Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Christmas in July 2019 ANNOUNCEMENT

Happy Summer! The annual Christmas in July party I host each year on this blog is happening soon. If you've been around awhile, you may remember that each year the summer time party is a little different. I try to do something special in July each year because we all get very busy in December and it's fun to have a get-together when we aren't in the midst of the holiday season. This is the sixth year we've come together to do this--THANK YOU for joining in again!

This year I'd like to repeat the mini-questionnaire as a way to spark a dialogue and to have everyone get to know each other  better. I was inspired to try this approach from what I saw (and participated in) quite a few years ago on the website Kindertrauma. With their blessing, I've adapted the questionnaire to fit our needs. We did this last year too--remember all the fun answers?  Click on the links to see the 2014 recap, the 2015 recap, the 2016 recap, the 2017 recap, and the 2018 recap.

This is how we do it: Answer the following five questions as completely or as briefly as you like.  Everyone is invited to take part--long-time readers, other bloggers, casual TV fans, or just the curious passer-by.  ****Everyone should feel free to join the Christmas in July party.******

Copy + Paste the questions below in an email, answer them, and email it back to me.  Send your responses in immediately and I'll email you back with a number. That number is your confirmation that I received your answers and it is your place in the queue. I will begin posting the responses starting on July 1st--and roll them out in the order received. (DON'T put your responses to the questions in the comments below--email them in). Email your responses to: joanna @ 1701 press dot com

Don't worry about photos either--I'll take care of that. And, duplicate answers are part of the party experience--don't exert too much effort trying to find rare examples for your answers. If you want to change your answers after you email them to me--please resist the urge. Instead, add comments to your own post when it goes up in July.

The Christmas in July party is supposed to be fun and entertaining so don't sweat your responses.  Don't spend hours on it--just go with the responses that come easily. Get creative and have fun with it!

If you think you need a little help, feel free to flip through your dog-eared copy of the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV--or put a copy on hold at your local library. You can also use the search box on this website (not easily visible on a mobile device but it is top right of the screen for computers) or click through the archives on this website (along the sidebar on the right).  Christmas TV memories will come flooding back, I'm sure.

Whether you send in a response or not, please feel free to follow along throughout the month of July.  Reading other people's responses is half the fun. I want to encourage everyone to leave comments too--it makes people feel good to know their entry is being read by others. If you like, please use the Christmas in July 2019 badge on your website or social media posts to let others know what you are up to!

2019 Christmas in July badge

Let's get this party started:

Christmas in July 2019: (insert your name--and your website/optional)

1. What is your favorite Saturday Night Live Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year's sketch?

2. Do you most look forward to watching holiday episodes from series? Specials? Movies? Animation? or, all of it?

3. What's your favorite soundtrack from a holiday program? (it doesn't have to have been officially released as an album--just what program features your favorite collection of music?)

4. What one program are you patiently (or impatiently) waiting for me to review on this blog?

5. What change in Christmas entertainment have you noticed over the years? Do you like the trend?

Since I'm hosting this party, I'll be glad to be the first one to jump in and lead by example. Isn't this fun already?

Christmas in July 2019:  Joanna Wilson from

1. What is your favorite Saturday Night Live Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year's sketch?

My favorite is a silly one--I think it's from 1986. I like the alternate ending to It's a Wonderful Life. Mr. Potter (played by Jon Lovitz) is given a violent response to his greed by the angry residents of Bedford Falls. Dana Carvey as Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey and Jan Hooks as Mary are hilarious. A close second favorite is also from the 80s. It's the Gumby Christmas special with Eddie Murphy as Gumby and Joe Piscapo as his musical guest Frank Sinatra singing cartoon theme songs.

2. Do you most look forward to watching holiday episodes from series? Specials? Movies? Animation? or, all of it?

I definitely look forward to seeing all of it but I most enjoy the variety music specials. I always watch Christmas in Rockefeller Center and other music specials on PBS.

3. What's your favorite soundtrack from a holiday program? (it doesn't have to have been officially released as an album--just what program features your favorite collection of music?)

This is a tough one for me because I listen to a lot of Christmas music. But I really enjoy listening to old-fashioned music I learned about from watching Christmas variety specials, like old Perry Como, Andy Williams and Bing Crosby holiday records. Most of the Christmas songs from their variety specials they recorded for albums too so there's quite a bit of them.

4. What one program are you patiently (or impatiently) waiting for me to review on this blog?

It is weird for me to answer this question but I have been meaning to write about 1986's John Grin's Christmas for quite some time.

5. What change in Christmas entertainment have you noticed over the years? Do you like the trend?
The popularity of the formulaic, romance Christmas TV movies--the kind Hallmark Channel makes--have come to dominate the industry. Now the other networks follow the lead and make very similar romance movies. I miss the abundance of Christmas TV movies with more general topics (besides romance), such as children's stories, family issues, grieving loss, starting over, finding meaning in one's life, etc. When I look back to the Christmas TV movies aired on the major networks of the 1980s, 90s, and 00s, I see that cable networks don't make movies with general topic storylines anymore. I miss them.

Do you have any questions about Christmas in July 2019?  Ask below in the comments.

Send in your responses today!  Thanks for playing along and 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 most recent 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

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Degrassi Junior High Christmas (1988)

These days I'm quite busy finalizing the updated, 2nd edition of the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV for its eventual publication next year (2020). I may not be writing as many essays here on the website but I'm still working hard on Christmas TV history.

