About Christmas TV History

Monday, August 28, 2017

Christmas Books--Part 1

In the past two decades researching Christmas films and TV programs, I've spent countless hours in thrift stores and library basements seeking copies of overlooked and forgotten Christmas programs. Along the way, I've stumbled across (1) books that inspired Christmas movies, and (2) books created from Christmas programs. I've grabbed many of them when I found them. Unintentionally, I've accumulated quite a collection. Want to see what I've got?

I have a hardbound copy of the 1970 novel written by Earl Hamner, Jr. that inspired the 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. You can check out my review here. TV fans know that the success of the 1971 Christmas TV movie sparked TV execs to create a TV series about the family depicted in the movie. The result was the nine-season-long family drama The Waltons.

My copy of The Homecoming was signed by the author--purchased when I visited the Walton's Mountain Country Store in Schuyler, Virginia in 2015.

This is a 1995 book published by Scholastic Books. It is a collection of holiday stories taken from Laura Ingalls Wilder's books about nineteenth-century life. These stories share the "Christmas celebrations in the little houses in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and on the banks of beautiful Plum Creek in Minnesota." Most of us have seen the Christmas episodes of Little House on the Prairie that drew from Wilder's stories. Check out my review of the 1974 episode "Christmas at Plum Creek," the 1977 episode "Blizzard," and the 1981 episode "A Christmas They Never Forgot."

As I said before, I also have books that were written from the Christmas programs too. I have a copy of the 1974 Scholastic Book version of the 1972 TV movie The House Without a Christmas Tree. Here's my review of that movie again. When I was growing up in the '70s, we eagerly anticipated watching the annual broadcast of the TV movies The Homecoming and The House Without a Christmas Tree. I remain quite nostalgic about both of them.

I even have a 1947 hardbound edition with the dust jacket of Miracle on 34th Street. The Author's Note on the first pages of the book references George Seaton's screenplay and the Twentieth Century-Fox movie. The back cover has quotes from book reviews, and one is written from the Akron Beacon Journal--my current hometown newspaper. So that's kind of charming.

This was the first in my collection of books written about Christmas TV programs. I received this hardbound book as a holiday gift from a good friend in 1990. The book recreates the exact story in The Simpsons half-hour animated special using dialogue and images from 1989's "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire."

Somewhere all the way, I picked up this hardbound book too. It's from 1965 and is a Parents' Magazine READ ALOUD AND EASY READING PROGRAM Selection.

The artwork is amazing! Most of it is original--adapted from the animated TV classic but not identical to what you see onscreen. Love this book.

This is a comic book version of the 1970 animated TV special Christmas Is. The holiday special featuring Benji and his sheep dog Waldo was just one of several animated TV productions created by a Lutheran ministries group. (Do you also remember The City That Forgot About Christmas, Easter Is, and the 4th of July-inspired Freedom Is?).

An inside peek at the 1970 comic book.

I stumbled across this comic book for sale online. I'm not sure the seller knew what it was that he was selling so I was able to purchase it for next to nothing. In my circles, this is a collector's item! I wrote a little bit about this comic here on my blog in 2012.

I also own a copy of the official comic adaptation of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol from Airwave Comics. I'm not sure the year this comic was released but my copy is signed by all four of the artists that worked on it. I acquired my copy from the artist/writer Chris Yambar--a fellow Northeast Ohio resident. The front and back inside covers include a Gerald McBoing Boing recipe for Razzleberry Dressing!

Do you have any books that connect you with Christmas movies or TV programs? I'll share more from my book collection in Part 2--coming later this week.

[See Part 2 HERE]

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Detroit Festival of Books 2017

Last month, my publisher 1701 Press had a booth at the first-ever Detroit Festival of Books. The all-day event was held in Detroit's historic public market, Eastern Market. The turn-out from readers and book collectors was fantastic! Many, many thanks to all the people who showed up and the wonderful new friends I made. It was quite a rush--in July, no less--to meet so many people excited about Christmas entertainment! And, I extend congratulations and much gratitude to the efficient event organizers who hosted the successful happening.

Between conversations with readers, I stood on a chair to take a photo of some of the crowd. Michigan is filled with people interested in reading books in print. Don't believe the hype that says "No one reads anymore" or "Print books are dead." It's just not true.

