About Christmas TV History

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! Don't eat too much candy corn--save some for me.

Readers of my first book The Christmas TV Companion know that there is quite of bit of overlap in scary imagery between Halloween and Christmas stories. In fact, my first book has a whole chapter about macabre, scary and horror programs and movies that are Christmas-themed. In the chapter, "Have Yourself an Eerie Little Christmas," I remind readers that Charles Dickens wrote a scary ghost story--with four ghosts no less! (Jacob Marley and the three spirits of Christmas past, present and future.)

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)

So this association of frightening tales coupled with Christmas is not a new phenomenon. Dickens may have written a ghost story as a means of moralizing but a more modern storyteller, Tim Burton has also used macabre imagery in his fairy tales set at Christmas.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

In this story, Jack Skellington has to learn his lesson about sticking with what he does best.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

And, in Edward Scissorhands, viewers are given a fairy tale story that shows the dark side of isolation and intolerance. Many people often forget that this romantic story is framed by an elderly Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder) sharing a story with her offspring. This story about the mysterious stranger, Edward, climaxes at the Boggs family Christmas party and serves to explain how their town gets blanketed in snow each year.

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

1980s Christmas: Cheers

Everybody's favorite work-place family sitcom (or drink-place family sitcom) from the 1980s is Cheers. This popular show has several holiday episodes but my own favorite is the one entitled "Christmas Cheers" from 1987.

In this story, Rebecca has all the bar staff scheduled to work the holiday. Cliff is selfishly trying to win a canned-food drive charity collection competition while Sam is able to miraculously acquire a last minute gift for Rebecca.

However the more minor plot line is the more touching one: the Cheers regulars are sick of seeing the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” airing yet again on TV. As they watch it in the bar, they complain about how saccharine this oft-repeated movie is. But during the scene in the 1946 movie where the Bedford Falls residents come together to support George Bailey and to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” there isn’t a dry eye in Cheers!

What's your favorite Cheers holiday moment?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BOOK TOUR--meet the author!

Do you see the new page, along the right, marked 2010 Author Events? That's my updated book tour information--complete with links to locations. Want to meet me? Ask me a question about Christmas on TV? Buy a book? or get one signed by the author? Then this is the event for you! You can check here for all the updates as they happen. Then, during November and December, along with my typical Christmas on TV blog discussions, I'll be uploading photos and writing about my experiences on the road. Will you make the blog?

Of course, you can always stay abreast of what's going on with the blog and the author through Facebook and Twitter as well. Either join the group 'Christmas TV Companion BLOG' on fb--or friend me on Twitter under 'Tis the Season TV.' Or, just continue to follow me here.

I leave in just a couple weeks to start my book tour....so come out and say 'hello.' And don't forget to watch me on my two TV appearances: the History Channel's History of Christmas program and TV Guide Network's '25 Most Hilarious Holiday Moments.'

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1980s Christmas: A Muppet Family Christmas

This 1987 hour-long TV special seems to be everyone’s favorite Jim Henson Productions Christmas special. And with good reason--it features not only the Muppets but the characters from Sesame Street, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock as well.

The story begins with the entire Muppet cast traveling in a pick-up truck to surprise Fozzie Bear’s mother at Christmas. When they arrive at her farm house, Mrs. Bear has to cancel her holiday vacation plans for Malibu in order to entertain her new guests. She also has to accommodate Doc and Sprocket (from Fraggle Rock) who had come to rent her farm house to enjoy a quiet Christmas in the country. Guests continue to arrive and the farm house becomes quite crowded and chaotic--though Kermit is still waiting for Miss Piggy to arrive. Meanwhile, the Sesame Street gang show up caroling. The new guests include: Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, the Count, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and more. Miss Piggy has yet to arrive when a snowstorm blows in.

The multitude of house guests entertain themselves by watching home movies of the Muppet babies. The guests also stage a holiday pageant of the story ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ while Fozzie works on his new comedy act with a snowman. And, the Swedish Chef considers preparing Big Bird for Christmas dinner. But Kermit worries about Miss Piggy reaching the house in the storm.

In another room, Robin finds a Fraggle hole where the young frog and Kermit pass through and make new friends with the Fraggles. Eventually Miss Piggy makes her grand entrance, arriving safely by dog sled. The crowded house full of merrymakers begin their annual carol sing and begin to exchange gifts.

