Monday, November 27, 2006

This Week in Christmas TV History, Sort Of.

Here it is, that time again for reminiscences of the good old yuletide days spent sacked out in front of the TV. Sure, I went out and built forts and threw snowballs and such, but, come on, TV! It’s the best!

I begin my bloggy season of reverie with the TV Guides of this very week--more or less--in days of yore. The ones I own, that is, so I’m limited to 1976, ’77, and ’80.

I note that in all three of them (all New York Metro editions, natch) , WPIX 11 kicked off the noel viewing with March of the Wooden Soldiers, airing the Sunday after Thanksgiving at 1 PM. Thus, it is always the film that kicks off my own season year after year. I never missed it as a kid. The operatic songs could be a drag, with lots of dopey backwards phrasing (“Don’t cry, Bo Peep, don’t cry / To find your sheep we’ll try”), but the gruesome bogeymen were cool as hell, and the soldiers coming to life is still exciting.

In ’76, WPIX also gave the anxious kiddies a November treat by preempting the 7 o’clock block of The Odd Couple and The Dick Van Dyke Show with Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, probably my favorite of all the Christmas shows.

(All pics can be clicked for a closer look...)

I remember watching this on a Sunday afternoon with a Playworld ad from the Newsday funnies at hand, with puzzles that could only be solved by watching the commercials during the show. (I’ll bet Kenner had a hand in it.) I think MMCC could be made into a live-action version with Nathan Lane as Magoo.

CBS was usually the one to begin the prime-time festivities with a Wednesday-after-Thanksgiving showing of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with its crabby, model-thin Santa and defective toys. It’s funny to watch this one as an adult and notice the inconsistencies and mistakes. For instance, in the opening, the roman numerals in the copyright are wrong, and Burl Ives appears to be credited as “Buri” because they used a lowercase “L” when all the other letters are uppercase. The winged lion (who I think is called Moonraiser, but the closed-captioning says “Moonrazor,” which is much weirder) is said to scour the entire world for misfit toys, yet for some reason he needs Rudolph to get them to Santa. At the end, when the elf is throwing the misfit toys from the sleigh with umbrellas as parachutes, he looks at the bird, shrugs, and tosses it out without one. However, it was established earlier that the bird can’t fly--it swims--so presumably it plummeted to its stuffing-strewn demise. And what’s wrong with the dolly again? Does she have Body Dysmorphic Disorder or something? (Check out other Rudy goofs here...)

1976 ad.

1977 ad.

1980 ad.

The annual Bing Crosby Christmas special followed Rudolph in ’76 and ’77, and that was that for Der Bingle and forty-two years of this tradition.

Frosty’s Winter Wonderland
made its debut on December 2nd, 1976, with the amiable snow doofus taking on (appropriately enough) Shelley Winters as his bride.

Andy Griffith replaces Jimmy Durante as the animated narrator, and should have sued over his caricature, which appears to be the product of generations of enthusiastic inbreeding.

Lastly for ’76, New Yorkers could tune in to WPIX on Thursday night before bed to check out the Kramdens and Nortons exchanging gifts (including that one-of-a-kind Japanese hairpin box made of two-thousand matchsticks) on The Honeymooners.

In 1977, The Honeymooners came back with a new Christmas special, wherein Ralph and Ed and Trixie and Alice put on a “wacked-out” production of A Christmas Carol, a plot as tired as its old stars.

71-year-old Gale Gordon also appears, providing an extra helping of glazed ham.

In his annual special, Johnny Cash presents Roys Clark and Orbison, and lots and lots of Carters (not related to the crusty-eyed litter of Carters currently polluting television).

And here’s the ad for his 1980 show.

On Thursday night, WTNH (channel 8 out of New Haven, which rarely came in good enough to watch) broadcast Cosmic Christmas, a strange-sounding show of which I have zero recollection. Here's a pic I found...

Following that, however, was the eighth showing of the yet-enduring Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Recent efforts to locate my VHS copy have been fruitless, so I may have to pick it up on DVD. I recommend you do the same, as some recent ABC Family airings have cut out Jessica’s groovy “My World is Beginning Today,” her anthem of awakening triggered when studly, strapping Kris Kringle puts the make on her. (I saw it the other day, and the song was in there, so maybe it's back for good.) I dug the young Mrs. Claus as a child, and why not—she’s a dead ringer for Annette O’Toole.

More or less.

In 1980, PBS station WNET 13 steals the holiday thunder with a Saturday line-up of a Pavarotti special, the 1940 film Christmas in July (which I watched once and was disappointed to find it was all July and no Christmas) and some variety show.

December 1st that year brought A Country Christmas from the Canadian Rockies.

From the look on Minnie Pearl’s face in this ad, I’d say a tipsy Glen Campbell was feeling a little frisky and misjudged the distance to Tanya Tucker’s ass.

Rudolph this year was preceded by the Christmas Raccoons and their foe, the “aardvark-like” Cyril Sneer. Dad the Forest Ranger is voiced by my buddy Rupert Holmes.

