

2010's "A Christmas Carol" Doctor Who Christmas episode--premieres Dec. 25th

Of course, Doctor Who has dealt with Charles Dickens before. The nineteenth-century author is a character in the 2005 episode "The Unquiet Dead" and the familiar Dickensian subject of exploited orphans in Victorian London is incorporated into the 2008 episode "The Next Doctor."

Book Tour: Cleveland OH recap

Blue Arrow Records and Boutique on Waterloo Rd. in Cleveland, OH

Last Saturday, December 18th--Blue Arrow Records and Boutique was the final stop on my book tour. I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of their Holiday Extravaganza event where I signed books and read from the encyclopedia. Since Blue Arrow Records is a hip vinyl record store, I read three summaries from Tis the Season TV with a cool musical connection: 1977's Johnny Cash Christmas Special (with special guests/fellow Sun Studios recording artists Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins who perform a tribute to the then-recently deceased Elvis Presley); 1965's The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood with special guests Eric Burdon and the Animals; and, 1975's The Christmas Messenger which includes recording artist/rocker David Essex.

That's me on the right--reading from the encyclopedia

Both the 1977 Johnny Cash special and The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood are also included in my book The Christmas TV Companion--in the TV Variety chapter. If you are interested in more out-of-the-ordinary Christmas titles with a musical connection, check out the movie Christmas on Mars--made by several members of the band The Flaming Lips. Or, look for the 2004 episode Santa's Rockin' of the children's musical program The Wiggles. This installment includes Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty and actor/singer Barry Williams performing holiday songs for pre-schoolers.

Sorry about the foreign subtitles :(

Another favorite is George Michael guest starring as himself on The Catherine Tate Show Christmas special in 2007. He sings karaoke with Tate's nurse Bernie character at the hospital staff holiday party. Together they sing "Fairytale of New York" the much beloved Christmas song made popular by the Irish band, The Pogues.

Book Tour: Chicago IL recap

Joanna reading from Tis the Season TV

Last Wednesday, Dec. 15th on my book tour, I made a stop in Chicago's Northside. Along with three local authors, I had a book reading and signing at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. I read three summaries from the encyclopedia, Tis the Season TV, and the opening paragraph from the Introduction of The Christmas TV Companion. The three summaries I read were 'something older, something newer, and something rare': 1966's Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory from the dramatic anthology series ABC Stage 67; 2009's animated Yes, Virginia; and, 1964's TV movie Carol for Another Christmas.

Thanks to the Book Cellar for hosting this December event and much kindness to the three wonderful authors with whom I shared the evening.

Joanna and Kelly: We should be a recruitment poster for studying film!

Visiting Chicago also gave me the opportunity to meet up with a friend I hadn't seen in years :) My hotel as within walking distance of my favorite diner, Ed Debevic's, and the downtown Macy's. There's no place like Chicago for Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chicago Christmas in the Snow

left to right: Bob, Howard, Carol, Jerry and Emily on The Bob Newhart Show

As I sit here snowed-in because of a blizzard currently dumping on Northeast Ohio, I'm reminded of the second season Christmas episode of The Bob Newhart Show. In 1973's "I'm Dreaming of A Slight Christmas," Dr. Bob Hartley and his wife, Emily, anticipate spending Christmas Eve together. Unfortunately, Bob finds himself stuck at the office--comforting an anxious Mr.Peterson and controlling the drunken office party. A power outage brought on by a blizzard adds further complications to the evening. Bob finally makes it home only to sleep through Emily’s ruined dinner.

Carol is enjoying her holiday Irish coffee!

You can watch this episode on Hulu. Click here for that link.

Fans of the Bob Newhart Show may be delighted to know that there are six Christmas episodes--one each year the series was made:

1972's "His Busiest Season"
1973's "I'm Dreaming of A Slight Christmas"
1974's "Home Is Where the Hurt Is"
1975's "Bob Has to Have His Tonsils Out, So He Spends Christmas Eve in the Hospital"
1976's "Making Up is the Thing To Do"
and 1977's "'Twas the Pie Before Christmas"

This series also produced an incredibly funny Thanksgiving episode (and my all-time favorite Bob Newhart Show episode)--the 1975's "Over The River and Through the Woods." This fourth season episode is available for viewing on DVD and on Netflix.

