Normally, I read Tara’s Friday Five around 5 a.m., and I kick myself for not having one ready: There is no way I can come up with a Friday Five and post something by the end of the day. And who wants to wake up to a Friday Five on Saturday?
I’m still in AWE of Tara’s ability to get so much done; she consistently posts a Friday Five, a Weekend Update, a Marathon Training summary (she’s a half-marathon veteran but is training for her first full marathon), book reviews and all kinds of other neat stuff. I want to be her when I grow up, and we haven’t even met!
But last week’s Friday Five was an easy one for me, so I got ’er done quickly and then, because I’m a fan of the Christmas season in general (movies, songs, food, decorations, TV shows and, of course, Jesus) – and, people, I just needed a break – I decided to do my own Friday Five spinoff so I wouldn’t be caught off guard this Friday. (I’m writing this Wednesday night – so there!) Despite the fact that I’m supposed to be balancing my checkbook right now, I’m taking a writing break to have some more holiday fun. I am way overdue.
I give you my Five Favorite Holiday TV Shows, in reverse order of preference:
Frosty the Snowman (1969).
For starters, Jimmy Durante! (Kids, ask your parents.) This popular comedian and actor had a distinctive voice, a distinctive schnoz (a big nose) and the once-mysterious parting line, “Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are” at the end of his radio show. Mr. Durante narrates this tale of good (Frosty) vs. evil (the magician who tries to steal Frosty’s silk hat, which, as we all know, is “how he came to life one day”).
Then there is Frosty, himself – a happy, friendly and self-sacrificing snowman. He allows himself to melt inside a warm building to save little Karen from freezing to death. (Maybe I liked this show so much when I was a kid because Karen is my first name.) There’s the flippity-floppity bunny rabbit, Hocus Pocus (he may be the evil magician’s sidekick, but he’s really a good bunny at heart – plus he’s really good at Charades), as well as those other animated kids, whose names I do not recall.
And, even though Gene Autry and countless others have recorded this song over the decades, I can’t imagine anyone other than Jimmy Durante singing “Frosty the Snowman” during the closing credits of this happy TV special.
QUOTE: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” (Frosty)
TRIVIA from imdb: Frosty the TV show came after the song became a hit for Gene Autry, who also recorded “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
(You thought all of these faves were going to be Christmas shows and I was using the politically correct term “holiday” instead of “Christmas,” didn’t you? Didn’t you? Ha! I threw this in to throw you off.)
So … to our plot:
Poor Linus. He thinks this will be the year he gets a visit from the Great Pumpkin. As the rest of the Peanuts gang trick-or-treats, Linus and his blue blanket wait and wait in his pumpkin patch until … well, you wouldn’t want me to spoil the ending, now, would you?
One thing I can tell you: This is classic Peanuts, with the whole gang – Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, Pigpen, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Violet and, of course, Snoopy (aka WWI Flying Ace) – joining in the festivities.
QUOTE: “Everyone tells me you are a fake, but I believe in you. P.S.: If you really are a fake, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” (Linus)
TRIVIA from imdb: “After the special originally aired, children all over the country sent candy to Charlie Brown out of sympathy.” (All Charlie Brown had gotten during trick-or-treating was a bag of rocks.)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).
First, there’s Burl Ives. He plays the narrator, Sam the Snowman. Not only does Burl narrate – he sings! (I have a sing-along Burl Ives album of Disney songs from when I was a kid. It’s an LP. I still listen to it. In fact I’m listening to it now, as I write.)
And then there is the sweet, sweet story of a little reindeer with the “blinkin’ beacon” who is ostracized by all the other reindeer – except, of course, Clarice, who thinks he’s cuuuuude! But the cast of characters also includes Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowmonster (aka Bumble) and Rudolph’s fellow “misfit” Hermey the elf/wannabe dentist. Lots of wonderful songs in this one, including “We are Santa’s Elves,” “I am Old Kris Kringle” and “There’s Always Tomorrow.”
QUOTES: “Didn’t I ever tell you about Bumbles? Bumbles bounce!” (Yukon Cornelius)
“How do you like that? Even among misfits you’re a misfit.” (Yukon)
“Whoever heard of a skinny Santa? Eat. Eat!” (Mrs. Claus)
“How can I eat? That silly elf song is driving me crazy!” (Santa Claus)
“She thinks I’m cuuuuude!” (Rudolph)
“Wahooooo!” (Yukon Cornelius)
TRIVIA from imdb: “Why is Dolly for Sue, who is apparently a perfectly ordinary doll, living on the Island of Misfit Toys? This gripping debate raged on for decades, until official word from Rankin-Bass recently decided the issue: Dolly for Sue is a ‘misfit’ because she has psychological problems – she feels unloved.” (Oh, good grief.)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).
