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.



Monday, July 30, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Rick Stoneburner

 
from 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol


Christmas in July 2018: Rick Stoneburner

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

My favorite muppets Christmas movie is definitely A Muppets Christmas Carol. I love almost every version of Scrooge’s story. This is a fun version. I’m so happy they’ve made a come back.


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

This is by far the hardest question for me to answer. I was born in ‘79 so the 90’s were great Home Alone and The Santa Clause. But my two all time favorites A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation both 80’s. But I really think the 80’s Christmas commercials had a profound influence on me, so 80’s I guess.


1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

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

This is actually a thing for me. Appetizer-Christmas Vacation. Dinner- It’s A Wonderful Life. Dessert- A Christmas Story for 24 hours. Thank you TNT and TBS.


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Feel free to get creative.
 
I have been a fan of the music search shows since American Idol started. I would love to see Idol or the Voice do some specials. Past winners, new contestants and music superstars.



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?

Charlie Brown will always stand the test of time. I love the true meaning of Christmas breakdown. Something lost too much these days. I’d also have to include Christmas Vacation. It is absolutely hilarious and should be seen by everyone, even in 1000 years.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Jakki Hanna

from 1987's Muppet Family Christmas

Christmas in July 2018: Jakki Hanna--Christmas Movies &Music
Links: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ChristmasMoviesAndMusic/info
https://www.facebook.com/christmasmoviesandmusic/

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

My favorite Jim Henson Christmas special would be Muppet Family Christmas. I love how it incorporates all the major characters of that time from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and even Fraggle Rock. It allowed for some fun exchanges with characters whose worlds would otherwise never cross...such as the touching moment between Big Bird and the Swedish Chef singing "The Christmas Song" and Kermit and Robin's venture into Fraggle Rock.



from 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
 
2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

The 60s is definitely the golden age of Christmas specials with A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, How The Grinch Stole Christmas etc. but the 80s had some incredibly memorable contributions as well, especially where film is concerned. Favorites like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, & George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol.

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

Appetizer would be a caesar salad, entree would be stuffed shells and dessert would be cheesecake. This is what we've had the past few years and it's really worked for our family to differentiate it from Thanksgiving dinner.

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

I wish there had been more Christmas movies made in the 40s & 50s. Yes, it produced some great classics, but I would have loved to seen more big budget musicals made at that time with popular stars of the era such as Gene Kelly, Doris Day, Shirley Temple, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland etc. I think an opportunity was missed there.


"Lights, please."
 
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 have to go with A Charlie Brown Christmas because while the animation is quite primitive, it has proven that the message and soundtrack can stand the test of time. I have watched it every year since I was a child and it never gets old for me. It's the first album I put on at the beginning of the season and I never grow tired of it. The message still resonates in the hearts of both children and adults and tells of the Christ child as Linus reminds Charlie Brown "what Christmas is all about."

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Mitchell Hadley


from 1978's Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.


Christmas in July 2018: Mitchell Hadley, It's About TV! (www.itsabouttv.com)

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

When Christmas Eve on Sesame Street was first broadcast (at least here), it was shown on Christmas Eve itself. It made it somehow even more special, and since the "Sesame Street" muppets are my favorites, it makes for some fun memories. (I have to admit, though, it's hard to pass up Muppet Christmas Carol and "Mr. Fozziewig"!)

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

Well, for me I think it has to be the 1960s. I really enjoy the variety specials from the era, such as The Bell Telephone Hour - their live Christmas specials were wonderful. The many great animated specials, from Charlie Brown to The Grinch to Rudolph and Frosty, and you could still see The Nutcracker and NBC's Project 20 special "The Coming of Christ" (narrated by Alexander Scourby!) on network television. The medium hadn't yet started to limit itself, and it was really starting to show what it was capable of.

 
from the 1957 episode "Happy Holidays with Frank and Bing" from The Frank Sinatra Show.


