Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Answer Time #9



In 2015, I opened the door for readers to ASK ME ANYTHING. That request brought about many thought-provoking questions and I enjoyed responding too. So we're doing it again. Need to see the request again? HERE ya go. To see ANSWER #8 again, click HERE.
 
The following question came from David:

How do you feel personally about the evolution of Christmas TV from the more sincere, wholesome presentations of the 1950s-1970s to the edgier and often more cynical holiday offerings today - or do you even agree with that premise?

Thanks for your question David. This is a good question about how television and Christmas on TV have changed over the decades. I'm eager to unfold it here with a little more depth. David mentions "edgier" and "cynical" Christmas presentations and I can certainly point to examples of sarcastic, outrageous, dark, ironic, twisted, irreverent and even offensive holiday programs. I have an entire chapter about numerous examples in The Christmas TV Companion book. There is no question that these stories exist. However I will say that it isn't something new. Edgy and dark Christmas stories have been with us--and popular--for a long time. Some even before television. (Many historians have argued that Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was edgy upon its initial release in its day!) I would argue that the classic Jack Benny Show "Christmas Shopping" episode too is a very dark one. If you recall, Benny is shopping at a department store and buys a wallet for Don Wilson. As Benny continues to shop for his other friends, he repeatedly returns to the sales clerk (Mel Blanc) to change the message on the tag on Wilson's gift, driving the frustrated clerk to suicide! (The stressed-out clerk steps off-screen and we hear a gunshot! Benny moves behind the wallet counter and STEPS OVER something to reach Wilson's gift. The implication is that the sales clerk's body is lying on the ground!) The 60 year-old Christmas TV episode is no doubt, a dark one. I also find the 1952 episode ".22 Rifle for Christmas" from Dragnet an extremely dark holiday installment. Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner find a missing nine year-old boy who had gone into hiding after he accidentally shot and killed his best friend with the rifle he had gotten under the Christmas tree. However, this shocking Christmas episode was in step with the series itself that regularly told tragic tales.

But if I understand the question correctly, I'm being asked about an increase in outrageous holiday stories. Yes--I would agree that there has been an increase in both the degree of outrageousness and the number of edgier Christmas programs. I believe this is true for several reasons. One major reason we have an increased number of edgier, cynical, outrageous and even irreverent and offensive Christmas programs is because we have more edgy, cynical, outrageous, irreverent, and offensive TV programming. Back in the 1980s and 90s with the increase in cable TV, different networks began to create their own brand identities to try to compete for specific viewing demographics and sell appropriate commercials. This of course led to the development of networks devoted solely to children viewers, those interested in sports, African-Americans, women, etc. as well as any variety of attitudes, interests and viewpoints. Original programming was needed by these TV networks to attract specific viewers and this included Christmas programming as well. For example, in the late 80s, the fledgling Fox Network saw itself as hip, young and edgy and it created what it thought was hip, young and edgy TV programming. Those TV series often created hip, young, and edgy Christmas episodes too--think: Married With Children, Herman's Head, The Simpsons, Woops!, et al.


Fans of South Park know that the Christmas episodes push the boundaries of taste just like the series itself.

In the years since this expansion, we can see an increase in programming targeted for even more specific niche audience tastes and attitudes--programming that isn't intended to attract very large audiences but instead very loyal ones. A quintessential example is Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming. This is a block of animation series with a very specific range of taste, style, and sense of humor. It is no surprise that the Christmas episodes from these series also reflect this same taste, style, and sense of humor--or as some are want to say: same lack of taste, style and sense of humor. Ha! You get the idea. Those few of you who may watch Adult Swim series have probably watched not just one--but many of the series that air during the block, have watched them repeatedly, and most likely have purchased the programming as well. Am I right?

Another reason we have an increased number of edgier Christmas stories, generally speaking, is that television has changed over the decades to reflect society's attitudes, and as a society we have been more willing to accept in ourselves a wider range of emotions and reactions to the holiday season. This explains examples such as NBC's 2012 music special Blake Shelton’s Not So Family Christmas and NBC's 2013 music special Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale. While these examples are not two that venture too far from the center, they acknowledge in their titles that the conservative world of country music and the mainstream are willing to come to the edge, if not step on it.

The initial question asked of me also inquired how I personally feel about this evolution in storytelling on TV. As a historian of Christmas on TV, I watch it all and document it. Long ago, I let go of any expectation of liking (or being entertained by) every holiday program I watch. For me, I struggle with watching all of the Christmas TV programs targeted to toddlers and pre-school aged children more than I do the offensive shows. (I think there are MORE programs aimed at toddlers and pre-schoolers than there are truly offensive Christmas programs). I find I just don't have a lot of  patience to enjoy the simplistic (sometimes banal) Christmas programs aimed at the youngest of viewers (now I'm NOT talking about Sesame Street! but others). I still watch them and document them because it's my job, but I don't always find it an easy task. As for the edgier, cynical Christmas programming--some of it I like and enjoy, and some of it I can do without, but I'm interested in documenting all of it.

