I will be the first to point out that this is merely my list of favorite moments that you might see on TV during the holiday season. I will also tell you that I am kind of the elder statesman of the bloggers here. I am knocking on the door of forty. I believe that most who post to this site are in their early twenties. So, I do not even really speak for the site on this one. Again, I am only speaking for myself. There is also the manner and relevance in which this media was first viewed. Where you are in life when you view something affects how near and dear it is to your heart later. So, here is a list of my favorite things to watch on TV during the Christmas holiday season.
A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas (2001) – This is one of the episodes that really made Family Guy as a show for me. The comedy is original and off the charts. When Peter accidentally gives away all of the gifts to Toys For Tots, he tries to reclaim them from a group of slack jawed yokels. Two of the boys are actively fighting over the VCR in the following manner…
Yokel 1 “Its MY SEX BOX…
Yokel 2 “No, its MY SEX BOX and her name is SONY!”
Christmas entertainment on some level should be like Tony Clifton singing with Miss Piggy. The more jaded the entertainment, the more rewarding the payoff at the end. Another great storyline in the show is that Peter is constantly interrupted in his quest to watch the greatest Christmas special of all time starring the rock band KISS. Family Guy shows snippets of the special through out the show including KISS fighting off baby pteradactyls. Because, everyone knows dinosaurs hate the sound of a string guitar. Peter keeps missing the show for a variety of reasons. My personal favorite is when they have to go to their neighbors house.
Lois: Peter, we told Joe and Bonnie we’d go over there.
Peter: Lois, KISS saves Christmas is on. Can’t we tell them something like your mother died?
Lois: Peter! I am not going to lie to Joe and Bonnie!
Peter: Fine, I’ll kill your mother. When did the holidays become so complicated?
The best plot line is reserved for baby world dominating genius Stewie. He makes a pact with Santa (whom he hilariously refers to as ‘Klaus) to be a ‘good boy’ in exchange for plutonium to make a bomb. Stewie struggles with the concept of being ‘nice’ and is cast in the role of ‘baby Jesus’ in the town play. Stewie saves the day with a speech at the end calming down his mother who has gone mad. The speech includes a reference to another actor that played Jesus named Jeffrey Hunter. Hunter also played Captain Christopher Pike in the first Star Trek pilot episode. Stewie points of that Hunter was apparently good enough to play ‘the King of Kings but not seduce green women.’ All in all, every frame of A Very Special Freakin’ Family Guy Christmas will stay with you to be quoted and sub referenced for years to come. It was true in my case.
A Family Circus Christmas (1978) – In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I lost both of my grandfathers. It was a time when I was just coming to terms with death. I was in the very early stages of elementary school and a fear developed that my maternal grandfather would haunt our residence. My paternal grandfather had passed away when I was only three. I vaguely remember him as well as the funeral. It just did not strike me the same way as the maternal grandfather passing away when I was six. I have always loved and grew up on The Family Circus. Over the years, there was a re-occurring theme in the Family Circus of the spirit of the kid’s grandfather. The spirit is always smiling. He is a loving grandfather that looks down from Heaven beaming with pride about his grandkids. I remember watching this as a child. It is a fairly normal ‘meaning of Christmas’ affair until you get to the end. The spirit of the grandfather does show up in the house. This was almost exactly in line with my fear at the time. Rather than being something scary though, he helps Billy find old letters that he had written to their still living grandmother. He also picks Billy up to retrieve them from a top shelf. Being picked up by a spirit was another particular fear at the time. The whole scene was exactly as I had pictured it happening to me. However, it was no longer scary. It was sweet. It was heart warming. The show let me know that death did not change who a person was or suddenly make them scary. The grandpa was still grandpa. That helped with going to sleep at night. That also helped with sleeping in my own room and not at the feet of my parents bed. Sometimes the best consequences are the most unintended.
