About Christmas TV History

Friday, November 30, 2018

Rugrats Chanukah (1996)

Rugrats animated TV series began in 1991.

I've been re-watching quite a few of the classic Nickelodeon series again. Most of them stand the test of time, and I'm already feeling nostalgic about those 1990s original TV programs. You may have seen that I discussed the Rugrats 1992 Christmas episode "The Santa Experience" on the website a few weeks ago--HERE's that link again. And, a few years ago, I reflected on the 2001 Rugrats Kwanzaa episode too--HERE's that link as well. Since next week begins the Jewish celebration of the season, I thought this would be the ideal time to return to the 1996 episode "A Rugrats Chanukah."

Rugrats title card. "Chanukah" or "Hanukkah"--however you spell it, it means the same.

"A Maccababy's gotta do what a Maccababy's gotta do!"

The episode begins with Tommy's Grandma Minka reading the story of the first Chanukah to the babies. As she reads from the storybook about the Greek army's take over of the Jewish kingdom, the babies imagine themselves as the characters. Tommy sees himself as the leader Judah Maccabee--or Judah  Maccababy, as the young boy first learns about his culture. Grandma Minka is interrupted by her daughter Didi making potato latkes in the kitchen, and the babies overhear Tommy's Grandpa Boris jealously talking about his rivalry with Sholomo, the man playing the smaller role of king in the upcoming synagogue play but whose photo appears in the local newspaper about the event.

Lil doesn't like the taste of the clay dreidel while Tommy eats his fair share of chocolate coins.

What will happen if Angelica can't watch her favorite holiday TV special "A Very Cynthia Christmas?"

Tommy and his friends are trying to make sense of the world around them, while they play with a dreidel, eat chocolate coins, marvel at the menorah filled with candles, and talk about the gifts Tommy has been receiving for the past week. Angelica can't be bothered with the babies questions. Her attention is focused on watching holiday TV specials and especially "A Very Cynthia Christmas"--an animated special that features her favorite doll.

Stu's giant menorah features a spinning Star of David and flashing lights and whistles.

Tommy's father Stu is busy too. He's in the garage building a giant, mechanical menorah for the synagogue festival. Stu wants his son to be proud of his heritage, but Didi fears Stu's good intentions are creating a decorative nightmare that is in poor taste. The babies continue to hear Grandpa Boris complaining about Sholomo, and they mishear Boris saying "the meaning of Chanukah" as "the Meany of Chanukah." The babies fear Boris' conflict with a meany. The babies decide that Grandpa's meany needs to be put down for a nap--like they are when they grow irritable or cranky. Those sweet, adorable babies!

The sights and sounds of the Chanukah Fair.

Later that evening, the parents take the babies to the Chanukah Fair at the synagogue. The babies are in awe of the music, food, games, booths, and crowds at the fair. The highlight of the celebration is the seniors' Chanukah play so everyone takes their seats in the auditorium. Stu and his father haven't arrived yet--they are towing a trailer with the giant menorah and stuck in traffic. They're caught in the Christmas parade downtown!

There is little acting up on stage!

When the play begins, the audience is attentive during the stage production of the story of the first Chanukah, with Boris playing Judah Maccabee and Sholomo playing the Greek king. The two real-life rivals bring added tension to their roles and the characters wage battle on the stage. The babies don't understand the the context but they can sense the conflict, so they rush the stage to defend Tommy's Grandpa. Unable to control them, Didi places the babies in the nursery elsewhere in the synagogue. There, they find Angelica who also has been placed in the nursery because she was caught trying to follow the janitor into the men's room to watch his portable TV set to see "A Very Cynthia Christmas" special. Sholomo and Boris continue their fighting on stage until the curtain is dropped to allow the women's choir to perform.

Angelica knows just how to convince the babies to do what she wants them to do.

The men in conflict take their fight backstage.

Backstage, Sholomo and Boris, rivals since their childhoods in Russia before migrating to the United States, finally confront their feeling about each other. Boris admits he's jealous of Sholomo's business success, and Sholomo confesses that he focused on his business because he was never able to start a family and be blessed with children, like Boris was. The two old men admit they have been fools and promise to be friends.