Thanks again to David for stepping up and asking his question.  Anyone else have a question for me? Please feel free to ask it below in the comments, or find me on social media.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com


Sunday, September 9, 2018

DVD Dress Update--Part 3

A fitting for the top half of the under-layer of the dress.

The dressmaking process is moving along. Alyssa's Fall semester in school has started and she shared with me that she's learning things in her new classes already that she's excited to bring to this project. The photo above was taken during a recent fitting. It was 90 degrees outside but we were working on a dress inspired by Rosemary Clooney's red dress, seen in the finalé of the 1954 movie White Christmas! The air conditioning was turned up and we were singing along to the movie's song "Snow." Our deadline is October and there's much work to be done.

My designer Alyssa explained to me that the bodice of the garment she's making--or the upper portion of the dress--needs a fabric layer that she will eventually attach the paper Netflix envelope fronts upon. That's what the muslin layer seen in the above photo captures. Once the bodice fits me just right, she'll be able to create the paper layer. Then the bottom portion of the dress too will be created. Alyssa has also been busy creating a paper interpretation of the white fur cuffs and trim that are on the White Christmas dress. If you follow her on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/a_zdesigns/ ), you may have seen the videos she's made about the paper rosettes she's creating. Just to catch you up, we're not making a cosplay outfit of Rosemary Clooney, but rather we're just taking inspiration from that gorgeous red dress in the movie. As you can see, the neckline is already slightly different. We're working on capturing the same classic Hollywood glamour, style and maybe even a bit of Christmas with our red paper dress. I can't wait to see it when it's finished!


Gorgeous Rosemary Clooney (right). How will the paper dress translate this look? I don't know--we'll soon see :)

Working on this project this year has given me an opportunity to reflect back on the journey I've made to this point. I initially started the research for what eventually became the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV book almost twenty years ago. I started re-watching old Christmas TV specials in 2000, and by 2002 I was collecting information and writing summaries of Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies. My first book on Christmas programs came out in 2009, and by then I had started this website and blog. Next year will be the blog's 10th year.

 Currently I have four books on Christmas entertainment: Christmas TV Companion, Tis the Season TV, Merry Musical Christmas Vol. 1, and Triple Dog Dare. I was even lucky enough to be invited to participate in the anthology Yuletide Terror that came out last year from the Canadian press Spectacular Optical. My next book will be an updated edition of Tis the Season TV, coming in 2020.  This new edition of the encyclopedia will include the 120 to 150 new Christmas programs created each year, since the first release of the book in 2010. And, it will include more comprehensive information, summaries, and commentaries on hundreds of older titles. Since 2010, I've gotten a better understanding how readers want to use the encyclopedia too so I've worked hard to improve the index, and I've created several new indices to make searching categories and music possible as well. It already feels like a whole new book.
 



One of the things I've learned along the way about researching Christmas entertainment is that--as I mentioned above--there are between 120 and 150 new yuletide episodes, specials and movies created each year. Quite frankly, that number continues to grow with each successive year. Christmas entertainment is big business for television and it continues to bring ratings, sales of commercials, and new subscribers to online streaming services. Not only does Hallmark Channel continue to make more, new Christmas TV movies each year, but now TV One regularly airs new holiday movies--along with Lifetime, Ion, and Up TV--the networks that have been doing it for a while. The major networks still feature their annual specials, such as Christmas in Rockefeller Center and CMA Country Christmas, among others. And, Netflix and Amazon and the like have joined in with offering viewers new original holiday programming as well. In updating the listings for the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV, I have my work cut out for me!

Certainly subscribing to Netflix DVD service has been an important resource in this research, but I also subscribe to Netflix's streaming service. The kind of massive research that I do also involves using my local library's resources and interlibrary loans, accessing museums and archives, and watching an awful lot of television and streaming services. Getting the opportunity to wear a glamorous dress made from the packaging of my research materials seems like a beautiful tribute. This dress couldn't "fit" anyone but me. Thanks for joining me in the adventure :)


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com






Thursday, August 30, 2018

Answer Time #8




In 2015, I opened the door for readers to ASK ME ANYTHING. That request brought about many thought-provoking questions and I enjoyed responding too. So we're doing it again. Need to see the request again? HERE ya go. The following question came in last week:

Kevin asks: What do you think is the definition of a "Christmas Special?" How does the American definition differ from the English? Have home recording, cable television, and Youtube changed what makes a "special" special?

Thanks for your question, Kevin. I'm super glad you asked this--I'm not surprised. I regularly see a bit of confusion over this term. My response will attempt to unpack this and add clarity. Here goes:

The TV industry has already defined what makes a television special. To paraphrase, a TV special is a program outside an episodic series. Specials are fundamental to Christmas TV entertainment. I usually distinguish between three types of Christmas TV programs: episodes, specials, and TV movies. (Sometimes industry people qualify TV movies as specials--whatever. Since I focus my discussions solely on Christmas programs and there are hundreds of Christmas TV movies, it's much easier for me to classify them distinctly from other types of specials). So the definition of a TV special doesn't have anything to do with content. The most common Christmas TV specials are music/variety, animated specials, and documentary-style informational programs.