Night of the Meek (1960) – Only once did The Twilight Zone venture into the land of Christmas in its original five season run. The end result was one of the most beautiful holiday episodes of all time. The venerable Art Carney plays Henry Corwin. Corwin is a drunk. Corwin is also a department store Santa. Corwin’s life spirals from bad to worse when he is fired from his department store gig. There is an incident with a child. There is also the fact that Corwin is stinking drunk. Corwin makes a speech to a manager at the department store named Mr. Dundee. Corwin tells Dundee why he ‘drinks’ and why he ‘weeps.’ Corwin’s speech ends with an allusion to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:5. Corwin has a desire that ‘for one night, the Meek shall inherit the Earth.’ Off the top of my head, the only two speeches that I remember on television to top that one are Jim Valvano talking at the 1993 ESPYs and a speech that I will cover in my next entry. Corwin then proceeds to receive a magic bag. The bag gives out gifts exactly as the requestor desires. This lands Corwin in jail for theft. All in all though, Corwin manages to give out every last gift in the bag. One of his bum friends points out that Corwin never pulled out anything in the bag for himself. Corwin wishes that he could actually do that same trick every year. Corwin then walks into a dark alley to find a sleigh with an elf. Corwin then flies off into the night having become a real Santa. You would have to go to A Nighmare Before Christmas to find another example of how a generally disturbed but just universe found Christmas’ real meaning. If ever they should have given a Pulitzer Prize to a television show, Night of the Meek. would have been that show.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – If you have never seen the animated Chuck Jones’ directed How The Grinch Stole Christmas, it is my opinion that you are the victim of bad and negligent parenting. It’s really that simple. Lets start out with the trivia that will instantly give you street cred at any Christmas gathering this holiday season. Thurl Ravencroft, who voiced Tony The Tiger, was the one who sang You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch not Boris Karloff (who was the narrator). Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Boris Karloff, Chuck Jones, and Thurl Ravenscroft is just a sampling of the talent that came together for this Christmas classic. Every Christmas, you should see one person posting at least part of the video or a quote from this masterpiece to their Facebook wall. The Grinch is not just merely a cartoon or Christmas special. The Grinch is part of our collective consciousness. From the dog to the rhyming to every last Who in Whoville, The Grinch is a little spark of lightning that we all carry around in our brain bottle. In 2006, I was working in the Philippines over Christmas. Thousands of miles away from the country of my origin and the special’s origin, the entire lobby in Manila stopped in silence to watch the Grinch. Such is the power and majesty of its simple message
“And he puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought something he hadn’t before.
‘Maybe Christmas’ he thought ’ doesn’t come from a store..
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more…”
Its like the Gettysburg Address of Christmas specials. You can watch hours and hours of all things Christmas. You can read speeches thousands of words long and recite them from memory. However, I defy you to actually say as much about Christmas as those for lines impart.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – Any one that knows or has met me would know that I have reserved this for the top of most any list. When you hear of epic battles with censors and television execs, your mind might race to any number of things. Were they trying to show nudity? What foul words were they trying to say? Would it have made even George Carlin blush? No, they wanted to read on air from the Bible. As Schultz stated in the meeting leading up to the show, “if we don’t do it… who will?” The answer is … No one. Also, Schultz wanted (and got) kids to voice the kids characters. This would be in contrast to bringing in adult actors to merely sound like children. This led to a child’s voice giving the greatest speech ever put on television in front of an audience.
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about!?!?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
(Linus then moves to the center of a stage and quietly clears his throat)
Linus Van Pelt: Lights… please…
(a single spotlight shines down on Linus on a stage that we have seen or been in. a stage illuminated as any would be in a church or school auditorium)
Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”
(and like a little Yoda exchanging his light saber for a walking cane, Linus picks up his blanket and says)
Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
From the jazz laced musical stylings of Vince Guardini to the end credits, A Charlie Brown Christmas was the little engine that could. Of course, the censors fears were correct. The network was flooded with calls, letters, editorials, and reviews. You would be hard pressed though to ever find a contemporary negative one. My favorite quote about the special, as a New York adman claimed, ‘the next day, all Heaven broke loose.’ The animation that they thought would look cheap instead came off as homey. The biblical verse that they thought would be controversial was hailed by Harriet Van Horne of the New York World-Telegram “Linus’ reading of the nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season.’
Personally, my love of this knows no bounds. Now, it is quite possible that you have a different list. It is even probable or likely. I did not include things like South Park and Mr. Hanky. I also did not include Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer which may be just me. If you get into Christmas movies, then that would be an entirely different can of worms. So feel free to comment and let me know what you think of my list as well as share your own. But at the end of the day as Tiny Tim Cratchitt would say “God Bless us, every one.” To you and yours, happy holidays and Merry Christmas.