Thursday, December 3, 2020

Christmas TV Yule-Logged - Star Wars, Deck the Halls, Oddsville, Bob Newhart, Alas Sage and Onion, Simpsons roasting, Buttons and more....

 This year I’ll be doing my best to social distance myself from Hallmark style Christmas movies. Honestly, I’ve got some sort of PTSD from the darn things and their popularity continues to amaze, and slightly dismay, me. That said, sometimes the holiday spirit overcomes my cynicism so I might dip my toes into that pretty shallow pool at some point but I refuse to torture myself as I did last year.

So the first few Christmas adjacent things I caught were actually horror movies  I was watching for Halloweentide. The 2000 Kim Bassinger vehicle Bless the Child opens at Christmas time with our star listening incredulously as a woman explains some prophecy to her on a festively decorated city bus. It’s all downhill from there and the movies okay at best but certainly not Christmassy. The Night Sitter is set around Christmas and takes place in a nicely decorated home but it’s definitely more of a Halloween vibe. 

Finally there was a rewatch of Ouija, not a big fan of the film or the entirely improper use of Christmas lights in the opening scene but figured I’d revisit it before a more welcome rewatch of its prequel.


I’m going to start my proper viewing/re-viewing/reviewing with the contents of a DVR I’m looking to clean out so I can further cut the cord.

The Danny Kaye Show (1966)

With guests Peggy Lee and Wayne Newton

Fun, live, and lively. The flubs and adlibs area great part of the charm. My favorite bits? A very young Wayne Newton bringing down the house with a belting Jingle Bell Rock and a skit featuring regulars Harvey Korman and Joyce Van Patten plus guest Harold Gould. Definitely recommended.

Perry Como’s Christmas in Austria

Part travelogue part variety show all quite entertaining. Highly Recommended.

The Mitzi Gaynor  Christmas Show

I watch this one every year since it popped up on get tv, it’s a great one.

A Nashville Christmas (2017)

A GetTV original I think. Basically a country Christmas cabaret with a bunch of veteran country stars. I like country Christmas tunes but this special did nothing for me.

The Soul and Spirit of Christmas (2018)

Another get tv original and much like the country one but with soul and gospel wasn’t amazing but I enjoyed it a lot more than the Nashville outing.


So, the DVR I’ve been saving hours and hours of holiday stuff to watch now, that DVR just died. Of course it did. This is the third time in the last few years where I’ve lost tons of archived recordings to a DVR malfunction. Three different DVRs from two different providers. So it goes.

Angels in the Snow (2015)

From the director of the SnakeEater franchise

I know I vowed, up there near the top of the page, not to watch Hallmark-style Christmas movies but my dear lady wife insisted we watch this and, in fairness, it wasn’t half bad - for this sort of thing. That said I have no desire to ever see it again but at least I didn’t feel like drowning myself in a vat of eggnog.

The Bob Newhart Show - Home is Where the Hurt is (Hulu)

The Bob Newhart Show has always been one of my all-time favorite series so I’m always up for one of its holiday-themed episodes. This isn’t the best of the lot but it’s pretty solid.

Buttons (Hulu)

Insufferably trite nonsense. Borderline unwatchable. Van Dyke, Redford, Winslett, Lansbury even Seymour, McGrath, and Gruffudd,  all criminally wasted (and uninspired). I can only wonder if these were huge favors called in, some sort of blackmail plot or was it a tax dodge or money laundering scheme.

A huge disappointment. I’m so relieved i didn’t waste money buying or renting this when it first came out because with the talent involved I was tempted.

Last Chance For Christmas (2015)

Dangled the promise of basic watchability before devolving into typical soap opera mediocrity. Not terrible but I wouldn’t have finished it if the wife weren’t watching.

Speaking of my wife. I love my wife, I always have, it was literally love at first sight forty years ago and after thirty-two years of marriage, I worship the ground she daintily treads on. But her love for cheesy Christmas movies is going to kill me.

The Lights Before Christmas (Britbox)

A terrific concept - roaming about London and taking in the myriad festive delights of that great city, but this first installment seems more like a high quality home movie or low-end tourist board video.  I have this one a second chance this year but just didn’t find it enjoyable. The second installment released a year later is, if I’m remembering properly, much more enjoyable.