While I was in Detroit, I decided to enjoy myself and go record shopping. In Ferndale, I found a used record store and hit the jackpot! They had a sizable Christmas music collection and I found several vintage records that I needed for my growing collection. As you can imagine, I'm usually looking for holiday records that tie into television, film, and popular culture. Here are a few of the records I got in Detroit:

from 1965 musical TV special

I've been looking for this for a few years--the music from ABC's 1965 musical The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood. The production stars Liza Minnelli, Cyril Ritchard, Vic Damone, and the British Invasion band The Animals. I'm very excited to finally have my own copy of the original soundtrack. If you haven't seen the production, you should. Several years ago it was officially released on DVD so it's fairly easy to find.


I've been keeping an eye out for this album for a while now too. It's a collection of Christmas carols sung by professional singers but Earl Hamner himself (the original creator and narrator of the TV series The Waltons) provides some storytelling. Will Geer (Grandpa Walton) can be heard too! Great album cover--I may just hang this on the wall! I'm so happy I finally found this.


I grabbed this record as fast I could! This LP is the 1983 release of the 1973 animated TV special The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas, by DePatie-Freleng. There is both music and spoken word on the record. I'm pleased that it includes the original voice actors: Tommy Smothers, Louie Nye, and June Foray. More on this record release from the expert Greg Ehrbar: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/depatie-frelengs-bear-who-slept-through-christmas-on-records/

1970 animated production

Ha! This one is still sealed. According to the cover (I haven't opened it yet), this record is the story and music from the soundtrack of the 1970 animated production Santa and the 3 Bears. Should I open it or keep it in sealed, original condition? I don't know yet. Decisions, decisions....


Ooohh I've been looking for this one too. This is a recording from the soundtrack of Rankin/Bass' cel animated TV special Cricket on the Hearth. It features Danny Thomas and his real-life daughter Marlo Thomas, as well as Ed Ames, Hans Conried, Abbe Lane, Paul Frees and even Roddy McDowall. This TV special is one of the lesser-known Rankin/Bass Christmas stories--one adapted from a Charles Dickens tale. This LP was probably a promo copy--it has a small hole punched through the top left corner, but I'm just glad to finally have my own copy.


I didn't know what this was when I pulled it from a box of Christmas records in the store, but for one dollar it was coming home with me. The album's cover shows considerable wear but for one dollar, who can complain!? Storytelling and music with Mel Blanc--what's not to love? Again, I defer to Greg Ehrbar for more info: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/bugs-bunnys-high-fructose-christmas-record/


This was another one that I just grabbed and added to my growing pile. I didn't care what songs were on it, it was one dollar and it was coming home with me. Now I see it includes familiar holiday carols, such as "Deck the Halls" and "Sleigh Ride," as well as less familiar ones, like "Children Go Where I Send Thee"--a song that always reminds me of Tennessee Ernie Ford's Christmas TV specials. There are also original holiday songs written just for the Cabbage Patch Kids! It's a little nuts.


Although this album cover has seen better days, it IS 55 years old so copies aren't that plentiful. This recording is the spoken-word story of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, the live action Disney TV movie based on an original story by Mary Mapes Dodge, which takes place during the mid-nineteenth century in Holland. The story is set over the Christmas holiday. The movie originally aired in 1962 on The Wonderful World of Disney, in two parts. Do you remember this movie adaptation?

I don't see a year on the album cover--and I can't find anyone else suggesting a year on the internet. If you know when this was recorded or released, let me know. I believe I have the photo rotated--the title should not go across the top but along the left-hand side of the album. Anyway, this record used to belong to a radio station--it has a station identification written across the back cover.

The LP is a collection of ten recordings by Hollywood entertainers expressing their thanks, gratitude and holiday greeting to members of the U.S. Navy for their service. The celebrities speak over Christmas music. It's actually pretty cool. Celebrities on this album include Eddy Arnold, Phyllis Diller, Jack Webb, Norm Crosby, Florence Henderson, Robert Young, Gary Crosby, Shirley Jones, George Maharis, and Edie Adams. I'm guessing it's from the late 1960s or early '70s. The mother from The Brady Bunch and the mother from The Partridge Family on one record!? yup.


This is another weird one that I'm pleased to have found. It is still sealed and I haven't opened it yet. It is a spoken word recording of the 1980 Salvation Army annual Christmas program. The program consists of two parts--"A Search for Beauty" and "Christmas-Reflections by Starlight," featuring actor Michael Landon. There are chorale and orchestration credits on the back cover so clearly Landon is speaking over music. Again, it's still wrapped and sealed in the original plastic and I haven't decided to open it yet, but...it IS tempting.

