About Christmas TV History

Friday, July 6, 2018

Christmas in July 2018: Sleepy Kitty Paws

Christmas in July 2018: Sleepy Kitty Paws at http://sleepykittypaws.tumblr.com

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

I know I’ll just be jumping on the bandwagon or, in this case, the Muppet bus, but THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is by far my favorite, and I think most re-watchable, of the Muppet Christmas specials. I grew up on the Muppet show (in re-runs) and movies—we even currently have a dog named Muppet, more because he looks like one than because of the show’s significance in my life, but still—and really love sharing them with my kids, too. Unfortunately, my oldest has never, ever been a Muppet fan so I hear a lot of, ‘Puppets, ugh,’ from him, but my younger two are a little more in to it.

I actually never saw their Christmas Carol until long after it came out—I was in high school by then, and probably didn’t even know it existed—stumbling across it on TV when I was traveling for business in my early 20s. It was one of those things you start watching and then get all nostalgic about, not only because of the holidays, but the cozy memories of the Muppets, as well. I remember I called my dad and said I wanted to come home for Christmas after all after watching it. (I was traveling a lot for work then, so I didn’t always get home each year, preferring to not travel on my time off.) So, yeah, MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL holds a special place in my heart.

Watching it today, I still feel like MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is one of the sweetest, and most faithful, adaptations of A CHRISTMAS CAROL out there.

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

That’s a hard one to answer, since we watch stuff annually that comes from all over the spectrum, from 1945’s CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, to 1962’s MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, the first-ever animated TV Christmas special, to the latest Hallmark or Lifetime made-for-TV fare. And, honestly, my favorites are all over the map, release date-wise, including well before I was born (e.g. 1966’s THE GRINCH and 1965’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS), to much more recent things, like 2011’s under-rated charmer, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS.

If I had to narrow it down, I’d say the 1980s, when I was under 10 myself, probably has my favorite childhood fare, like A CHIPMUNK CHRISTMAS (1981), A GARFIELD CHRISTMAS (1987) and GARFIELD’S THANKSGIVING (1989). I distinctly remember my siblings and I counting down the days until A GARFIELD’S CHRISTMAS debuted, and watching it sprawled on the floor of the basement of my childhood home, so excited we had to get up and run around the room during the commercials because we are just that hyped up about it. The tail end of the 1980s also gave us two of my all-time favorite holiday films, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) and PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987), both of which I was too young to see when they came out, but have long been annual Christmas/Thanksgiving must-sees in my household. I own, and rewatch, a lot of Christmas movies each season, but those are two where it’s just not the holidays until I’ve seen them each at least once per year. SCROOGED (1988) is another great 1980s addition to my Christmas canon, as is, of course, A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983), and MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1983), which I distinctly recall as one of my first theater experiences, in a double feature with THE RESCUERS.

Looking at my all-time favs, the other decade that has heavily influenced my Christmas viewing is, kind of surprisingly, the aughts. I got married at the beginning of that decade and had my first two kids, so, now that I think about it, that was, naturally, when I started creating Christmas traditions with my own family, so the holidays took on new meaning for me. (I mean, I always loved Christmas and watched Christmas movies, but during the high school/college/early career years it wasn’t quite as big deal.)

It’s also the decade that gave us LOVE ACTUALLY (2003), my all-time favorite Christmas movie; PREP AND LANDING (2009), the best Christmas special of the modern era, to my mind; ELF (2003), a movie that just gets better each time I view it; THE HOLIDAY (2006), another of my fav Christmas romances; THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004), the first movie my oldest son ever watched and now our family’s annual Christmas Eve viewing tradition; BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY (2001), yes, it is a Christmas movie; THE FAMILY MAN (2000), which spawned a whole genre of alternative life Christmas fare I am a total sucker for; the British musical charmer, NATIVITY! (2009); and a host of other really good holiday movies and specials, including: THE SANTA CLAUSE (2004), PHINEAS AND FERB’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (2009), ROBBIE THE REINDEER (U.S. debut in 2002), THE HAPPY ELF (2005), MERRY MADAGASCAR (2009), SHREK THE HALLS (2007), YES, VIRGINIA (2009), FOUR CHRISTMASES (2008), THIS CHRISTMAS (2007), THE FAMILY STONE (2005), THE PERFECT HOLIDAY (2007), and NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS (2008). Whew!

I also think made-for-TV movies peaked during the same decade, as their popularity grew, but they weren’t quite the glut we have now. In fact, eight of my top ten (yes, I have a list) of that genre came out in the aughts: Lifetime’s HOLIDAY SWITCH (2007), ABC Family’s CHRISTMAS DO-OVER (2006), Hallmark’s A FAMILY THANKSGIVING (2006), ABC Family’s HOLIDAY IN HANDCUFFS (2007), A&E’s KAROLL’s CHRISTMAS (2004), USA’s THREE DAYS (2001), ABC Family’s SNOWGLOBE (2007), ABC Family’s SNOW (2004) and many more. I really do think it was this much-maligned genre’s golden era.

So, yeah, looking at sheer volume, the aughts wins for me, but I’ll never not be nostalgic for my own childhood era of the 1980s, which I admit also includes, in my memory, all those 1960s and ‘70s Rankin-Bass shows that I saw for the first time in the ‘80s, so they were new-to-me.

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

Since I’ve already mentioned that we watch THE POLAR EXPRESS every Christmas Eve, and that’s also when we have our big Christmas meal (with little kids, I prefer to keep Christmas day for presents, and playing, and family time, instead of having to spend it away from my kids in the kitchen), not entirely sure whether to answer this figuratively or literally.