Discussing specials can get even more complicated. Marketing, sales and advertising are also a large part of the entertainment industry and some TV episodes (or home video releases) confusingly include the word 'special' in the title. Sometimes the title purposefully evokes a double meaning of the word 'special' to help sell a program to viewers as outstanding, exceptional, or remarkable. (Don't count on advertisers in the entertainment industry to stick to clear, consistent usage of 'special' as a noun or an adjective). Don't believe everything you read on DVD boxes or descriptions in streaming services!

What makes some TV specials a more rare experience is that some are intended to air only once, which means they aren't created with the permissions and licenses to be broadcast year after year, or to be released to home video markets. These TV specials become a more "valuable" experience because we only have a very limited chance to see them airing on TV.




Another part of the initial question asked How does the American definition differ from the English? This is also another complication. Although things are always changing, British TV has a long established history of series that run MUCH shorter than American TV series. 20 years ago when our average network series may have run 24 episodes per season, it was far more common to see British TV series run only 6, 8, or 10 episodes per series. This means more series ran on each channel or network during the 52 weeks of each year. Often a British TV Christmas Special is an installment of the series that hasn't aired in months. (This ends up being a smart way to keep viewers interested in the characters from their favorite series--especially if it hasn't aired in months). Are these Christmas Specials specials? Not really, and many times you'll find them released on DVD with the run of the series. Sometimes a British TV Christmas Special is a return to favorite TV characters long after the series is over. If I've counted correctly, Only Fools and Horses had TEN Christmas Specials after the run of the series ended!? Yeah--American TV doesn't do this.

It's kind of tricky because the British TV title "Christmas Special" doesn't always imply a holiday theme. (Sometimes they are set during Christmas, but many times they aren't!) If a program is titled "Christmas Special" on TV in the United States, it is almost always Christmas themed. (There are a few exceptions).

Did this make any sense? Thanks for your questions Kevin!

Anyone else have a question about Christmas TV entertainment? Ask me on social media or place your question in the comments HERE.



Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com





Thursday, August 16, 2018

Ask Me Anything: 2018


I'd like to return to something I did a few years back. Here's your opportunity to ASK ME ANYTHING and get a response.

Ever wanted to ask me a question about Christmas entertainment--or being a Christmas entertainment historian? Ever wondered how Christmas on TV has changed over the decades? Curious about my research methods? Want to know what the hardest part of my job is? How I got started? My future book plans? What's the number one Christmas movie/special I'm asked to comment on? Why I create a Christmas in July blogathon each year? How I choose which program to review on my blog? What books I read? What's going on with the DVD Netflix dress? Or even why Christmas entertainment? Maybe you have a better question than these. Let me know in the comments below and I'll respond.

I've been meaning to do this for quite a while--now seems like the perfect time.  I realize not everyone has a chance to meet me at a book signing, speaking engagement, or convention. Often when I am asked these sort of questions by journalists or on the radio, there are inevitable time constraints and I'm edited down or I don't have the opportunity to go into much detail. So now is your chance--ask me about my experiences and I'll do my best.

If your question requires a long response, I'll create a blog post for it. I might even combine several questions and responses into one blog post. We'll see. It sort of depends on your questions. So ask away.



Some of you may remember I did this before in 2015 and I got a good response from readers. Here are the questions to which I was able to respond. Click on the title for each link:

ANSWER TIME #1 -- about British TV

ANSWER TIME #2 -- best decade, and most interesting celebrity I've met

ANSWER TIME #3 -- about a confusing set of Christmas episodes from Father Knows Best.

ANSWER TIME #4 -- research methods and finding old Christmas programs.

ANSWER TIME #5 -- about nostalgia and the differences in Christmas TV specials over the years.

ANSWERS #6 & #7 -- pageants as portrayed in pop culture, and the wealth of older holiday programming that is no longer aired on TV.

Looking back over these answers from 2015, I can already see some of them are out of date! That's exciting. Feel free to ask what you like. You can pose your questions in the comments below, email me, or ask on social media. (I can be reached @TistheSeasonTV on Instagram, Twitter and on Facebook).


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com







Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: 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 this year. It goes by quickly, doesn't it?

If you're curious, most participants selected A Muppet Christmas Carol as their favorite Jim Henson Christmas production in question #1. It should be noted that Carol only won by a slim margin of 2 votes--Emmet Otter, John Denver, and Muppet Family all tied for 2nd place! And, 1986's The Christmas Toy received no votes. The other result of some interest may be the unexpected consensus on question #5 about the time capsule. Most people selected A Charlie Brown Christmas. The next runner-up was It's a Wonderful Life. Fascinating, no? However, my favorite question and its answers turned out to be #4--I'm so impressed by everyone's wishes and creativity! I feared most might hate that question but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole party for me. Thank you for surprising me :D

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 the blogathon is over.