Speaking of Chicago: I'll be signing copies of both of my books at The Book Cellar in Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 15th at 7pm. See you there!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Joanna on TV: updated schedule

If you haven't already seen my recent appearances on television, here is an updated schedule when the programs will air again.

I provided commentary on The Real Story of Christmas now airing on the History Channel. I'm in one brief segment near the end. This program will broadcast again on Wednesday, Dec. 22nd at 10 pm and later that night again at 2 am. It is also available for purchase--see the History Channel store for details.

I'm also on 25 Most Hilarious Holiday TV Moments now running on TV Guide Network. I appear in several places throughout the program. My favorite moment is when I name the band members of KISS who lend their voices to the 2000 Christmas episode of Family Guy. This program is re-airing:
Monday, Dec. 13th at 3 pm
Friday, Dec. 17th at 2 pm
Saturday, Dec. 18th at 3 pm and again at 5 pm
Tuesday, Dec. 21st at 2 pm
Wednesday, Dec. 22nd at 3 pm and again at 7 pm
and Saturday, Dec. 25th at 11 am.

Me on Teen Focus airing throughout December

I also have a half-hour interview now airing on Teen Focus, a Cleveland OH cable access show. It is airing in Cleveland on Cable 9 throughout the month of December: Mondays at 7 am and 11:30 am; Tuesdays at 5:30 pm; and Saturdays at 6 pm.

If you don't live in Cleveland, OH, you can watch the interview on-line on Cable9.org

--go to Cable9.org
--click on box on left 'Cable 9 on-line'
--click on box on right 'Cable 9 on-line'
--drag drop-down menu marked 'All Folders'
--click on 'Teen Focus'
--select my interview

It's not that complicated. But this interview will only be available during the month of December. So if you're curious, watch it now.

That's me on the monitors!

Set Your DVRs: Yes, Virginia

The latest adaptation of the story inspired by real-live event, Yes, Virginia is airing on Friday Dec. 17th at 8pm (EST) on CBS. This charming 2009 animated TV special is sponsored by Macy's. It tells the story of the the turn-of-the-century Virginia O'Hanlon who writes a letter to the newspaper asking about the existence of Santa Claus. The inspiring response written by the New York Sun's editor, Francis P. Church, begins with the now famous line "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus..."

This story inspired by actual events has been adapted for television several times. There was a 1991 TV movie entitled Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus which starred Richard Thomas as Virginia's father, Mr. O'Hanlon and Charles Bronson--yes, that Charles Bronson as the newspaper editor, Church. Unfortunately, this made-for-TV movie is difficult to find.

Actor Richard Thomas

Many of us grew up watching the half-hour animated 1974 adaptation. It is produced and directed by Bill Melendez, the same producer/director who made A Charlie Brown Christmas. This 1974 adaptation also features the title song performed by Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of the Osmond family's brothers.

Part 1 of 1974's Yes Virginia There Is a Santa Claus

Did you know: Virginia O'Hanlon actually appeared on the 1960 Perry Como Christmas Special? And, the original letter written by the young Virginia O'Hanlon turned up on an episode of PBS's Antiques Roadshow? It was authenticated and appraised by Kathleen Guzman.

Click here to see that episode of Antiques Roadshow.

Book Tour: Milwaukee WI recap

This past Wednesday I was at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee for a speaking engagement and book signing. Those in attendance were a great crowd--eager to talk about their favorite Christmas TV programs. Not only am I grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for Christmas on TV but it's always wonderful to talk with others that are equally passionate about it.

Thanks again to Boswell Book Company. I've been on the road now since early November which can be difficult at times. But I enjoyed my time spent in Milwaukee--and I'm already making plans to return. While there, I ate dinner at the espionage-themed restaurant, Safe House, found the Fonzie statue and toured the Miller Brewing Company.

