About Christmas TV History

Monday, July 3, 2023

Christmas in July 2023: Scrooged (1988)



Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #3 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).  


Today's discussion is on the 1988 feature-length, irreverent comedy Scrooged, directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray. Here, the central Scrooge character is named Frank Cross, a TV network programming executive more focused on his career than the true spirit of the holiday. In a show-within-a-show, Cross is managing a TV special entitled "Scrooge" which is a celebrity-filled re-telling of "A Christmas Carol." As Cross is visited by three ghosts, he suspiciously believes he’s experiencing a part of his own TV production. While the preparations and rehearsals for the "Scrooge" TV special on Christmas Eve are underway and the live presentation is being broadcast, Frank Cross is becoming a transformed man. With his newfound holiday spirit, he steps onto the set of the live TV special and interrupts the broadcast to deliver his Christmas greetings and encourages the viewers to undergo a similar renewal. 



The song "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" is sung by the cast including Bill Murray as the closing credits role.  It’s enough to put everyone in the holiday spirit!

Frank Cross’ executive assistant in the Bob Cratchit role is named Grace. She has a young son Calvin, think Tiny Tim, who hasn’t spoken in several years because of a trauma. Cross’ former fiancé, in the book named Belle, is here a social worker named Claire. And the role of Jacob Marley is Cross’ former network boss and mentor Lew Hayward who appears as the golf-playing corpse when he returns as a ghost.

There are tons of details that fill this silly movie to the edges with excitement. There are also celebrities at every turn. For example, jazz legend Miles Davis as the trumpet player street musician,  Hollywood bad boy Robert Mitchum as Cross’ boss, the cabbie/Ghost of Christmas Past is played by David Johansen who also works professionally under the name Buster Poindexter and was an original member of the New York Dolls punk/glam band, and TV’s Charlie of Charlie’s Angels John Forsythe plays the role of Lew Hayward.  

Don’t overlook the parody clips shown at the movie’s opening. These are promos for the IBC Network's holiday specials for that season. They include the ultra-violent "The Night the Reindeer Died" starring Lee Majors as a commando that saves the North Pole, "Bob Goulet’s Old Fashioned Cajun Christmas" with the popular entertainer singing and boating through the swamps, and a sappy sitcom holiday episode of the TV series "Father Loves Beaver." There’s also the ridiculous show-within-the show "Scrooge" produced by IBC. It stars actor John Houseman as the narrator, comedian Buddy Hackett as Scrooge, actor Jamie Farr as Cratchit, Olympic Gold medal-winning gymnast Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim, and the Solid Gold Dancers as the Scroogettes, dancing on the streets of Victorian London.

The cast includes Bill Murray as Frank Cross, Alfre Woodard as Grace, Karen Allen as Claire, John Forsythe as Lew Hayward, Bobcat Goldthwait as the disgruntled employee Eliot Loudermilk, David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Robert Mitchum as Cross’ TV network boss Preston Rhinelander, Michael J. Pollard as the homeless man Herman, and Mary Ellen Trainor as Ted.


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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