About Christmas TV History

Sunday, July 31, 2011

1990s Christmas: My So-Called Life

Do you realize we barely scratched the surface on 1990s Christmas entertainments?  Of course, if you'd like to read about more Christmas episodes, specials and movies from the 1990s, you can pick up a copy of my book Tis the Season TV.  You can also stay close to this blog where I'll definitely be covering more of our favorite Christmas TV moments from the 1990s and more.  Thanks again to all my guest bloggers throughout the month of July!  I think this was a lot of fun :)  We end Christmas in July today on a strong note, remembering the cult teen drama My So-Called Life.  This episode will air tomorrow, Monday August 1, at 11 pm (EST) on the Sundance Channel. 

A teenaged Claire Danes as Angela Chase
I certainly remember watching this show when it first aired in 1994-95.  Even though I was no longer a teenager, it was a drama with enough emotional sophistication to hold an adult's attention.  My favorite character has always been the wild child, Rayanne.  And, I still can't help feel a little weak in the knees whenever I see Jared Leto on screen.  Leto played Jordan Catalano, the object of Angela's desire (sigh).

This short-lived cult show casts a long shadow
In the 1994 episode entitled 'So-Called Angels,' the drama continues: Rickie is abused at home, misses school and needs a place to stay.  Jordan helps him find shelter with other runaways and homeless kids in an abandoned warehouse.  Angela meets a homeless but talented girl and compassionately gives her the new pair of leather boots she got for Christmas.  Later this ‘angel’ helps Mrs. Chase find Angela after she’s gone missing.  Meanwhile, Brian Crackow is wrapped up in his own drama. Feeling alone at the holiday, Brian telephones the teen hotline that Sharon and Rayanne are manning.

Juliana Hatfield in 'So-Called Angels'
One of the more memorable elements to this Christmas episode is that the otherwordly homeless girl that touches Angela's life is played by indie rocker Juliana Hatfield.  Hatfield was a member of the 1980s indie band Blake Babies and then in the 1990s she had her own successful solo career.  I actually saw the Blake Babies in a bar during college just before they broke up.  Never could I have imagined back then that I would one day be writing about Hatfield's appearance on a TV show on a blog! 

a clip of Juliana Hatfield as the angel

One of the Juliana Hatfield Three's biggest hits was 'My Sister,' released in 1993

If you'd like to watch this episode, you can click this link at Youtube.  The entire episode is available on my Youtube channel TistheSeasonTV in my 1990s playlist.  It is also available on DVD and is currently streaming on Netflix.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

1990s Christmas: Absolutely Fabulous

Thanks to everyone for participating in the giveaway.  The winner has been notified and the prize will be sent to him soon.  I wish I had a prize for eveyone. 

Our Christmas in July party continues with the 1995 New Year's holiday episode of Absolutely Fabulous entitled 'Happy New Year.'

Starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as Eddy and Patsy

Eddy and her gal pal, Patsy, have exciting plans to attend an exclusive New Year’s Eve party but Patsy’s sister Jackie arrives unexpectedly.  Patsy is eager to see her international jet-setting sister but Eddy doesn’t want to miss the party.

Jacks and her sister Patsy
It seems Eddy is a bit jealous of the attention and admiration Patsy lavishes on her sister she calls Jacks.  Will Eddy be able to ring in the New Year with her best friend--or will Jacks and Patsy hit the hot clubs and leave Eddy behind?  Could there be anything worse for Eddy than being forced to spend New Year's Eve with her boring mother, her uptight daughter Saffy and her annoying ex-husband Justin and his life partner Oliver?

Patsy's sister Jackie is played by actress Kate O'Mara.  I remember her from her role on the 1980s prime time soap, Dynasty, playing the wicked Alexis' sister Caress.  We can see O'Mara as Patsy's sister once again in the 2003 Christmas episode of Ab Fab entitled 'Cold Turkey.'

My favorite quote from this episode: Eddy to her daughter Saffy: “My New Year’s resolution, sweetie? Have more fun!”

I just love every episode of this British series.  It mocks the two superficial, drunk and drugged out lead characters, Eddy and Patsy, and their excesses.  But you can't help falling in love with them as well.  Patsy is my favorite character and I love it when she and Saffy interact.  If you've seen the series, you'll know the two women do not get along. 

