About Christmas TV History

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

As you know, I've been discussing a series of movie adaptations of Peter B. Kyne's story.  I wrote about the 1930 movie Hell's Heroes, 1936's Three Godfathers, and 1948's 3 Godfathers.  I also want to include in this discussion another story--one that is definitely NOT a Western.  While Tokyo Godfathers is a Japanese feature-length animated movie, it is also set in modern day Tokyo.  Though much of the original details are also re-interpreted, this holiday story still focuses on three outsiders to society who find a baby that they feel they must protect at all costs.

Left to right: Miss Hana, Miyuki, and Gin.

The three homeless people find an abandoned baby in the garbage.

Tokyo Godfathers is the story of three homeless people who find an abandoned baby on Christmas. Hana is a former drag queen who longs to be a mother, Miyuki is a teenage runaway, and Gin is a middle-aged drunk.  These three unlikely saviors find the baby amongst the trash on Christmas night and spend the week before New Year’s looking for the baby’s mother.

Knowing they can't give the baby a proper upbringing, the homeless clan don't call the police but instead begin a search for the birth parents.  After finding a locker key in the baby's blanket, they locate the locker and go through its contents--finding a group of photographs.  Next, they set out to locate the parents' home by identifying the local landmarks seen in the background of the photos.

The three outsiders know most people are offended by them--and their horrible odor.
Gin, Miyuki, and Hana overcome all sorts of obstacles to help this baby which includes witnessing a mobster's attempted murder, Miyuki and the baby are kidnapped and held hostage, Gin barely survives being beaten by a group of teenagers, Hana collapses and is hospitalized for poor nutrition, and the three are almost hit by a careening truck that hits a building they just exited.

The three outsiders seek refuge for one night in a makeshift tent that is overrun with feral cats.
Perhaps the most threatening event in their search is when Hana and Miyuki unknowingly hand the baby over to who they believe is the baby's birth mother--a woman named Sachiko who they later learned had snatched the baby from the real birth parents at the hospital.  Making matters worse, Sachiko is suicidal and has the baby with her!

On the rooftop, Miyuki tries to keep Sachiko from going over the edge with the baby.

Moved by coincidences, miracles and perhaps even forces beyond explanation, Miyuki, Hana, and Gin each experience a feeling of family, forgiveness, and reunification this holiday season. 

The attention to detail in story and image quality make this anime something spectacular.  Check out this gorgeous image--two of our urban characters standing in front of a glass block wall. 

Like many other Japanese-made Christmas stories, this includes just a hint of the traditions of Shinto as well.

This spectacular animated feature-length movie was created by legendary filmmaker, Satoshi Kon.  Maybe you've already seen his more popular anime film Paprika which came out in 2006?  Tragically cancer claimed the life of filmmaker Satoshi Kon in 2010 however his legacy lives on in his wonderful films.  Although Tokyo Godfathers is different in a lot of the details from the other three movies I've discussed, it's still the story of three outsiders who go to great lengths to save a baby at Christmas time.  Tokyo Godfathers is a beautiful yet action-packed story not only with a happy ending but with a satisfying emotional journey as well.

Friday, June 28, 2013

3 Godfathers (1948)

1948's 3 Godfathers stars John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey, Jr. as the three outlaws Robert, Pete, and the Kid respectively.

Are you someone who thinks all movie re-makes suffer from low-quality efforts and laziness?  I challenge you to think again.   I've already discussed 1930's Hell's Heroes and 1936's Three Godfathers.  Did you know that the master of western films, director John Ford, also took on this story set at Christmas?  3 Godfathers is another film adapted from the book by Peter B. Kyne and airs regularly on TCM, especially at Christmas time.

One of the several significant changes in this film adaptation is that it is made in color!

Again we have the same essential plot, three bank robbers attempt to evade capture by riding out into the desert but find themselves without sufficient drinking water.  When Robert, the Kid, and Pete stumble across a dying woman with a newborn, they are burdened with the improbable task of saving the baby, as well as themselves, from the desert heat and lack of water. 