Original introduction--answers by Joanna Wilson

Drew Flowers, Co- Moderator Christmas Movies and Music

Randall Buie, Henderson, Nevada, author of The Education of a Country Hick

Page G. 




Wanda Stella

Cathie Kahle

Phairhead



Sleepy Kitty Paws

Hugh H. Davis

Ed South - host of What's Your Favorite Movie podcast

Jim Inman - Christmas Movies & Music




Jeff Fox from NameThatChristmasSpecial.com

Linda M. Young, www.flyingdreams.org

Sherry Duplessis

Aaron Henton (Der Bingle) www.merryandbright.blogspot.com
 



Kevin A. Bowman

Mike Westfall from adventcalendar.house

Donna Bock

Dominic Caruso, 1701 Press


 

Laura Rachel, What to Watch

Dean S.

Rob Martinez - producer/host of "The Nights Before Christmas"

Brian Earl from Christmas Past




Tony Adams

Jim Randle, from Paris, Tennessee

Patrick Labelle, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sowers




Angela McQuiston

Mitchell Hadley, It's About TV!

Jakki Hanna - Christmas Movies& Music

Rick Stoneburner




Andrew Gillman (www.sparklyprettybriiiight.com)

John D.

Craig of Weird Christmas tumblr

Jennifer Lundgren




D.X. Ferris, Suburban Metal Dad

Tom Beiter, http://garagesalin.blogspot.com/

Jim Fanning, from Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood

Jason Morris - Holiday Film Reviews




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



Christmas in July 2017

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. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com


 

Christmas in July 2018: Jason Morris


from 1977's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Christmas in July 2018: 
Jason Morris-Holiday Film Reviews
Links: https://holidayfilmreviews.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/holidayfilmreviews/

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. The characters are very lovable and beautifully designed, Paul Williams’ songs are catchy and fun, and the story is touching. I’ve watched this every Christmas since I first stumbled on it in 1980.


2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

The 1960s, because that’s the decade that gave us the “holy trinity” of Christmas specials: Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Grinch.


from 1951's A Christmas Carol

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert. 

Appetizer: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Entre: A Christmas Carol (1951) with Alastair Sim
Dessert: A Christmas Story

4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

The Rockford Files was an event in my house every Friday night when I was growing up, my parents and I loved the series. I wish they’d made a Christmas episode, if for no other reason than it would give me an excuse to watch the series every December. We could’ve seen Jim and Rocky celebrating, putting up a little tree in the trailer, or Angel Martin working on some scheme that involved a Santa suit. 


 from 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

A Charlie Brown Christmas, because it’s still the best Christmas special more than fifty years after its debut. Its message still rings true today, Vince Guaraldi’s music still sounds amazing and it’s also very funny (I still laugh heartily every time I see Snoopy dance on Schroeder’s piano!). 




Monday, August 6, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Jim Fanning

LP soundtrack to 1979 TV special

Christmas in July 2018: Jim Fanning, from
Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood https://jimattulgeywood.blogspot.com  
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmeliusBrowne 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jim.fanning1/



1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Though I’m inclined to choose A Muppet Family Christmas, which is sheer Muppet AND Christmas perfection, I think I will go in a different direction and choose John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. There are many reasons to appreciate this 1979 TV special, including the chemistry between John and the various Muppet characters and also the Nativity Story, featuring some unique (stylized human-character) Muppet figures. The highlights throughout, however, are the songs. The special is almost non-stop music, not surprising given how musical Denver as well as the Muppets are, featuring a multitude of both old favorites and also new songs that become your favorites upon hearing them. The record album based on this TV special is actually my all-time favorite Christmas album.


from the 1970 Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show
 
2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?  

Though I love Christmas specials and programs from every era for me the 1960s presented the best TV Christmas specials. From the first animated holiday TV special, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol in 1962, to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in 1966, The Little Drummer Boy in 1968, Frosty the Snowman in 1969, and many more, the 1960s offered specials of every variety that are still broadcast and enjoyed today. I’d like to bend the rules a bit and expand to the early 1970s as well, so as to include The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (the TV special that inspired The Waltons TV series) in 1971 and The House Without a Christmas Tree is a 1972. Such an expansion also encompasses “Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II“ the first season (1970-1971) holiday episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, my favorite TV series. This is the Christmas TV episode that I watch without fail every year. 

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entree, and dessert.

When I share media with friends I most enjoy sharing programs that they haven’t seen before. So the selections below are both eclectic and, to some at least, esoteric. Again I stretched things a little by adding a course or two.