As I was leaving the site of the brewing facility, it just happened to be a shift change and factory workers came pouring out of the brick buildings into the very cold winter air. It reminded me of brief scenes from the TV series Laverne & Shirley where the employees of Shotz Brewery huddle together to punch their time cards entering and exiting the factory in the winter time. Okay, maybe it was just me--but those thoughts actually occurred to me in the moment and made my trip just that much more interesting.

My favorite brewery workers, Laverne and Shirley

My next book tour stops: Wednesday, Dec. 15th I'll be at the Book Cellar in Chicago, IL at 7pm. I'll not only be speaking for a few minutes but I'll be signing both The Christmas TV Companion and Tis the Season TV, the encyclopedia.

On Saturday, Dec. 18th I'll be signing both books at Blue Arrow Records and Boutique in Cleveland, OH starting at 6pm. See you there!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Days in Milwaukee

I'm in Milwaukee for my book signing tonight, Wednesday Dec. 8th at 7pm at Boswell Book Company. This is my first time visiting the fine state of Wisconsin but as soon as I drove over the Illinois border I was flooded with false memories. I saw signs for Kenosha and Lake Geneva--locations referenced by the characters on TV's Happy Days. And, I somehow knew Milwaukee was only an hour and a half's drive from Chicago--from the bus schedule repeated on TV's Laverne and Shirley. These aren't exactly false memories as much as knowledge attained not my own life experiences. But I love it and it makes being in Milwaukee comfortable and familiar. You gotta know my first stop after arriving in town last night was to visit the Fonzie statue downtown.

Aaayyy! Welcome to Milwaukee Joanna

Being here also reminds me of the fantastic Christmas episodes with our favorite TV characters from Milwaukee. There are many holiday episodes from Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and even one from Joanie Loves Chachie. Of course, all of these Christmas installments are included in my book Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials and Movies.

Below is my favorite Happy Days Christmas episode "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" from 1974. This story takes place before Fonzie lives above the garage with the Cunningham family--and includes a tenderness and generosity that warms the heart. This 1970s series that takes place during the 1950s also incorporates a sense of nostalgia inherent in it's storytelling. This too adds to the emotional impact for a Christmas story--even if the viewer didn't originally experience or live through the 1950s (or the 1970s!). I also love the berserk robotic Santa Claus decoration for the Cunningham's front yard. Enjoy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Tour: Indianapolis recap

Joanna and Ralph

Tonight was my latest author appearance and book signing--this time I was at Mudsock Books and Curiosities in northeast Indianapolis, Indiana. The shop cat, Ralph, took over immediately as my assistant, ably managing my affairs as I greeted people in the book store. Thanks to Cindy and Marcia at Mudsock Books for hosting me.

Next I'll be signing books in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On Wednesday, Dec. 8th at 7pm, I'll be at Boswell Book Company (2559 N. Downer Ave. 53211). See you there!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

1980s Christmas: A Christmas Story (movie)

This feature film was first released into theaters but it has since earned its top spot as a favorite Christmas tradition because of its repeated broadcasts on television. In fact, it has been airing as a 24 hour marathon on Christmas every year since 1997 on one of the Turner Broadcasting channels. This popularity as a favorite holiday tradition can be measured as the 24 hour marathon continues to achieve higher and higher TV ratings with each successive year. That’s not bad for a movie made almost 30 years ago!

It’s no wonder that we love this holiday movie. The story has nostalgia built right in to it with a narrator providing adult reflections of his childhood Christmas. It doesn’t matter if viewers are aware that the story takes place sometime in the 1930s or ‘40s, long before most of us were alive. The movie effectively creates a sentimental, familiar time within the past whether you recognize the references to Little Orphan Annie and Ovaltine or not.

The movie is also just quirky enough charm the coldest of hearts from the scene where the boys triple dog dare their pal to touch his tongue to the frozen metal pole through the scene where the mother screams at the Chop Suey Palace’s Christmas duck served with a smile on its face.