The three fugitives make a daring escape on two horses being followed by a posse.

When the posse is made up of western film stars such as (right to left) Ward Bond, Ben Johnson, and Hank Worden--John Wayne's character Robert begins to feel the heat.

There are a few changes--some more significant than others.  One thrilling change is that the three bank robbers are followed out of town by a posse, led by Marshal Perley Sweet, played by Ward Bond.  The marshal organizes and deputizes a group of residents that set out into the desert to head-off the outlaws at the two closest water sources located at the train depots.  It becomes a game of cat-and-mouse as the fugitives' leader Robert and the marshal try to cleverly anticipate each others' next moves towards the limited resources of drinkable water in the Arizona desert.  This addition of a posse out hunting for the outlaws adds tension and suspense to the story--and a few extra characters.

With her dying breath, the mother names her newborn son Robert William Pedro Hightower.  She also insists the three men promise to take responsibility as the baby's three godfathers.

Another change is the moral character of the fugitives' leader, Robert Hightower, played by Wayne.  In Hell's Heroes and Three Godfathers, the lead character is more despicable, a violent killer, a bank robber--and the most hesitant of the three men to take responsibility for the baby.  His demise is inevitable because of his "flaws," yet his redemption is found in his sacrifice to save the innocent baby.  But Robert Hightower is different.  Before the bank robbery, his guilt is lessened by his repeated warnings of not wanting to shoot anyone.  Robert also seems to be looking out for his younger friend, William "the Kid."  After promising the dying mother that he will care for his godson, Robert hesitates but is willing to care for the baby.  He really doesn't seem like such a bad guy despite being a bank robber.  Adding complexity to the human drama, the posse following close behind the three men, begins to heap further crimes upon the fugitives--such as murdering the woman in the covered wagon and poisoning a watering hole--actions for which we know they are not guilty.

Just ahead of the posse, Robert delivers the baby to the residents of Jerusalem causing them to burst into the song "Silent Night."

Because the character of Robert is not as morally flawed, he doesn't need to seek the same level of redemption as the corresponding characters did in Hell's Heroes and Three Godfathers.  In fact, Robert doesn't die at the end of the movie!  Thirsty and exhausted, Robert stumbles back to civilization and delivers the baby--not at a church--but to the people gathered in a local saloon.  With the posse right behind him, Robert collapses on the floor but doesn't die.  The movie continues as we see Robert standing before the court ready to receive the sentence for his crimes.  But when Robert refuses to give up permanent custody of the baby in order to lessen his jail sentence, the judge respects the man's integrity and gives him a very short sentence!  It turns out that Robert has earned the respect of the marshal and everyone else in town for his bravery in saving the baby--and they encourage him to return to town when his prison term is over.  What kind of Christmas movie would this be without a happy ending?  Actually, movies like Hell's Heroes and Three Godfathers include the theme of sacrifice which is certainly a common Christmas element.  However, 3 Godfathers includes not only a happy ending but the opportunity of a second chance--also two very common Christmas themes.

The three wise godfathers follow the star in the night sky across the desert.

Beyond this, the film has many Christmas references.  Not only is it set at Christmas time but William "the Kid" points out the connection between the three fugitives from the east and the three wandering magi in the original story of the Nativity.  The Kid also takes a Bible found in the covered wagon and uses it to guide their journey.  Citing a passage he finds when the spiritual book falls open, The Kid instructs the other two fugitives that they have a destiny to fulfill in going to the nearby city of Jerusalem.  Later, after Robert finds himself alone in the desert and unable to continue any further, he finds in the Bible a passage that says the Christmas journey was made with a donkey and a burro--the two animals that suddenly stand before him.  As if by faith or a miracle, the weakened and thirsty Robert is able to ride the donkey with the burro back to the nearest town of Jerusalem and his destiny is complete--the baby survives.  Perhaps Robert's willingness to follow his faith in his time of despair is another reason he doesn't die in the end?  Maybe.  However you choose to read this film, it sure feels Christmas-y.