Do you collect Christmas records? Have you seen the documentary movie Jingle Bell Rocks about Christmas music collectors? When I visited Christmas music collector Jeff Fox last year, we also went record shopping--here's that post again. I hope your summer is going well. Christmas is just around the corner.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: Jim Fanning

Christmas in July 2017: Jim Fanning of Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood  
1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

I agree with the many participants who said that Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is the perfect Santa Claus. But there are others either equally intriguing or at least interesting, whether in animated form (e.g., The Flintstones) or live-action (e.g., The Brady Bunch, I Love Lucy). Of all of them I think I'll pick Santa Claus in Frosty the Snowman (1969). Each of the Rankin/Bass specials that feature Santa Claus has a slightly different take on the beloved figure, and here I like his firm command of Christmas magic as he explains how a good jolly December wind will bring Frosty back to life. And of course his voice is performed by the great Paul Frees so how can I resist?

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

Again so challenging to answer. There is the gold standard "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II" from The Mary Tyler Moore Show which is the one holiday episode I make sure I see every Christmas time. And I agree with George Prentice about the annual The Late Show with David Letterman holiday show on CBS featuring Darlene Love and (best of all) Paul Shaffer's  timeless impersonation of Cher singing “O Holy Night.” But that only reminds me of a bona fide classic that I am lucky enough to have on video tape: Christmas with the Lettermans, David Letterman's 1984 spoof of a 1960s Christmas special complete with a phony family for Dave and classic guest stars such as Pat Boone and the Doodletown Pipers, as well as everyone’s dream holiday visitor, Brother Theodore. Weird, disturbing and affectionate in an odd (very odd) way it's a wry, ironic and downright demented tribute to some of the cheesier holiday themed variety specials we have been subjected to. (Of course we always watch them anyhow.)

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

I try to watch holiday specials, shows, movies and other programming only at Christmas time because to watch them other times of the year, for me at least, makes them seem less special. Having said that I will usually sneak something in July or thereabouts—often inspired by the in-depth answers right here at the annual Christmas TV History questionnaire!

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

I watch Christmas programming anyway I can get it: my extensive collection of video tapes, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, network TV, cable such as TCM (Turner Classic Movies), YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime. And to combine this answer with my previous answer I just watched the Christmas episode (never before seen by me) of the animated series BoJack Horseman on Netflix. So its Christmas in July on a streaming service! Just call me a 21st century boy.

from 1972 TV movie The House Without a Christmas Tree.

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?

Another question that takes the wisdom of Solomon or at least Santa Claus which I definitely do not have. However, forced to choose right now, my answer is The House Without a Christmas Tree, A Muppet Family Christmas and the all-time, unmissable TV classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: RECAP

Did you check out all the responses by our Christmas in July participants?  In case you were late to the party this summer, here's your chance to catch up. Below is a complete list of links to each of our guests who participated in July. It goes by quickly, doesn't it?

If you're the curious sort, you may be interested to note that Edmund Gwenn, the actor who played Kris Kringle in the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street was overwhelming chosen as Favorite Santa Claus. And, White Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas were programs that participants most wanted to bring with them to a deserted island.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Christmas in July and to all who left comments. If you would still like to leave comments, please feel free to do so--the discussions don't have to end just because July is over.

Introduction to Christmas in July 2017 and Joanna Wilson's responses

Hugh H. Davis 

Johnny Holmes from Radio Once More and The Holmsey Blog

Clifton Barnes from North Carolina

George Prentice

Donna Bock

Drew Flowers, Co-Moderator for ChristmasMoviesandMusic

Patrick Manning

Mitchell Hadley, from It's About TV!

Cathie Kahle, member of Christmas Movies and Music

Linda M. Young from www.flyingdreams.org

Ed South - What's Your Favorite Movie? podcast

Ronda Roxbury

Jim Inman - Christmas Movies and Music

Randall Buie from Henderson, Nevada

Jeff Fox

Rob Martinez - The Nights Before Christmas

Laura Rachel at What to Watch.

Kevin Bowman

David Hannah

Tom Howley
Joe Mello from Wish You Merry Christmas and My Third Parent  


Jim Randle of Paris, Tennessee

David Hofstede from Comfort TV

Dominic Caruso from 1701 Press

Net from It's a Wonderful Movie

Jakki from Christmas Movies & Music

Niall McGarry

Daniel Budnik from Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things

Jennifer Lundgren, from Stockholm, Sweden

J.A. Morris from Holiday Film Reviews

Jim Fanning of Jim Fanning's Tulgey Wood

If you're interested in our mini-questionnaires from years past, here are some links:

Christmas in July 2016

Christmas in July 2015

Christmas in July 2014

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com