This musical special includes the familiar holiday classic songs: ‘We Need A Little Christmas;’ ‘Jingle Bells/Jingle Bell Rock;’ ‘Deck the Halls;’ ‘The Christmas Song;’ Happy Holidays;’ ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High;’ ‘I Saw Three Ships;’ ‘Good King Wenceslas;’ ‘The Holly and the Ivy;’ ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas;’ ‘Caroling Caroling’ and ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas.’ This special also includes the original songs ‘Pass It On;’ ‘It’s in Every One of Us’ and ‘We’ll Be Together At Christmas.’

The ending has a very special, touching moment. As the entire Muppet gang celebrates Christmas together, the master puppeteer himself, Jim Henson, looks over the festivities from the kitchen offering to do the dishes so the Muppets may continue to celebrate. Below I've included this nostalgic clip that includes Henson. The entire Muppet Family Christmas special also is available on Youtube.

Friday, October 15, 2010

1980s Christmas: Saturday Night Live

I'm starting a new series: I'm going to be writing about my favorite Christmas TV moments from the 1980s. I'll be writing these blog posts until my national book tour begins the first week in November. If you have a favorite 1980s holiday TV moment--let me know and I'll see if I can post about it too.

The sketch comedy institution Saturday Night Live has produced some of television's most memorable holiday comedy moments. I only need to mention Adam Sandler's 'Chanukah Song' and most people probably can begin singing it. How about Alec Baldwin's appearance on the mock NPR radio program, 'Delicious Dish,' talking about his Schweddy Balls--or Justin Timberlake's parody of an R&B music video 'Dick in a Box' that went on to be a viral sensation?

My favorite SNL holiday moments are slightly older than those. Do you remember:

1986's Lost Ending to 'It's A Wonderful Life' sketch?

Acknowledging that Mr. Potter never suffers any consequences for his greed in the original 1946 movie, this sketch sees the residents of Bedford Falls finally delivering their own justice. Actor Dana Carvey does a fantastic impression of Jimmy Stewart. I always laugh at Jan Hooks, as Mary Baily, violently jumping up and down on Potter's body! Too funny.

Do you remember: 1982's sketch 'Merry Christmas, Dammit'--the Gumby TV Christmas special?

I'm Gumby, Dammit!

Eddie Murphy as his recurring character, Gumby, hosts his own Christmas TV variety special with special guests Frank Sinatra, and Donny and Marie Osmond among others. Joe Piscapo as Frank Sinatra is classic--he absurdly sings the TV theme songs to 'Woody Woodpecker and 'The Flintstones.' And, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gary Kroeger as Marie and Donny Osmond cracks me up every time! They sing a very affectionate version of 'Blue Christmas.' It's funny because it's so wrong.

Do you remember: Steve Martin's 1986 sketch 'A Holiday Wish?'

Comedian Steve Martin's generous holiday spirit quickly devolves into 'the crap about the kids' to all the money in the world and a month long orgasm. It's a classic.

What are you favorite SNL holiday moments?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Talk: RE-CAP

Feels like you're right there, eh?

Last night's event went well. Thanks to everyone who attended! We talked about the many different versions of 'A Christmas Carol,' 'The Andy Williams Show' and Festivus and Chrismukkah. I also recommended the fabulous video collection available through the Akron-Summit County Library system.

Only this morning, I learned that successful author, Richard Paul Evans, was making an appearance in nearby Cleveland on the same night as my Christmas TV book talk. Many may recognize his best-selling titles which have been adapted into several very popular Christmas TV movies--including The Christmas Box, Timepiece and A Perfect Day. Between my event and his, what a great evening in Northeast Ohio for fans of Christmas on TV!

LOOK! My name in lights.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TV Guide Network interview

I'm back from New York City! On Tuesday, I was being 'interviewed' for an upcoming TV special entitled TV Guide Network's 25 Most Hilarious Holiday Moments. This on-camera interview will be edited down and my comments, along with other interviewees, will be the show's commentary between clips of your favorite, funny holiday TV moments.

As soon as I know when it will be televised, I'll let you know. My best guess: December. But as you may know, the TV Guide Network re-airs most of their programming again and again--so there will plenty of opportunity to catch my commentary.