That's no blizzard--that's a sandstorm but cleverly in this film they look alike.

Making it seem even more closely related to the holiday season, this Western film offers gorgeous desert landscapes courtesy of Oscar-winning cinematographer Winton Hoch.  Hoch cleverly makes the desert’s blowing sand look just like snow.  You'll also see dunes that look like drifts and a sand storm that looks like a blizzard.  If you watch this movie during the month of December, the comparison will be overwhelming.  Overall, the effect makes this story feel more like the Christmas holidays.

Up next: another story that takes its inspiration from Peter B. Kyne's original story, the feature-length animated movie Tokyo Godfathers.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Three Godfathers (1936)

I'm continuing my discussion of the several filmed adaptations of Peter B. Kyne's novel Three Godfathers.  I wrote about 1930s Hell's Heroes last week.  Click HERE to see that post again.  Today I'd like to share about the 1936 re-make entitled Three Godfathers.  Not only is this western a thrilling and emotional story but it is also a Christmas movie.  Not only is this over-looked classic film broadcast on Turner Classic Movies channel during the holiday season each year, but it is also available for viewing--along with Hell's Heroes--on DVD from the Warner Archives.

The three bank robbers are now burdened with a baby they find in the desert.

Three Godfathers contains all the same essential story elements as the earlier film Hell's Heroes.  Three outlaws rob a bank in New Jerusalem and make their escape into the desert only to find that the nearest watering hole has gone dry.   In order to survive, they must return to the city where they are wanted men.  They stumble across a dying woman with an infant in a covered wagon and the three outlaws attempt to bring the baby back to New Jerusalem with them.  One by one the outlaws succumb to thirst until the last outlaw makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the baby lives.

While the earlier movie Hell's Heroes is an outstanding dramatic film, this 1936 version spends more time developing its characters.  In the six years since Hell's Heroes was made, sound technology had progressed significantly and there is much more exposition in this film partially because of the abundance of dialogue.  There are extended scenes of the three men in town before the bank heist and all three attend a community Christmas party.  We learn that Bob is a former resident of New Jerusalem and everyone knows him to be a bad man, even a killer.  When Bob shoots Frank, the bank cashier, during the course of the robbery, we already know that Bob is jealous that Frank is marrying Bob's former girlfriend Molly.  The preponderance of dialogue also gives us more details about the distance between the dried up watering holes, the location of the poisonous water hole, and how far away their journey on foot takes them.

Finding a dying woman in a covered wagon, Doc feels obliged to care for the innocent baby.

We also learn that all three outlaws are neither all good nor all bad men.  Each of them may be outside the law but there's more character explored here to give each of them shades of gray in terms of kindness and compassion.  Bob, the most villainous of the three men, is more clearly defined as such which brings an even sweeter conclusion to the film when he works even harder for his own salvation in saving the innocent baby.

Lewis Stone plays the philosophical character Doc.

This 1936 film is also a little more accessible and engaging because it includes more recognizable film stars in the lead roles.  You may remember the actor Lewis Stone who plays Doc from his long string of appearances as Judge Hardy, Andy's father in the Andy Hardy movies series also starring Mickey Rooney.  The character of Gus is played by the Oscar-winning actor Walter Brennan who many may recognize from his long career in western movies and on TV as Grandpa Amos on The Real McCoys.

Walter Brennan as the uneducated but kind-hearted Gus.

The rogue Bob is played by actor Chester Morris who also brought the filmed character of Boston Blackie to life.  (Have you seen the 1942 movie Alias Boston Blackie?  It's set at Christmas time too!)

Chester Morris plays Bob, the outlaw with the black hat and the biggest need for redemption.

In smaller roles in this movie, Molly is portrayed by actress Irene Hervey--a successful actress with a long career.  Hervey also played Aunt Meg on Honey West but I always remember her as the real-life mother of singer Jack Jones.