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

Ooh, good one! Well, the appetizer is "Happy Holidays with Frank and Bing" (Sinatra and Crosby) - it's the first Christmas show we watch every year, so it has to be first. For the entree, why not one of Andy Williams' Christmas shows? Nobody, not even Bing, could do them quite like Andy. There's a warmth and humanity that's hard to find today. For dessert? I've mentioned Amahl and the Night Visitors before, but I'll have to go with that because it's often the last program we watch before heading for Midnight Mass.

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

This may sound strange, but I dearly wish Ingmar Bergman had taken a crack at A Christmas Carol. Can you imagine the Ghosts being performed in the same manner as Death in The Seventh Seal? We forget sometimes that at heart, Carol is a ghost story, and while so many productions labor to get the atmosphere of Victorian London right, it's easy to overlook how dark this story is at its center. Bergman could cut past the sentimentality and get to the existential heart of the matter: the meaning of life. It's not only Scrooge's story, it's the essence of mankind.


Tennessee Ernie Ford

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? 

An interesting question, because we're not necessarily talking about the same thing as one's favorite Christmas special. In this case, though, it happens to be one of my favorite shows: Tennessee Ernie Ford's "The Story of Christmas," first telecast by NBC in 1963 without commercial interruption. Some wonderful music from Ernie and the Roger Wagner Chorale, and a magnificent eighteen-and-a-half minute animated telling of The Nativity, by Eyvind Earle. If someone was to open this time capsule in a thousand years and ask what Christmas was all about (and that may well be the case by then), this special tells them, from the festive to the sacred. As the title says, anyone who sees it would find out what the story of Christmas really is.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Angela McQuiston

from 1983's Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Christmas in July 2018: Angela McQuiston

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

Well, I didn’t care for the muppet Christmas shows or puppets. However Mikey’s Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman are my favorites.

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

I can’t say, I love so many from all eras. From White Christmas to Elf and all in between. I love the not familiar movies.


from 1983's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

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

Appetizer: Christmas Oranges
Entré: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever or Seasons of the Heart
Dessert: Borrowed Hearts or a Season for Miracles.
(I’m pretty sure not many know those movies)


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

I love the TV show Once Upon A Time and was so hoping for a Christmas episode during season 4 (the Frozen storyline).


from 1983's A Christmas Story

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 Story. It’s a classic.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Jonathan Sowers

Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop
 
Christmas in July 2018: Jonathan Sowers

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

The Muppets were after my time. I was a Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop fan as a kid and I had my own Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse hand puppets. I don't remember ever seeing their Christmas show, but one from the 1960s would be my choice. I've looked briefly at Shari and Lamb Chop Christmas specials on YouTube from the 1970s and they're not my bag, so to speak.

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

Without a doubt, the 1960s, starting with Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I saw all three as a child and they carry fond memories of times when you had to be there to watch them when they came on. Also Peter Pan with Mary Martin, which was repeated a lot at Christmas, and The Bell Telephone Hour, which had annual Christmas shows.

from 1962's Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

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

When I was growing up, we always spent Christmas Eve dinner next door at my grandmother's. In later years I would help Granny get the house ready and put up her tree and wrap her presents. Christmas was always my thing, from an early age. As an appetizer, to get us ready for the festivities to come, I would pick A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is short and sweet and very entertaining. We could drink some of my hot spiced tea to get in the mood. Then for the entrée, we always had barbecue at Granny's house. So I would pick Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. That little bit of undigested beef that made him see Marley in the door knocker could easily be southern barbecued pork. As a child of six when I saw that show, I can testify that was one of the spookiest moments ever, seeing the skeleton in the door knocker. Also the Christmas meal the Cratchits serve near the end would make us all hungry for more. The dessert would be almost all fluff with one serious moment, namely Christmas With the King Family from 1967. The part where Alyce King is singing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" gets me every time. I won't spoil it if you've never seen it, but that show can tug at your heartstrings. It's also a lot like Granny's perennial favorite gift, a Whitman's Sampler. There's something in it for everyone.