If I remember correctly, Ab Fab originally began airing in the United States on Comedy Central.  Now it can be seen on Logo.  Of course, it is also available for viewing on DVD. You can watch this episode below, or on Youtube.
Part 1

Part 2

Friday, July 29, 2011

1990s Chanukah: Weinerville

Today I'd like our Christmas in July celebration to include a Chanukah episode from the 1990s TV series Weinerville that aired on Nickelodeon. Are you aware that TeenNick has been airing 1990s Nickelodeon shows after midnight on week days?  So far on the schedule has been All That, Kenan & Kel, Clarissa Explains It All, and Doug.  I'm hoping they eventually re-air Fifteen, the teen soap opera.  I was soooo addicted to that in the early 1990s.  Who remembers a *very young* Ryan Reynolds as Billy from that show? or Laura Harris as Ashley?  Okay maybe it's just me.  How many people remember the puppet show Weinerville?

Very recently, I was only able to view this 1995 installment because of the generosity from the Weinerville Chanukah Special producer, Harvey Gold.  Many, many thanks to him for sharing this, from his own personal collection, so that I could write about it.  And many thanks to his wife Dolli for making it happen.

A little explanation:  I write about Chanukah and include it in my encyclopedia and on this blog because there is often a great deal of cross-over on television's holiday episodes, specials and movies.  Though the origins behind the holidays of Christmas and Chanukah are quite different, their celebrations have many similarities including families coming together, honoring traditions and it being an inspiring, hopeful time of year.

The Weinerville Chanukah Special (1995)

Dotty on the phone
While Dotty is busy organizing this year’s Chanukah party at the Weinerville Ski Lodge, another drama is unfolding.  The space aliens, Sinrek and Nivek, also known as the Potato Heads, have crash landed their space craft at the ski lodge.  Their space craft has run out of oil while they are on the run from the evil space villain Antidorkus.  The evil Antidorkus and his crew want to eliminate the freedoms of the Potato Heads and make them just like themselves: evil.

Evil Antidorkus want to ruin your Chanukah!
Puppets Boney and Socko take the Potato Heads, who look just like giant potato latkas, to the local grocery store to get more oil and then they seek wisdom from an elder on the mountain, Gonsah K’nocker.  K’nocker sees many similarities between the Jews in the story of Chanukah and the Potato Heads.  Meanwhile, Antidorkus arrives at the ski lodge--will he ruin the Chanukah party?

Sinrek and Nivek have run out of oil!
This loud and silly, slapstick puppet show lends itself well to a memorable holiday special.  This story includes two Chanukah-inspired  songs: “The Hammer Came Down” about Judah Macabee, sung by Gonsah K’nocker, and ‘Menorah, Menorah’ sung by the house band, Cocktail Frank and his Weinies.

K'nocker is played by former 1970s glam rocker, David Johansen
Gonsah K'nocker is played hilariously by Buster Poindexter, also known as David Johansen to any New York Dolls fans.  You may also recognize him from his role as the taxi driving Ghost of Christmas Past in the 1988 movie Scrooged.  Other special guests in this episode include:  former SNL cast member, Laura Kightlinger, as the applesauce woman in the grocery store; professional wrestler, Diesel, as himself; former SNL cast member, Denny Dillon; and 1990s Nickelodeon Double Dare host, Marc Summers.

Boney and Laura Kightlinger in the grocery store.  I remember Kightlinger as Sheila the nurse on 'Will & Grace' too.

Check out the Weinerville channel on Youtube or watch this short clip of the Chanukah special:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Christmas in July **Giveaway**

I had so much fun giving away a load of stuff two weeks ago, I thought I'd do one more giveaway before we end July.  So here it is: 6 DVDs, an autographed copy of my encyclopedia and a drinking glass from The Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, OH.  There will be ONE winner for the entire package.  This giveaway is limited to valid entries with shipments made to the U.S. and Canada only.

More details on what you can win:

An author signed print copy of Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials and Made-for-TV Movies from 2010.  This book contains almost 800 pages covering several thousand entries and summaries about your favorite Christmas entertainments.

