About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Live Twitter Christmas Party 2014

Social networking brings people together.

Hey Gang!  It's time to get out our schedules.  How about we discuss when to gather on Twitter and watch Christmas on TV?  Last year, I hosted several live twitter parties over the holidays while we watched:

--1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas (on ABC)
--1974 Christmas TV movie A Dream for Christmas (on MeTV)
--the 2013 Christmas episode of The Michael J. Fox Show (on NBC--series now cancelled)
--1963 Christmas episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show (on MeTV)
--1960 Christmas episode of the Twilight Zone (on MeTV)

It was a lot of fun.  Watching television is typically an activity one does at home, often alone--so it can be quite a new experience to join friends and watch together!  I'm looking for some suggestions on what you'd like to watch and talk through.  I know we all have busy schedules this time of year--that includes me.  But maybe you're especially excited about watching a particular Christmas program and you'd like to make it a group experience.

What Christmas program(s) would you be interested in watching together?

Here are some options:
--Sun Dec. 7th at 8pm(ET) on CBS airs the original Christmas episode of I Love Lucy
--Sat Dec 6th at 8pm(ET) on NBC airs the movie It's a Wonderful Life
--Tue Dec. 9th, 8pm(ET) on CBS is 1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
--Wed Dec 10, 8pm(ET) on ABC is new Christmas episode of The Middle, 9:30pm(ET) is new Christmas episode of new sitcom Black-ish.

Like any of these suggestions?  Got other suggestions?  I want to hear them.  Leave your comments below or on Twitter, or even on Facebook.

Of course this means you need to be on Twitter--so if you don't already have an account, set one up now.  After we decide when and what to watch, we'll determine a hashtag--to make it easier to engage. Do you already follow me on Twitter?  Why not follow me now: @TistheSeasonTV

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classic TV Christmas listings for 2014

I have some exciting news to share.  Two TV channels, Get TV and MeTV (digital subchannels available over the air and on local cable systems), are airing some classic TV Christmas programming this holiday season.  Let me give you the highlights of their Christmas TV listings.

Get TV which specializes in showcasing Hollywood's legendary movies is featuring a special treat for TV viewers.  On Sunday, Nov. 30th at 10pm(ET) they are airing the 1957 Christmas episode of The Frank Sinatra Show--a musical program that features Frank's special guest Bing Crosby.  This is one of my favorites.  You may remember that I wrote about it last year.  Click HERE to see my review of it again.

Seated in front of the fireplace, together Bing and Frank sing "The Christmas Song."
Get TV will be re-airing this special holiday program several times after Nov. 30th until Christmas--most notably on Dec. 12th which is Sinatra's 99th birthday!  You don't want to miss out on this.  For more information and to look at their complete schedule, check out Get TV's website and follow them on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/gettv

MeTV will also be airing special Christmas programming.  On Friday Nov. 28th, there will be an all-day marathon of Christmas episodes (most but not all of the episodes are Christmas themed) starting at 5am(ET).  Another all-day marathon of Christmas programming is scheduled for Christmas Day, Dec. 25th.  Check MeTV's website schedule for all the details.  I'll be glad to share some highlights of my favorites.  Either get a pen and paper--or use MeTV's new Remind Me feature on-line where they can send you a programming reminder in the format of your choice.  See those details here.

--PETTICOAT JUNCTION--the 1963 episode "A Cannonball Christmas" airs 12/25 at 6am(ET) and the 1966's "The Santa Claus Special"--a color episode re-filmed with the newer cast airs 11/28 at 6am(ET).

--THE DONNA REED SHOW--1958 episode "A Very Merry Christmas" airs 11/28 at 7am(ET) and 12/25 at 7am(ET).  This holiday story includes comedic actor/legend Buster Keaton.  Click HERE to see my review of that episode again.


 --THAT GIRL--1967's "Twas the Night Before Christmas, You're Under Arrest" airs on 11/28 at 5am(ET).  1966's "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid" airs 12/25 at 5am(ET).  Click HERE to see my review of that episode again.

--DRAGNET--1967's "The Christmas Story" airs on 11/28 at 11am(ET) and again on 12/25 at 11am(ET).  This episode includes a small role with a young Barry Williams who also played Greg Brady on The Brady BunchClick HERE to see my review of this classic episode again.