An Oddsville Christmas (2016)

Based on a popular Finnish children’s book series this reasonably amusing tale of two oddballs experiencing, and often grossly misunderstanding, Christmas for the first time on a visit to Helsinki. I wish I could have seen it in its original Finnish with subtitles, because the dub, like nearly all dubs, is not great and the translation, I’m guessing, isn’t the deftest. I bet Finnish kids loved this, American kids might too.

Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (Disney + 2020)

Even less festive than the original ‘70’s debacle of a Holiday special and not early as entertaining. Basically Robot Chicken for kids instead of stoner college kids.

If your a Star Wars fan you’ll get a kick out of it, as a fan of the original trilogy I only occasionally chuckled at the antics.

Deck the Halls (2005) (Hulu)

From the director of Meatballs III, Stone Cold Dead and the Wrong Babysitter comes 2005’s Deck the Halls, a fairly benign and familiar holiday single mom romantic fantasy.

Another wifey pick, she liked it,  I liked the bourbon in the egg nog I drank to get through it. There’s also a really unfortunate scene where a kid’s holding a hockey stick that’s shaped like a … well if you end up sitting through this you’ll see what I mean.

I know I like to point out,  ironically, the immensely un-christmassy films that lurk n the filmographies of most Christmas movie directors. But it’s not necessarily an insult, I love genre films and it makes sense that low-budget Christmas flicks would be directed by filmmakers with a track record for being cheap, fast, and efficient. Plus one of my favorite Christmas films was directed by the man who helmed the original Black Christmas and Porkys.

The Simpson’s Christmas Special - Simpson's Roasting on an Open Fire

The first stand-alone Simpsons episode seems ancient these days, I almost expected it to be in black and white. Not as polished, or predictably formulaic as it would become, it’s actually grown on me over the years.

A Christmas Bucket o' French and Saunders

Oof. Very few laughs. as the pair were already deep into the "more popular than funny" stage of their partnership. 20 years together and this is what it had come to. Some Christmassy content but nothing worth seeking out.

Alas Sage and Onion

Smith and Jones are certainly funnier than French and Saunders but the overlong political sketches, the murder of The Snowman (not walking on the air anymore) and just a load of unpleasantness. What a waste of talent.

Alan Carr's Christmas Ding Dong (2008)

Big, over the top, campy and risque holiday outing of this celebrity quiz show. Fun and Christmassy if you can stand the camp overload (and get the dated references)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Do You Hear? Quick listening notes with The Ames Bros., The Jack Halloran Singers, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Noon and more...


The Ames Brothers  - The Sound of Christmas Harmony 

Near classic stuff, sounds just a tad dated but still a lot of heavy rotation tunes.

The Jack Halloran Singers - The Little Drummer Boy

Mostly acapella with some lovely renditions of traditional carols.

Father Sydney MacEwan - Christmas Carols

A priest with pipes. Pretty good.

Nosso Natal

1958 compilation from Brazil/ some interesting stuff here but nothing that jumps out as must play. Of course if you are a fan of Brazilian music you might get a lot more out of it than I do.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - Light of the World

Nice classical crossover Christmas album combining traditional choral, gospel, jazz, adult contemporary and Manheim Steamroller-ish flourishes. 

๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—–๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—น ๐—–๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ถ๐—ฟ ๐—ข๐—ฟ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ  -๐—–๐—ต๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐—œ๐—ป ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฉ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ป

Unpleasant mรฉlange pf new-agey Muzak and random choral performances. Unnecessary. Deleted.

Various Andy Cirzan Mixtapes:

Christmas Compendium / Christmas Chronic / Santa Claus Soundscapes / Twilight Zone Xmas / The Santa Set

So many good songs, so many uncovered gems, so many oddities!

The problem with other folk’s mixes, especially eclectic ones, is that as exciting as it is to discover new Christmas tunes, some novelties wear thin over time and make the mix less fun to return to. Luckily these early oughties offerings from the legendary Andy Cirzan have a remarkably high hit to miss ratio, though I never need to hear “Santa Came on a Nuclear Missile” again.

Angรจle Arsenault - Noรซl c’est l’amour

Fair francophone album of folky holiday tunes. Skipped


Teen classical crossover choral group. Skipped.