One drinking glass souvenir from The Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland, OH.  It has printed on the glass "I Triple-Dog Dare You," one of the popular quotes from the 1983 movie A Christmas Story

And, six brand new factory-sealed DVDs, including:
~~2003's TV movie The Hebrew Hammer starring Adam Goldberg, Peter Coyote and Andy Dick.  This Comedy Central movie's hero, Mordechai Jefferson Carver, must save Hanukkah from an evil heir to Santa Claus.  This spoof of the 1970s blaxploitation film character Shaft is a comedy unlike any other.
~~1969's The Littlest Angel, a Hallmark Hall of Fame classic starring Johnny Whitaker, Fred Gwynne, Tony Randall, Connie Stevens, Cab Calloway and E.G. Marshall.  This is a musical adaptation of the popular childen's book written by Charles Tazewell.
~~1979's Jack Frost, the animated classic produced and directed by Rankin/Bass.  Voice actors include: Buddy Hackett and Robert Morse.  Morse, of course, has more recently appeared on the hit TV show 'Mad Men.'
~~1978's The Little Christmas Burro.  This animated special narrated by Lorne Greene was originally released under the title 'The Little Brown Burro.'
~~1970's Santa and the Three Bears.  This hour long animated special includes voice work by Hal Smith and Jean Vander Pyl.
~~Christmas Classics 2 which includes the shorts: 1947's 'A Present for Santa,' 1949's 'A Christmas Dream' with animation by Karel Zeman, a segment with the Vienna Boys' Choir singing 'Silent Night,' the 1950s short with images of mechanized window displays in 'Christmas Fairy Tale,' the 1933 Van Beuren Studio cartoon 'Christmas Night' featuring the character The Little King, and 1951's live-action 'Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen' by Sid Davis.

To enter this giveaway:

--if you are a blogger, link this giveaway in a post on your blog.  Then comment below providing the url of the linked post.

--if you follow on Facebook, share this giveaway post on your wall.  Then comment at the FB group for 'Christmas TV History BLOG' that you have shared it.

--if you follow on Twitter, re-tweet the giveaway announcement.

You have from now until noon (EST) on Saturday, July 30th to enter.  Each person can enter up to three times (Blog, FB and twitter).  I will pick a random winner Saturday from the valid entries.  Good luck!  Merry Christmas in July!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

1990s Christmas: Friends

I just read an article about how this fall's network line-up of new shows contains several sitcoms still trying to recapture the formula for success defined by Friends.  I'm glad Amy wanted to write about one of the holiday episodes from this classic 1990s sitcom.  Most people remember the episode in which Ross dresses as a giant armadillo in an attempt to inspire his young son to celebrate Hanukkah.  That scene is from the episode 'The One with the Holiday Armadillo' from 2000.  But do you remember the episode below?  I sure do.  Our guest blogger today is Amy Stewart, a fan of Christmas TV.  She also keeps a blog about knitting, www.iheartknitting.comCheck it out.  Thanks again to Amy for sharing her thoughts about this episode today.

Friends ran from 1994-2004
Friends will always hold a special place in my heart.  I think that’s true for many people out there, but it is extra-true for me.  Friends began in 1994.  The first episode aired during one of my first weeks at college.  I watched Rachel leave her family, her home, her security and forge on with a new life.  I felt that I was doing the same.  The show became a weekly routine for me, and became a big part of my life. 

Though the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends got more publicity, my favorite holiday episode has to be 'The One With The Routine,' which aired in December of 1999.

It's Christmas time on Friends
The episode involved the entire gang, but centered mostly around Monica and Ross’s love for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.  The two have the opportunity to go to a taping of the show, but find that it’s more difficult to get on camera than it seems.  When they arrive at the studio, they accost a less-than-enthusiastic stage hand with their enthusiasm for the show, and get on his bad side from the start.

Siblings Monica and Ross at the taping for Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve
Through the episode, Monica and Ross determine that they’ll have a better chance of getting on screen if they can just get on the platform.  Ross suggests that they perform ‘The Routine,’ a dance number the brother and sister performed in Middle School.  Ross encourages Monica by reminding her that ‘The Routine’ won first place in the Brother/Sister category.

The two perform ‘The Routine’ with gusto and dorkiness, a quality that I loved about Monica throughout the series. 

The Gellers busting a move
They do impress the bitchy stage hand, but not in the way that they had hoped.  In the end, he encourages them to dance ‘The Routine’ on the platforms, so that it can go to the bloopers reel.  You can watch ‘The Routine’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVqmTZJrRik.

