Know What’s Awesome About Christmas? Christmas TV Specials.
I remember, many years ago, I was a youngster. And when I was a younger youngster, I was very young. At this point in a young man’s life, he’s told by every old man around him that time goes by faster and faster with each passing year. When you’re seven, you hear that and reply “Faster? I hardly know her!” Oh wait, you didn’t grow up on a 1920s Vaudeville stage? Then you’re like me and knew no matter how many times you heard that, Christmas was going to take forever to get here.
But the promise of the Holiday season was always on the horizon. Not unlike the Halloween aisle of Target going up the weekend before Labor Day, Christmas promotions would begin running the night before Thanksgiving. It would start with those iconic Coca-Cola “Holidays/Santa Packs are Coming” commercials, which do this day makes a diehard Diet Pepsi drinker like myself consider a Kringle Cola exception for the holidays.
Once we hit December 1st, the Christmas Season was in full effect. Sunday mass, which at that age had been somewhat of a chore, morphed into a weekly Christmas Countdown with Father Michael Joncas (composer of “On Eagles’ Wings” and Presiding Priest over my first communion) lighting me one Advent candle closer to present time! Christmas time at Immaculate Conception School kept the countdown going through the week, with Usher and all around great guy Abe Verbugi dressing up like the actual St. Nicolas and bringing all the students Candy Canes every December 6th. Not to mention the building gingerbread houses with my cub scout troop, the inhabitants we were assured were all heterosexual gingerbread man as this home we were about to eat had to be stable.
But the REALLY incentive on the Road to Christmas, was the promise of all my favorite, not so favorite, and tolerated television shows having CHRISTMAS EPISODES! All my favorite characters were of the same holiday persuasion, and they were going to give me an adventure that made the holiday all the more special! Don’t believe me? Check the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) breaking down the entire Fox holiday lineup:
Uploaded by GarfieldFan2000. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.
H*ll yes! Now, in retrospect, the Christmas episode was really just the rite-of-passage for any television show that said “you’ve stretched this long enough to warrant a filler episode, make it an easy week in the writers room and crank this one out overnight over a can of Surge and a bag of Cooler Ranch Dorito’s.” Ofter the half-way point to the 65-episodes required for a syndication run, these episodes would fall into one of three categories: 1) The main character needs to get the right gift for a beloved supporting character, 2) The main character has to make sure everyone’s holiday plans run smoothly, or offer a reasonable facsimile, and 3) a remake of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Deck the halls with some moderately altered catchphrases (“It’s Clobberin’ Tinsel!”) and there you have 22 minutes of programming you won’t have to think about while you’re tracking down that Power Ranger toy your kid wanted. (The Dinozords NOT the Thunderzords! He already has those!)
There are a handful of Christmas episodes that stand head-and-shoulders above their contemporaries. The third season of “The Office” did just that. With one of the greatest television writing teams ever assembled having one of the decade’s top hot streaks, legend has it writer Jennifer Celotta and director Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) decided to flex nuts and make the one hour special about Michael Scott getting over his recent breakup at Benihana (which he refers to as “Asian Hooters”) and bringing waitresses to the Holiday party among the best in the series. It became iTunes’ highest selling television episode that month and rightfully so.
Other shows observed the Holiday without mentioning the Holiday itself. Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs” had the immortal “Happy Refrigerator Day” episode, where (in lieu of Christ’s birth) they celebrate the glowing box that saved their food. On the other end of the spectrum, the unwatchable “Star Wars Holiday Special” observes Chewbacca’s wretched family on “Wookie Life Day.” The less said about that one, the better.
All in all, it was pretty magical being seven years old and having no less than five straight hours of Christmas programming the Saturday before Christmas. As far as Christmas stimulus goes, it was a great appetizer for presents. But what connected point A to point B? CHRISTMAS COMMERCIALS! And on that note, I’ll leave you with one that I’m thankful to say still runs to this day and represents what this season is all about: