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Category Archives: christmas specials

a very special christmas special: “The Snowman” (1982)

Call me one of them liberal, east-coast, Volvo-drivin’, latte-drinkin’, public radio givin’, Obama votin’, gay marryin’, baby abortin’, Trader Joes shoppin’, tofu eatin’, 30 Rock viewin’, Salon readin’, book ownin’, French lovin’ elitists, but if you want to watch a story about a snowman who magically comes to life due to the magic of Christmas that doesn’t suck ox nor ass…. then you need to get with this jive, right here.

It’s The Snowman.  Maybe you saw it on PBS in the 1980s.  Or maybe you’re British and you saw it on ITV.  Anyway, it’s practically wordless, so I’m not going to say any more about it.  It’s just freaking magical and beautiful and I love it, so there.

 

 

Ok, this version cuts “Walking In The Air” into two pieces, so here’s the full song.  And here’s the 1983 intro, where we learn that the little boy grows up to be David Bowie.  Seriously.

And that means that, if you want, you can watch “Walking In The Air” with the sound turned down, and play this song instead.  But only if you absolutely must.

And: Merry Christmas.  We’ll do this again next year.

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a very special christmas special: “Frosty The Snowman” (1970)

Every Christmas special I’ve reviewed here, I’ve been able to find something to like.  Even Alf’s Special Christmas, which bothered me on several levels – I can appreciate what they were trying to do, even though it was completely wrong.   But, see, Alf’s Special Christmas was wrong in the same way that the restaurant screwing up your order is wrong – like if you ordered pizza with pepperoni, and got green peppers instead.   I don’t like green peppers, but green peppers are at least edible.  But there are some things that are just wrong, like, ordering a pizza with pepperoni and instead getting a broken lightbulb and a used syringe.

There’s no other way around it – I do not like Frosty The Snowman.  I’m not proud of this, because so many other people love ol’ Frosty and that hat of his.   I love Rudolph and The Year Without A Santa Claus and The Little Drummer Boy and all the other Rankin/Bass classics.  I’ll sit through A Garfield Christmas even though I don’t like Garfield anymore, just because his old TV cartoons aren’t bad.  I’ll watch The Star Wars Christmas Special all the way through and moan and groan like everyone else but I will get through it.

After watching Frosty The Snowman, I was shocked to learn that it was only a half an hour long.

I don’t know what it is about Frosty.  Maybe it’s the fact that the story has no meat to it whatsoever.  Maybe it’s the fact that the “Frosty The Snowman” song is just annoying and cloying.   Maybe it’s the fact that the animation is terrible.  And not charmingly terrible, either.  But – ok – I sat down and watched this thing, and here’s 10 things I noticed.  Take ’em or leave ’em.  If you love ol’ Frosty, feel free to send hate mail.  I stand by my position: Frosty The Snowman is bloody awful.

Watch it – if you must – and read my 10 things – below the cut.

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a very special christmas special, “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together” (1979)

As you are probably aware, based on my previous posts about A Muppet Family Christmas and The Christmas Toy, and my yearly exultations that The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best and most faithful film adaptation of the original book A Christmas Carol despite being narrated by Rizzo the Rat and Gonzo the Great, the Muppets and Christmas occupy roughly the same spot in my brain.  It’s that soft, gooey, marshmallow-like cluster nestled at the back of my hippocampus, near the base of my occipital lobe.  If you were to poke it, I would involuntarily start waving my arms around like Kermit.

However, I have never actually seen John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together until today.  Part of this may have to do with the fact that it has never been officially released on VHS, and part of this may have to do with the fact that it came out the year I was born and I was too busy spitting up strained squash and eating stuff I found on the carpet to notice.   Either way, I found it on the Youtubes, and have decided to write about my experiences watching this holiday gem for the first damn time.

Aaaaaaand… push play.

Fade in on the late John Denver, sprightly and alive and in the middle of his “Oh, God” heyday.   Because ‘tis the glorious season of Yuletide, he’s dressed like a Dickensian gent, resplendent with his purple top hat and all.  At this point, things could really go either way – of all the M.O.R. artists ever to walk this Earth, John Denver is the M.O.Riest.  For every heartfelt, aching ballad like “Leavin’ On A Jetplane,” there’s an “Annie’s Song.”   For every “Rocky Mountain High”, there’s a Coors beer commercial where a bunch of people start singing “Rocky Mountain High.”   And, of course, there’s that big old slice of bitter irony pie you have to mention when you’re a heartless bastard like me and someone brings up John Denver: “Leaving On A Jet Plane” was written by a man who died when his private plane crashed.  Either the jokes make themselves or they really, really don’t.  I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

And, either this is going to be the most goddamn heartwarming thing I’ve ever experienced, or it’s going to be 2 solid hours of molten Velveeta cheese.  Things don’t look so good when ol’ John starts singing “The 12 Days Of Christmas”, a song that’s only tolerable when Muppets are involved.

Thank God there are Muppets involved.  Fozzie screws up his lines, Miss Piggy adds some “ba-dump-bump-bumps” to her FIIIIIVE GOOOOOLD RIIIINGS line, and all is right with the world.

 

There’s more, after the break.

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a very special christmas special: “Alf’s Special Christmas” (1987)

It’s that time of year again, when we gather round the electronic hearth and listen to tales, both old and new, that remind us at once of the coming of the new year and the passage of time, as well as what is was to once be young.  A TV christmas special, at its finest, is at once poignant and invigorating; funny and thoughtful, spectacular, but with the humblest of intentions.  At their best, they define for their audience what Christmas truly means in the broadcast media age.

Alf’s Special Christmas
… is not that.

Look, here’s the thing:  I’ve gotten more random comments about my write-up of Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search For Santa Claus than I ever would have expected.  I seem to have lit a fire in the minds of America’s 30-somethings, all now reminded of this truly bizarre combination of homespun warmth and Hollywood shamelessness.  Now, everyone wants a copy of it, and it’s nowhere to be found.  Call it Andy978 and the Grown-Ups Who Used To Sort Of Wish They Were NBC Kids Search For Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search For Santa Claus. On second thought, don’t call it that.  That’s a crappy title.

So, when I found yet another obscure NBC Christmas special on Hulu last week, I thought the stars were aligning.  I thought the Christmas Gods were smilin’ down on ol’ Andy.  There it was – Alf’s Special Christmas – starring good old Alf.   Always good for a laugh, that Alf.  I’d never seen the thing myself, but maybe – just maybe – someone out there had fond memories of it.  Even better, it was on Hulu.  It was on the internet legally.  Meaning: it wasn’t going to mysteriously disappear in a week after NBC/Universal discovered we were having fun with it.

“Hark!” I said.  “Here is where our Christmas season truly begins!  We shall watch this Alf’s Special Christmas, and yea verily, we shall make fun of it, and lo, our snark shalt bring us together in great joy.”  And so, with pen in hand, ready to
take notes, I pushed play.

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Posted by on December 2, 2009 in christmas specials, nostalgia, tv, War on Xmas!

 

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a very special christmas special SPECIAL: “Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search For Santa Claus” (1985) part two: THE COMPLETE MOVIE!

You may recall how, for the last few years, I’ve celebrated the Christmas season on this blog by reposting, reviewing, and gently eviscerating beloved holiday specials of yore.  Last Christmas, I started the season off with a review of Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search For Santa, which was so obscure, I figured no one would ever remember it.  Turns out, I was completely wrong.  Lots of people remembered it, and remembered it fondly.  Problem was, the version on YouTube was incomplete, and no one seemed to have a copy of their own.  Many were prepared to offer burnt offerings to see the thing in its entirety.

Now, normally, I wouldn’t do this, but I feel like this is important enough – at least to the readers of this particular blog – to break with tradition.  It’s an off-season  “Very Special Christmas Special”  post, folks, because, Ladies and Gentlemen, we found it!! Luckysmusic, on YouTube, has posted…. I jest not…. the entire Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search For Santa special from 1985!

It turns out there is a Santa Claus after all, kids.   And Santa Claus is…. the camera man?  Dr. Claw?  Who knows.

I have my own theory, though…

MINDY COHN LIVES!!!!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2009 in christmas specials, nostalgia, War on Xmas!, youtube

 

a very special christmas special: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) (or: Cheer Up, Emo Kid!)

cb1When you think about Christmas specials, you think of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  End of story.  Oh sure, you might think about the Grinch or about Rudolph or even Frosty, and maybe you’re Jewish and you’re thinking about how the Rugrats gang finally threw the chosen people a frickin’ bone a few years back with their Hanukkah special.  A Charlie Brown Christmas, however, is the template.  It’s why every stupid sitcom has a very special holiday episode where someone learns the True Meaning of Christmas.

The True Meaning of Christmas.  That’s a phrase that means nothing, isn’t it?  It’s been dragged out by retailers and hucksters so often that it can now only be said wrapped snugly in quotation marks.   I think this is where it comes from, though.   The aforementioned Rudolph, and especially The Year Without A Santa Claus, are heavilly plot-based affairs.  Usually, Christmas itself is in jeapordy, and its up to a plucky soul to save it.  Why is Christmas so important?  Um, because, you know, the kids will be disappointed if there are no toys.  Oh noes.

The interesting thing about the Peanuts gang, though, is this: even though they’re presented as children, and even though they have some of the concerns children have, they’re not really children.  They’re flawed and selfish, but they’re flawed and selfish in the same way grownups are.  I knew bratty little kids growing up, but I never really met Lucy until, say, college.   You’ll notice you don’t see Charlie Brown pining after particular Christmas gifts here.  The other kids do, but it’s mostly incidental, and it’s in a very grown-up way.  Lucy wants real estate, and Sally wants her present in small bills.

As we begin, Charlie Brown’s practically singing The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Sure Don’t Feel Like Christmas Time” as he walks around through his home town.  That’s one of the all-time great bummer Christmas songs, and I recommend you give it a listen if you’re ever feeling blue around the holidays.   You know what else is a bummer song?  “Christmas Time Is Here” by Vince Guaraldi – which all the kids are singing.  It’s a lovely slow jazz tune, but somehow the children’s choir gives it a certain dirge-like quality.
cb5
Charlie Brown and Linus head out to ice skate with the other kids, and Charlie opens up to his bro about how crappy Chrismas makes him feel.  Linus tells him to stop being so damn emo.  Charlie hits a tree while ice skating, and all the snow falls off the tree and buries him alive.  Then, the title appears.  That’s how it starts.  Probably the most beloved and resonant American Christmas story apart from “The Gift Of The Magi,” and it begins with seasonal depression and a potentially fatal avalanche.  MERRY [bleep]ING CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY!!!!!!!

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a very special christmas special (repeat): A Muppet Family Christmas (1988) (or: To Serve Muppets)

Part of the “charm” of Christmas specials is the ability to watch and re-watch them over and over again.  They become familiar, and they become part of your family’s Christmas tradition.  So, in the spirit of that (and to lighten my blog-load while I finish up the next post) here’s a re-run from last year:

(note: certain bits have been tweaked and re-worked.  Original post date: Dec. 15, 2007)

We continue our retrospective of beloved holiday entertainments with something I just loved to pieces as a small geek.  It’s got Sesame Street Muppets.  It’s got Muppet Show Muppets.  It’s got Fraggles.  It’s got the Muppet Babies.  It is, in short, the ultimate crossover multi-Muppetverse extravaganza.  It’s Crisis on Infinite Earths for the holidays.  It’s “The Five Doctors,” rendered in felt.   We taped this one off TV when I was eight or so, and I pretty much wore out the tape watching it and re-watching it.

It is A Muppet Family Christmas, and I love it more than Joanie loves Chachi.  That being said, it does raise one or two very interesting ethical questions concerning the dietary habits of our anthropomorphic friends.  The Swedish Chef is looking more and more like a sick mofo’ by the day.  Bork bork bork, indeed.

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Posted by on December 11, 2008 in christmas specials, War on Xmas!