About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: George Prentice

Christmas in July 2017: George Prentice

1. Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

December 25, 1964 – The Flintstones (ABC).  Fred Flintstone fills in for “Santa” at Macryrock’s department store. When the real Santa recruits Fred to fill in on Christmas Eve (due to Santa’s illness), Fred delivers toys across the world, but forgets to bring his own presents home to the family. Countless sitcoms have borrowed the same storyline, but the Flintstones really did it best. Best of all, The Flintstone family breaks the fourth wall in the final scene to wish all their viewers a Merry Christmas. 

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

December 20, 2000 – “Noel” on The West Wing (NBC). Josh (Bradley Whitford) struggles with severe PTSD in the wake of being shot during an assassination attempt on the president. And when Christmas music, being played at The White House, triggers Josh’s anxiety, he explodes into fits or rage but ultimately accepts professional help. The episode is bittersweet and includes very adult themes; but, in large measure, The West Wing found its soul in this Christmas story. It also propelled Whitford to an Emmy award. 

3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

Absolutely. When a film or TV episode/special isn’t competing with holiday shopping, parties and tinsel for our attention, the best shows and movies always shine, no matter what time of year it is.

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment? 

All of the above. I subscribe to a lot of services but watch just as much content through antenna and cable. But when it comes to Christmas shows and special, I’ve got a rather robust personal collection of DVD’s and files. I’m happy that my collection includes a number of gems that haven’t yet surfaced on broadcast or web platforms.

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

Wow. Great question.
No. 1, without exception, is the December 24, 1966 episode of The Jackie Gleason Show (CBS) where the Great One, as the Poor Soul dreams that he’s an honored guest in a fantasy world inhabited by characters from Mother Goose’s book of nursery rhymes. The entire show is performed in pantomime. And in the final scene, as a melody of Greensleeves pays, The Poor Soul is granted a key to the kingdom. It’s nearly impossible to watch without getting sentimental.

No. 2.  December 21, 1967 – The Dean Martin Show (NBC).  Dean has his usual fun, but with a very personal touch. Martin has his entire family on the episode, along with Frank Sinatra and all of Frank’s kids. Dean usually sleepwalks through many of his show’s episodes, but he’s fully engaged here and even gets a bit serious in some rare moments. This one’s a winner and is rarely seen since it first aired (due to some major disagreements with Dean’s last wife who isn’t thrilled with the fact that this episode features Dean’s first wife).

No. 3, Any Christmas episode from The Late Show With David Letterman (CBS). This tradition went on for years on Letterman’s late night show, and the format was repeated each year. On CBS, the Christmas episode always aired as the final first-run episode to air before Christmas Eve (usually on December 23rd or on a Friday night if Christmas Eve was on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday). Dave would usually have one celebrity guest for a brief interview to plug a new movie or special, but everything else in the hour followed this format:  Bandleader Paul Shaffer would usually offer an impression of Cher singing “Oh Holy Night” from one of her variety shows (it’s a classic impression). Then, Dave would have a nearby pizzeria drape a big pizza pie around the top of a Christmas tree. Then, someone from a nearby gift shop would put a souvenir Empire State Building atop the Christmas tree. Then, Rupert from the nearby deli would place a meatball atop the Statue of Liberty. Then, either a well-known football player or comic Jay Thomas would try to knock the meatball off of the top of the tree. Thomas would also repeat the same hilarious joke each year. It involves marijuana, the Lone Ranger and a traffic accident (you can find it on YouTube and it’s priceless). Ultimately, singer Darlene Love would come out and sing “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” as fake snow fell on the stage and audience. This production became bigger and bigger as the years progressed, with more musicians and singers added to the song.


  1. I absolutely love the Jay Thomas famous 'Lone Ranger' story!!!! I laugh every time he tells it!!! Thanks so much for reminding me of that wonderful story!!!! Merry Christmas in July and....Hi-Yo Silver!!!!!!!

  2. "The Flintstones" has always been one of my favorite cartoon series. I would loved to have seen how the Christmas episode would have been presented during one of the earlier years of the series.
    In later years, the animation became extremely cheap. Witness the loop of Wilma decorating the tree. It makes her look like a jack in the box on espresso. Also the crowd that has gathered around Santa. They never move and the shot is used more than once. And when have you ever been in a crowd where everyone says "Merry Christmas" in unison without being prompted?
    Sorry to sound so negative but as I said before "The Flintstones" was one of my favorites and it really hurt to see the downward trend of the shows in the post Pebbles era. If the Christmas episode had been created during the first or second season I believe the quality would have been much higher.

  3. Love the different answers! Never would have thought The West Wing or David Letterman would pop up, but you never know what others hold dear. Good to read.

  4. Awwww, the Flinstones and Fred as Santa!!! All I can say is... "Yabba Dabba Do!"

    Happy Christmas in July!!! Net :)

  5. What a good answer with the David Letterman Christmas segment. Very original. I loved it, too. Even when I quit watching David, I would still tune in for that every year. It was festive, hilarious and weird all at the same time. Loved it.

  6. I'd love to see that 1966 Jackie Gleason holiday program get an official DVD release. That one's hard to view. Thanks for participating :)