About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Christmas in July 2023: John Grin's Christmas (1986)


Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #11 in the month-long celebration of Christmas entertainment. Each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies that are a creative or imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition will be released soon).  


Robert Guillaume as this story's Scrooge--here named John Grin. Guillaume also directed this program.

Today's discussion is on the 1986 TV special John Grin's Christmas--clocking in at one hour in length with commercials. This holiday special is a contemporary adaptation of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol” featuring an African-American cast. Actor Robert Guillaume stars in the lead role of John Grin--this story’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Guillaume also directs this program. 



In this story, John Grin is a wealthy businessman and toy factory owner. He is miserly with his money and ignores the spirit of the season. As you expect, he is visited by three ghosts. The first ghost takes him into the past to remind him of the reason he avoids the holiday: his parents and sister died in a house fire on Christmas day when he was ten years old. The second ghost shows John how his selfishness and greed effect those around him in his community. Grin sees how the local orphans live without his charity, how his accountant Sam struggles to provide for his family without a living wage increase, and how a local boy named Rocky scrapes by to find a Christmas gift for his mother without much opportunity for employment. The third ghost visits Grin and treats him to a 1940s jazz-inspired nightmare of his death after a lifetime of treating others so poorly. On Christmas morning, John Grin awakens vowing to change his life and do better for others. After delivering gifts to the orphans and spreading Christmas cheer, John Grin spends the day in church.

There are multiple music references in this story. The song heard during Grin’s vision of his death is the Miles Davis classic “So What.” Canadian jazz singer Phyllis Marshall plays the blind woman in multiple scenes throughout the movie. Jackie Richardson performs a gospel-inspired song in the church scene near the end, singing “Joy to the World." The song “You Forgot About Love” is written and performed by Kevin Guillaume, the real-life son of Robert Guillaume.


Geoffrey Holder as the Ghost of Christmas Future. "Crisp and clean with no caffeine."

The cast includes Robert Guillaume as John Grin, Roscoe Lee Browne as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Ted Lange as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Geoffrey Holder as the Ghost of Christmas Future, Alfonso Ribeiro as Rocky, Kevin Guillaume as Sam, and Jackie Richardson as Mrs. Alcott. 


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. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for an upcoming release. 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

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