Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bizarre Specials of Christmas Past

Although Christmas is a time of joy, peace, and love, and it is also a time for over commercialization. Beyond the sometimes strange Christmas music that is everywhere during December, there are also the holiday specials to contend with. Some, such as White Christmas and The Muppet Christmas Carol, are great. Others (see the Lifetime holiday movies) are cheesy and predictable but fairly good-natured.

However, I've started remembering some very strange Christmas specials from years past. My parents, who were occasionally very supportive, used to videotape TV Christmas specials using our top loading VCR. In those pre-DVD, pre-cable days, these tapes were a constant source of entertainment. However, I've come to realize just how screwed up some of these specials really were.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

I remember watching this one numerous times with my brother. It stars Joel Grey (of Cabaret and Wicked fame) as the voice of the clockmaker/ father. For the uninitiated, this is (very) loosely based on the poem of the same name. When I say loosely based, I basically mean that the story has nothing to do with the poem, which is used at the end of the cartoon. Anyway, Santa Claus refuses to come to a town because one of its inhabitants has written him a letter saying that the townsfolk don't believe in him anymore. Unsurprisingly, most of the people are heartbroken about this, but Joel Grey's character comes up with an idea to help the town get back into Santa's good graces. When I asked my brother if he remembered this cartoon, he actually was able to sing the song featured in the clip above. This was more than a little disturbing. However, my brother's freakishly accurate memory is not nearly as disturbing as the people in this cartoon, all of whom look very similar and vaguely inbred.

Christmas in Hawaii

I don't know why my parents thought that a Christmas special starring Perry Como and Marie Osmond would appeal to children. However, when you only have 4 channels, almost anything with bright colors is appealing, so my brother and I would occasionally watch this. Looking back, I can honestly say that I had no idea that Perry Como was in this until I looked it up on YouTube just now.

Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search for Santa

I LOVED this special, and I mean that in a completely non ironic way. Starring a surprisingly spry Andy Williams and a bunch of 1980s era child stars (including a tiny Joey Lawrence) who I suppose were contractually obligated to do this, this show was far superior to Perry Como, Marie Osmond, and Hawaii (at least it was when I was seven). Although time hasn't been terribly kind to it (I can't get over how creepy it is that Andy Williams manages to take a bunch of kids to the North Pole without other chaperons), it still makes me smile even as I laugh at how utterly insane the entire premise is.

ETA: There are some very questionable sartorial choices in this clip (Joey Lawrence's Bigfoot slippers, Andy Williams's white socks). I'm also quite surprised at how lovely Joey Lawrence looks in this video - he's prettier than most of the girls. Also, while Malcolm Jamal Warner tries to play it cool and even seems a tad embarrassed, Alfonso Ribeiro seems completely into this number - I suppose that this kind of unquestioning enthusiasm served him well as Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.