Before we had kids, my husband and I once spent Christmas sprawled on the sofa with our dogs, after we opened our presents, watching Christmas movies all day long, with pauses in between to scrounge leftovers or Christmas cookies. It was just about as low-key a day as possible, but it’s still one of my fondest Christmas memories. It just felt so cozy, and close, and special. We dubbed it 'Lazy Christmas,' and it was pretty great. I can’t remember exactly what we watched that day, but this sounds like a good line-up …

appetizer…THE GRINCH. Partly because this IS what our family still watches every year after opening stockings, while I get breakfast together, so it seems like a great way to start off a Christmas viewing celebration meal.

entree…This may be cheating, but I’m gonna name CHRISTMAS VACATION, LOVE, ACTUALLY and ELF here, as they’re my three, all-time favorite Christmas movies. Kind of a big meal, but it is a holiday, right?

dessert…For dessert, I’ll go with the PREP & LANDING trilogy. Light, fun and festive…The perfect capper to a Christmas binge.

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

Hmm, that’s a tough one, because it’s hard to think outside the box of what you already love. I, personally, adore a good Christmas romance, and while there’s no shortage of Hallmark, made-for-TV fare out there, I sure wish we could get some new, high quality, maybe even theatrical, options, on par with LOVE, ACTUALLY and THE HOLIDAY. Can’t say I have any ground-breaking original plot ideas myself, but I’d be thrilled to see Francesca Hornak’s brilliant SEVEN DAYS OF US turned into a movie. (Be still my Anglophile heart!). Disney has also long teased a third, full-length PREP & LANDING special, which I’d be very much into.

Barring any of that, given the majesty that is BROOKLYN NINE NINE's annual Halloween heists, I’d love to see that show tackle Christmas. Or, even better, for American TV to put together something like Australia's A MOODY CHRISTMAS, a limited series that had each episode taking place during a different, semi-dysfunctional family Christmas. Hulu used to have this show and it was wonderful, and I think there’s huge potential for great, funny and festive storytelling there. FOX, I believe, purchased this property for an American version, but never actually made it.

Heck, I’d just love to have the same kind of Christmas TV tradition that Britain does, with long awaited, special episodes of favorites that debut on or around the holiday. While the number of U.S. Christmas made-for-TV movies grows every single year, the quality definitely isn’t there. I’d love to see more that don’t follow the same, rote formula. For those that love them, great, there can still be those, but not all 60+ new (and yes, that’s not an exaggerated number) that debut each season have to be about a career woman who goes to a small town to close a Christmas-related business but then falls in love its handsome, single owner and leaves the big city for small town bliss. I mean, c’mon!

Oh and, also, I’d love to see more Thanksgiving-themed fare. We jump immediately from Halloween to Christmas now, and I really miss when there used to be some in between viewing options like Hallmark’s A FAMILY THANKSGIVING, a cute holiday film that focuses on Turkey day, rather than Santa.

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 would go with the DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, I think it’s got all the Christmas hype and hoopla, including its less savory commercialism, but also embodies the true spirit of the season, when people come together and are all a little bit nicer to each other. The only thing it’s really missing, in terms of explaining what the season meant to far-future humans, is Santa Claus, but I think that loss is mitigated by its sweetness, humor and message of redemption that really sum up not only the celebration, but the entire reason why Christmas is such a special and well-beloved family holiday.


  1. Kitty, I love your nice long answers! I want more Thanksgiving programs, too. I also agree about the Hallmark/Lifetime movies. Most of them are so cookie-cutter I don't even watch them anymore.

    1. Yes, I tend to be long-winded. Sorry.

      I'm baffled by the increase in quantity and popularity I see in made-for-TV Christmas movies, always one of my personal favs genres, and yet the quality has gone down precipitously. Hallmark especially had a terrible year in 2017, making more movies than ever before, but few were even watchable, let alone entertaining. These things have always had a formula, but there's cheesy fun, and then there's just boring. Hallmark seems to have decided to stick to such a strict template, that they're barely worth watching. Makes me sad, actually, as the whole reason I even started keeping a Christmas TV schedule, was my friends and I's love for these goofy, cheaply-made Christmas flicks.

      Last year, Lifetime was kind of the saving grace of the made-for-TV Christmas movie with slightly better scripts, a little more life and a teeny bit more diversity in both casting and storytelling. Here's hoping that trend continues.

  2. Great responses. I've actually published an article arguing that MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is the most literary of all the adaptations.

    I also have a soft (guilty?) spot for FAMILY MAN, one of the variations on IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE out there.

    1. Hmm, interesting, I never really thought of FAMILY MAN as a take on IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I guess, in a way, it is—the whole what-was-he-missing storyline could be a variation on the what-if-he'd-never-been-born idea. I like that FAMILY MAN itself spawned its own genre of magical "what if" made-for-TV Christmas movies (FAMILY THANKSGIVING, COMFORT AND JOY, THE CHRISTMAS CLAUSE, etc.) I admit that, the Christmas variations on GROUNDHOG DAY (CHRISTMAS DO-OVER, 12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS EVE, 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS EVE, PETE'S CHRISTMAS, etc.), and takes on CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (HOLIDAY IN HANDCUFFS, HOLIDAY ENGAGEMENT, SNOW BRIDE, etc.) are my amongst my favorites.

      Guess I like my holiday viewing fare with a touch of magic.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I'm a big fan of Muppets Christmas Carol too. The entire ensemble of Dickens' characters come to life more vividly because they are played by our favorite Muppets. This movie has a lot of life in it. Thanks for reminding me about it!

  5. Don't apologize for being "long-winded," SleepyKittyPaws. Like Linda, I love your meaty responses. You mention so many shows and TV movies, it's wonderful.