My favorite things about this special:
Linus. Especially his soliloquy, in which he tells part of the Christmas story from Luke 2 (King James Version). He stands onstage in the spotlight, accompanied by his ever-present blue blanket, and in his sweet young voice he begins, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night…” Notice that when he comes to the part that says, “Fear not,” Linus lets go of his security blanket.
The scrawny little tree. Sure, Lucy and the rest of the gang make fun of Charlie Brown’s pick for a tree for their Christmas pageant, but to me the tree symbolizes Hope. No one is ever beyond the reach of God, and out of His tender love we become beautiful. Isn’t that why Jesus came – to give us hope?
The music. Ever since I got a smart phone three years ago, I’ve had as my default ring tone the song that everyone recognizes as the Charlie Brown Christmas song, called “Linus & Lucy.” Also, “Christmastime is Here” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by those sweet little voices, and “O Tannenbaum” (I actually learned the words in German in fourth grade, and I do not know the English version, “O Christmas Tree”).
Snoopy. Well, because he’s Snoopy.
QUOTE: “Gee, do they still make wooden Christmas trees?” (Linus)
TRIVIA from imdb: “[Director] Bill Melendez tried to talk Charles M. Schulz out of using Biblical references (especially Linus’ speech) in this special. Schulz reportedly won him over by saying, ‘If we don’t do it, who will?’ As it turned out, Linus’ recitation was hailed as one of the most powerful moments in the highly acclaimed special.”
The special “broke many of the rules prevalent for animated holiday specials during the 1960s: it didn’t make use of a laugh track; real children were used for the character voices instead of adult actors imitating children’s voices; and Biblical references were used to illustrate the true meaning of Christmas.”
The 1966, animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been my favorite Christmas show for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I simply enjoyed it; I couldn’t tell you why. Now that I’m grown (but not really), I can tell you these reasons:
Dr. Seuss. I think Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was one of the most brilliant poets ever to live. I could read or listen to his books all day long. He had a sense of whimsy and fun, he was clever as the dickens, and he had a social conscience.
Boris Karloff, star of countless horror movies in the early days of film, as narrator. His deep voice is just perfect.
The music (of course). Music, even if it’s just part of the background, is a huge part of any movie or TV show. It sets the mood of any scene. In this show, the highlights, for me, are “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”; the lively music as the sled gains speed; and “Fahoo Foraze,” which the Whos sing while standing hand in hand as the story ends.
The Whos down in Whoville. Those Whos are so happy, ain’t nothin’ gonna steal their Christmas cheer. Even when the Grinch (disguised as Santy Claus) steals all their food, their presents, their tree and even the log from their fire, plus the last crumb of food that was even too small for a mouse(!) … well, you can still hear them singing joyfully for miles around. (They must have taken a cue from Buddy the Elf.)
Cindy Lou Who, in particular. She is just too stinkin’ cute, with those big, innocent blue eyes and that adorable little sticking-up ponytail.
Max the dog. Ever year when I watch this show – and I see that greedy old Grinch strap those sawed-off antlers to Max’s head and make him pull that sleigh with all the Whos’ stolen Christmas presents up that snow-covered mountain – I say out loud, “Poor Max.” Out loud. Every year. But I love the excited, tongue-hanging-out expression on Max’s face when the sleigh gains momentum as it careens down the mountain and Max jumps on, thinking he’s gonna get a free ride. He’s happy for a moment, but … poor Max.
A big heart. The Grinch starts out with a heart that’s “two sizes too small.” But who can stay a grinch while listening to all those little Whos singing their hearts out on Christmas Day, when all their presents and decorations have been stolen? No one, that’s Who!
The message that Christmas isn’t about material things.
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
QUOTE: “I got hung up getting the Grinch out of the mess. I got into a situation where I sounded like a second-rate preacher or some biblical truism. … Finally in desperation … without making any statement whatever, I showed the Grinch and the Whos together at the table, and made a pun of the Grinch carving the ‘roast beast.’ … I had gone through thousands of religious choices, and then after three months it came out like that.” (Theodor Geisel)
TRIVIA from imdb: “The lyrics to the song ‘Fahoo Foraze’ were made to imitate classical Latin. After the special aired, the studio received letters asking for a translation from people who believed them to be real Latin.”
“Dr. Seuss disputed casting Boris Karloff for fear that he would make the Grinch too scary.”
“Thurl Ravenscroft received no screen credit for his singing, an oversight Dr. Seuss attempted to rectify by sending letters to every major columnist in America identifying Ravenscroft as the singer on ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.’ He is also part of the chorus on the other two songs.”
As you can tell, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. There aren’t any sad stories on this list of holiday specials. Well, as far as I know, Linus has never seen the Great Pumpkin, so his ending could be a bit happier. But he still has hope.
And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.