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

It existed at one time, but all the tapes have been destroyed, or so they say. Captain Kangaroo decorated for Christmas every year about two weeks before and I will never forget the GE outdoor twinkle lights on the fence of the Treasure House. You saw them everytime they went outside. I always thought that was a great idea, to put twinkle lights in a row all along the top of a rather tall
fence. It certainly commanded my attention as a child. I would love to see it again. We had outdoor lights we used on an outdoor tree a few times and we always mixed in a few twinkle lights. They fascinated me.


 
The boys gazing into the store window, in 1983's A Christmas Story.


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?

If you're talking 1000 years, I think the movie A Christmas Story tells a lot about life in America that would be informative to someone. I know it was the 1940s they were trying to imitate, but some of the scenes in that movie are timeless and still represent an American family Christmas like no other TV show or movie I've seen. It also shows humor and clever writing and some very good child actors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Patrick Labelle


Jim Henson in A Muppet Family Christmas.


Christmas in July 2018: Patrick Labelle, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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

I have to say that I really enjoy most of the Muppet-related holiday programming put out throughout the years, but my favourite, by far, is A Muppet Family Christmas. There's just something remarkable about this particular special that sets it apart of the others. I don't know if it's the combination of Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock that come together, if it's the awesome selection of songs, the incredibly humorous bits, the setting of Christmas in the country, the touching moments or even Jim Henson's cameo at the end. I'm simply amazed by it all and this special works on so many levels. I can watch this one every year and, for the most part, I do. It helps that this is one of my wife's favourites as well. I have a copy on VHS and, each year, I'm always hoping that my VCR will keep on working!

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

I was born in the late 1970s, but remember seeing many classic reruns each year from the 1960s (Grinch, Peanuts, Rudolph, Frosty, etc.) and I was pretty sure that I was going to choose that decade as my answer, but then I started thinking about the shows I watched and enjoyed when I was 9-10 years old that I still love today. Christmas is closely tied to nostalgia, among other things, and many of the specials that impressed me as a young boy were produced in the 1980s: A Garfield Christmas, Mickey's Christmas Carol, A Claymation Christmas Celebration, A Muppet Family Christmas (see above!), For Better or for Worse: The Bestest Present, Bluetoes, The Christmas Elf, The Christmas Raccoons and so many more. The last few titles might be more obscure for some of you, but being from Canada, these were regularly broadcast each year. Then, looking online for other 1980s programs or movies, I discovered that so many of the classics I enjoy today were made during that decade. I could list many, but here are just a few that stand out: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Scrooged, A Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott), One Magic Christmas.


from 1974's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
 
3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Can I cheat here as well and suggest two Christmas Eve dinners? I would have a Christmas specials dinner and a Christmas movies dinner.

For my Christmas specials dinner, I would start with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is a special that I have always watched early in the viewing season. It's also one that involves quite the feast, so I think that it's appropriate for a dinner. My entrée would be the tried and tested Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I know that this is like serving rubber chicken (or turkey), but it's a staple. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without seeing Rudolph at least once. And for dessert, I suggest 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, the 1974 Rankin-Bass special that is quite entertaining. My brother and I started collecting VHS tapes of various Rankin-Bass specials and have watched this one together for a number of years on Christmas Eve as the last special in our Christmas programming marathons that we used to do. I still enjoy this quirky story filled with great songs.

For my Christmas movies dinner, I would serve up Elf as an appetizer. What better way to kick off the season with a laugh-a-minute movie that has become an instant classic. Then, as the main course, I would suggest Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn, which I believe is such a simple, yet well made movie and Gwenn is remarkable as Santa Claus. Finally, for dessert, I'm suggesting The Gathering, the 1977 TV movie starring Ed Asner. I only discovered this movie in 2011, but have watched it almost every year since then. I love so many aspects of this movie including the simple, yet recurrent score, the setting with real snow!, the acting by the entire cast, the arrival of the estranged son on Christmas morning (this is a touching moment), the magic of getting your family together and putting aside your differences for the greater good, the traditional elements of Christmas such as decorating the tree, opening gifts, caroling and so on. Overall, there is something about this TV movie that resonates with me and I like to close off my pre-Christmas television viewing with this one (that's right, pre-Christmas viewing because I continue to watch specials and movies until early January!).