Phoebe, Chandler and Rachel
An episode of Friends wouldn’t be complete without the rest of the gang, and they are all in this episode too.  Rachel, Phoebe, and Chandler have decided to hunt down their Christmas presents from Monica while she is away at the taping.  They search through both apartments and even go so far as to search Central Perk. When they do find the presents, reason prevails and they decide not to discover what Monica has gotten them. Before they get a chance to put the presents back, though, Monica comes home and catches them in the act.  She ends up ruining the surprise anyway.

Super model Elle Macpherson as Joey's love interest, Janine
Joey is off trying to win the heart of his new roommate, Janine, played by Elle Macpherson.

He devises a plan to kiss her at midnight, but since they are taping the show early, midnight never really comes while at the studio.  His plan to woo her works, though, and the credits roll with the two kissing while Auld Land Syne plays in the background.

"Should old acquaintance be forgot--and never brought to mind?"  We will always remember our 'Friends.'

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1990s Christmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas

This is the second piece written by Dominic from 1701 Press.  He had so much fun writing about The Adventures of Pete & Pete at the beginning of July that he wrote another one. Check out his first piece here.  Today is also the birthday of one of our past guest bloggers, John.  He wrote passionately about the Christmas episode of Living SingleCheck out John's guest post here.  Happy Birthday Wishes to John!  And, it's a merry Christmas in July as we continue with our marathon of guest bloggers writing about 1990s Christmas entertainments.  Double thanks to Dominic! Of course, this popular movie is available for viewing on DVD.  But many of us are excitedly awaiting its Blu-ray 3D release on August 30th.

Jack Skellington in Christmas Town
Even in this age of theatrical 3D wonders and lush computer animated spectacles, the look of 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is extraordinary. For me, the movie’s strength is great character design. Some characters look like carefully crafted dolls, others like beautiful tin toys, and still others like tactile clay figures--yet they all share the same wacky-goth aesthetic sensibility.

Gorgeous detail of the fish accordion
 Because the movie is stop motion animation, everything moves fluidly, organically, and wonderfully without any of the occasional stiffness that still afflicts even the best computer animated stuff. Nightmare is also filled with rich details, from the furrowed Starry Night pattern of the earth in Halloween Town, to the accordion made from a dead fish played by one of the street musicians.

Oogie fluoresces under blacklight
My favorite scene is when Santa is being tormented by Oogie Boogie. Everything glows magnificently under a blacklight like a cheap carnival house of horrors. It’s a nice visual analogue to Halloween Town: scary, a  little silly, but not mean-spirited. Except that Oogie Boogie, being the villain of the story, is sort of mean. No matter. We know he’s not going to win, even though he’s rife with loaded dice, stacked decks, and rigged one-arm bandits. Oogie is revealed to be nothing more than a sack filled with wriggling bugs. Gross, but not really threatening.

Jack enters an open door to Christmas
Except for the musical numbers, a few of which drag slightly, Nightmare is also told with a pretty good economy of storytelling. Not all of the musical performances are slow--just a couple. And of course, several are excellent--my favorite being "What's This?" Jack's awestruck song during his discovery of Christmas Town. But back to the gist of the story: the ‘king’ of one land (Halloween Town) longs for something undefinable which he stumbles upon in another (Christmas Town). How does he get there? Well, there’s a magic door in a tree on the edge of the forest. The residents of Halloween Town are scary, but not mean, so Jack the Pumpkin King stages a friendly takeover of Christmas Town. What happens when Halloween Town tries to share its version of Christmas with the world is essentially the story of Nightmare. Add a romance for Jack (i.e., maybe what he’s looking for in Christmas Town has been right here under the hole where his nose used to be all along), and the sort-of mean villain, Oogie Boogie, for a little dramatic tension, and Nightmare succeeds where so many movies fall short. Merry Christmas Santa, Happy Halloween Jack Skellington.

Santa Jack riding across the sky in his sleigh

Monday, July 25, 2011

1990s Christmas: Northern Exposure

Today's guest bloggers are RigbyMel and J.A. Morris who write the blog Holiday Film ReviewsPlease check it out.  I met them when I was on book tour last November in Richmond, Virginia.  Richmond is an awesome town!  This is also our first Christmas in July guest posting written by two people.  I think that makes it twice as fun :)  Thanks again to RigbyMel and J.A. Morris for participating.  This episode is available for viewing on DVD and Netflix.  You also may want to check your local library.