Bob and Molly used to be lovers before she agreed to marry Frank, the bank cashier.  Here, Molly and Bob dance at the community Christmas party.

And, the character of Professor Snape--the odd, false teeth vendor at the community Christmas party--is played by actor Sidney Toler who also starred in a string of successful films in the 1930s and '40s playing the great detective Charlie Chan.

Another strength of this version's story is that it is more firmly set at Christmas time.  When the men first arrive in town, though two of them are strangers, they are warmly invited to the town's community Christmas party.  Christmas decorations can be seen in the town saloon and at the community party.  When the bank cashier is killed during the robbery, he is wearing a Santa Claus suit.  And, there are multiple references connecting these three wandering souls in the desert with the three magi of the Nativity story.  Not only does Doc bring up the similarity between the three bank robbers celebrating Christmas with a baby and the original Nativity story--a reference that goes over Gus' head--but we see the 'godfathers' each offering very precious gifts to the baby as one by one, each gives his portion of the bank heist gold on behalf of the baby's survival.  It turns out in the end, Bob has given his own mother's gold watch--his only possession--as an heirloom for the baby.  Early in the film, we see Doc 'reading the stars' as he discusses another character's astrological fortune.  Together these references to the three wandering magi and the other holiday details add up to a more Christmas-y story.

In the final scene, Bob stumbles into the church on Christmas morning with the baby still in his arms.  Just before dying, he stands up against the post in the church.  We now know Bob has fully redeemed himself-- he has an angel's halo!

Do you like westerns?  What's your favorite Christmas movie re-make? 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Christmas in July with MyMerryChristmas.com

Christmas in July is coming and I'm hosting readers' essays sharing their favorite animated Christmas entertainments.  Click HERE to see that announcement again

I'm very pleased to be a part of another Christmas in July event going on at MyMerryChristmas.com.  Over the weekend of Friday July 26th, Saturday July 27th, and Sunday July 28th, MyMerryChristmas.com is hosting its own Christmas in July event with all sorts of holiday celebrations.  From the website:

"Christmas in July is our summer version of the World's Largest Christmas Party. We get together over a weekend and explore all things Christmas through online chats, workshops, sponsored forum events, a live radio broadcast, a movie marathon and plenty of contests and prizes for our Christmas faithful. We will be covering trends in Christmas decorating, news of new release Christmas music and movies, Christmas on Television 2013, Christmas foods, Christmas online, Christmas projects, Christmas travel, Santa Claus! and Christmas events around the world. We will have visiting experts on these topics plus links to all kinds of merriment to lead you into the Christmas season of 2013. It's a ton of fun and a great way to beat the heat! Join us!"

I'm excited to be asked to participate in discussing our favorite Christmas entertainments including movies and television episodes, specials, and made-for-TV movies.  As more information and scheduling occurs, I'll announce it.  I do hope you'll check out MyMerryChristmas.com and join the party and my discussions in July.  Click HERE for the link to MyMerryChristmas.com's Christmas in July announcement and schedule.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hell's Heroes (1930)

Opening title to the 1930 film Hell's Heroes, adapted from the book by Peter B. Kyne.

What's the oldest Christmas movie you love to watch?  While I've seen many, many Christmas silent films--most of them only hold my attention for the sake of novelty.  But the early sound film, 1930's Hell's Heroes does entertain me.  It's quite dramatic.  And, the movie's Christmas themes feel quite contemporary.  Have you ever watched this film on Turner Classic Movies?

Barb Wire and Bill shoot the cashier at the bank during the robbery.

In this classic western, four outlaws rob the bank in New Jerusalem on Christmas Eve.  During the robbery, the robbers kill a bank teller however one of the robbers is also shot and killed in their escape.

Only three robbers survive to make their escape from New Jerusalem.

The three remaining robbers flee from the city across the desert, hoping to reach a well-known watering hole which will allow them to continue through the desert to reach the next city.  One of the thieves, Barb Wire, was shot in the shoulder during the escape and he worries about the wound becoming infected. 