Counter-programmed against Rudolph this year was the new Pinocchio’s Christmas on ABC. I’m sure Rudy laughed off this paltry competition, and rightly so: twenty-six years later, he’s still firmly entrenched in prime-time while Knothead turns up in the ABC Family bargain bin.

Thursday brought us Yogi’s First Christmas (and its villains, Snively Trockmorton and Herman the Hermit), shown over two nights. The first part was followed, Jesus save us, by the Dance Fever Christmas Party hosted by Deney Terrio, with the Gap Band and David Copperfield. The judges were Chad Everett, Connie Stevens and Robert Blake. There’s a joke in there somewhere… oh yeah--Deney Terrio.

Friday had an all-yule NBC evening, beginning with Casper’s First Christmas. (Why do all these cartoon characters wait so long to hop on the Christmas money train?) The Friendly Ghost and pal Hairy Scarey are evicted from their haunted house on Christmas Eve. I’d say their landlord asked for it—he should’ve figured them for a couple of DEADbeats! (Ah, good stuff!)

Speaking of the Great Beyond, A Family Circus Christmas followed, with Jeffy believing Santa will bring Granddad back from the dead. I’m not kidding. SPOILER ALERT: Pop-pop remains dead.

After that, set your dial to disappointment—it’s Jack Frost, the utterly lame Rankin/Bass production that’s so odd it’s almost entertaining. Features the vocal talents of Buddy Hackett and Larry Storch.

At ten, hicks everywhere enjoyed The Grand Ole Opry Christmas, with Dottie West, Grandpa Jones and host Robert Urich, who pays tribute to legendary balladeer John Jacob Niles. His like will not be seen again. Grandpa Jones, that is.

Finally, HBO delivers on your cable dollar with Rich Little’s Christmas Carol. Has anyone ever watched this? If so, why?

Watch for more yule-tastic goodness in the weeks ahead…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Newsday TV Book, November 19-25, 1978.

Steven Macht and Aimee Eccles star in The Immigrants. Turkey, anyone? (Aimee also played Jack Crabb's wife, Sunshine, in Little Big Man.)
Other than that epic potboiler, the week in television saw Mickey Mouse celebrating his 50th birthday (being saluted by luminaries such as O.J. Simpson and Jan-Michael Vincent), Suzanne Somers on the hot seat of the Dean Martin roast (much as she's currently being roasted by the legitimate medical community), and Dick Clark's Good Old Days reliving the Philadelphia of 1955-65 (presumably skipping the race riots of '64).

Here's a question from the TV Line column, where dim Long Islanders ask some real doozies on the subject of television. This one is actually pretty interesting though.

I love this ad for a paper goods store. I doubt it's enough to put me off my dinner, but it is rather chilling for the main course to advise me on how to dispose of his bones. (Look at the turkey's ass.)

Here's the box featuring the parades of the day. The listing for the Macy's parade says Ed McMahon is the host, with Bruce Jenner, Melba Moore, and Shields and Yarnell appearing. My god, it was never good!

I had hoped to have more up for Thanksgiving, but it's over now so on to Christmas...

Blogger Beta a Turkey?

I've got some swell Thanksgiving nostalgia to post, but since I switched to the new beta version of Blogger, the Hello program I use doesn't work. I tried the "add image" button instead, which has never worked before, and lo and behold it worked... for one day. (I used it to add some pics to my Newsday review site.) So I've looked into going back to the old Blogger (no can do), reinstalling Hello (did nothing), and searching for any kind of patch or backdoor (no results--Blogger and Google are not really acknowledging the problem, despite lots of people bitching about it on the help boards). So no seventies Thanksgiving images for you. Thanks for nothing, Blogger! (But I'll keep trying...)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sitthroughable? You Decide.

Dems controlling congress, Rummy gone, "Jesus Camp" flushed... a good week for progressives. Now I can get back to doing what I enjoy: posting nonsense. I'm working on some incredibly stupid, ephemeral 70's junk to post, but in the meantime, I've turned my Newsday movie review site into a blog for easier navigation and updating. Check it out here (that's Enjoy. Or ignore. What do I care. Either way, it'll be there, clogging up the internet tubes.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Last Gasp.

So this is what the GOP is resorting to in these last hopeless days before the election of their undoing. John Kerry tells a joke poorly and they swarm all over him like starving termites on a discarded toothpick. I won't even bother to explain the joke here, as I'm sure you know it by now. It was an apt shot at the President's mental disabilities, but vaguely worded. When I heard it, I knew exactly what he meant, as did anyone else with a sane person's sense of perspective. But Bushie-Bush and his flying monkeys, fueled by a combination of humorlessness, desperation and feigned indignation, are spinning it as a crack at the troops in Iraq. Bush, using his nasal, self-righteous nyah-nyah-nyah voice, has demanded an apology. Fox "News" is calling it Kerry's "gift to the GOP" and has said that this "will be an issue right up to the election." Actually, it's a NON-issue and if anyone remembers it in a week it's because Fox will make it an incessantly-revived talking point.