This quirky prime time drama ran from 1990-1995.
Seoul Mates – Of Ravens And Talking Dogs
Northern Exposure “Seoul Mates”

This episode from season 3 of the series first aired on December 16th, 1991.   It begins with Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) observing the town of Cicely's preparations for Christmas.  Since he was brought up in a strict Jewish family, Fleischman was never allowed to have a Christmas tree and decides to seize the opportunity and have one of his own for the very first time.   Trouble is, he doesn't quite know what to do with it once he's got it and he seeks advice from Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner) and various other townspeople about it.

The cast from Northern Exposure--how many do you remember? l to r: Ed, Marilyn, Maggie, Chris, Joel, Maurice, Shelley and Holling.
 Maggie is dreading going home to Michigan to spend time with her family, only to be surprised and a bit confused to learn that her parents have decided to skip the family holiday in favor of a trip to the  Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) learns that he has a long-lost son – Duk Won (James Song) who shows up on his doorstep just in time for the holidays.   It turns out that Maurice's time as a Marine in Korea also has given him a son and a whole family (as mom and grandmother) also come along for the ride.  Maurice has always wanted a son, but is upset by the fact that the son he has is not white.  After several missteps, Maurice gets into the spirit of the holidays and makes an effort to get to know his family and Maurice learns to appreciate his son for who he is.

Maurice with his new family
 The town barkeep, Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) is concerned about his wife Shelley (Cynthia Geary) who is pining after her traditional, Catholic Christmas.  Holling sets out to fulfill Shelley's Christmas wish appropriating the local Unitarian Church, decorating it in a High Mass fashion with candles and a Nativity and singing “Ave Maria” for her.  (Awww!)

Raven ornament
 In the multicultural 90s spirit of the show, we learn about the Alaskan native tradition of the Raven, which parallels the Nativity story.   The tale is first told to Fleischman by Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles) and then reprised as a “Raven Pageant” towards the end of the episode.   Here is a YouTube clip of the pageant:

Chris Stevens (John Corbett), the local radio host acts in his usual role as philosopher/Greek chorus for the show and gives us some great thoughts on ravens - including a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem - and  later shares a childhood Christmas memory that also has to do with talking animals.    This last bit of philosophizing is one of our favorite bits from the whole episode – here's the clip:

RigbyMel says:

Although I watched Northern Exposure quite regularly, this episode somehow escaped my attention until very recently.  (My only excuse is that I was in high school at the time and exams were probably eating my brain in mid-December 1991.)   I watched this episode for the first time this past holiday season largely because of a chance encounter with the lovely Joanna Wilson of Christmas TV History fame.   Joanna was visiting Richmond to promote her Christmas books and she had stopped at my place of business, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum.  It was a rainy day and we got to chatting and lo, Christmas TV and movies came up!  Joanna asked if I was aware that Poe's “The Raven” was referenced in this particular Northern Exposure episode and I had to say that I wasn't but would definitely check it out.  Needless to say, the disc with the episode went into the Netflix queue pretty much as soon as I got home from work and I am very grateful for the recommendation.    I loved the multicultural aspects of the show and the fact that the residents of Cicely all get along in spite of their differences.   The raven aspects of the show made it all the more fun and Chris's “my Christmas wish for you – may your dog talk” speech gave me warm fuzzies (especially as our doggie was cuddled up with JAMorris and myself on the sofa as we watched that scene).   I rather suspect that this episode is now required annual holiday viewing in our household. 

RigbyMel's rating:

4 candy canes  (and for the record, 4 is our highest rating)

J.A.Morris says:
Unlike RigbyMel, I remember watching this when it was new.  But I only remembered the part that focused on Maurice and Duk Won until Joanna recommended the episode.  Northern Exposure was one of my favorite series of the 90s, there was a time when I wished I could live in a place like Cicely, even when I knew it was an idealized community. Having gotten reacquainted with episode, it's inspired us to re-watch the series.  “Seoul Mates” is one of the best episodes of the series and has become one of my favorite Christmas episodes. 

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 candy canes

Sunday, July 24, 2011

1990s Christmas: recap #2

Before this last week of July and our final week of guest bloggers, I'd like to take a minute and remind you of the great posts we've had so far during our 1990s Christmas in July party.  Click the following links to return to these posts:

~~First week in July recap

~~Living Single written by John Powell

~~Tales From the Crypt by Roza Haidet

~~scene from the movie Boogie Nights by Bob Ignizio

~~Father Ted by Austen

~~TV movie A Season for Miracles by Kiki Howell

~~Melrose Place by Juniper Sage

~~and my own posts:  Nash Bridges, the movie Jingle All the Way, Seinfeld, and Party of Five.