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

I thought long and hard about this question. I even debated not sending a response at all to your questions, because I couldn't think of an answer for this question. Then, I started thinking about where to put Andy Williams in my responses. I love Andy Williams' Christmas albums and his television specials. For many years, I would watch his compilation special on PBS during my local station's annual pledge drive. My wife recently bought me a DVD of a recorded show from the Moon River Theatre he did in the 1990s. I love all of these and wondered what it would have been like if Andy Williams had starred in a Christmas movie musical during the 1960s when his annual specials were at the height of their popularity. I can just imagine how great it would be to have song and dance numbers that looked like those in the specials. I would definitely think that this would have become an instant classic.


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?

As I'm sure everyone will say, this is a hard question to answer. Just in my responses above, I could easily select half a dozen to include in a time capsule. I'm going to choose A Charlie Brown Christmas. I don't know why I'm choosing this one because, as a child, this one always aired before Garfield and I always looked forward to the latter and, as an adult, A Charlie Brown Christmas still isn't my favourite, but I appreciate it for all that it represents: a simple story, a commentary on the commercialization of Christmas, Linus' memorable scene quoting the gospel, the iconic soundtrack, its place in Christmas programming history, the use of children as actors, the funny elements and more. I was trying to think of a movie or special that addresses the core values of Christmas and the reason that we celebrate. I immediately thought of Linus' scene and that sealed the deal for me in choosing this special for the time capsule.





Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Jim Randle

from 2002's It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Christmas in July 2018: Jim Randle, from Paris Tennessee

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

Its a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is great because of the stars and cameos (the cast of Scrubs, Whoopi Goldberg, Mr. Courteney Cox, and of course Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.)  The show melds many Christmas classics (Rudolph with Sam the Snowman voiced by Mel Brooks, Grinch, and the main reflection, It's a Wonderful Life).  And puppets from the short lived Muppets Tonight TV show are sprinkled throughout.  This special allows Pepe the King Prawn to take a starring roll.  If you're going to watch it, you need to get the home version where you see muppet outtakes with the puppeteers staying in character as they crack up or forget their lines.


Lenny & the Squigtones perform "The Jolliest Fat Man" on the 1976 Christmas episode of Laverne & Shirley.

2) Which decade produced your favorite Christmas entertainment?

I straddle the 60s and 70s.  Lots of good holiday episodes from standard shows (Odd Couple, Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley containing the classic "The Jolliest Fat Man", etc) and stand alone programs (A Christmas Carol animated with Alastair Sim providing the voice, An American Christmas Carol, The House without a Christmas Tree).  And of course the classics like Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
 

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

The appetizer should be small and should whet your appetite for things to come.  With that said how can you not play the Max Fleischer classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from 1948.  For the main course you need a movie that's easy on the digestion what better movie that Ernest Saves Christmas. And for  a light fare that can be enjoyed over pecan pie and coffee, the always classic Charlie Brown Christmas.


4) What Christmas episode, special or movie doesn't exist--that you wish did? Describe it.

This special DID exist but I only saw it run once. I'm a history buff. As much as people rail against Christmas being commercial, shopping is an integral part of the season. Many years ago the History Channel spent the week of Christmas each night with a one hour program showcasing the history of a major department store. I would like to see that taken one step farther. I would like to see five different businesses (Sears, Macys, Gimbels, Neiman Marcus, and Western Auto ) highlighted but specifically concerning their Christmas preparation. Going to toy shows, designing their Christmas catalog, creating their store windows, etc.





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?