Apéritif: The Sesame Street Muppets (featuring the Monsters) performance of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” from A Muppet Family Christmas
Appetizer: The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow. This gentle and little known Rankin-Bass “Animagic” show is truly unique, featuring as it does the voice, of Angela Lansbury, a blind shepherd boy and a performance of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,”
Entree: This course needs to be a substantial dish so It’s a Wonderful Life, the Alistair Sim-starring A Christmas Carol or Scrooge with Albert Finney would all be fine fare, but I chose The House Without A Christmas Tree. This still largely unknown TV special features delightful Christmas customs, and humor, but also includes moving poignancy and powerful drama that takes the viewer’s breath away.
Dessert:  The Flintstones episode, “Christmas Flintstone,” which aired on December 25, 1964. A sweet, lighthearted, entertaining TV episode perfect for dessert.
Digestif:  The Nativity Story from John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. This segment is followed immediately by the Muppets and John singing “Silent Night.” Seems the perfect way to end a Christmas Eve dinner and to start off Christmas Day.


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

The Don Fedderson-produced successes of the 1960s-early 1970s were My Three Sons and Family Affair. To my knowledge, My Three Sons never had a Christmas episode, while its sister-show had a sort of anti-holiday episode, the affecting “Christmas Came A Little Early.” So why not a crossover of both to create a truly special Christmas episode? The plot could involve aeronautical engineer Steve Douglas visiting New York City to consult with engineer Bill Davis in December. Uncle Bill learns that since work on the project will continue into January, Steve is flying the entire Douglas clan (sons Chip, Ernie, and Robbie, as well as Chip’s wife Polly, Robbie’s wife Katie and their triplet toddler sons, Uncle Charlie, Steve’s wife Barbara and daughter Dodie) from Los Angeles to Manhattan for the holidays. He invites his new colleague and his family to join him, nephew Jody, nieces Buffy, Cissy and Mr. French at their Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment home for Christmas dinner. Steve accepts only when Uncle Bill assures him that Mr. French will not mind extending the Christmas dinner for so many guests. When the Douglas family arrives at the Davis penthouse, the Davis kids are overjoyed, but it turns out Mr. French is indeed concerned about extending the dinner on such a short notice. Luckily Uncle Charlie pitches in to help, and the two duet on a song based on “All I Want for Christmas“, but with new lyrics indicating that all they want is a quiet home. Of course, when “Frency’s” part-time household helper, Emily Turner arrives for dinner, she too helps with the dinner, and, joining in the song, gets French and Charlie to reveal that underneath it all they enjoy the chaos of their respective households. Other musical numbers feature holiday music provided by Steve on the saxophone, Uncle Charlie on the cello, Robbie on the trumpet, and Chip and Ernie on electric guitar. Miss Faversham drops by to help explain some British Christmas customs. With the stagehand assist of Jody and Cissy, Dodie and Buffy employ Myrtle and Mrs. Beasley to put on a puppet Christmas pageant which features an unscheduled appearance at the end by the triplets as the Three Wise Men, wearing Christmas crowns courtesy of Mr. French’s Christmas crackers. Uncle Charlie’s brother, “Bub” O’Casey, the sons’ grandfather and original cantankerous caregiver of the Douglas household, is remembered in a poignant segment centering around the song, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Just then, “lost” family members, Mr. French’s brother and Mike (the eldest Douglas son for the first five seasons of My Three Sons) and his wife Sally arrive unexpectedly just in time for Christmas dinner all for an extra festive touch for the combining of these two family favorites.


"Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!"
 
5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

A Charlie Brown Christmas. This greatest of the great Christmas TV specials includes so many holiday elements, such as a pageant, writing a letter to Santa, decorations, and carols. There’s also a distinctive score that has become part of the holiday soundscape, and a reimagining of one of the most iconic of all Yuletide symbols, the Christmas tree. Best of all, it includes Linus' superb proclamation of the Nativity narrative from the Gospel of Luke. “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Sunday, August 5, 2018

DVD Dress Update--Part 2

Celebrating with coffee the morning Alyssa accepted the assignment.

Quite a bit has happened with the DVD Netflix paper dress project since I last wrote about it in May. See the introduction to this discussion again HERE.  In May and June, I heard from almost twenty fashion designers interested in the project to make a paper dress from my collection of more than 1,500 Netflix envelope fronts--a project sponsored by the subscription service DVD Netflix to help commemorate their 20th anniversary. I ended up interviewing ten designers. My decision was not an easy one--I met quite a few extremely talented, creative, and ambitious young men and women.


Alyssa showing me the gorgeous gown she made from styrofoam plates and cups--a dress featured in People Magazine.

One woman stood out from the crown and I'm grateful that she accepted the assignment. Her name is Alyssa Hertz and she's a sophomore in the renown fashion program at Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio. She has experience working with non-traditional materials to create innovative fashions, and she's articulate and confident. I'm very pleased to be working with her on this project.


Another impressive dress Alyssa made--this one from newspaper.
At a meeting last week with Alyssa discussing the project.

Early in the process, Alyssa and I were discussing our dreams for the dress and we came up with a concept that made us both happy. Hold on to your seat! We're taking our inspiration from glamorous classic Hollywood to create a dress inspired by Rosemary Clooney's red dress seen in the finalé of the 1954 movie White Christmas! Alyssa is making something wholly original but our paper dress made from the red DVD Netflix envelope fronts will evoke the spirit of Clooney's gown. Doesn't that sound like fun? I get goose bumps every time I talk about it.