Let me remind you that the end of July will conclude the 1701 Press sale on both of my books: the nearly 800 page encyclopedia, Tis the Season TV, and my first book The Christmas TV Companion.  The sale ends July 31st so take advantage while you can of the free shipping and add-ons available.  Click here for more details.

Later this week I will announce another giveaway opportunity for some free holiday DVDs.  So look for that.  Tomorrow's post will be the Christmas episode of the quirky 1990s drama Northern Exposure.  Merry Christmas in July!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

1990s Christmas: Party of Five

The 1990s were the decade that teen prime time dramas took off on television. Beverly Hills, 90210 was the trend setter that encouraged shows like My So-Called Life, Party of Five and Dawson's Creek to join their ranks.  All four of these teen dramas created Christmas-themed episodes.  But today I'd like to focus on Party of Five.

The series ran from 1994 through 2000.
 Did you ever watch Party of Five?  This emotional series follows the lives of the five Salinger offspring after their parents are killed in a car accident.  The oldest, 24 year-old Charlie, takes over as the head of the clan trying to keep his younger siblings, 16 year-old Bailey, 15 year-old Julia, 11 year-old Claudia and the infant, Owen, together as a family.  My favorite holiday episode from Party of Five is 1996's "Christmas."

L to R: Julia (Neve Campbell), Bailey (Scott Wolf), Claudia (Lacey Chabert), young Owen (Jacob Smith), and Charlie (Matthew Fox).
In this first holiday episode, Grandpa Jake shows up on the kids’ doorstep for Christmas, helping everyone feel like a family again.  But Jake's sudden appearance arouses suspicions--will he try to break up the family the kids have worked so hard to keep together?  When Charlie discovers Jake leaving in the middle of the night, he learns that Jake is dying of cancer and had come for his final Christmas visit to see his grandchildren.  Meanwhile, Claudia has a violin-playing suitor, Charlie tries to help a homeless guy at the restaurant, and Bailey tries to keep his lonely coach company.  Only when the family comes together to talk and share their feelings does it begin to feel like Christmas for them.  The role of Grandpa Jake is played by TV veteran, Carroll O'Connor.

This is one of those sad and sentimental storylines that are popular at Christmas time on television dramas but commonplace on Party of Five.  But that's the strength of this teen drama--it was a dependable vehicle for exploring touching storylines as well as the emotional lives of its characters.  This particular episode is another where Carroll O'Connor shines--as Jake seeks one last connection with the remaining Salinger family while trying to spare them further loss and grief over his own certain death.

Carroll O'Connor (1924-2001)
O'Connor is known to most TV viewers for his landmark role as Archie Bunker on All in the Family, a series with several fantastic Christmas episodes of its own.  What you may not know, is that O'Connor has also appeared in several more holiday stories including two on his police drama In the Heat of the Night and as a guest star in the 1964 Christmas episode "Long Live the King" on the science fiction drama, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  O'Connor even voiced the character of Santa Claus for 1985's The GLO Friends Save Christmas, the animated special based on the Hasbro Toys.

O'Connor on the Christmas episode of 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea'

This Party of Five Christmas episode can be viewed on DVD and at Netflix.  It is located on the third season's disc 3.  You can also watch in on my Youtube channel, Tisthe SeasonTV in the 1990s playlist.  Both All in the Family and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are available to watch on DVD and at Netflix as well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

1990s Christmas: Seinfeld

Yesterday's excessive heat (it was 97 degrees around here but it felt even worse) zapped my strength to post.  But I'm back at it today as we continue the Christmas in July party.  Oddly, no guests this month have chosen to write about one of THE most obvious holiday favorites from the 1990s--Seinfeld.  But I can't let the month pass without some comment on it so I'll pick up the task.

Seinfeld offers several holiday-inspired episodes including the one where Kramer helps Elaine snap a photo for her Christmas card; the one where Kramer works as a store Santa Claus spreading communist propaganda; and the one where George buys a discounted sweater with a visible flaw as his Christmas present for Elaine.  Check the encyclopedia, Tis the Season TV, for the complete listing of all the holiday Seinfeld episodes.  But my favorite has to be 1997's 'The Strike.'