After a sandstorm, the three thieves will have to make their across the desert on foot. (left to right) Barb Wire, Bob, and Wild Bill.

They'll have to conserve the little water they have in order to reach the next watering hole.

When the three men reach the watering hole, they find it has dried up.  The situation  has grown even more grave when they discover a covered wagon with a woman inside.  She is very weak and with her last efforts she gives birth to a baby son.  Unaware that these three men are killers and bank robbers, the mother convinces the men to promise to care for the baby.  With her final words, she asks that they bring the infant to his father--the cashier at the bank in New Jerusalem.  It is not lost on the men that they are being asked to save the son of the man they killed!

Bob stumbles across a covered wagon!

The men admit they don't know anything about babies!
Knowing they can't continue traveling across the desert without water, they admit they are now forced to turn back and return to New Jerusalem.  Any hope of survival means they must return to the city where they are wanted men. Their return journey on foot through the desert is arduous and the outlaw Barbwire is the first to succumb.

Barb Wire refuses any more water insisting it be offered to the baby.

The journey across the desert continues until sundown and the two remaining men and the baby bed down for the night.  When Bob awakens at dawn on Christmas morning, he finds a note from Bill.  Wild Bill has walked off into the desert to die alone.  Bob gives the remaining drops of water from his canteen to the baby and continues walking back toward the city.

Bill's note indicates he's left Bob and the baby a Christmas gift--he's sacrificed himself so they can share the remaining water and live a little while longer.

Still clutching the baby, Bob dumps the gold from the bank robbery along his path--a burden no longer worth carrying.

The last outlaw, Bob is carrying the baby back to the city that will surely hang the murderer upon his return. Unable to make it all the way back without water, Bob stops at a watering hole just outside of New Jerusalem that is toxic--it is filled with alkali and deadly.  Aware that returning to the city is a guaranteed death sentence, Bob courageously drinks from the poisonous water hole just to give him one more hour’s worth of life so he can walk back to town and give the baby a chance at survival.

Bob also makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to achieve redemption and help the baby survive.

When the bank robber enters New Jerusalem, it is Christmas morning and the town’s residents are all in church singing ‘Silent Night.’  Bob stumbles up the center aisle clutching the newborn and collapses and the residents discover the wriggling baby still in his arms.

On Christmas morning Bob finds the residents in church singing "Silent Night."

Though an early sound picture, the film is directed William Wyler who would see a tremendous amount of success later in his career.   Watching this you'll be able to see that this film is crafted by a masterful hand as there are some beautiful shots constructed to set this story above the mediocrity of other Westerns.  The cast includes: Charles Bickford as Bob; Raymond Hatton as Barb Wire; and Fred Kohler as Wild Bill.

One of the reasons I connect with this story is the complexities of the three outlaws' moral journey.  In the beginning, they are clearly bad guys with little regard for human life--they plan the robbery ahead of time and without much regard, they kill the bank cashier.  Yet when the dying woman begs them to look after her son, each of the three men feels too guilty to say no.  Though there is some selfishness about not wanting to share the little water they have left, when it comes down to it, each one makes the decision to help the innocent baby--and sacrifice themselves.  Bob, the last survivor, at one point in his desperate trek through the desert actually puts the baby down in the sand and walks away, hoping to finally rid himself of the burden.  But when the weakened baby cries out, just a little, he can't live with himself and picks the baby up again.  Christmas movies are often about hope, forgiveness, and second chances--three themes this movie embraces whole-heartedly.  I love it more each time I see it.