I have to start working on channeling my inner Rosemary Clooney!

Alyssa is already hard at work on the bodice.

Alyssa has already begun work on the bodice--that's fashion-speak for the top portion of the dress. If you'd like to follow along with the progress of the dress, you can follow the hashtag #DVDdress on social media. Both Alyssa and I will be sharing our photos on Instagram and Twitter using that hashtag. You can also follow along on the website here. Our deadline for the project is October so we'll be sharing more before then. As Alyssa continues to work on the dress, I'll be reflecting back on the 10 years I've been writing and maintaining this blog/website. 10 years!? I know--where has the time gone? This exciting project feels like a good time to reflect on the wonderful opportunities and adventures I have enjoyed along the way.  Thanks for reading--and more on the dress coming soon :)


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." 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

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

Christmas in July 2018: Tom Beiter

from 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol

Christmas in July 2018: Tom Beiter, http://garagesalin.blogspot.com/


1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

It has to be Muppet Christmas Carol.  I didn't see it until a few years ago, but it may be the best (and closest) adaption to the story I've seen.  The interaction between Michael Caine and the Muppets is entirely believable.

2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?



That's a hard one.  The '60's gave us the standards with Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and Frosty, but the '70's expanded so much upon Christmas specials, not mention it was the decade of my childhood. I'm going to have to give it to the '70's.

from the 1971 TV movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story


3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer: The House Without a Christmas Tree
Entré: The Homecoming (The Waltons)
Dessert: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Mid-evening Snack: An American Christmas Carol
Late Night Snack: A Christmas Story



4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.



That's a tough one.  Some of my ideas have already been proposed (like a special on department store windows), but I'll go with one devoted to the Toys of Christmas, 1900 through the 1980's. The History Channel touched a little on that a few years ago with their Christmas through the Decades mini-series (on which I got to be featured in the '70's episode with a home movie of my Mom and I having a tug-of-war with Stretch Armstrong on Christmas Eve of 1976), but I'd like to see one devoted entirely to toys.


from 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas


5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

I'm struggling over A Charlie Brown Christmas which best represents the meaning of Christmas and A Christmas Story which best represents the reality of Christmas in America, not to mention childhood in general. I refuse to decide. They both go in!



Saturday, August 4, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: D.X. Ferris

from 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol

Christmas in July 2018: D.X. Ferris, Suburban Metal Dad at http://checkoutmybutt.com/

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Muppet Christmas Carol really works. It hits all the notes: dejecting sorrow, oppressive fear, redemptive joy... and catchy music, too! It has it all. It's a full-on drama, featuring Muppets.

And no, it doesn't make me cry — I don't know who told you that. It airs during allergy season. It makes YOU cry. You don't know me!




2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?



I have to go with the 1960s and that Big Bang of the Big Four Christmas Specials. My favorites are Charlie Brown, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph, and Frosty. I'm not a Sound of Music fan, but John Coltrane's transcendent jazz take on "My Favorite Things" is one of the great moments in art, whether it's the three-minute edit or the 13-minute free-jazz freakout.


from 1982's The Snowman


3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer: Charlie Brown. Get the Christmas magic flowing with a short program.

Entré: Scrooged. Watch the passion of the Scrooge. See a man reject selfishness and embrace the human race. "NOW MORE THAN EVER, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS... YOUR LIFE MAY JUST DEPEND ON IT."

Dessert: Depending what the kids feel like, whether I'm watching solo, and/or how tired everybody is...

If you're sleepy and running short on time: The Snowman, which will send you into sleep with a fantastic journey into the heart of Christmas itself. I don't have to specify the original version, not the one with the Bowie intro, do I? (All respect to Bowie.)

Or if everyone's awake and the eggnog hasn't gone to your head, A Very Murray Christmas, Bill Murray's melancholy musical extravaganza.



Did you mean it literally? Then a shuffle of the Donnie Iris, Frank Sinatra, and Sia Christmas albums. Plus the record C'est Le Père Noël by Henri Des — he's a Swiss singer who performs children's music in French. But this quiet little Christmas album stands on its own, no matter how old you are.



4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.



I think a great way to introduce my comic strip to network TV would be the Suburban Metal Dad Christmas Special. I have some plots, but I can't divulge them here.

I've never been able to track down a full copy of Bob Goulet's Cajun Christmas; I'm starting to suspect the Scrooged people made it up.

A Marvel Christmas movie, maybe a Power Man-Iron Fist teamup, "Luke Cage's Sweet Christmas Holiday Special"?

If you look online for "Christmas in Carcosa," you can see my dubious argument that True Detective, Season 1 is a Christmas special. I'd say they should run it as a Christmas marathon, but I see why they don't. I'm probably kidding about at least one part of this bit.