The babies see Angelica crying as she being held by the Meany of Chanukah!

Mastermind Angelica recruits the babies to help her escape the nursery so she can continue her pursuit for a TV set. The babies are still set on finding the Meany of Chanukah and putting him down for a nap. After their escape, Angelica finds the janitor asleep in front of his portable TV set. Sholomo finds the babies unsupervised backstage and picks up Angelica before she hurts herself climbing towards the TV set. Angelica lets out a screaming wail and throws a tantrum. She is prevented from getting her way once more.

Sholomo continues the story of the first Chanukah.

The babies decide in the moment to confront the Meany by asking him to read them a story--this will surely calm him and put him to sleep. Boris too responds to Angelica's crying and he helps gather the babies around for Sholomo to read to them. The story picks up where Grandma Minka had left off--after Judah Maccabee defeated the Greek army, the Jews find that the temple's oil lamp which is supposed to be an eternal flame has a limited amount of oil remaining. There's only enough oil to burn for one day but it will take longer to acquire more. The miracle of the season is that the lamp burned for eight days, long enough for the oil to be renewed and keep the lamp burning.

The entire audience enjoys the story too.

Meanwhile, Stu sets up his flashing, spinning menorah before the audience and it ends up exploding into pieces, causing the stage curtain to collapse over the wreckage. As the elderly Sholomo continues his story of the first Chanukah with the babies, the curtain falls and the audience can now hear it as well. Everyone gets to enjoy "the meaning of Chanukah." An added bonus is that Boris and Sholomo have made their peace as well.

Sholomo is voiced by the great Fyvush Finkel.

If you haven't seen many Chanukah TV specials, I can tell you that most of them are aimed for young viewers, and nearly all of them share the religious story of the first Chanukah with a historical explanation for Judah Maccabee, and the miracle of the burning oil lamp that lasted eight days.

The rabbi directs the play. The character is voiced by Ron Leibman (who also plays Rachel's father on Friends.)

Why do I include Chanukah TV episodes, specials, and movies in my research and the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV? Because initially I found that there was quite a bit of overlap between some of the Christmas programs to acknowledge and honor Chanukah as well. For the stand-alone Chanukah programs, I saw that the focus was on the miracle of the season, family, traditions, and peace and love--just like the best of Christmas TV programs too. I decided to add Chanukah TV programs to the encyclopedia and my discussions here to honor the different religious meaning behind the season and to recognize the common respect and traditions both celebrations offer. I hope you find that the Chanukah TV programs listed in the encyclopedia add to your meaning of the season as well. The book Tis the Season TV also includes TV programs and movies about Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and New Year's celebrations too. Happy Chanukah!

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

Christmas TV Schedule: 2018

It's the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it? The Christmas TV movies have already begun airing. The viewing options for Christmas movies and specials during November and December each year can get a little overwhelming. Let me update you with the details of where to find the best holiday programming for 2018.

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Christmas TV Movies:

For many Christmas TV movie fans, the Hallmark Channel is the network schedule to check first.  With good reason, in 2018, Hallmark will be airing more than 20 new Christmas TV movies alongside many classics from their archives.  If you didn't already know, the movie marathon has already begun--it started Friday, October 26th--and continues all day and all night through the end of December. They typically debut their new holiday movies on Saturday and Sunday nights. HERE is link to a checklist of Christmas TV movie premieres. The daily schedule of their holiday movies can be found on their website HERE.

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Hallmark's sister channel--Hallmark Movies and Mysteries--also airs new Christmas TV movies and older classics. In fact, the older holiday movies they broadcast are pulled from a deeper archive so this is the place to see some of your older Hallmark Christmas TV movie favorites.

This is the sixth year that HMM is premiering their own new Christmas TV movies--this year they have fifteen new movies.  Click HERE for the checklist of HMM Christmas movies debuts. And, just like the Hallmark Channel, HMM has already begun their holiday programming--which will continue through the end of the holidays.  Click HERE for the link to the daily HMM Christmas movie schedule.