Based on the book by Peter B. Kyne, this Christmas-themed story has been made several times.  Supposedly there is an earlier silent version and even a 1970s TV movie version--however neither of these movies are easily accessible.  Up next:  the 1936 remake Three Godfathers.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Where to Watch Annual Christmas Specials on TV

During the months of November and December each year, television networks fill their schedules with plenty of holiday programming.  It's very easy to lose track of what is airing--even when you're waiting for a specific program.  So I'd like to help you plan your upcoming TV viewing by reminding you of a few noteworthy TV specials to look for.  This list will consist of annual TV specials--the TV specials (not episodes in a series, nor movies) that are created new each year.  To clarify, I'm limiting my discussion to TV specials for which a new one is created annually.  Though this is not an exhaustive list, my intention is to cover the most significant and popular annual programming.

One of my favorite annual Christmas TV specials is Christmas in Rockefeller Center.  This NBC prime time holiday music special is a live, celebrity-filled concert that is a part of the annual tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center, in New York City.  For many years, Al Roker has been its host, introducing some of the most popular musical acts and recording stars performing holiday music.  In 2012, Christmas in Rockefeller Center included musical guests Mariah Carey, CeeLo Green, Rod Stewart, Scotty McCreery, Tony Bennett, Trace Adkins, Chris Mann, the Muppets, teen sensation Victoria Justice, and Italian tenors Il Volo.  2011's Christmas in Rockefeller Center included musical guests Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, Usher, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Katherine MacPhee, Big Time Rush, and Javier Colon.  Some of the excitement of this unique annual event is seeing your favorite musical guests performing live and outdoors in the unpredictable and often cold, winter weather.  You don't want to miss this annual TV special which usually airs the week after Thanksgiving.  The annual concert event may be broadcast a second time in the NBC prime time holiday schedule but it has never been released on DVD.

Though Ryan Seacrest has replaced Dick Clark, the annual New Year's Eve broadcast on ABC is a must-see for many holiday revelers.  So far Clark's name remains attached to the annual TV special though for how long, we'll have to wait and see.  Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve has been an annual event for decades though other networks broadcast the December 31st celebrations in New York's Times Square as well.  Likewise, NBC's Thanksgiving morning broadcast of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is not the only television coverage.  However, NBC's annual TV special is the most popular.  When Santa Claus arrives in his parade float at Macy's store, it is the official start of the holiday season.  What would Thanksgiving be without watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?  I don't want to know.  Both of these annual TV specials are broadcast only once--so if you snooze, you lose.  Neither the New Year's special nor the Thanksgiving day parade have ever been released on DVD.

A fairly new annual tradition has become the CMA Country Christmas TV special airing on ABC.  This prime time music concert special just began in 2010 but it is quickly becoming one of the best, most anticipated events of the holiday season.  The most popular country music recording artists take the stage in front of a live audience to perform holiday music.  Singer Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland has been this concert's host for all three years of its existence.  In 2012, the musical guests included country music's own The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, Scotty McCreery, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, and even host Jennifer Nettles sings.  Proof of CMA Country Christmas' popularity is that they were able to include musical guests beyond country music, including John Legend, Colbie Caillat, and mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins.  But again, you won't find this annual holiday TV special released on DVD.

Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on PBS in 2012.

PBS is another wonderful source for holiday TV programming.  PBS is known for broadcasting the annual Christmas concerts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  The 360 member choir has an excellent reputation for its holiday performances which usually include two special guests.  Last year, the PBS broadcast Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir included special guest actress Jane Seymour who narrated a medieval tale with a message about age-old Christmas stories.  The second special guest was celebrated baritone Nathan Gunn.  The year before, PBS broadcast the Christmas concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and special musical guests American Idol competitor David Archuleta and actor Michael York who narrated a story about the Choir's first director John Parry.

My favorite of these annual concerts aired in 2001 with special guest Angela Lansbury.  She not only sang her trademark holiday song "We Need a Little Christmas" from the Broadway musical Mame, but she also sang "Not While I’m Around" from Sweeney Todd and "Beauty and the Beast" from the Walt Disney animated movie.

PBS does release the annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert on DVD however, it is released under a separate title--not Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir the title under which it airs on TV.  The 2012 broadcast with Jane Seymour has been released under the title Once Upon a Christmas, and the 2001 concert with Lansbury has been released as The Joy of Christmas with Angela Lansbury.  I know, it confuses me too.