Don't forget, in April I did a similar interview in Los Angeles for a history of Christmas TV special to air on the History Channel. As soon as I know the exact title of that program and when it will be air, I'll post it on this blog. But again, new Christmas programming tends to show up in late November and early December so this is a reasonable expectation.

I don't want to spoil any surprises about what will be on this TV Guide Network holiday special but I will let you know that the producers know what they are doing and picked from some great programs. There are both straight-up funny moments and ironically humorous holiday instances. There is holiday programming here that everyone will appreciate. I guess you'll just have to watch to know what makes the 25 most hilarious moments!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

BOOK TALK--in one week!

You are invited to come join a book discussion about our favorite holiday moments on television. This all takes place in ONE WEEK:

Thursday, Oct. 14th at 7pm at the Nordonia Hills library--a branch of the Akron-Summit County library system, in Northfield, OH.

Author, Joanna Wilson--that's me--will be leading the discussion. I will also have copies of my book "The Christmas TV Companion" there for sale and will be available to those looking to get their copy signed. I will also have a free hand-out for those that attend. BRING A FRIEND!!

My newest book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials and Made-for-TV Movies" will be released NEXT MONTH. So you'll just have to wait a little while longer for that!

As many of you know, I'll be leaving soon on a national book tour so this Northeast Ohio event is going to be my only local book appearance until December. Though the dates are not yet fixed, I'm also planning events, closer to Christmas, at Square Records in Akron and Blue Arrow Boutique in Cleveland--right next to the Beachland Ballroom. Stay close to the blog for updates on dates and places.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Have Gun-Will Travel Christmas (1962)

If you have a copy of my book, you may be familiar with the heading Not Too Cool for Yule (pg. 25) which lists the coolest and hippest in Hollywood and American culture--and where they can be seen in a Christmas program. You may recall that I discussed: Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Cary Grant, Natalie Wood, as well as Outsiders such as William Burroughs and several of Andy Warhol's associates from The Factory.

Another hipster--one that didn't make the first list--would be rocker/guitarist Duane Eddy. He plays a major role in a holiday episode of the TV series Have Gun-Will Travel from 1962 entitled "Be Not Forgetful of Strangers."

This sixth season episode of the Western series has Paladin arriving in a new town on Christmas Eve. The local saloon is filled with merry, drunken revelers and the hotel’s rooms are all filled. Though Paladin himself is without a room for the night, he helps an expectant couple find an empty storeroom so the wife may deliver her baby in peace. As the woman’s delivery becomes more difficult, Paladin desperately pleads with the crowd in the saloon for any kind of assistance or help on behalf of these needy strangers.

Duane Eddy plays the young cowboy/expectant father. This same story line has been repeated again and again in holiday episodes on television. But trust me, here the simple story is handled with just the right tone and attention to detail. If you are familiar with Have Gun-Will Travel, you already know that this series is far superior to your average TV Western. Check it out--as this episode is currently streaming on Netflix.

In case you aren't familiar with Duane Eddy, see below for one of his rockin' songs demonstrating his incredible, signature 'twangy' guitar style. Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do You Remember...The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?

Do you remember the 1966 holiday episode of the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. entitled 'The Jingle Bells Affair?' Our favorite espionage agents, Solo and Kuryakin, are put in charge of providing security to the Russian Chairman who is scheduled to speak at the United Nations over the holiday. The Chairman is impressed with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and all the consumer choices that the department store offers.

But his Russian comrades fear that the Chairman will become so enamored by what he sees at the lavish American retail store that he will betray the Communist commitment. However, the Chairman’s willingness to indulge in the spirit of the season may ultimately save his life.

This episode is Cold War Christmas at its best--who wouldn’t be swayed by the magic of Santa Claus? Look for the amazing footage of 1960s Macy’s Parade and New York City decorated for the holiday in the establishing shots within this episode. Don’t miss the scene where Solo and Kuryakin are tied up in a pen with live turkeys! A hungry turkey pecking at the ropes around their hands allows them to free themselves and escape their captors. A very holiday get away indeed!

This episode is easily found on the DVD release: Season 3, disc 5. Check your local libraries or on-line rental queues for its availability if you don't already own it.

Merry Christmas comrades!

The TV show's theme tune and opening credits to remind you how awesome this show is!