Is there any sensible person out there who could believe that Kerry, a decorated, wounded Vietnam veteran, would choose to suddenly and inexplicably denigrate U.S. soldiers in the middle of a speech attacking the incompetence of the Bush regime? Thankfully, he is not only refusing to apologize but aggressively fighting back, pointing out that this sort of specious accusation is the hallmark of the Republicans' dirty playbook. (In this case, I'd say it's a half-assed Hail Mary at best.)

(11/03 add: Kerry, I hear, has issued a written apology, which I hope goes something like this: "I am really sorry you pinheads are somehow unable to comprehend the vast difference between what I said and what you think you heard." I guess these morons who are sooooo offended would also have fired that mayor's aide who used the word "niggardly" a few years ago. You know, I don't care how cynical you are, every so often you encounter an example of the sheer dumbassness of most people and it's a slap in the face. The fuss over this is staggering to me. When, o moon, when will you at last crash into us and end this vulgar futility?!? Sorry, had a Dr. Smith moment there.)

Just imagine if Bush had to apologize for every time he mangled a sentence. Boy, he thinks attending soldiers' funerals would take up too much of his precious brush-clearing time!

Does the American public really need to be reminded of all the things that Bush and company should apologize for? Off the top of my head:

  • Rigging and stealing the 2000 & 2004 elections, and all the nefarious deeds associated with that;
  • Spying on Americans without warrants;
  • Going to war with a country that posed no threat to us and in doing so ignoring the greater threats posed by other countries;
  • Making the case for that war with deception and outright lies about imaginary weapons of mass destruction;
  • Waging this war as a corporate money-making scheme/absurd revenge tactic;
  • Pretending to attempt to bring to justice the terrorist responsible for thousands of American deaths by waging a barely-planned war in Afghanistan, then stating repeatedly that Osama was not really a concern (!?!), and then, years later, bringing his name up over and over as the election neared for cheap emotional impact;
  • Sending our troops to Iraq poorly prepared, giving them substandard equipment (or none at all), feeding them expired food and contaminated water (or none at all), and, oh yeah, letting thousands of them die for no fucking good reason and then not even having the balls to let their caskets be seen, much less attend their funerals;
  • Neglecting to offer even the most basic care for soldiers once they're home, or for their families while they're overseas, even going so far as to deny a measly twenty million dollars allotted for treatment of vet's head and brain injuries (I wonder how long it takes the government to spend 20 mil on the war in Iraq--an hour? Less?);
  • Encouraging torture (which only endangers our own troops by letting our enemies know it's fair game) and then punishing our soldiers when they practice it, as if they hadn't been specifically instructed;
  • Bothering to use his veto power only once--to quash stem-cell research, a heart-breakingly real miracle (as opposed to the supernatural ones he mulishly endorses) which he refuses to try to understand (though, to be fair, probably couldn't even if he wanted to) and misrepresents whenever he can;
  • Sanctimoniously flaunting his bogus, bullying Christianity when it appears he has no clue (or doesn't really care) what Jesus Christ advocated, his flunkies using people of faith for political leverage when it's clear they have nothing but disdain for them, and even for simply believing that he has conversations with God--not quiet contemplation that gives him a sense of communion, you understand... he actually thinks he talks to God!
  • The arrogant dismantling of habeas corpus, the backbone of our legal system, for whatever horrors he has yet in store toward his goal of tyranny;
  • Endless propagandizing, overuse of the "lie and deny" strategy, and relying on the apathy of a public soothed by simple, orchestrated appeasements such as slightly dropping gas prices;
  • Killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, leading to the recent poll which found that more than 60% of them have no problem with the idea of murdering American troops...

Please comment with your favorite abuses, as I know there's much more but I'm too tired to continue. While on the subject of apologizing for jokes, however, I'll mention that an astute caller to the Young Turks on Air America pointed out that Bushie-Bush never apologized for his disgusting mockery of the non-existent WMD situation, when he filmed that short piece with him looking under couch cushions and so forth, saying "Any under here?" Tell me that wasn't truly disrespectful of our troops. What a fucking disgraceful jackass. I changed my mind, he doesn't need to apologize; he needs to resign, and take his jackals with him. Better yet, he should pull a Zachary Taylor.

One last thing... The IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), a non-partisan advocacy group, has released a convenient state-by-state rating guide to the voting records of our nation's Senators and Representatives, in respect to their support of our troops. (You may have to log in to view the link.) This is where you see if these folks really put their money where their mouths are. Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff said in a radio interview that these ratings reflect the votes on bills that assisted our troops in various ways, and that none of the bills was encumbered by useless riders that may have compromised their integrity. (You know, like when the GOP attacks the dems by saying they voted against free vaccinations for babies but neglects to mention that Republicans had tacked a billion-dollar pay raise for themselves onto the bill). Surprise, surprise: some of the biggest loudmouths who are the first to assail the patriotism of others got the worst grades. And I'm happy to note that Oregon did pretty well, with Darlene Hooley, currently the target of an idiotic shit-smear campaign by her repulsive challenger, getting an A-. Oh, speaking of Oregon politics, Ron Saxton is an evasive, idealess, dull-eyed pumpkinhead who shouldn't be Governor if he can't fucking spell it.

I swear to Bob I will have an utterly irrelevant seventies nostalgia post up soon!