About Christmas TV History

Friday, July 19, 2019

Christmas in July 2019: Martin Johns

Christmas In July 2019: Stubby (aka Martin Johns), Stubby's House of Christmas

Spoiler alert:  Stubby's is closing up shop and will disappear entirely in October, though I do have something planned for Christmas In July.

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

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood (with Eddie Murphy), though my favorite Christmas sketch comedy tends to be from SCTV (Great White North, Sammy Maudlin, etc.) and my all-time favorite comedy sketch might just be "Christmas With Mr. Shatner" from Dennis Leary's 2005 Christmas special ("Well at least they have pets.")

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

Maybe I've just gotten old but I find myself most looking forward to the holiday commercials these days.  Tears, laughter, short attention span, and generally more creativity than the networks exhibit these days.  In recent years, I scan the guides for Christmas programming only to find those shows I'm most interested in on channels I don't get.  But there will always be commercials.  Yeah, you'll always make time for the classic TV episodes and movies, but the new stuff...most of it, anyway...sucks.  Or I've just gotten old.

from peter, Paul and Mary's Holiday Concert (1988)

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?)

Well, clearly, nothing beats A Charlie Brown Christmas...nearly every kid's introduction to exceptional Jazz.  Among the holiday specials, for me, nothing beats the Peter, Paul and Mary Holiday Concert.  And, in terms of soundtracks to TV episodes, I've always been impressed with the mix in A Roswell Christmas Carol.  You've got The Swingtips, The Eels, Burl Ives, Kay Kaiser, Lucious Jackson, Fountains of Wayne, The Silvertones, and, of course, Jane Siberry ("Calling All Angels").

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

I don't follow the blog as closely as I should, but a search turns up neither of a pair at opposite ends of my enjoyability scale.  A few years back, on a podcast, the host recommended the Christmas episode of The Famous Teddy Z (he loved it), but you didn't offer your opinion.  I have it on VHS and I sometimes show it to people because so few have ever seen it.  But it was really, really bad.  Almost unwatchable.  I tend to love TV and am always the guy saying a show, no matter how awful, deserved a longer run.  But The Famous Teddy Z?  That's one that should have been cancelled about two minutes into the debut episode.  Really just godawful.  The Christmas episode was no exception.

On the other side of the scale, and more recent, I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas episode of 12 Monkeys, "Memory of Tomorrow".  OK, it's not purely a Christmas episode.  And yet it is.  It has all the themes of Christmas fare, but with twists that give them a fresh perspective.  I particularly love the line "Death can be undone.  Love cannot."  And I dig the fact that the episode first aired in July.

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

I lament the lack of Christmas variety/music specials.  Used to be you'd get Bing, Andy, Perry and more...every Christmas.  I hoped Michael Buble would become an annual staple, but no.  And Pentatonix just doesn't do it for me.  Yes, the Hallmark movies are very formulaic, but so is most of the Christmas fare these days.  Growing up, someone always had a fresh and unique take on the holidays (or maybe I'm just remembering the past with rose colored glasses).  I suppose that's why I enjoyed the 12 Monkeys episode so much and look forward to commercials, these days.


  1. I am completely unfamiliar with PP&M's Holiday album... thank you for the suggestion!

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  3. Oh, my gosh, Jim; it's a must. We have the special on DVD, recorded off PBS many years ago, and also the music. I love "Light One Candle" and "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" and "A-Soalin.'" There's a very nice copy of YouTube or it's available on Amazon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy1h2v3xsAw