--GUNSMOKE--1971's "P.S. Murry Christmas" airs on 11/28 at 1pm(ET) and 12/25 at 1pm(ET).  You may remember this holiday episode features an ensemble of child actorsClick HERE to see my review of that episode again. 

Remember Deputy Barney Fife in a Santa suit?

--THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW--1960's "The Christmas Story" airs on 11/28 at 8pm(ET).  Click HERE to see my review of that episode again. 

--GILLIGAN'S ISLAND--the 1964 Christmas episode "Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk" airs 11/28 at 9:30pm(ET).  This holiday story is often over-looked among Christmas episodes.  Click HERE to see my review of the episode again.

--THE ODD COUPLE--1970's "Scrooge Gets an Oscar" airs 11/28 at 10pm(ET).  Click HERE to see my review of that episode again. 

Wanted: Dead or Alive's Josh Randall is played by Steve McQueen.

--WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE--1958's "Eight Cent Reward" airs Saturday 11/29 at 4pm(ET). This  holiday story features child actor Jay North--who also played TV's Dennis the Menace!  Click HERE to see my review of this classic Christmas episode again.

Other series with Christmas episodes airing on MeTV this holiday season include Make Room for Daddy, The Beverly Hillbillies, Daniel Boone, Adam-12, M*A*S*H, Night Gallery, the Big Valley, The Loretta Young Show, and The Brady BunchCheck their schedule for their complete schedule.

Just a few more remarks about special holiday programming on MeTV.  
--A DREAM FOR CHRISTMAS--the 1973 made-for-TV Christmas movie will air again this year on 12/25 at 12:30am(ET).  Many of you may remember that I'm a huge fan of this classic TV movie which includes an all African-American cast. This movie reminds me of the small stories that television used to excel at making.  Some of you joined me during a live Twitter event in 2013 when MeTV aired this movie last year--that was a lot of fun!  

--ONCE UPON A STARRY NIGHT--the 1978 Christmas TV movie is airing on 12/25 at 7:30am(ET).  This is the made-for-TV movie that was made after the run of the iconic TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and features its cast.  This is a rare TV event you don't want to miss. 

--THE ROGUES--1965's "Mr. White's Christmas" airs Sat. Nov. 29th at 5am(ET).  Although this series is largely forgotten, the Christmas episode is historically significant.  Do you know why?  I wish I had time to blog about it now--you'll have to wait until January to see my review of the episode!  So tune in and then check back with me in January to see what I have to say about it.

Got any questions about the above schedule?  How about other Christmas programs this holiday season?  Feel free to ask me.  You can leave comments below or post on my facebook wall at Christmas TV History or Tis the Season TV--or even on Twitter at @TistheSeasonTV.  


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original broadcast of everyone's favorite Christmas TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Rankin/Bass. The animated special's influence and impact on Christmas culture is difficult to overestimate. Most of us can hardly imagine Christmas on television before its arrival in 1964. Rudolph is not only referenced as most everyone's first Christmas TV special memory (remember our Christmas in July mini-questionnaire?) but also their favorite.  Those influenced by Rudolph includes myself.  It's easy for me to say that I mostly likely wouldn't have been inspired to research and write Tis the Season TV--the encyclopedia of Christmas on television--without my lifelong attachment to Rudolph. What is it about Rudolph that makes it a common experience for us all?

Let us not forget that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer existed before the 1964 Christmas TV special.  The shunned creature was first penned by Robert L. May in 1939 as a Christmas giveaway booklet for the Montgomery Ward store.  Yes--Rudolph celebrates his 75th birthday this year as well.  Montgomery Ward eventually gave May the rights back to his story and May's brother-in-law Johnny Marks turned it into a song.  The singing cowboy/actor Gene Autry's 1949 recording of the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer went to number one on the music charts--and continues to be one of the most popular Christmas songs each year.  Mark another anniversary: Autry's version of Rudolph celebrates turning 65 years old this year!  So when Rankin/Bass created their animated version in 1964, the popular reindeer was already well-known to adults and children alike.