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Freeform is another major source of holiday programming every year. But I didn't need to tell you that, right?  We're all familiar with their marathons of Christmas animation, Christmas movies, and family-friendly entertainment. Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas programming marathon begin Dec. 1st, however their holiday programming has already begun. Click HERE for the daily schedule. They have three debuts I'm most excited about this holiday season: the original movie Life-Size 2 which first airs on Dec. 2 is a Christmas sequel to the 2000 movie starring Tyra Banks, Dec. 2's Pop Up Santa Holiday Special, and Dec. 10's No Sleep Til Christmas.

Catch Rankin/Bass' animated classics on AMC.
*Make note*: Freeform's tradition of airing Rankin/Bass animated classics has changed. The Disney owned TV network this year is focusing more on their own titles of animated offerings and holiday programming. Rankin/Bass animated classics and other holiday movies can now been seen on AMC. Check out AMC's Best Christmas Ever programming HERE.

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Lifetime is debuting quite a few new Christmas TV movies in 2018. I know, right? Those new movies will be airing on Saturday and Sunday nights. Click HERE for more info about each of those. The debuts start Nov. 21st and they've already begun airing their Christmas TV marathon too!

highlights of Up TV holiday schedule--click on image to enlarge.

UP Network also debuts new family-friendly Christmas TV movies, as well as showing older favorites too. This year, the schedule looks exciting. Of these movies, many are new ones. For the complete holiday schedule of UP Network Christmas programming, click HERE.

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ION Television's schedule is filled with holiday movies too. They begin airing their holiday movies starting Nov. 25th. Look for the movie premieres on Saturday and Sunday nights. This year, they are debuting six new Christmas TV movies as well as airing favorites from the past. Click HERE for the complete schedule.

Get TV's holiday programming schedule--click to enlarge. Download link below.

Classic Christmas Specials and Episodes:
But one of the MOST EXCITING holiday programming schedules has to be GetTV. They have pulled out all the stops again this year! What I'm most looking forward to watching are The Soul & Spirit of Christmas, last year's A Nashville Christmas special, classic Perry Como Christmas specials, the Mac Davis Christmas Special, the Johnny Cash Christmas music specials, Andy Williams Christmas special, and the Father Knows Best Christmas TV movie reunion. There's so much good stuff on their schedule, I'm overwhelmed--and you should be too. This is an abundance of riches. Check out the full GetTV holiday schedule HERE.

Me TV is rolling out their retro programming's Christmas installments on Sunday afternoon marathons throughout the holiday season. HERE's the schedule of episodes for the Sunday marathons. HERE's a link to a downloadable schedule for Eastern/Pacific time zone. If you peek at their daily schedule, you can see an abundance of holiday episodes there too. HERE's the daily schedule for Friday, Nov. 23--look at all those Christmas episodes!
Antenna TV, another retro programming network, usually airs a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day marathon of holiday episodes from their current classic TV line-up. I hope they repeat that tradition.


Major Networks:
Of course, the major networks have their holiday programming as well. NBC is already promoting their 21th annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center concert for Wed. Nov. 28th at 8pm(ET). Special musical guests this year include Diana Ross, Tony Bennett and John Legend. It is immediately followed by A Legendary Christmas Special with John and Chrissy starring recording artist John Legend. NBC will also be airing the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Dreamworks' Trolls Holiday Special at 8:30pm(ET) on Friday, Nov. 23th. On Christmas Eve, NBC will repeat their annual airing of It's a Wonderful Life in a three-hour block. Traditions are still alive on TV! For more on NBC's holiday programming, HERE's a link.

ABC is once again airing the variety special CMA Country Christmas. This year's concert features host Reba McEntire again. It airs Monday, Dec. 10th, 8pm(ET).  On Friday, Nov. 23rd, TV viewers can watch the classic 1970 Rankin/Bass animated classic Santa Claus is Comin' to Town on ABC. On Thursday, Nov. 29th, ABC will air the newer animated special Olaf's Frozen Adventure featuring a story with the characters from Disney's hit film Frozen. Dec. 6th will see A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC. For more on ABC's holiday programming, link HERE.

Colorized I Love Lucy will air again on CBS this year.

