This past Sunday I watched 12 hours of Christmas specials.
I do it every year. I invite all my friends and family to pop in at any point. We have popcorn, cookies, pizza and eggnog etc. and we all get a great nostalgic Christmas feeling.
I have a home theater where most of the shows are played:
Then over in the living room I have another selection of shows just for little kids who don't want to sit still. Over in that Elmo saved Christmas, then Spongebob saved Christmas, the Veggie Tales sang about Christmas etc.
I mostly stayed in the theater, but I did pop in to see Mister Rogers don a Santa suit.
Things kicked off in theater at 10am. I have a detailed schedule I send out in advance and I keep a bunch of shorts, videos and commercials on standby to fill in any gaps that happen in between shows.
10:00am 1966 The Best of Lawrence Welk Christmas (58 minutes)
Lawrence Welk played his accordion, some kids played the spoons with Santa and there was an acceptional amount of beehive haircuts.
The highlight for me was an ad lib by Lawrence Welk Jr. who produced the show. He showed up at the end and made a joke about how he was "sorta Dad's boss" then he got visibly nervous of suffering the Welk wrath.
My mom & dad showed up for this as did one of my brothers and sister in law.
My mother spent 50% of the show chatting with my wife about how hard it would be to wear a beehive haircut.
11:00am 2002 The Wiggles: Yule Be Wigglin’ (48 minutes)
The Wiggles are my 18 month old son's favorite show. He's seen the special a few times and spent the entire show standing in front of the screen imitating every dance.
The highlight of this was when two girls showed up in Scottish and Irish dresses and demonstrated traditional Christmas dances. The show also featured a Santa with the worst beard I have ever seen.
BONUS: Lucky Strike Christmas Commercial (1 minute)
Yes, give your loved ones cancer this Christmas.
11:50am 1977 A Family Christmas With Billy Graham (54 minutes)
This popped up on TBN last year and I recorded it to play this year. It featured Johnny Cash and his wife crooning a little holiday music and Billy Graham doing some no nonsense preaching.
There was a great part where Johnny Cash told a story about a hooker in an old west town that died during childbirth and the cowboys took care of the baby. Which led them to stop drinking and fighting.
The highlight was where they showed clips of crowds all around the world where Billy Graham had given mass. My Brother in law was here at this point and we tried to guess each stadium before the title card was displayed.
So over top of the music you heard the two of us shout "L.A. Colluseum", "Soldier Field", "Shea" etc, etc.
12:45pm 1977 The Love Boat: LonelySilent Night/Divorce Me, Please (49 minutes)
This was a fun little episode. The three stories were Captain Stubing was a scrooge, a guy wanted to shoot his lawyer and Carol Brady was playing a woman who wanted to divorce her husband.
The highlight of this was when the captain gave a young child a sexton (some old boat thing.)
It was supposed to be a moving scene, but it looked like a lousy gift.
1:35pm 1962 McHale’s Navy: The Day They Captured Santa Claus (26 minutes)
A fun McHale's Navy episode involving Ernest Borgnine dressed as Santa. I especially enjoyed the back and forth with Borgnine and Conway.
2:00pm 2011 The Smurfs Christmas Carol (24 minutes)
This special came out last year and was included on the BluRay/DVD set of the film. It was a retelling of A Christmas Carol with Grouchy as Scrooge. The show used the CGI animated Smurfs in the opening and a traditionally animated look in the dream sequences.
The whole thing had to do with Grouchy wanting a hang glider for Christmas and Papa Smurf giving him a hat.
BONUS: Vintage Christmas Commercials (3 minutes)
I found this on the Something Weird On Demand channel a few years back. Trains, army men and dolls. It was all here and all yours by the grace of Santa.
2:30pm 1989 Tonight Show w/ Johnny Carson: Kevin Meaney (16 minutes)
I picked this up on DVD a few years ago. They took 3 episodes of Carson's Tonight Show that appeared closed to Christmas and edited all of the non-Christmas parts out.
The highlight of this was a debate between Carson an Severson about the manliest pronunciation of poinsettia.
BONUS: Alvin & The Chipmunks – Christmas Don’t Be Late Remix (3 minutes)
This was a loud and vaguely annoying remix of the Chipmunks Christmas song. I can't help but wonder why Alvin can't buy himself a hula hoop. He's a rich rock star. How much does a hula hoop cost?
2:50pm 1987 A Claymation Christmas – Featuring the California Raisins (25 minutes)
At this point all the guests had left, so I bagged up some more popcorn. Filled the ice trays and then settled in for this one.
This was a Wil Vinton special. The California Raisins only show up for one number, but boy do they have screen presence. What a great concept. They were a clear, clear highlight.
3:20pm 1963 Petticoat Junction: Cannonball Christmas (25 minutes)
This one disappointed me at the onset because the dog wasn't in this! Higgins (who also played Benji) was always my favorite part of the series and right in the credits you could tell if he was on and he wasn't.
Still, there were plenty of shenanigans afoot and some kissing under the mistletoe.
I had absorbed 5 hours of Christmas specials at this point but I think this was the first mistletoe kiss of the day.
3:50pm 1985 Disney’s Magic Kingdom Yuletide Special (30 minutes)
This is pretty rare (as rare as anything is in the era of YouTube) a 1985 Disney Channel special that my mother in law recorded when it aired.
It's pretty much what you would expect. Uncle Scrooge is... well... Scrooge and there's lots of singing and dancing by costumed characters.