This movie often seems more like a collection of short vignettes rather than one narrative sequence. But if there’s one overarching theme, it is probably the fear of not getting what you most want for Christmas. A very human story that everyone, whatever your age, can relate to.

What's your favorite scene(s)? Mine is the scene where Ralphie scrambles back up the slide to speak with the department store Santa--only to be told his Christmas wish is denied while Santa pushes him back down the slide by placing his boot on Ralphie's head!

"Back of the line, kid!" Jean Shepherd on the left.

This movie’s story is based on the novel “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” written by author and radio personality, Jean Shepherd. Not only is it Shepherd himself who provides the voice of the narrator but he also appears as the man in the department store in line to see Santa Claus who points out to Ralphie where the end of the line is.

"It's a major award!" Darren McGavin and Bob Clark

The film’s director Bob Clark also appears in the movie as the Swede, the character the father speaks to when they stand across the street, eyeing the new leg lamp in the window, repeating “it’s a major award.”

The cast includes: Peter Billingsley as Ralphie; Darren McGavin as the father; Melinda Dillon as the mother; Ian Petrella as Randy; Zack Ward as Scut Farcus; and Scott Schwartz as Flick.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Tour resumes: Indianapolis, IN

After taking a week-long break to celebrate Thanksgiving, I've returned to my book tour--heading into the Midwest.

Monday, Dec. 6th I'll be signing books at Mudsock Books and Curiosities from 5-7pm, in Northeast Indianapolis, Indiana. Please see listing along the right hand side of this blog marked '2010 Author Events' for details and the link for an address.

Then on Wednesday, Dec. 8th I'll be at Boswell Book Company at 7pm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I've already received some press in Milwaukee and I'm hoping for a good turn out. That always makes for better energy and fun event.

And, Wednesday Dec. 15th I'll be in the Book Cellar at 7pm in Chicago.

I'm really looking forward to these Midwest events--there's already a significant amount of snow on the ground in Indianapolis. I found myself singing "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas" as I entered the city. Snow in December always makes it feel more Christmasy. Come out and support your local indie book sellers and meet the author of The Christmas TV Companion and Tis the Season TV.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

1980s Christmas: Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special

The 1980s also offered 1988's Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special. In perhaps the most fabulous, star-studded Christmas Special ever created, Pee-Wee has some holiday fun for just about everyone. There are the series’ regular attractions: Jambi grants a wish, the secret word (’year,’) a Penny cartoon, and magic screen connecting the dots. The regular guests stop by as well, like the King of Cartoons, Miss Yvonne, Ricardo, Reba and Cowboy Curtis.

Cher knows what to do when someone says the word of the day: scream real loud!

But the most fun is watching Pee-Wee with all the celebrities that want to participate in the Playhouse holiday fun: Little Richard wearing a pillow while ice skating on the frozen pond; Dinah Shore annoyingly prattles off an endless “Twelve Days of Christmas” over the videophone while a bored Pee-Wee places her on hold to walk away; and Frankie & Annette forced into slave labor handmaking Pee-Wee’s Christmas cards.

Don’t forget Grace Jones’ shocking performance of “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Other celebrity performances include: kd lang sings “Jingle Bell Rock;” Charo sings “Feliz Navidad;” and the Del Rubio Triplets sing “Winter Wonderland.” Pee Wee collects all the fruitcakes he’s received in order to build a new wing onto the Playhouse. All the fun comes to an end when Pee Wee leaves in order to assist Santa in delivering his toys.

Pee-Wee: "Feliz Navi Blah"

Special guests include: kd lang; Oprah Winfrey; Grace Jones; Annette Funicello; Frankie Avalon; Whoopi Goldberg; Magic Johnson; Cher; Joan Rivers; Del Rubio Triplets; Little Richard; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Dinah Shore; Charo; and, the UCLA Men’s Glee Club.

Ever wondered which holiday animated classic the King of Cartoons brings in this Christmas Special? It’s “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” a 1936 cartoon from the Fleischer Studios, featuring the elderly inventor Grampy, a recurring character originally introduced in a Betty Boop cartoon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen: Santa Who?