George's dad, Frank, explains the Festivus pole
This is THE Festivus episode.  The gang go to Tim Whatley’s Hanukkah party where Jerry meets his latest girlfriend whom he nicknames “Two-Face;” Elaine gives Denim Vest a fake phone number on the back of her Atomic Sub card--one more purchase and she gets a free sub.  George tries to scam his co-workers by appearing generous when he claims he’s donated money in their names to a fictitious charity “The Human Fund.” And, Kramer’s twelve year strike against the Bagel shop is over but they won’t give him time off for Festivus, the holiday George’s father Frank Costanza invented in rejection of the commercialism of Christmas.  Though George is humiliated by the customs from his youth, we learn that Festivus involves “feats of strength” and “the airing of grievances” around an aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree.  Are any elements of Festivus a part of your annual celebration?

“A Festivus for the rest of us!”  A testament to the popularity of this new holiday is that ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s came out with a limited-time only, seasonal ice cream flavor called “Festivus.”  It was brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with gingerbread cookie chunks and ginger caramel swirl.  I bought and consumed more than my fair share of it back then!  Ben and Jerry's later changed the name of the flavor to 'Gingerbread Cookie’ but have since retired the flavor.  It seems like the popularity of Festivus has only grown over the years--will Ben and Jerry's ever bring back my favorite flavor?

The Festivus references edited into one video segment

The complete episode is available for viewing on DVD (disc 2 of the 9th season).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

1990s Christmas: Melrose Place

 Remember when viewing parties for this prime time soap were THE place to be during the 1990s?  Juniper does.  She's our guest blogger today, writing on one of several over-the-top holiday episodes of Melrose Place.  Juniper Sage is not only my fellow den mother for Dance Dance Party Party (DDPP-Akron) but she's one of the organizers for CraftyMart, a hugely successful independent crafters event held bi-annually in Akron, Ohio.  Check out: CraftyMart This third season episode of Melrose Place is available for viewing on DVD as well as streaming on Netflix and IMDbClick here for the IMDb link.   

Melrose Place ran from1992-1999 and was originally a spin-off from Beverly Hills, 90210.

Melrose Place
Holiday on Ice
Air Date: 12/19/94

Just like when I first started watching Melrose, watching this episode after so many years was confusing. I wish I had my friend Kevin sitting beside me to explain all of the ins and outs just like he did back then.

Who can forget Kimberly?
Some of the best storylines are ongoing in this episode but most are given an upbeat Christmas twist. The good get what they deserve and the bad…well, continue being bad because without that, there is nothing! Kimberly has stolen Jo’s baby BUT Michael returns the baby in time for the holiday, Allison is in rehab BUT she gets attention from a sexy fellow patient and Billy, Sydney’s dad had her committed to an institution BUT she returns home to see him for Christmas, Amanda suffers through the ghost-of-my-dead-boss-Christmas-past-and-future BUT is generous and forgiving in the end. Such a tidy Christmas package!

Oh Sydney, Sydney, Sydney.
 I came to Melrose in the fifth of seven seasons. Late in the game really. I started watching with my new friend, the above-mentioned Kevin and his friends. A group of guys that quickly, through the magic of TV, became my group of friends. Although toward the end of the series I think it was just Kevin and I watching.  But we stuck it out, made a big deal out of the last episode and everything.
It wasn’t hard for me to love Melrose. Some of my favorite characters from General Hospital and The Days of Our Lives (Jack Wagner, Lisa Rinna) were on the show and there is a hospital/doctor storyline that I found very familiar. It was after all a nighttime soap and I grew up on the daytime version.

Courtney Thorne-Smith as Allison
 It didn’t hurt that Courtney Thorne-Smith was a native of Boulder, CO where I was living at the time. When she came to town she’d work out at my gym and I once walked past her on the stairs looking all gross and sweaty – her not me.

Hello Frisco Jones.  Back off readers! he's mine.
They just don’t make shows like this anymore; shows with overwrought expressions at the ends of the touching scenes, scenarios where evil women can be “Christmas Carol”-ed into being decent, and I won’t even go into the music. But they also don’t make shows anymore where I’d make a weekly date with a friend to sit and watch and gossip, so I do actually miss it. A void was left in my life when I could no longer love to hate Heather Locklear.

Without a hint of self-awareness, Amanda asks her Ghost of Christmas Future, "If this is my funeral, where are all my friends?"

Jack Wagner's 1985 chart topping song performed on TV's 'Solid Gold.'

