I know it’s not exactly the season for crying and pouting but I’ve been noticing a trend the past couple of decades and I just have to say something; Christmas specials have become weak and uninspired compared to what I grew up with in the seventies. I’m from a time when terms like Christmas Special, Christmas Show, and Holiday Extravaganza actually meant something; when I saw those words I knew whether it be music, comedy, animation or drama I was in for a real treat. Today? Not so much. The great news is the Ghost of TV Specials Past is only as far away as YouTube; check out these five excellent videos.
Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas (1977) was the famous crooner’s final Christmas special; it features a number of celebrities, and some superb singing, including the now famous duet performance of Little Drummer Boy by Mr. Crosby and David Bowie. The premise is a little hokey, and Bing’s voice had grown weak by that time, but the program is nonetheless worth the watching. Oh, and after you see this special, check out Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s parody here.
Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980) featuring Alec Guinness and Ricky Schroder, this TV movie made Ricky Schroder a household name. The YouTube video quality leaves a little bit to be desired, and would probably best be watched on a phone, tablet or laptop; if you want to watch the film on your TV it is available on DVD from Netflix.
Donny and Marie Christmas Special (1978) is simply that year’s Christmas episode from the famous sibling’s variety show, but well worth the time to watch as it is full of excellent holiday musical performances. At the risk of sounding like a middle-aged man feeling wistfully nostalgic about the past I offer this show as proof that in spite of the tough times our nation experienced during the seventies, we were a far more innocent people.
Best of Andy Williams Christmas Show (multiple years) showcases a selection of the best performances from the eight year run of the Andy Williams Christmas Show. Nobody did the holiday special better than Andy Williams; if you are only going to take time to watch one of these videos, make this the one.
A Christmas Carol (1971) is an award winning animated TV special directed by Richard Williams and featuring the voices of Alastair Sim and Michael Redgrave. I have a special fondness for this particular iteration of Dickens’s famous story; my third grade teacher, a lovely woman who taught me the misery of creative writing, and the joy of reading Shel Silverstein, also introduced me to this animated short. I spent a number of years attempting to track it down on DVD or even VHS but had no luck, finally some wonderful person uploaded the film to YouTube and now I watch it each year to get me in the Christmas spirit.
I’m not planning to go quite as overboard as I did with Halloween, but there will be more Christmas related posts next week, so please do check back!
– John Morton