Friday, December 16, 2011

Classic Holiday TV Specials Are Still The Best

Hey, Neil likes the same Christmas specials that I do!

Rudolph Shows Off
a New Animation Form
      I remember watching Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer the first time it was broadcast on Friday, December 6, 1964.  There had not been that many TV Christmas specials up to that point.  They had consisted mostly of weekly variety shows like Red Skelton, Lawrence Welk, or Judy Garland that had their holiday themed family programs.  Not that they weren’t memorable or entertaining, but Rudolph opened up
a new world that we had not experienced before.  It became the most popular annual special in TV history.  And who could forget the Norelco® Santa commercial which was resurrected a few years ago?  It was a special night I will never forget!

      Following Rudolph came an influx of animated specials.  The first was a spinoff of an earlier Halloween special with the “Peanuts” gang.  When A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered in 1965, it was an instant success.  The Christmas Story read by Linus and the Christmas tree shopping scene are what the season is all about.

Charlie Brown and Linus Shop for a ChristmasTree

Dr. Seuss Working on the Grinch

      Ten years after the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas premiered on TV in 1966, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Seuss in while working in the visual department at Lazarus Department Store in Columbus, Ohio.  He was there for a book signing and someone was hired to dress up as the Grinch to assist him.  That person didn’t show and they asked me to step in.  It was a thrill to do so.  Oh, how I wish I could find the photo of that!  At the end of the day, he signed a copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas for me by writing, “for Neil (assistant Grinch)... Dr. Seuss (chief Grinch)”. How exciting!

The Grinch Comes to Whoville
      My other favorite animated special is Frosty the Snowman airing annually since 1969.  I love the simple graphic treatment and the way the story, as told in the song, unfolds.  The graphics reflect a purity and simplicity that reflects the song as a ballad and the story as a fable.

Frosty and Friends Parade Through Town
The Glee Holiday Special
      This week another classic happened when the cast of Glee aired their annual holiday episode.  Last year’s offering was entertaining and hopeful, but this one took the weekly series holiday theme to a new level.  What Michael Bublé failed to bring to his special with his nostalgic vitality, the Glee ensemble brought to the airwaves of a fictional PBS station in Lima, OH.  With Archie as the visionary and director, the cast performed numbers from their latest Christmas album in a living room reminiscent of the Make Room for Daddy set of the 1950’s and 60’s.  Using direct conversations with the TV audience and black and white film, the performers hammed it up to canned laughter and applauses.  It was kitsch at its cheesiest and completely worked as a salute to the 60’s holiday specials.  

Sometimes there are forms of art that just can’t be improved upon. 

You can view the Glee holiday episode now with subscriptions to certain cable or satellite providers.  Everyone will have the opportunity on Wednesday, Dec. 21.


ZOOLATRY said...

Happy Christmas, Dexter! We like those old holiday specials, too ... they're good for the spirit.

Team Tabby said...

There's been a whole parade of those tv specials on our channels too. Nice to meet you, Dexter.


Who is Dexter? said...

It's great to meet all of you too! Welcome.