The weirdest part was a group of grown women dressed as babies singing "I'm Getting Nothing For Christmas."
They had given them weird cankles and big arms as part of the costume. I suppose this should have made them look more like babies. It reminded me of Popeye.
4:25pm 1966 That Girl: Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid (25 minutes)
This was the very first That Girl episode I have ever seen. I really liked it! That Girl (I don't recall her name) stayed behind at some school she was working at to spend Christmas with a little boy who's parents were working. They decorate a tree and play checkers and eat sandwiches.
The highlight was That Girl in her pajamas. Grrrowwwl.
BONUS: The Christmas Visitor (6 minutes)
Wonderful public domain cartoon that I showed to keep things from getting ahead of schedule. Santa shows up at a house where they left him a cake, a bottle of wine and a cigar. He eats and drinks and then blows smoke rings around the tree that turns into garland.
Meanwhile, there is a whole Toy Story thing going on as his back is turned to the toys.
5:00pm 1952 The Doctor: A Tale of Two Christmases (25 minutes)
I don't know anything about this show at all. I don't think there was a doctor in it. There was a couple who had broken up and the daughter missed her dad. But the evil father in law forbids him from seeing anyone or he will go to jail (it's complicated.)
So he disguises himself as the department store Santa Claus.
It was a bit of a tearjerker.
My favorite part was the whole "north pole" set at the department store. It had port holes that parents could glance through and was decorated so well.
There was also some great shots of children looking into department store windows at toys.
5:25pm 2007 Shrek the Halls (21 minutes)
This was the complete opposite of the last show. It reminded me of the difference between 1950s entertainment and today. The Doctor was earnest and gave you a warm feeling. This was snarky and full of flatulence jokes.
The highlight was the flatulence jokes.
5:50pm 1956 I Love Lucy Christmas Special (25 minutes)
There was a big turnout for this one with my aunt, cousins and a handful of friends showing up just before it started. Everyone either knew the punchline to every joke or figured em out.
This featured Fred trimming a tree to Lucy's absurd perfectionism and lots of flashbacks to memorable episodes in the series.
The end featured everyone dressed as Santa as the REAL SANTA showed up.
BONUS: 1957 Queen Elizabeth Christmas Address (7 minutes)
This was the Queen's first televised Christmas address. She seemed a little stiff, but that may have been because she was the queen. She was reading off sheets of paper that she flipped herself. You'd think they would have a royal paper flipper.
6:20pm 1962 Rocky & Bullwinkle A Visit from Saint Nicholouse (23 minutes)
Rocky & Bullwinkle was actually made up of several shorter segments (Fractured Fairy Tales, Mr. Know It All, etc).
The Christmas theme was very light in this. Only the main Rocky & Bullwinkle story revolved around Christmas with Boris dressing up like Santa to do something evil.
It was a bit of a palate cleanser as the big guns were coming out next.
6:45pm 1981 Little House on the Prairie: A Christmas They Never Forgot (45 minutes)
We had pizza and tacos delivered (the traditional Christmas feast, no?) so the theater was packed for the rest of the night. Friends, family, friends of family etc. were on hand for a heavy handed episode from Little House that covered poverty, racism, gift giving vs. gift getting and a guy falling in a frozen lake.
7:30pm 1978 A Special Sesame Street Christmas (52 minutes)
I had been dying to show this special ever since I first read about it a decade ago. It had never been released on home video until this year. The box advertises Michael Jackson and everyone really wanted to see him. Amazingly he is only in the special for about 40 seconds and plenty of people missed it because they were getting eggnog, pizza, tacos or using the rest room or something.
But there was no time to rewind! Plus, you can't really rewind a DVD.
BONUS: A Plaza Sesamo Navidad (9 minutes)
Running slightly ahead of schedule, I figured this would be a great time to run this Mexican Sesame Street special. I caught this on Univision and I don't really know why it was so short.
I don't speak Spanish but here is what I think happened. Kids wrote letters to Santa then attached them to a balloon and released them. Mom made a big calzone type thing with a toy hidden inside. They had a big dinner and the boy that found the toy got a prize (which may have been just the toy.)
Then they sung Silent Night in Spanish with a giant parrot.
8:30pm 1966 The Red Skelton Christmas Special (56 minutes)
Greer Garson (who was a sexy actress in the 1960s) encounters Red's hobo character as she is dressed as an old lady for a show. Red is so kind to her he lets her sleep in a bathtub and drink radiator fluid with a tea bag in it.
Heartwarming stuff, kids.
BONUS: President Reagan's 1983 Christmas Address (3 minutes)
I found this on YouTube and its a really nice, well written speech to the nation. I know Presidents still do these, but I feel like watching them was a bigger deal years ago.
9:30pm 1977 WJKW Christmas Eve Newscast (30 minutes)
I found this on YouTube. It was a full of talk of last minute shopping, lines at the airport, sports highlights and murder. Lots of murder in Ohio that Christmas Eve.
The highlight was a bunch of kids at the mall speaking to a reporter about how Santa gets in their house.
One little girl said "He doesn't. We celebrate Hanukkah."
It was a solid line up this year. A real variety of different things and a few that I could never imagine I would ever see with an audience. But nothing beats being surrounded by family and friends as you try and translate Spanish Muppets, comment on wacky hair styles and laugh at the antics of Red Skelton and Shrek.
I can't wait until next year! Merry Christmas!