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

1990s Christmas: A Season for Miracles

Our Christmas in July party continues with guest bloggers writing about memorable Christmas episodes, specials and movies made in the 1990s.  Today's guest is Kiki Howell, a paranormal erotic romance writer.  Check her out: http://www.KikiHowell.comShe also runs the book review website, Authors By AuthorsThis TV movie is available for purchase on DVD and is a perennial favorite on the Hallmark Channel.  In her piece here, I think she describes exactly the appeal and success of most Christmas TV movies.  See what you think.

 A Season For Miracles

I tend toward the darker stories, whether TV or movies or books, for most of the year. But, come Christmas time, for 25 days, I am one of the biggest saps you will ever meet. I buy more books than I can read and movies than I can watch, especially with the 25 Days of Christmas programming on ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel along with all the specials on regular TV. Forget the shopping and baking, this Christmas entertainment stuff becomes a full time job – as the host of this blog can attest to!

I do have my favorite holiday shows though, the ones that it just is not Christmas, I mean seriously the day cannot come, until I have watched them. One of those is called, A Season for Miracles, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie which originally aired Dec 12th, 1999. I think the title says it all here, hopefully explains my obsession with the entertainment industry at this most joyous time of year. I want to be reminded to believe in a world where miracles happen. I have witnessed a few of life’s miracles myself. I truly believe a lot of it is in your perspective. Miracles happen on different scales daily. Sometimes we have to choose to see them, to take the time to be a witness to the unexplainable and the amazing that are so easily missed in our hurried world. This brings me to another reason I get so caught up in holiday programming, and that is that most of the season’s shows teach great life lessons, give us a world where the cup just isn’t half full, but overflowing once those lessons are learned.

With all this in mind, I re-watched A Season For Miracles, yes with the air conditioning on, listening for what it had to teach me. There was a lot about wishing and keeping up hope and angels living among us. Some great lines are given not only by just Aunt Emilie, the main character, but also by Police Captain Nathan Blair, the sisters as the elderly neighbors are called, and by the angel played by Patty Duke. In the beginning, the little girl whose mom is in the police ward of the hospital worries about where they will be sleeping for the night while sitting in car that barely runs in the rain - did you catch all of that, the setting of the tragic scene *giggles*. When this poor little girl mimics her aunts earlier line of ‘things will look better in the morning,’ the aunt replies, ‘they just about have to.’ And, when things get better, even though that better is tied up in a frail ribbon of lies, you hear the aunt praying for that good to last. They are in an almost impossible situation grasping at the little miracles around them.

Actress Carla Gugino as Emilie
Another thing I love about this movie is how it teaches that family can come in all shapes and sizes, that being free to live our lives as we see best is a happily ever after. Again, perspective. At one point it is pointed out by the good cop that all the aunt and her niece and nephew needed was a good support system. He continues to tell how that came form neighbors and community rather than a messed up legal system who despite their best intentions sometimes get so caught up in the red tape that they no longer can see what is best in the real world for one of their cases. Goodwill, it is another part of the season to cherish, a time when people more easily lay aside their own needs to help those less fortunate.

This is also a movie that points out that we need to appreciate the little things like being able to read a book, hang a wreath with an ugly red bow upon our door, have lights and heat in our house, and have someone to love us who makes us feel safe. One of my favorite lines about simplicity, of course being an author, is when the angel says to the policeman, ‘Doesn’t take much to make you happy, just a little ink on a page.’

Other cast members (l to r): Laura Dern, Lynn Redgrave, Kathy Baker, Patty Duke and Faith Prince.
Also, beyond the great romance storyline, one full of problems and obstacles, are the messages that are echoed through out about the power of forgiveness to change the world and how anything is possible.  With all my heart, I want to believe these things. It is so easy to get bogged down in our busy lives and to only have the horrid news as a gage on life – watching the news when stressed and tired is a bad, bad idea! LOL  So, December or Christmas in July or all year round, we all need these reminders, the ones that feel-good, inspirational holiday movies have to offer. I recently had a lot of fun writing a Christmas story of my own, one void of my usual paranormal darkness, one that was a romantic comedy about seeing past what others offer us of themselves, and one I hope will release end of this year… but right now, after watching this movie, I think I have another book idea one brewing! It’s non-fiction. I think I need to have a talk with Joanna! Hmm, wonder what could happen if…well, Anything is Possible :)