The Boob Tube #34: Christmas Specials

It's the holiday season on TV.  Time for John Ritter, Loni Anderson, and The Oak Ridge Boys to don their sweaters, sit by the hearth and get wholesome.  Yes, for these few weeks in December, we're putting aside disco and "jiggle TV" in favor of clean, salubrious specials for the whole family.

Perry Como is as much a part of Christmas as spiked egg nog and flocking.  Let's give it up for Como in the exotic locale of New Mexico.  What mysterious location will he choose next? Maybe the fantastical land of enchantment known as Ohio.

Why was Sha Na Na always invited to the big gigs?  They played at Woodstock, you know.  I guess I shouldn't question - I was a loyal watcher of their weekly variety show.  If memory serves, Bowser (not the Nintendo creature; the band's deep voiced singer) used to do car commercials when I lived in Southern California in the late eighties.

You've got three choices of what to watch this December night of 1975: "The Tiny Tree", "Six Million Dollar Man" or Cher's salute to "ladies with a touch of trash".  As much as I'm a sucker for Christmas specials, I think it's going to be a toss up between Steve Austin and Cher.

Say what you will about these stop-motion Rankin/Bass specials, there is the spark of genius there that transcends nostalgia.  How else can you explain their sustained popularity for nearly fifty years?

And speaking of genius, is there anything that has ever graced the boob tube more beloved than the Charlie Brown Christmas? It's like a sucker punch to the soul for all of us who get caught up in the season's hyper materialism.

I find it infinitely amusing that Redd Foxx is a guest on this Christmas special.  Not that Foxx is somehow beneath it.  It's just that his brand was so lewd, he seems out of place among Donny & Marie and Bob Hope  in all their holiday wholesomeness.  It's like having Richard Pryor on an Andy Williams special.

"Time to pay the fiddler, old man," she said as she grabbed Kris Kringle by the whiskers.  Is it just me, or does this look like a hostile encounter?

Stay tuned for part two....


  1. Oh man. What a freaking awesome post!!! I want to go back to those times, grab one of those TV Guides and just enjoy the fuzzy channels. Sigh.

  2. My favorite Christmas special of all time was Bing Crosby's last Christmas show before he died. Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing "Little Drummer Boy".

  3. I miss the TV Guides, back when they would actually give a little paragraph about an upcoming TV show. (Back when the shows were actually clean enough to watch.) Another little memory from the "Little Drummer Boy" ad: the "N" logo for NBC. Some bright executive in the 1970s paid lots of money for a marketing company to design that logo. Not only did they find out too late that somebody already was using it, and had to be paid off; but the public hated that logo so much that it had to be ditched eventually. They went back to the peacock, in representative form.

    1. I remember Tom Snyder telling a story about that NBC logo on one of the shows he had in the 90s (CNBC or CBS, can't remember which). IIRC, the story he told is that the Univ. of Nebraska came up with the logo first. Snyder said it probably only cost the university a couple hundred dollars to come up with that, while it cost NBC hundreds of thousands of dollars!

  4. Rankin-Bass is a staple at our house every Christmas, as is Charlie Brown.

    Sha-Na-Na at Woodstock always created some kind of cognitive dissonance with me, but they were everywhere.

  5. Love is...Barbara Eden.

    I stopped reading at that ad.

  6. I have a collection of TV Guides from the 70's and it does make you wish to relive one night of television watching back then, especially this time of year. We laugh at the variety shows now, but back then wouldn't have missed them. Bing's were always a favorite.

  7. I will always love the Rankin-Bass specials and every Peanuts special ever made.

    I remember Bowser made a few PSA commercials when I was a kid...one in particular was an equal gender spot which showed him ironing clothes, while the other band members jeered at him for doing "women's work." Bowser then sang, "If a girl can do it, a guy can, too! You can do anything you want to do!" I've looked in vain for an uploaded clip with no luck.

  8. A Charlie Brown Christmas is the best half-hour of television ever made. Period. Not just Christmas, but of any program, any genre. No other program has ever been that good in only 30 minutes (22, sans commercials). Amazing!