Today I decided to take a break from the encyclopedia and share my thoughts on the third season Christmas episode of Degrassi Junior High entitled "Season's Greetings." Are you familiar with the Degrassi franchise? Degrassi Junior High ran for three seasons and the characters continued for two more seasons as Degrassi High. The series was a joint venture between the Canadian CBC and American PBS (WGBH in Boston). If you've never seen it before, Degrassi is a fun mix of what feels like an Afterschool Special with a teen drama. It's a one-of-a-kind, soap-style (its stories unfold across episodes and season) series that takes on topical issues for its teen characters. Most of the action on the series takes place on school grounds. Degrassi Junior High and High originally ran from 1987-91. In 2001, the franchise started again (on cable TV in the United States) as Degrassi: The Next Generation and ran for 14 season, and then Degrassi: Next Class for four more seasons, ending in 2017. I have to confess that I'm a huge Degrassi fan and have watched the entire run of the series. (I've seen it all except the precursor Kids of Degrassi Street).

Yick Yu (left) and Arthur Kobalewsky (right) in the cafeteria.

In the Degrassi Junior High third season episode "Season's Greetings," there are several storylines. The primary story is a conflict between Arthur and Yick. It's the last day of school before the holiday break and best friends Arthur and Yick want to exchange Christmas gifts. But Yick makes a comment about Arthur's family's recent windfall of money (Arthur's mother won more than a million dollars in the lottery at the start of season 3) revealing his insecurity about exchanging gifts with someone who is more wealthy. Arthur is tired of Yick's comments about his family's money and the two teens begin fighting.

Dorothy gets Yick and Arthur reminiscing about their friendship.

Arthur's younger cousin Dorothy overhears the boys arguing and tries to mediate. She reminds them about the past experiences they've shared in the two years since they met. What follows is a clip show of Arthur and Yick segments from past episodes as the boys flashback to highlights of their past adventures together.

Viewers see clips from:
--S1E1 "Kiss Me Steph" the episode in which Yick meets Arthur when he releases him from a locked janitor's closet on the first day of school.
--S1E3 "The Experiment" in which Yick turns in Arthur's sister's school paper to test the fairness of teacher Mr. Raditch's grading.
--S1E7 "The Best Laid Plans" in which Yick acquires the porn video "Swamp Sex Robots."
--S1E10 "Smoke Screen" in which Arthur accidentally breaks Yick's heirloom vase.
--S1E11 "It's Late" in which Arthur helps Yick ask Melanie out on a date for the first time.
--S2E3 "Great Expectations" in which Yick encourages Arthur to telephone talk-radio show host Dr. Sally (Sue Johanson) to ask questions about his maturing body.

Spike (blonde in center) sits with her friends at lunch worrying about the exams she just took.

In another storyline in "Season's Greetings," we see Spike in the cafeteria with her friends worrying about passing her exams. She explains since she's become a teen mother, most of her time is taken up caring for her baby and she doesn't have much time left for studying. Spike's friends remember how she was kicked out of school during her pregnancy and know how important it is for her to return and finish her education. They encourage her to hang in there despite her frustration. (Didn't I mention that this series resembles an Afterschool Special?)

Maya (foreground) and Kathleen pass through the cafeteria too.
Maya and Kathleen share a brief scene in this episode too. Kathleen asks Maya about her Christmas plans and Maya explains that she celebrates Hanukkah. Both of these characters will have more significant storylines later in the run of the series and in Degrassi High. (Maya will share more about her feelings of being a teen in a wheelchair. Kathleen will experience her mother's alcoholism, develop anorexia, and years later she'll deal with a violent boyfriend).

School maintenance worker Louella is played by Susin Nielsen--one of the series' writers!

In a minor storyline, the school furnace is broken and the heat is making everyone uncomfortable. The school maintenance worker Louella is trying to fix it but she needs a part she requested months ago in order to get the furnace working properly.

Wheels (left), Snake (center), and Joey Jeremiah (right).

Joey and Snake feel awkward around their friend Wheels. His parents were recently killed when a drunk driver hit their vehicle and Wheels is still grieving. Knowing he's having a hard time adjusting to living with his grandparents, Joey invites Wheels to come to his home for Christmas dinner.

This is the first time most of Spike's friends have seen her baby.

After she's beckoned to the principal's office, Spike returns to the cafeteria with her baby Emma. This is the first time most of her friends have ever seen or met her baby. While the teens fuss over the infant, the baby's father Shane is seated several tables over. Spike has kept Shane away from the baby--he's never even seen Emma before! He knows he's not welcome to gather with the others but he wants to meet his daughter for the first time.

Shane and daughter Emma.

With some convincing, Spike eventually allows Shane to see his daughter--she even allows him to hold the baby for the first time. This is actually a very big moment in the on-going series and an emotional point in the storyline about Spike's pregnancy and her motherhood which has been unfolding for two seasons. Degrassi series fans know that this is a pivotal moment too. The 1988 Christmas episode is Emma's first time on-screen. The character of Emma would eventually go on to inform Degrassi: The Next Generation--as the twelve year-old girl enters junior high herself!

Yick learns a lesson about gift giving and "it's the thought that counts."

The episode's story ends with Arthur and Yick reminding themselves about the good memories they've shared. They finally agree to exchange gifts. It turns out that Yick's fears of receiving an intimidating gift from his newly rich friend were unfounded--he unwraps an eyeglasses strap. It's an inexpensive gift and one he desperately needs.

Do you remember seeing this Degrassi Junior High episode from 1988? Do you have another favorite holiday episode from a teen drama? How about a favorite holiday episode from an Afterschool Special? (yes--there are several!) Feel free to share your comments below.