Another annual Christmas TV special on PBS is the National Tree Lighting.  The annual outdoor ceremony and musical concert are presented by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation broadcast from President’s Park in Washington, D.C.  The President and his family are usually in attendance and eventually push the button that illuminates the grand, outdoor National Tree near the White House.

In 2012's Christmas in Washington concert, Obama and his daughters join the entertainers on stage (Diana Ross behind podium and host Conan O'Brien on the extreme right) to sing "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing."

Another annual Christmas concert is Christmas in Washington, a prime time special on TNT.  Much like Christmas in Rockefeller Center, this annual holiday concert features the biggest and brightest stars in the recording industry.  However, this more dignified event takes place in Washington DC's National Building Museum for a very special live audience that includes the President and his family.  In 2012, the musical guests included Diana Ross, South Korean pop star Psy, Demi Lovato, Broadway star Megan Hilty, Chris Mann, and country music's Scotty McCreery.  In 2011, the entertainers were CeeLo Green, Justin Bieber, The Band Perry, Victoria Justice, and Jennifer Hudson.  Each year, other musical performances are provided by The Washington Youth Choir, The American Family Choir, the United States Naval Academy Glee Club, the United States Army Herald Trumpets, and the Christmas in Washington Orchestra.  It's quite an event.  And, this is another annual TV special that has never been released on DVD. 

Find out what all goes into decorating and preparing for the holidays in Washington on HGTV's The White House Christmas.

Another significant annual Christmas TV special is HGTV's The White House Christmas.  This yearly special details the decorations and preparations for the White House holiday, the home of the First Family which also serves as a showcase for many parties and guests throughout the season.  Every year this TV special reveals the First Lady's decorating theme and it's application, the design of the annual gingerbread house, the installation of the Christmas tree in the Blue Room, the various decorations for the rooms and hallways throughout the building, and the many designers and volunteers who transform the White House into the holiday showcase.  This annual TV special has never been released on DVD either.

Maybe you've also watched A Home for the Holidays on CBS, an annual Christmas special that raises awareness on the importance and need for adoption sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.  There is also Holiday Notes from Home, an annual music concert for families of our military's soldiers and taped to entertain the troops around the world.  This annual special is usually broadcast on an upper tier cable network.  Neither A Home for the Holidays nor Holiday Notes from Home has ever been released on DVD.

Is there another annual holiday TV special that you like to watch?  Do you make it a point to catch any of these annual special events?  Which of these from the above list is your favorite to watch?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Where to Watch Christmas Movies on TV

Many of you already follow my regular tweets (@TisTheSeasonTV) and daily postings on my Facebook page Tis The Season TV.   Though I post year-round daily Christmas broadcasts on TV, in November and December each year it gets a little overwhelming.  There are literally hundreds of options for watching Christmas programming.  In an attempt to help you narrow your options so you can make the best decisions for your own taste preferences, I'll share with you what I know.  If you're looking to enjoy a feature-length Christmas movie on TV, the vast majority of movies that air, do so in just a few places.

On TCM, host Ben Mankiewicz often delivers a great introduction to the Joseph L. Mankiewicz-produced 1938 movie A Christmas Carol.

If you like the older Hollywood theatrical-release classics, you will stay close to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) network.  Here you will usually find the holiday standards such as Christmas in Connecticut, 3 Godfathers, The Man Who Came to Dinner, 1938's A Christmas Carol, Bachelor Mother, Bundle of Joy, Come to the Stable, Holiday Affair, Remember the Night, King of Kings, and more.  In 2012, they pulled from a very deep vault to air the TV movie Carol for Another Christmas (1964).  They have a very good website which makes it easy to check their programming schedule.

ABC Family Channel provides a convenient downloadable schedule of their holiday programming.