The reason for the season cannot be forgotten. I first learned of the Nativity though Sunday School teachings. But I first saw the Nativity on the big screen in my second grade class performed by the Mabel Beaton Marionettes and sponsored by AT&T.  I've always loved puppets and this program, The Spirit of Christmas,  has a special place in my heart.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Tony Adams


from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.

Christmas in July 2018: Tony Adams

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

While it’s taken me a while to warm up to things like Muppet Christmas Carol (mainly due to not having seen it when it came out) my favorite, hands down, is Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. I remember when it premiered on HBO and I watched my VHS recording of it over and over for many years. The songs were great and the show was very touching and becomes more so with each passing year.


from 1940's Remember the Night.
 
2) Which decade produced the bulk of your favorite Christmas entertainment?

This may be the toughest question of all because having been born in 1972 I’ve pretty much had the entirety of Christmas entertainment available to me whenever I want it. My answer is the 1940s. From my favorite movie of all time It’s A Wonderful Life to Holiday Inn to Remember the Night to Miracle on 34th Street. I had to have been the only kid in my high school reading and re-reading Valentine Davies’ book. After my 20s, my 1940s Christmas love really took off when I discovered Old Time Radio. I can listen to those shows year round and they never get old. The Jack Benny shopping episodes being some of my favorites.

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

Appetizer: Ziggy’s Gift. Entre: White Christmas. Dessert: Disney’s Prep & Landing.

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

I really and truly wish that the joy that was the OTR program The Phil Harris Alice Faye Show had been translated to television. Sure, we could debate if it would be good or even as good as the radio program (as much as I love listening to Jack Benny and can appreciate his television show, it never meant as much to me as his radio program) but to have seen the cast from radio brought to TV and doing any of their classic radio Christmas broadcasts would have been a delight!

 
It's a Wonderful Life


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?

As much as I love it for things other than the Christmas portion of the movie, it has to be It’s A Wonderful Life. To see the life and struggles of a man who wanted to be more (needed to be more) played out in such brilliant performances makes it an absolute must to live on through eternity.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Brian Earl


from Muppet Family Christmas

Christmas in July 2018: Brian Earl from Christmas Past: http://christmaspast.media

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

A Muppet Family Christmas. I only discovered this one within the last five years, even though it came out in 1987. It should have been as much a part of my childhood as Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. Not sure how it escaped me all those years, but thank goodness for Youtube. It's the only Muppet special where all of the Muppet franchises are represented, so there's some awesome crossover moments, like Kermit meeting the fraggles. Also love the scene when the Sesame Street gang comes caroling.

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

I've always thought of myself as a 70s and 80s kid, but the Christmas entertainment I grew up on is mostly from the 60s. The Christmas music I grew up with was from my parents' collection of Christmas vinyl records from the late 60s and early 70s, mainly compilations from Capitol Records and Goodyear. And of course, all the great TV specials like Rudolph and Charlie Brown are also from the 60s.



from 1982's Christmas Comes to Pacland

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

The appetizer would be one of those old Christmas variety shows hosted by Dean Martin or Andy Williams or Bing Crosby.

For the entree, I'd go with A Charlie Brown Christmas, but only the audio. I still have a vinyl record of the unabridged TV special. It came with a comic-strip style read-along booklet. To this day, whenever I imagine the show, I hear the crackle and pop of a record player in my head.

For dessert, definitely something cheesy from the 80s. Like He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special, or Santa Comes to Pac-Land or The Glo Friends Save Christmas. I can't pick one...they're all gloriously terrible!


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

I'm surprised there hasn't been a second attempt at something involving Star Wars. The original Star Wars Christmas special is so bad, you can't even watch it ironically. You'd think there'd be motivation to redeem the Star Wars universe after that (at least as far as Christmas is concerned). Maybe the Ewoks could celebrate some Christmas-like holiday.


from A Christmas Story
 
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?