And I'd love to see some kind of musical special like the Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, either from one genre, or a big harmonious crossover hosted by Rick Rubin or Bill Adler, the producer and renowned Christmas connoisseur who had the idea for "Christmas in Hollis." Have a bunch of metal guys, Sia, DMX, the Reverend Run, the Beasties, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, some hot younger artists, and Roseanne Cash celebrate the holidays in a country cabin. Invite Cypress Hill, have them change "Hand on the Pump" from "fa la la la" to "fa la la."

Or I think Ian MacKaye, his Fugazi pals, and Henry Rollins could reunite for a sincere celebration of friendship and the TRUE meaning of Christmas -- you know, the things that don't come in a box.


from 1984's A Christmas Carol
 

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

Some kind of Christmas Carol, probably the George C. Scott version from 1984. It hits all the right notes in the human cycle of character growth. And while it is very old-timey, it doesn't have the kind of cultural details that will be unrecognizable 1,000 years from now, like, say, Scrooged would.

D.X. Ferris is way into Christmas. He wrote books about Slayer and Donnie Iris. Set for October 2018 release, Suburban Metal Dad: Compendium Two will compile seven years of holiday funnies from his ongoing comic strip. Check out the 2017 edition of his annual Christmas music, "DXmas 2017: Snow Lightning," here: https://open.spotify.com/user/dxferris/playlist/1uPb6J4cwREvewJgQ6wSL1

Friday, August 3, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Jennifer Lundgren


from 1977's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Christmas in July 2018: Jennifer Lundgren

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. It just makes me laugh.


2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

I was born in 1965 so I grew up with all the Classic 60's Rankin Bass specials and still look forward to watching them.


Susan Lucci in 1995's TV movie Ebbie.

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

NOW, I understand this question:

Appetizer: A Charlie Brown Christmas that ends in Linus' famous speech which leads nicely into the main course:
Main Course: The Nativity, should be the reason we celebrate Christmas
Dessert: Something light either Scrooged or Ebbie, two of my favorite Christmas Carol adaptations.


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

As a science fiction fan, I always wish there was a Star Gate Christmas ep. SG1 could be stuck either on Another World or at Star Gate Command due to some emergency and each stuck in their own memories, Daniel with his parents in Christmas past, Sam with her father and brother (not sure her mother is every mentioned in the series), and Jack having painful memories of his son all the while they try to explain the hubbub to Teal'C.


1954's White Christmas--scene from "Snow" song.
 
5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

White Christmas, which would have been my main course (see above) if I went with a totally secular theme.



Thursday, August 2, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Craig

from the "Alfie the Christmas Tree" segment in 1979's John Denver & the Muppets: Christmas Together

Christmas in July 2018: Craig of Weird Christmas tumblr

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

John Denver and the Muppets. HANDS DOWN THE BEST OF ALL OF THEM! Why? Because it's a great mix of muppet silliness with John Denver doing his best to be as sincere as possible about Christmas. Is there a better tear-jerker than "Alfie the Christmas Tree": " So in your Christmas prayers this year, Alfie asked me if I'd ask you / to say a prayer for the wind, and the water, and the wood, / and those who live there, too." I love it because the really sincere songs on the album and in the special, like Alfie and "When the River Meets the Sea" aren't specifically religious but are more about the sentiments of the season. And, I'll admit, it's the one album my parents always put on when we decorated the tree and put up the decorations. It's not Christmas until I hear that. (And, ok, if I'm putting on my "Weird Christmas" hat, then I probably would have said that Elmo Saves Christmas is the best, just to be contrary.)

2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

The 50's and 60's. That was when you got the full front assault of schmaltz mixed with the last time you really got the darker mood of Christmas that was left over from earlier times. Think of the scariness of the Rankin/Bass specials that are supposed to be creepy, or the older versions of A Christmas Carol that really play up the evil and the maliciousness of the regular world. Once you hit the 70's and 80's, I feel like things often get a bit more straightforward on average. There are still oddities, but the things that make you cock your head and wonder what was going on in their heads...that's from mid-century.


A Cosmic Christmas from 1977
 
3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

To start, we have to go with a delightfully terrifying film from the 40's called Christmas Toy Shop. It starts with a useless dad trying to sneak in a Christmas tree while the kids sleep. But the kids wake up to find a blearily weary Santa who tells them all about his toy shop. But the cartoon describing this is intensely disturbing as the toys start to fight and break apart. It's just all around awful. (Rifftrax did a great take on it.) The main course would have to be Santa Claus Conquers the Martians because it just makes sense. (I think you see a MST3K theme going here.) And, for dessert, we'd watch a special that Joanna introduced me to called A Cosmic Christmas. I just seriously need some ancient aliens in my Christmas stocking.

Also, if we're talking actual Christmas dinner, mine's pretty straightforward: tamale appetizers, tamales for an entree, and a sweet tamale for dessert. Tamales are Christmas. When I moved up north, I had to learn to make them for myself or else Christmas wouldn't come.


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

I wish the Battlestar Gallactica reboot from the SyFy Channel had done a Christmas special. That wouldn't have made sense because they lived in humanity's past (yes...look it up) and never had Christianity. But I don't care. I want to see Starbuck and Adama singing Christmas carols while wondering if Santa is a cylon and if they'll have to kill him before his gifts turn everyone else into brainless robots.