CBS is airing the animated classics Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, and The Story of Santa Claus again this year. Look for Frosty and Frosty Returns on Friday, Nov. 23th, and Rudolph will air on Tuesday, Nov. 27th. The colorized 1956 Christmas episode of I Love Lucy will air on Friday, Dec. 14th. For more about CBS's holiday programming, click HERE.

Stay close to my social media links for more announcements about fantastic holiday programming. If you'd like reminders of the new Christmas TV movie debuts and other exciting holiday TV  programming, don't forget to follow my Facebook page Tis The Season TV and/or my tweets at @TisTheSeasonTV.  Where on the metaphorical television dial do you watch your favorite Christmas movies and specials?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Rugrats Christmas (1992)

Rugrats on Nickelodeon

Are you feeling nostalgic about 1990s Nickelodeon series, like I am? Although more than twenty five years old, I still enjoy watching Rugrats episodes. One of the outstanding things about the animated series Rugrats was that they created holiday stories to include many of the faiths and heritages of the baby friends. Of interest here, Rugrats made a Chanukah special, several Christmas installments, and even a Kwanzaa story. You can revisit what I wrote about the Kwanzaa episode HERE. I think my favorite Christmas story on Rugrats is 1992's "The Santa Experience." Let's look at it again.

Chuckie tries to convince Tommy that there is something sinister about Santa Claus.

The episode begins with the parents taking the babies to see Santa Claus at the mall. As they stand in line, Chuckie anxiously voices his deep concern about St. Nick--the man who can see you when you're sleeping and breaks into your house on Christmas Eve frightens him. Despite Tommy's reassurances, Chuckie can not be calmed.

Angelica has a long list of toys she demands from Santa Claus.
Angelica is a monster! Here, she asks Lil to sacrifice her coloring book to acquire a gift for her brother Phil. Angelica's side eye here reminds me of The Grinch!

Angelica is up to no good. Not only does she yank the beard off the mall Santa's face, but she sets in motion a horrible trick on twins Phil and Lil. Talking with Phil, Angelica urges him to give his sister Lil a box of crayons as a gift for Christmas. She agrees to trade him a box of her new and unwanted crayons for his much beloved Reptar doll. Then, Angelica approaches Lil and persuades her to give Phil a Reptar accessory (a Reptar space helmet) for Christmas--after trading Angelica her coloring book for it. Yes--Angelica has convinced the twins to give each other Christmas gifts that are useless to the other.

After the babies witness Angelica remove the beard from the fake Santa Claus at the mall, Grandpa Lou explains that Santa does indeed exist. Unfortunately, Chuckie's fears are reinforced.

Everyone sings Christmas carols traveling in the car to the cabin in the woods.

Meanwhile, the parents begin to worry about their young children experiencing a meaningful Christmas. Eventually they agree to enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas in a rented cabin in the woods! The families pack up and head to the cabin. After Grandpa Lou speaks to the babies about Santa Claus, Angelica begins to worry that her trick on Phil and Lil may result in her getting coal in her stocking and in her gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. Her conscience begins to weigh heavily on her.

Chuckie is still frightened by Santa Claus. Tommy wants to help.

Angelica's father Drew hires a professional Santa Claus to visit the cabin for the kids.

Angelica makes numerous attempts to speak with Phil and Lil about the dirty trick she played on them but she keeps getting interrupted. As Christmas Eve approaches, Chuckie is more suspicious and anxious about Santa's arrival. His good friend Tommy makes a suggestion: the babies can make a trap to catch Santa and then they can ask him if he's good or bad. Chuckie likes the idea so when everyone begins decorating the cabin for the holidays, Tommy & Chuckie use strings of popcorn to weave a net to capture St. Nick! Didi and Betty head outside into the woods with the other babies to chop down their own Christmas tree. After selecting the perfect specimen, the women decide it's too beautiful to cut, so they return to the cabin to decorate an artificial tree as usual.

The Santa trap captures Stu bringing in gifts!

Chuckie is relieved that his trap didn't catch a monster.

Late on Christmas Eve after the babies are in bed, Stu carries wrapped gifts into the cabin to place under the Christmas tree. He is caught by Tommy and Chuckie's trap and the babies awaken and rush toward the tree.  There they see that they have only caught Tommy's father.

Chuckie's father plays Santa Claus and climbs down the chimney.

