About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Christmas in July Guest Blogger: Wendy Schweiger

Continuing with my celebration of Christmas in July, I welcome my second guest blogger, Wendy Schweiger. She writes an impressive and fascinating blog about 1960s-70s music. You must check it out:

I Estivate, Therefore I Am

That is why it is such a treat for her to share her reading of the 1964 holiday episode of the music TV series Shindig. Thank you Wendy. And I've provided the episode below her essay so you can watch it for yourself.

O (un)Holy Night – the Shindig! Christmas episode

As a young devotee of the 60’s music scene, TV variety shows aimed at my demographic – like Shindig! – were great blessings in our world of limited communication technologies. The show was a marvel, and I couldn’t wait to see the hottest acts, live, each week. But it overstepped its bounds when the producers felt a need to go all Christmas-y on us.

Accuse me of Scrooge-like tendencies if you must, but nothing was more alienating – and less entertaining – than imposing a Yuletide flavor on a rock and roll show. The Beach Boys singing We Three Kings of Orient Are? No, and hell no!

Yet, on December 23, 1964, that’s exactly what we got – and more. You’d think this was one venue that could be a tradition-free zone. Instead, we got a show with an ick factor that was off the charts, the furthest thing from entertainment.

It started out innocently enough – the Beach Boys opened with Dance Dance Dance, the first single I ever bought. Some Christmas tree props are dotting the set, but that’s bearable. It starts to go wrong when the ever-ebullient host Jimmy O’Neill is seen kissing a bespectacled dancer under the mistletoe. A few more songs untampered with – you don’t want to mess with Marvin Gaye singing How Sweet It Is, now do you? – but soon enough, the acts are singing Christmas songs, fake snow is falling, they’re pretend-riding on sleighs and wearing overcoats.

This reaches its pinnacle with the Beach Boys singing the cringeworthy Little St. Nick – even Dennis Wilson looks a bit nauseated as he beats away on his drums. Help me Rhonda! By now the Shin-diggers have got their boogie on in fleece-trimmed minidresses to go with their go-go boots.

But the worst creative decision of all came at the show’s close, and it has to be seen to be believed. The credits are already rolling and returning to the stage is Marvin Gaye, singing Hitchhike. Great song, that … but then they cut away to the Shin-diggers in silhouette, and when Marvin returns he’s swaddled in winter outerwear and Christmas-izing the song. Again with the fake snow. That would’ve been bad enough, but wait … suddenly the sound gets turned down on Marvin, the backlights go up and there are the Beach Boys, bathed in holiness, crooning We Three Kings of Orient Are. I am not making this up!

It’s that kind of spectacle that could turn a girl off Christmas forever.

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