I join the rest of the world in mourning the recent death of actor Leslie Nielsen. His abundant comedic roles have touched movie-goers for decades with his roles in Airplane! and the Naked Gun series. He has also impressed viewers with his participation in Christmas movies including All I Want for Christmas, Santa Who?, and the TV specials Noël Noël, The Nutcracker and the Mouseking and Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. I turn my attention here in discussing Santa Who? for it is this role that Nielsen repeats his quintessential comedic trademark as the dead serious funny man.

This TV movie is a comedy about what happens when Santa Claus has amnesia. On a practice run, Santa Claus (played by Nielsen) falls out of his sleigh and drops into TV news reporter Peter Albright’s car! This passenger seems to have amnesia and doesn’t know who he is. Since he’s good with children, Peter gets him a job working in the local mall as their Santa Claus. Meanwhile, Peter is concocting a news story about the amnesiac, hoping for a tearful reunion on Christmas for a highly rated TV special. Will Christmas be canceled if there is no Santa Claus this year?

One of the funny efforts to try to spark Santa’s memory is to expose him to familiar, emotional connections. He’s shown the movies ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Rudolph,’ but the trick fails.

The cast includes: Leslie Nielsen as Santa Claus; Steven Eckholdt as Peter Albright; Robyn Lively as girlfriend Claire; and, Max Morrow as Zack, Claire’s son.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Tour: Akron OH recap

To keep you updated, my latest book signing was this past Saturday (Nov. 27th) at Square Records in Akron, OH. Thanks to Dave and Juniper for offering me this fantastic opportunity to meet and greet the fans of my books. It was nice to be home from my book tour--for Thanksgiving--and to be able to share my experiences and stories of life on the road with friends that dropped by the store.

I'll resume my book tour next week with stops in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and finally Cleveland--all before Christmas. For the dates, times and locations of those appearances, please see the '2010 Author Events' page on the right hand side of this blog.

One of the highlights of the Square Records signing was the opportunity to finally meet in person a fellow blogger, Erick, who writes Wonderful Wonderblog and is also a fan of Christmas on TV. I'm jealous of his crazy Christmas music collection--including the Star Wars Christmas Album: Christmas In the Stars.

He even wrote about meeting me--which was very nice. Click here for that blog post on Wonderful Wonderblog. Thanks Erick.

This is the second time on this book tour that I've been able to meet a blogger who has inspired me. In the Washington DC/Baltimore area, I also met Amanda By Night who writes Made for TV Mayhem.

Erick from Wonderful Wonderblog and myself: Happy Life Day to us!

The Gathering (1977)

On book tour this past month, I was asked repeatedly about a much beloved TV movie from 1977 entitled The Gathering which starred Edward Asner, Maureen Stapleton, Gregory Harrison and Stephanie Zimbalist among others.

I wrote about this TV movie this past summer for the blog Made for TV Mayhem a site devoted to TV movies. Click here to read my post about The Gathering.

An added bonus that I brought to that posting are photos from several locations where that film was originally shot. Coincidentally, I happen to live in Northeast Ohio--very close to Hudson and Chagrin Falls, Ohio where several locations doubled for the snowy New England setting in the movie. Surprisingly, those locations have changed little since 1977. Please check those out on Made for TV Mayhem.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

1980s Christmas: The Simpsons

How many people remember that 1989's “The Simpsons Christmas Special” was the first episode of the new series The Simpsons on the young Fox network? Also known by the title "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," this holiday special was the first half-hour length story with the animated characters introduced in short bumpers on the comedy/variety series The Tracy Ullman Show. The plot of this now legendary Christmas show is familiar: When the family’s Christmas money has to be spent on tattoo removal surgery for Bart, Homer’s last chance is found at the dog track, gambling for a merry Christmas. Homer loses his money but comes home to present the family with a dog they name Santa’s Little Helper.

But the first Simpsons Christmas story debuted the previous year, in 1988, on The Tracey Ullman Show. It features a holiday Simpsons’ short entitled ‘Simpson Christmas.’ Bart provides his own version of the poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Though the animation is a bit more rough, the irreverence and cleverness we have come to expect from this series is already perfected. This animated series would go on to produce many more classic Christmas episodes. Which is your favorite Simpsons Christmas story? (Mine is 1995's "Marge Be Not Proud.")

“So, to those of you groovin’ on my holiday rap: Happy Christmas to all and to all a good nap.”

Book Tour: Baltimore recap

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm finally home from the first leg of my book tour. But just for a week before I head back out again. In December, I'll be signing books in Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago. Check the schedule on this blog (along the right hand side) marked 'Author Events 2010' for the locations, dates and times for my upcoming appearances.

My last signing was in Baltimore, Maryland on the 20th at Ukazoo Books. But the highlight of that stop was getting to finally meet a fellow blogger, Amanda By Night, who writes about TV movies especially horror TV movies. She knows her stuff. If you haven't already, you must check out her blog: Made for TV Mayhem.

Amanda guest posted on my blog this past July writing about her favorite Christmas TV special, Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey. Click here to see that post again. Maybe I can persuade her to write another for me?

Schlemiel, Schlimazel. Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joanna on TV: Set Your DVRs

Well, the holiday specials have already begun to air on TV like they do every year at this time. The Hallmark Channel started televising their holiday movies last weekend and ABC Family Channel begins their countdown to the 25 Days of Christmas programming this weekend. The Macy's Thanksgiving day Parade is next Thursday and the flood of old and new programming will be unleashed.

Add to that two upcoming new specials that will include your favorite Christmas TV expert (Don't shrug your shoulders! I'm talking about myself, Joanna Wilson). As you may already know, I was asked to participate in two TV specials adding commentary about Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies. Look for me:

on the History Channel special The Real Story of Christmas scheduled to air Nov. 30th at 8pm

and TV Guide Network's 25 Most Hilarious Holiday Moments scheduled to air Dec. 5th at 8pm

I expect these programs to be repeated before Dec. 25th but check your listings to be sure. Thanks to both production companies for asking me to participate: Workaholic Productions and Atlas Media Corp. respectively. I'm sure everyone is looking forward to seeing these new holiday TV specials as well as my contributions.

Book Tour: Richmond Virginia recap

Chop Suey Books in Cary Town, Richmond Virginia

Thanks to the guys at the bookstore, Chop Suey Books, for allowing me to sign copies of The Christmas TV Companion on Thursday. They have a great collection of film and TV books on the second floor--everything from standard film studies texts (Kracauer, Dudley Andrews, Mast & Cohen) to popular television books such as Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams.

Below are a couple links to stories/interviews from Richmond. I was also interviewed on the radio WRIR for a local NPR broadcast coming soon. More on that later.

"Holiday Expert Comes to Chop Suey Books" on Richmond.com

5 Christmas Specials You May or May Not See on TV from Style Weekly in Richmond

Thanks also to Melanie and Jason--Christmas TV lovers like myself. Melanie works at the Poe Museum and certainly one of the highlights of my book tour.

My next signing is Saturday Nov. 20th from 2-4 pm at Ukazoo Books in Baltimore (Towson) Maryland. See you there!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Animated Christmas Carols--Part 2

Continuing with Part 2: my suggestions for five more (ten total) alternative animated versions of Dickens' classic book. Disney's A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey is getting a lot of attention this week due to its release on DVD. However, these are a few animated adaptations that stand out from the rest. Check out my previous post (Part 1) to see five more titles that deserve special attention.

2005's Stroker and Hoop episode entitled "I Saw Stroker Killing Santa Claus a.k.a. A Cold, Dead, White Christmas"

This Adult Swim series on the Cartoon Network not only tips its hat to buddy cop TV shows but parodies Night Rider as well. And the series' Christmas episode is just as clever. This Christmas Carol adaptation uniquely incorporates Santa Claus--even if he is dying!