Probably A Christmas Story. It's definitely not my favorite holiday movie, but it captures what Christmas was mostly about in the 20th century. A big emphasis on Santa, toys, department stores, Christmas trees, and nostalgia.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Rob Martinez


Christmas in July 2018: Rob Martinez - producer/host of "The Nights Before Christmas"
facebook.com/nightsbeforechristmas

Used to work here: "A Christmas Yuleblog"  (Google: yuleblog)

Christmas music collector / Collects vintage December issues of LIFE, LOOK, Saturday Evening Post / TIME / Newsweek / etc for the Christmas ads.


The Cratchits from Muppet Christmas Carol

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

The Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992.  This was the first Muppet production without longtime Muppeteer Richard Hunt and sadly Jim Henson.  It's the perfect amount of Charles Dickens, Muppet humor, and music - the song "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas" deserves to be in rotation at holiday time. 

Plus, Michael Caine as Scrooge... he snarls, he charms, his transformation at the end is touching, and he sings! Perfect.

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

The 1980s. There are countless Christmas TV episodes that I love from this time (1982's "Santaclaustrophobia" from Hill Street Blues is my favorite) but it's the movies from this decade that seals it - A Christmas Story, Scrooged, National Lampoon's A Christmas Vacation, Die Hard (technically no but...).  If you're up for some fun, there's a ton of really cheesy BAD movies (i.e. Silent Night, Deadly Night) that are worth holiday looks.


Frank & Bing Crosby from the 1957 Christmas episode of The Frank Sinatra Show

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

Appetizer: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In / S2 - Ep 12 - December 16, 1968.
Guest stars: Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; Billy Barty; Jack Riley (as LBJ); cameo appearances by Jack Benny, Barbara Bain, Otto Preminger and Rock Hudson. 
The jokes are varied and fly very fast (just like great appetizers do).

Entreé: The Frank Sinatra Show / "Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank"  (1957)
You'll need great music to go with dinner & conversation so why not watch Frank invite Bing over for Christmas dinner?

Dessert:  Love Actually (2003)
Best served by an open fire with plenty of after-dinner cocktails.


Filmmaker John Waters

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

In 2008, John Waters was preparing to make a children's Christmas movie called Fruitcake starring Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey.  Filming was scheduled to start in November of that year but thanks to the economy tanking, the production company went under and the film was shelved in January, 2009.  Waters has been trying to find someone, ANYONE who will give him $5 million dollars to make the film.  We need a serious KickStarter campaign...

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 (1965) - enough said.





Friday, July 20, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Dean S.


from 1979's John Denver & the Muppets: Christmas Together.

Christmas in July 2018: Dean S.

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

John Denver and the Muppets: Christmas Together....well it has John Denver and the Muppets...need I say more?

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

Sorry, I have a decade and a half....early sixties to mid seventies.


Darren Stephens greeting Santa Claus, from the 1964 Christmas episode of Bewitched.
 
3) Imagine the entertainment behind your ideal Christmas Eve dinner. Name the appetizer, entré, and dessert.

Appetizer...Bewitched - "A Vision Of Sugar Plums" AND "Sisters at Heart." 
Entré...Scrooge 1970 with Albert Finney
. Dessert...Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol


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

Animagic version of original Frosty the Snowman by Rankin Bass.


from 1962's Mr. Magoo's 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?

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol





Thursday, July 19, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Laura Rachel


from 1984's Gremlins

Christmas in July 2018: Laura Rachel, What to Watch

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

It’s surprising but I don’t think I’ve watched a Henson Muppet Christmas program all the way through, so instead of choosing one of them, which I might add I really should watch, I’ll say Gremlins. Now, I don’t consider Gremlins a Christmas film but I know a number of people do and that is one film that includes puppetry. It’s also one that I do enjoy watching.




from 2006's The Christmas Card.


