Top 5 TV Christmas Specials
Aside from the Holiday stories presented on episodic TV, Television has brought viewers Christmas entertainment in the form of seasonal specials geared towards the whole family. Here is a short list of some the most memorable. Add your own memories in the comments.
5. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962). For many persons of the later Baby-Boom generation, this animated special was their first encounter with the Charles Dickens story of Scrooge. This musical Carol featured songs written by the team of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, who a few years later worked on Funny Girl. The story is highly edited from the Dickens original, and seasoned with jokes about Mr. Magoo’s bad eyesight, but Magoo’s usual mishaps are reserved for the scenes that take place outside of the Broadway theater in which Mr. Magoo is starring in the play. Many folks today still prize Mr. Magoo as their favorite Scrooge.
4. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Beginning life in 1939 as a booklet given away by Montgomery Ward department stores, then evolving into a popular song in 1947, the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer matured into an hour long TV special in 1964, with more characters and songs added to round out the tale of the young reindeer ostracized for being different, who later employs that difference in the service of Christmas, after which he is hailed as a hero.
3. The House Without a Christmas Tree (1972). Based on the book by Gail Rock. Despite being rather cheaply produced and shot on videotape instead of film stock, this well-written adaptation won many fans through the touching story and the superb acting – especially that of Jason Robards and Lisa Lucas as the widowed father and his daughter. After much clamoring and letter writing by the special’s original fans, it has finally been re-released on DVD.
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). The original children’s book by Dr. Suess gets a colorful makeover in this animated special. Boris Karloff (the original Frankenstein’s Monster) uses his distinctive voice to narrate the story and speak as The Grinch. The music for the songs was written by Albert Hague, who some may remember as Mr. Shorofsky , the music teacher in the movie and TV show Fame. This is another old special that has been repeated every year and delights new generations of fans – something the horrible live-action version produced in the year 2000 will never achieve.
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). A Christmas tradition that almost wasn’t. Television executives hated the Peanuts special from the get-go. They complained that: it was too religious (Linus quotes Luke 2: 8-14); there was no laugh track; the music was contemporary Jazz (by Vince Guaraldi); it used the voices of real children. But audiences and reviewers fell in love with A Charlie Brown Christmas at first sight. The night it premiered – Thursday, December 9, 1965 – the special was seen in over 15 million homes, capturing nearly half the possible viewing audience. It went on to win an Emmy and a Peabody award, and in the 45 years since its debut it seems like Christmas Season cannot officially begin until it has been broadcast.