A summary of the animated TV special is not necessary--is there anyone who doesn't already know the story?  And production details have been meticulously explored in the book by Rick Goldschmidt. I can add that adorable misfits and themes of redemption and acceptance have been repeated in Christmas entertainment ever since.  But what is Rudolph's secret to success?

Rudolph's characters are clearly defined and have immense personality!

Clearly, Rudolph has not one but several clever things going for it.  First of all, Rudolph was created to entertain everyone gathered around the television in 1964.  Let me unpack this a little bit.  Historically, Christmas TV entertainment prior to 1964 consisted of musical variety specials, holiday-themed installments of dramatic anthologies, and Christmas episodes of TV series.  History was made in 1962 when Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol was broadcast--it was the first animated Christmas TV special. Click HERE to see my review of it again. (Although Walt Disney aired animated specials during the holidays on TV, the specials were almost all clips from his previously released films and shorts.)  Original Christmas animation made just for TV viewers had begun with Magoo's Carol, making 1964's Rudolph the second example of what has since become an institution.  And like Magoo's Carol, Rudolph also forwards its animated story with music--catchy songs that capture the emotional content in each scene.

Hands up if you can sing along to "We Are Santa's Elves," "A Holly Jolly Christmas," "There's Always Tomorrow," and "We're a Couple of Misfits?"
Though animation was still considered children's entertainment, Rudolph (and many of these earliest animated specials) were made with enough detail, sophistication, and style to entertain the parents and grandparents watching along with their kids.  Remember--in 1964, most families still gathered around one TV set in the living room.  Families split apart watching separate programming on many different sets and/or devices was not an option yet.  While Rudolph was certainly simple enough to entertain the youngest of viewers, it also offered interest, meaning and emotion to adult viewers as well.

How many of us have experienced a boss that under-appreciates us?

One of the ways Rudolph entertains adults is its eye-catching stop motion animation.  Rudolph wasn't made the same way Saturday morning cartoons were--it is not animated with individual painted or colored cels (think The Flintstones or Bugs Bunny--or even Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and Frosty the Snowman).  Rudolph comes alive by photographing still figures or puppets with slight variations in each successive photograph to simulate movement.  Rankin/Bass coined their process Animagic but it's an animation technique known as stop motion that's nearly as old as filmmaking itself.  Rankin/Bass' Animagic is not claymation--there is no clay involved.  (However, claymation is also stop motion animation.)  Though the movement by the figures in Rudolph is slightly clunky by today's standards of computer-assisted animation, the images in Rudolph still pop and look amazing.  Nothing quite looks like Animagic--and that's part of Rankin/Bass and Rudolph's continued popularity.  So the look of the 1964 animated classic not only entertains children but it amazes adults as well.

Bumbles bounce--but they're not made of clay!

As a juggernaut of an already well-established character with catchy music and eye-catching animation, it's no wonder that Rudolph experienced high ratings its first years.  Others looking to capitalize on the success of Christmas TV animation soon followed--the very next year debuted A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the following year brought How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Even Rankin/Bass continued making Christmas TV specials (along with their other animated projects) not the least of which includes Frosty the Snowman, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, and The Little Drummer Boy.

The merchandising of this animated TV special grows each year--do you have your Rudolph duct tape?

Rudolph's real success is measured by its longevity.  Rudolph remains the longest running Christmas TV special--it has aired every year on network TV since 1964. Though the television industry and viewership has changed immensely since its debut, Rudolph remains at the top of the list.  Each year Rudolph competes with an ever increasing number of cable TV programming options. Despite being released in home video--first on VHS and now on DVD--most people still want to watch it broadcast on TV.  And, in the history of television, there is nothing to compare to Rudolph's longevity.  Name any other TV special (not just Christmas entertainment) that compares?  The Super Bowl and The Olympics are high rated but the content/coverage is new with each successive broadcast.  Rudolph is the same animated special year after year.

This last point should not be overlooked.  It is exactly because Rudolph is the same year after year that it continues to be as popular as it is.  Christmas is the time of year that we re-enact our favorite traditions.  Watching Rudolph is an American Christmas ritual just like decorating the tree and exchanging gifts.  At Christmas time, we all want to remember the magic of the season and watching Rudolph helps many of us return to our childhoods again.  Though we have visual appetites for new Christmas entertainment, we all want to see our childhood favorites as well.  Rudolph's longevity is supported by the parents, grandparents, and yes--great-grandparents--who share this Christmas tradition with the next generation.  Rudolph turns 50 this year--how long have you been watching?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Christmas TV Movie Schedule 2014

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.  A few years ago, I wrote an essay about which TV networks generally broadcast new Christmas TV movies and older classics.  You can read that post again HERE.  Let me update that post with 2014 specifics--and a few changes/additions since I first wrote that piece.

Hallmark Channel knows holiday TV programming.

For many Christmas TV movie fans, the Hallmark Channel is the location to start.  With good reason, in 2014, Hallmark will be airing 12 new Christmas TV movies alongside many more from their archives.  If you didn't already know--the movie marathon has already begun--it started Friday, October 31--and continues all day and all night through the end of December.  They debut their new holiday movies on Saturday and Sunday nights.  HERE'S a link to their programming schedule.

Hallmark's sister channel--Hallmark Movies and Mysteries (it used to be called more simply Hallmark Movies but re-branded itself earlier this year)--also runs new Christmas TV movies and older classics.  In fact, the older holiday movies they broadcast are pulled from a deeper archive--so this is the place to see some of your older Hallmark Christmas TV movie favorites.  HMM also runs classic theatrical release Christmas movies on Thursday nights.  Now it's much easier to see vintage favorites such as Holiday Affair, Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop's Wife, and more.  Click HERE for more about Classic Christmas Thursdays on HMM.  Last year was the first year HMM debuted a new Christmas TV movie--this year they premiere two new movies.  Click HERE for those titles and dates. And, just like the Hallmark Channel, HMM has already begun their holiday programming--which will continue through the end of the holidays.  Click HERE for the link to the complete schedule.

ABC Family Channel is another major source of holiday programming every year.  But I didn't need to tell you that, right?  We're all familiar with their marathons of Christmas animation, Christmas movies, and family-friendly entertainment.  ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas programming marathon begin Dec. 1st.  In 2014, I don't see any new Christmas TV movies on the schedule.  However, they are debuting a new animated half-hour special based on the popular movie franchise Toy Story--on Sun. Dec 7th.  25 Days of Christmas schedule also highlights the Christmas episodes of the ABC Family channel original series.  Their schedule does include older Christmas movie favorites--but not new movies.  That's okay.  So far, I can only find their complete holiday schedule listed on a social networking site--I'm sure it'll be on their website closer to December.  Until then, HERE'S the link to the 25 Days of Christmas Facebook page.

UP network (formerly GMC) also debuts new Christmas TV movies--as well as showing older ones.  This year, the schedule looks exciting.  Click HERE for long list of Christmas TV movies airing on UP.  Of these movies--seven are brand new and two are British movies (Nativity! and Nativity! 2 are already on DVD, but new to UP).  For the UP network Christmas programming highlights schedule, click HERE

Grump Cat--an adorable internet sensation!

Lifetime is another source for original Christmas TV movies.  As far as I can tell, they haven't posted their Christmas TV movie schedule yet.  I don't know what they are waiting on--posting a schedule allows viewers to plan on watching.  I'm usually frustrated with their website--so this is nothing new.  Lifetime does hold a large catalog of older Christmas TV movies--check out this long list.  I did see promotional presence for a new Christmas TV special they're debuting the weekend after Thanksgiving: Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever.  I can't wait!

Other networks known to schedule Christmas and holiday movies during November and December each year include Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Ion Television, INSP, Comedy Central, and Syfy.  I'm still waiting for Christmas movie schedules from these networks.  Perhaps closer to December, they'll post one.  In the meantime, I'll do my best to wait patiently--sort of.

If you're interested in my suggestions for Christmas TV movies available for viewing on DVD, click HERE to see that essay again.

If you'd like reminders of the new Christmas TV movie debuts and other exciting holiday TV  programming, don't forget to follow my Facebook page Tis The Season TV and/or my tweets at @TisTheSeasonTV.   Where on the metaphorical television dial do you watch your favorite Christmas movies?  Feel free to share in the comments below.