The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of 1959's Santa Claus.
 
5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

Santa Claus, the Mexican movie directed by Rene Cardona. But the MST3K version, not the regular movie. The insanity of the movie itself will mess up future historians who try to understand either the Santa tradition or Mexican traditions. And the MST add-ons will not only add to that confusion but also let people know that we never intended our most deeply held beliefs and traditions to be taken seriously. Or something. Mainly, I want to inspire confusion.





Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: John D.

from 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol

Christmas in July 2018: John D.

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

A Muppet Christmas Carol, easy. I'm a Christmas Carol nut as you will see from some of my other responses, so this is a no-brainer. It's one of my favorite versions of Dickens' story, and I'm surprised it took them so long before they did a version of it!

2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

I'm going to bridge decades a little bit here. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the 60's and early 70's, so I was there for everything from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and the Grinch up to about The Year Without A Santa Claus in the mid 70's. I'd say that was the golden age of Christmas specials in general and Rankin-Bass Christmas specials in particular.


from 1987's A Garfield Christmas

3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer: Garfield's Christmas Special
Entre: A Christmas Carol. The 1984 version with George C. Scott.
Dessert: A Charlie Brown Christmas.
These three Christmas specials are my absolute favorites and move me to tears every time I see them. I hope they always will!


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

In Dickens' A Christmas Carol, my favorite character is Jacob Marley. There is a book by author Tom Mula, called Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, in which we get to see more of the character's back story, as well as what went on behind the scenes while he was helping to save Scrooge. And because of his involvement in saving Scrooge, he redeems himself and is freed of his chains. It's a wonderful, wonderful book. I highly recommend it to everyone, and I really, really wish someone would make it into a movie. I have no doubt it would be great!


George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge

5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

A Christmas Carol. It's absolutely timeless. I think I'll go with my favorite version, the 1984 version with George C. Scott.

A close second would be A Charlie Brown Christmas. Its message is simple, beautiful, profound and ageless.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Andrew Gillman

from 1977's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Christmas in July 2018: Andrew Gillman (www.sparklyprettybriiiight.com)

1) Name your favorite Henson's Muppet Christmas program and why.

This is a close call for me. I absolutely adore The Muppet Christmas Carol which retains the haunting otherworldliness, morality, hopefulness and serious intent of Dicken's original tale with a healthy dose of whimsy, silliness and sheer joyful quirkiness. It warms the spirit and tickles the funny bone. My favourite now though, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is a recent discovery and was suggested to me by an American friend on Twitter who made it a mandatory part of her festive viewing. On her say-so, I ordered the DVD and fell instantly in love with this gentle, musically-enriched tale of family, selflessness and togetherness at Christmas. It has all the much-loved hallmarks of a Jim Henson production, reminding me every time I watch it how it's the people around us that really make Christmas special (and the TV programs we watch too, of course!).

2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

I am a child of the '60s and '70s and many of the programs produced then have a very fond place in my heart including the Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Hanna-Barbera Christmas classics like The Town Santa Forgot and A Christmas Story and the Rankin-Bass specials; but I've kept watching and acquiring programs ever since and I have favourites from every decade including Scrooged, Miranda's "The Perfect Christmas", National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (my dad's favourite which, now he's passed, is even more special to me), The Nightmare Before Christmas, Vicar of Dibley's "The Christmas Lunch Incident" and Arthur Christmas.
 

1996's episode "The Christmas Lunch Incident" from the Vicar of Dibley
 
3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer: Merry Christmas Mr Bean - Rowan Atkinson's creation is selfish, venal and childish but if you can't laugh when a giant turkey is stuck on his head, when multiple crackers almost ignite his apartment or he backs a semi and sends a dinosaur into Harrod's Christmas manger scene then you're not fully alive!
Entré: It has to be the Vicar of Dibley's Christmas episode "The Christmas Lunch Incident" - it's all about food, lots of food, but also about duty, friendship, family and the consumption of more brussels sprouts than is really good for anyone! It makes me feel good about life, about belonging and look forward to eating all the advent calendar chocolate at once!
Dessert: Robbie the Reindeer: The Whole Herd - goody, funny stop motion animation reindeer, over the top adventures and lots of meaning and goofiness - what's not to love?


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.

I want a Fringe Christmas episode, particularly focusing on the alternate versions of each character having to choose presents based on what they think they'd like - only their counterpart is exactly them, parallel universes being what they are! Watching the soulless emotional Observers being confronted, and no doubt rendered non-plussed by the riotous fun chaos of Christmas would als


from 1945's Christmas in Connecticut
 
5) If one Christmas movie, special or episode was to be selected for a time capsule to opened in 1,000 years, which title do you think should be included?

Hmmm tough one. Either Christmas in Connecticut, White Christmas or The Muppet Christmas Carol, all of which have charm, meaning, and emotional resonance to burn.