Noon - Holy Wishes

Lovely. Light rotation

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Christmas TV 1980 Part 1 (Nov 22 - Dec 9)

Christmas TV 1980 Part 1 (Nov 22 - Dec 9)

Coming off of researching 1960’s Christmas programming I was struck by how little of it aired outside of Christmas week itself with almost nothing in the immediate post Thanksgiving period. Here in 1980 Christmas is definitely in full swing while the Turkey Day leftovers are still in the fridge.

November 22

Yogi's First Christmas

Kid’s of all ages got an early holiday treat with this feature length Christmas special featuring everyone’s favorite cartoon bears plus special guests Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound,Augie and Daddy Doggie, and Santa Claus himself.


November 27 Thanksgiving Day

Of course Thanksgiving Day was chock full of parades full of Christmas cheer with Santa being the highlight of most. CBS aired an animated version of the Nutcracker

November 28 

The annual reruns of Grinch and Frosty. Some areas also got an early dose of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.

November 30

More Christmas parades dotted the schedule and CBS reran J.T., which I covered in my December  20,1970 post.

December 1

Some PBS stations premiered A Christmas Special with Luciano Pavarotti filmed in Montreal It would pop up throughout the month on different affiliates across the country.

December 3

Tonight saw the premiere of the second tier Rankin Bass holiday special Pinocchio's Christmas. Ironically it went up against the annual showing of Rudolph.


Johnny Cash's annual Christmas show featured guests Larry Gatlin and Mac Davis.

December 5

A big night for holiday special reruns with A Family Circus Christmas, Casper's First Christmas and Jack Frost

New on  the night was, at least in some places like Iowa City, (though the net tells me the official premier was the 17th), The Racoons Christmas featuring the vocal talent of Rich Little and Rita Coolidge among others. 

Also premiering was the Robert Urich hosted Christmas at the Grand Ole Opry

December 9

Youngsters, and the young at heart, had A Charlie Brown Christmas and Raggedy Ann and Andy in The Great Santa Caper reruns, while the grown ups had the TV movie A Christmas Without Snow, starring Michael Learned and John Houseman, to look forward to.

New Christmas Music with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, Tori Amos, Alex Lahey, Phoebe Bridgers and more

Michael Ball & Alfie Boe - Together At Christmas

Nice big throated theatrical throwback album from veteran board treaders Ball and Boe.

I’ll probably add a couple of tracks to this year’s selection.

Lindsey Stirling X Darius Rucker - What Child Is This


Alex Lahey - Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)

This Ramones classic is fast becoming the Last Christmas of the alt / punk set. Perfectly acceptable take that oddly feels the need to remind us, in the single’s artwork, that it’s a Ramones cover. Not the best version  to come out this year, though.

Tori Amos - Better Angels

Seems like a solid Tori Amos song, doesn’t exactly scream Christmas. Looking forward to the rest of the Christmastide EP. Her earlier Chritmas album is always in heavy rotation around here at the holidays.

Tinashe - Comfort and Joy

I found neither comfort nor joy listening to this. Whatever.

Bleached - Jingle Bells

Basic punk cover. No more, no less.

Kim Wilde - Wilde Winter Songbook

I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard the original version of this album and I still pull it out during the season. This re-release of the deluxe re-release includes six bonus songs, two of which are remixes and one the obligatory Last Christmas cover, and while they’re fine they don’t make a major impact. I’m thinking Isobel’s Dream, which isn't really new,  is the only bonus track I’ll add, though I may have it already.

Phoebe Bridgers – If We Make It Through December

Another over-covered song. Perfectly good but how many different, yet similar, versions do you need. Obviously Bridgers many fans will cherish this, and that's the thing with a lot of these Christmas releases, if your a fan then the track will resonate with you far more than it does for a casual listener who already has a dozen versions of the same song inn their library.

Grace Eden - fortune

Lovely three track acoustic release. Quite nice and definitely added to this years selection.

Jamie Barnes - Christmas Vol. 5

Nice collection of five familiar holiday tunes. Nothing groundbreaking but quite pleasant.

37 Tales of Christmas (via Falalalala

Generous sized indie comp worth checking out, though the quality varies track to track. If you have a few minutes to sample it you might find a couple of pleasant surprises.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Die Tollsten Geschichten von Donald Duck (Donald Duck's Greatest Stories) Christmas / Winter Covers


A selection of  Die Tollsten Geschichten von Donald Duck (Donald Duck's Greatest Stories) Christmas / Winter Covers