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

Well, as I look at the classics and the Christmas films that come out year after year, I was surprised that the decade with my highest ratings were the 2000s. I was think it would be the 60s or 70s maybe even the 80s, as I am an 80s child but alas it’s 2000s. From one of my favorite romances, Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) to the British comedy film, Nativity (2009). There are thirteen films that I enjoyed during that decade. That decade is also when Hallmark really started to dish out their holiday films by the bucket load with Silent Night (2002), A Boyfriend for Christmas (2004), The Christmas Card (2006), and Three Gifts (2009). Then there are the box office films: Love Actually (2003), The Polar Express (2004), Joyeux Noel (2005), The Family Stone (2005), and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005). I can’t leave out Christmas Angel (2009) and the TV movie, Holiday in Handcuffs (2007). It’s a wide range of films but I love them. 😊


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

Ok, this is difficult, too many to chose from but ok. For the appetizer, I’ll have Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey (1977). For the entrée, I’ll have Joyeux Noel (2005). For dessert, I’ll have Christmas Comes to Willow Creek (1987).






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

I always thought, and I know it won’t be popular, but I always thought, that doing the Biblical story directly from the Bible including all four gospels folded together would be amazing. I know that doesn’t really make sense but in my minds eye, I think it would be amazing but boring because it wouldn’t be as dramatic as some of the other films do to the story. I would just tell the story.

 
 


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?



It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), would be perfect to be placed in a time capsule. It's got the heart of meaning of Christmas, loving the people around you and realizing your life is worth it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Christmas in July: Baseball & Scott Schwartz from A Christmas Story


This Christmas in July has been a fun one! The minor league baseball team--the Akron Rubber Ducks--in my hometown organized a Christmas in July promotion themed around the 1983 movie A Christmas Story. I was so grateful to be included in the program--let me describe what went on at the July 14th ballgame.


This guide ran in the New York Times the week before my first pitch--I needed all the help I could get!

We go to several Rubber Ducks baseball games each summer so this was a real treat! I know the stadium quite well and feel comfortable there. I was offered the opportunity to throw out the first pitch so that was exciting. I play in two softball leagues this summer so I know how to handle a ball but I still practiced. I'm used to playing first base and catcher in softball--not baseball, so I thought practicing would be beneficial.


We made up baseball-themed trading cards. On the reverse side, instead of statistics, are details about my four books.

The stadium offered us a chance to sell my books so we set up a table where I could autograph copies. I also handed out baseball cards with my face on them. They were silly but they got people's attention. It was fun handing them out to kids!



Out booth at the stadium where I sold and autographed books.

This non-traditional book event was a lot of fun! The first pitch is actually thrown out a half hour before the game begins. My pitch went over the plate and was caught by the catcher. I'm not certain it was in the strike zone but at least I didn't embarrass myself by rolling the ball on the ground or throwing a wild pitch. But there was a surprise visitor in the stadium that day. Someone else was there to throw out a first pitch too!


On the pitcher's mound, taking my moment all in.


Flick from A Christmas Story

Actor Scott Schwartz who played Flick in 1983's A Christmas Story was also there! He also had a booth set up for him and he was autographing photos and greeting guests. The Christmas in July event at the ball park had also offered free Flick bobblehead dolls to the first 1,000 people through the gates (I didn't even get one!?) He was generous and kind enough to sign those figures as well. He and I spent some time together that evening, talking about the Chicago event where we first met (see that post again HERE) and about writing. He's looking to write a book too.


Photos of the Jumbotron at the ball park.
As a special guest, I was also invited to participate in a game held between innings. My game was called "Dice Roll."


The host explains how the game is played.


That's me again on the Jumbotron throwing the giant dice onto the field. I crapped out!

Okay--I didn't win anything but that's okay. I felt like I had won by just participating in the Christmas in July ball game. Merry Christmas in July!


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: Dominic Caruso


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

Christmas in July 2018: Dominic Caruso, 1701press.com

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

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. It’s as though they said “Let’s take everything that’s good about the 1970s and put it in a Christmas special with muppets.” A perfect entertainment in every way.