Next, the babies see a dark figure emerge from the fireplace! It's Santa Claus covered in chimney soot caught behind the locked fire screen. The parents let the dirty St. Nick into the room but Chuckie is overwhelmed with fear. The orange-haired baby is only calmed after his father pulls off his beard and removes the hat to reveal his true identity. The tone in the room changes when there's a knock on the door and a pleasant, friendly Santa Claus enters with a bag filled with toys for each of the children.

Angelica is convinced she'll receive coal from Santa Claus.

Phil and Lil exchange their gifts with one another.

Chuckie and Tommy are happy with their toys from Santa too.

Angelica's gifts reveal the toys from her wish list and NOT the coal she feared she'd receive. When she asks Santa about it, he explains that her trying to be good (her efforts to communicate her trick to Phil and Lil) can be as important as being good. The twins exchange their gifts and immediately recognize that the other made a huge sacrifice in order to give. Much like the popular short story The Gift of the Magi by American author O.Henry, the gifts given from love end up more valuable to the twins than their practical purpose. This is a sweet ending to Angelica's prank. And, Chuckie and Tommy are happy to find out that Santa Claus is a pretty good guy.

Who was that Santa Claus?

After Santa leaves, Drew receives a phone call from the professional Santa Claus he hired. The actor explains that he needs to cancel the assignment--he won't be able to make it due to illness. This leaves Drew and Chas wondering who just came into their cabin bringing gifts for the whole family?

Tommy Pickles at Christmas.

This charming and funny episode takes advantage of several common Christmas plots. Children trapping Santa Claus in their homes has been done numerous times in various episodes, specials and movies, most memorably in Pax's 2002 TV movie The Santa Trap with actor Dick Van Patten playing Santa. Screen adaptations of O.Henry's The Gift of the Magi are also plentiful. A few years back, I wrote numerous summaries on some of my favorite examples--you can see a recap HERE. And, the plot point at the end with Drew and Chas left wondering if the real Santa Claus actually visited their cabin is a fairly common Christmas storyline, found again and again in TV sitcoms. However, in this animated children's episode, the well-worn story lines feel fresh and filled with life again when seen through the eyes of our favorite TV babies, the Rugrats.

Do you have a favorite holiday installment of the Rugrats? Please feel free to share it below.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

DVD Dress Reveal--Part 6

I'm so happy to finally reveal the photos of the dress! I want to thank Netflix and DVD.com for supporting this project and I'd like to wish DVD Netflix a happy 20th anniversary!

Below are photos of the paper dress made from my collection of DVD envelopes I saved over the past thirteen years. More about the project HERE. Many thanks to my designer Alyssa Hertz too--I couldn't have done it without you :) And, thanks to Akron Makerspace for the help with design and tools for the accessories I made.

If you're looking to follow along with the photos, you can see them and the reactions here on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

The debut of the photos came by way of Twitter on Nov. 12th from DVD Netflix.

On the staircase at the Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY.

These photos were taken by Keisha Lenee Photography last month at The Rosemary Clooney House museum in Augusta, KY. Thanks Keisha for joining us on this adventure.

In front of the Clooney Museum

In the White Christmas room at the museum

with my designer Alyssa in front of the Ohio River, Augusta, KY

Thanks for following along on social media. This adventure has been such an exciting project. I hope you like the photos as much as I do.

We were fortunate to have the local TV news excited about our story and they shared it on a broadcast. Thanks to Amani Abraham and WKYC TV, the NBC affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio for covering the debut of the dress. Watch the video!

DVD Netflix included an interview with me and my designer on their website too. My favorite quote from the interview: "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." Read the full interview HERE.

Newspaper coverage too!

I was lucky to receive coverage about the dress from my hometown newspaper too. An interview and photos ran in the Akron Beacon Journal on Tuesday, Nov. 13th the day after the debut. You can read the online version HERE. What a crazy headline: "Author is Enveloped in Unique Gown." Yup. That's me!

And, it was surprising when the national website Boing Boing also picked up the story of the paper dress. Here's their article they wrote about it: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/15/over-690-netflix-envelopes-got.html

This project has been so much fun from start to finish :)

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