Another network that provides an easy-to-read schedule is ABC Family Channel.  The network makes it's very own downloadable schedule for their December holiday programming they call The 25 Days of Christmas.  This schedule is dominated by animated holiday specials but they usually include several new family-friendly Christmas TV movies as well as a few older holiday movies--both theatrical release and made for TV.  However, ABC Family Channel airs more Christmas movies than the downloadable schedule covers.  Also check their November programming schedule which they often call The Countdown to the 25 Days of Christmas and their late night and early morning schedules all through November and December which they often fill with movies and holiday programming from their archives.

You can also watch the December listings for the Disney Channel to find prime time broadcasts of older family-friendly movies they pull from the Disney Channel archives.

Starting the first week in November the Hallmark Channel begins airing their holiday programming!

Another network known for their family-friendly holiday programming is the Hallmark Channel.  For the past several years, they have introduced approx. fourteen new, original Christmas TV movies each year!  This network is clearly producing the bulk of new Christmas TV movies.  Most of them feature a prominent romance story but remain family-friendly.  The quality of the TV movies varies from some of the best contemporary Christmas TV movies to some of the worst.  If you're like me, you like to see familiar actors in your Christmas TV movies and the Hallmark Channel productions are the best to offer this.  Hallmark Channel also has an excellent website which makes it easy to check their holiday programming schedule.  They begin airing Christmas TV movies from their archives usually the first week in November.  They've even been known to host a Christmas in July marathon of their favorite holiday TV movies during the month of July.

The Hallmark Channel also re-broadcasts everyone's favorite holiday Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, some of the highest quality productions the medium has to offer.  Don't overlook the Hallmark Movie Channel because they broadcast holiday TV movies too.

As Lifetime focuses on their new original series programming, I'm not sure of their future commitment to Christmas movies.

Lifetime network has undergone significant changes in recent years.  In years past, they have debuted many made-for-TV Christmas movies and created Christmas marathons throughout the month of December to air their archives.  They even used to broadcast a Christmas in July marathon of their holiday TV movies during the summer.  However, the recent corporate changes to the network have affected the holiday programming and each year they seem to do something different.  In 2011, they aired very little Christmas programming during December.  In 2012, they introduced several new Christmas TV movies.  I have no idea what to expect for 2013.  Making matters worse, as of this writing, their website is horrible and not very user-friendly for checking their programming schedule.  So even if they are broadcasting Christmas TV movies, it's nearly impossible to anticipate.  I would love to see them broadcast many of their older Christmas TV movies again--hopefully they will rise to the occasion.  If you're so inclined, don't forget the Lifetime Movie Network--they may broadcast older Christmas movies too--but it's kind of hard to predict.

A network that has risen to the occasion is ION.  The past several years they have debuted Christmas TV movies--usually on Sunday nights during the month of December.  I feel like this is an overlooked resource for those searching for holiday programming.

Another network that continues to grow it's Christmas TV movie programming is Gospel Music Channel (GMC).  For the past several years they have debuted 1-2 brand new TV holiday movies as well as broadcast several older Christmas TV movie classics.  Looking to watch an older Christmas TV movie you haven't seen in a while?  Check GMC's schedule during December.  Editorial note: GMC has since changed its name to UP (Uplifting Entertainment).

Did you know the Inspiration network (INSP) also broadcasts older Christmas TV movies during December?  Their holiday programming too continues to grow each year and I'm looking forward to seeing what they have on their schedule in 2013.  INSP asked me to write about their Christmas TV movies for their website in 2012--click HERE to see what they aired and what I had to say about it.

Not to be overlooked is Comedy Central who regularly broadcasts the movies Christmas Vacation and Bad Santa, as well as other theatrical release classics.  If you haven't noticed, Comedy Central airs these Christmas movies year round--so you don't even have to wait until December!

I also want to encourage you to check your local TV listings--especially Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon, evening, and late night schedules.  You may very well find a lost or forgotten classic from year's past, cheaply broadcast by a local TV station.

Do you look forward to watching Christmas TV movies at holiday time?  To what channel(s) do you turn for your favorite holiday movie programming?