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

Probably the 1960s: Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph. Most of the stuff I grew up watching (and connecting strongest to) in the 70s and 80s was made in the 60s.

 
from 1983's A Christmas Story


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

Appetizer: A Charlie Brown Christmas. Main course: A Christmas Story. Dessert: Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Digestif: Junky’s Christmas. Midnight snack: The Man Who Came to Dinner. Antacid relief: Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life. New Year’s Day hangover remedy: “Night of the Meek” Twilight Zone episode.

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

A Love Boat adaptation of the Poseidon Adventure, for obvious reasons, but with a low-grade disaster, or the threat of disaster. Instead of the Pacific Princess sinking, the episode is about the captain, crew and guests riding out a “surprise” Christmas typhoon. Everybody on board has to scrap and re-imagine their "perfect" Christmas plans. Also, there should be a Cold-War subplot where one of the passengers—a famous Russian author, played semi-convincingly by Sally Kellerman—defects to America after being inspired by the Christmas spirit of everyone around her on the cruise. No I have NOT thought about this before, why do you ask?



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 would be a great candidate, I think, because it is so complex and layered. It expresses so much about humanity, emotions, belief, America, the 1960s, Christmas, and a whole host of other themes, all in 20-something minutes.



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Donna Bock

from 1978's Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

Christmas in July 2018: Donna Bock

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

I love Christmas Eve on Sesame Street!  I think I reference it every year, so here I go again. When I first watched it with my baby daughter, I thought it was fabulous. The stories that are told, especially the Gift of the Magi with Bert and Ernie (who are named after the cop and taxi driver in It’s a Wonderful Life) are all  so sweet.  Mr. Hooper really saved the day when he gifted the boys their presents they sold to him. I don’t know why PBS does not air the special anymore, it's as relevant today as it was then. I own the DVD and made it a tradition to watch the show with my grandson.  I have a new baby grandson, so he’ll join the viewing party!

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

Well....I watched Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol the first time it aired in 1962 so.....it will have to be the 60s. My all-time favorite special is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer....Hermey is my main man!  Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas rounds out my favorite Christmas Specials….all first aired in the early and mid-60s. And I still watch them every year when they air on TV.


from 1947's It Happened on 5th Avenue.

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

My appetizer will be It Happened on 5th Avenue, a movie I’ve discovered only about 7 or 8 years ago. It has a Christmas scene that is really heartwarming…for that matter, the entire movie is heartwarming! I like to watch this show now that I discovered it, early in the Christmas season, as it gets me in the spirit. My entré would have to be White Christmas, how I love this movie! It reminds me of my youth and watching with my mom. Dessert….can I have two?  Happy Days’ "Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas" always makes me smile.  I remember watching it the first time it aired and seeing Fonzie as a Christmas-loving, sentimental guy rather than a tough hoodlum... made me love the show even more.  My second dessert will be a TV movie The Night They Saved Christmas. My kids had it on VHS and they watched it from the time I taped it, into the summer…back then I could recite some of the scenes verbatim….Jaclyn Smith, one of the main characters was a real beauty and I wanted to be her. Mrs. Claus was portrayed by June Lockhart and the late Art Carney was an adorable Santa.

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

One show that comes to mind is I Love Lucy….Yes, there was a Christmas Special, but it was a retrospect of past episodes wrapped around the gang buying and trimming a Christmas Tree (on Christmas Eve no less).  For all the years the show was on it would have been fun to see Christmas episodes from the very beginning of the series. A Christmas before there was a little Ricky. Maybe a Christmas Eve at the Club and the havoc Lucy could wreck…ahhhh…we’ll never know.


 
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 got to go with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. This show was a first for its time. The stop-motion was a new technology back then. To this day I watch it with wonder, and now knowing how it was made, I’m amazed at the patience the people creating it must have had….Rudolph deserves to go into that time capsule. I hope everyone, when the capsule is opened in 1,000 years, watches and loves Rudolph and Hermey as much as I do!