1971's A Christmas Carol by Richard Williams

This is THE animated version of the classic holiday tale by Charles Dickens easily surpassing other versions. It is visually stunning with a voice cast to match. Actor Alastair Sim repeats his noteworthy performance from the much-beloved 1951’s filmed version as he once again breathes life into the central character Ebenezer Scrooge. Michael Redgrave voices the narration. This production won an Oscar for Best Short Subject, Animated Films. This version is far too often overlooked.

1997's 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode entitled "A Christmas Cruella"

This is a family-friendly adaptation whose Scrooge character, Cruella DeVille, is in serious need of a haunting. Wait for Cruella's holiday outfit--she dresses as a stunning Christmas tree! Very fashion forward, I must say. Additionally, this is the only adaptation of Dickens book that includes two puppies and a chicken that serve as the three ghosts of Christmas. I dare you to prove me wrong!

1996's Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas segment entitled "Huh-Huh-Humbug"

In this classic Christmas special, three ghosts visit Beavis on Christmas Eve to attempt to teach the dull-witted teen a lesson. The key word here is 'attempt.'

2000's Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past From the Future"

This Adult Swim Cartoon Network TV series is just as outrageous in its Christmas episodes as it is all year round. In this thin Dickens adaptation, next door neighbor Carl is subjected to a visit to his Christmas Past by a robot ghost. However, Carl's haunting involves more than just this one ghost but supernatural disturbances within his home. It turns out his house was built on top of an ancient burial mound for Santa's enslaved elves from centuries ago. From there, it just gets weird. Rocker Glenn Danzig actually provides his voice for the character Glenn Danzig in this holiday story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Animated Christmas Carols--Part 1

There's a tremendous amount of excitement since Disney's A Christmas Carol is coming out on DVD. Have you seen it? Did you like it? This is just one of many animated versions of Charles Dickens classic book--the most popular tale at Christmas time. Many people still watch Disney's previous adaptation Mickey's Christmas Carol. Other popular animated versions quickly come to mind: Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol; Flintstones Christmas Carol; The Jetsons Christmas Carol; and, Bah Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas movie. All of these still regularly air on TV each year. Are you looking to watch an animated Christmas Carol that maybe you haven't seen in a while? or, one that stands out from the rest? Check out my ten suggestions:
1978's The Stingiest Man in Town
This Rankin/Bass cel animated musical is often overlooked. It is narrated by a cricket, voiced by Tom Bosley (the same actor that played the father on TV's Happy Days) and Scrooge is voiced by Walter Matthau. It's a classic.
1986's The Real Ghostbusters episode "X-Mas Marks the Spot"
The four Ghostbusters unknowingly find themselves in Victorian times and capture three ghosts terrorizing a man. Later when they mysteriously return to their own time, they learn they have altered history and Christmas by eliminating Scrooge's ghosts. This cartoon ambiguously makes the literary character a historical one. But why not? Who you gonna call?
2006's American Dad episode "The Best Christmas Story Never"
Wow! Where do I start to describe this one? When the Spirit of Christmas Past escorts Stan back to Christmas 1970, he ditches the ghost for his own agenda. Through a series of loose connections, Stan blames ‘Hanoi Jane’ Fonda for the loss of Christmas spirit for Americans as well as his own disillusionment. It just keeps getting weirder and more wild--and it's worth the ride.
Gumby short entitled "Scrooge Loose"
This early 1960s stop motion program includes a holiday segment with Gumby and Pokey confronting an unhappy Scrooge who looks to sabotage Santa Claus' toy delivery. Santa vs. Scrooge: bring it on!
1987's Bravestarr episode entitled "Tex's Terrible Night"
If you aren't already familiar, this impressive animated series is a Science Fiction Western. Yeah, wow! It also distinguishes itself by incorporating the series' characters in this adaptation of Dickens' tale. The Scrooge character, Tex Hex, is haunted by Shaman who shows him the consequences of his villainous behavior. This is far more sophisticated than one expects from a children's program.
Tex as Bravestarr's Scrooge
For Part 2: click HERE....for five more animated Christmas Carols.