About Christmas TV History

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shakespeare...and Christmas?

I recently finished reading another pop culture book, Two Gentlemen of Lebowski written by Adam Bertocci. If you haven't already heard the buzz about this project, it is the answer to the question: what if William Shakespeare wrote The Big Lebowski? Just the idea of this mash-up is enough to make it worthwhile. But it's a fun read as well.

The Dude Abiding...

If you read my first book, The Christmas TV Companion, you'll know I'm a big fan of the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski. I used its cast to create an example Make Your Own Marathon for other Achievers for Christmas viewing. Click here to see what I blogged about it before.

However, reading the book Two Gentlemen of Lebowski reminds me--since I write about Christmas-- that several Christmas TV programs have referenced Shakespeare's words about the winter holiday. In at least two of The Bard's plays he recalls Christmas, including Hamlet and As You Like It. Perhaps a scholar would know if there are more references than just those two.

Opening of Family--remember this show?

One of the TV programs that notes the playwright is the 1976 episode "On the First Day of Christmas" of the drama series Family. Here, the mother, Kate, shares an emotional moment with her young daughter, Buddy. Discussing their feelings about Christmas, Kate quotes Shakespeare from Hamlet Act 1, scene i. She quotes from the passage:

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes

Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,

The bird of dawning singeth all night long:

And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;

The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,

No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

This episode can be watched on the first and second season DVD release, disc 4. It's a small moment but an emotional turning point for the character Buddy, played by a teenaged Kristy McNichol.

This is just one of the reasons I have found a passion for Christmas on TV. The low brow medium of television can frequently surprise even the most jaded of us when it lifts itself up to nod at our cultural heights.


  1. Wonderful Post! And the final line...I can't say anything, as it says it all :)

    Kiki Howell
    ~where love is a mystical thing~