Tuesday, November 28, 2017

In My Opinion: The 12 Greatest Christmas Specials of All Time

In addition to the wide-eyed wonder of children and the good music, one of my favorite things about this time of year is watching the Christmas TV specials and movies. I ranked my top 12 essentials, not counting my own scripts. Why top 12? Well, 12 days of Christmas...so here goes, with types (see my July post on types of Christmas specials) enclosed.

12. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1965 TV Special, Type 4)
Upside: The fight against prejudice wasn't a common topic in family shows in 1965 and it's one of the reasons this special has stood the test of time. This classic shows that prejudice doesn't have to be based on gender or race - it can be as simple as choice of career. The message resonates well with me, because I have faced prejudice (mostly from myself, though) my entire life.
Downside: The songs can be too catchy at times, and it utilizes the old cancel/save Christmas trope too clearly. Santa (Paul Frees) is grumpy and not at all what a good Santa should be. He's more like a Macy's Santa who's underpaid. The stop-motion Rankin/Bass animation is not their best and looks artificial. Sometimes it looks as if it were just too obviously made in 1965 (which it was).

11. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1967 TV Special, Type 2)
Upside: The Grinch is a character a 16-year-old who feels alone can relate to well. The animation is well done and there are some funny moments. A cartoon allows for Dr. Seuss's original book to be truly extravagant on TV, and this one is certainly a faithful adaptation.
Downside: The story is a little too hard on consumerism, and I am a little shaken by how much it strikes back against commercial retailers that are pushing people to buy, buy, and buy some more Thanksgiving weekend, mostly because the ways they push people to buy are what I adapt some of my scripts from.

10. "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (1972 TV Special, Type 3)
Upside: The hilarious Miser Brothers are definitely a highlight, but I'll leave the rest of the upside to Rick Goldschmidt, Rankin/Bass historian: "The story of The Year Without a Santa Claus basically says that you are never too old to believe. It emphasizes the fact that in today's world, the spirit of Christmas seems to be lost. Santa is given the luxury of a personal day off by the children of the world, but is much too kind to accept."
Downside: Like Rudolph, it utilizes the cancel/save Christmas trope. Santa and Mrs. Claus (Mickey Rooney and Shirley Booth) give excellent performances but they're too often glanced over, because all people remember is the Misers.

9. "Elf" (2004 Theatrical Feature, Type ?)
Upside: Will Ferrell, Will Ferrell, and Will Ferrell. He is one hilarious man. His Buddy the Elf isn't as good as his Alex Trebek, but it's still good. The supporting cast is top notch, but for me, Charlotte (the news reporter who "wants her boyfriend to stop butting his nose into her business") steals the show. That performance is underrated but strong.
Downside: It's very conspicuous that Jon Favreau is trying to make a fantasy, but it isn't working. The story just feels too real and too heavy-duty for Christmas. It's a little dark at times, and I don't like the way they make the Central Park Rangers, in real life trustworthy guardians of New York's public playground, look genuinely evil.

8. "Frosty the Snowman" (1967 TV Special, Type ?)
Upside: Jackie Vernon is a wonderful Frosty. The story has fantasy that's rooted in reality, which I always like. Jimmy Durante nails the narration. There are lines you love to repeat in your room at night.
The animation is classic and everything feels like a good cartoon should.
Downside: Parts of it seem dated, the cartoon medium exaggerates even the reality, and if ever a sequel cheapened the original, Frosty Returns did. Really, John Goodman as Frosty?

7. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946 Theatrical Feature, Type 2)
Upside: Great performances by the whole cast, black-and-white, old movie charm, and an inspirational message. Even facial expressions, such as that when George sees that he has no house if he were never born, are well done.
Downside: It lacks one good thing every Christmas show needs: music. It's a Wonderful Life would be better as a musical. Of that I am sure. Also, many people, myself included, have wondered what the story would be like if, rather than wishing he never had a life, George wishes he had a different life.

6. Toss-up between two stories with many, many adaptations: "A Christmas Carol" (Type 2) and "The Nutcracker" (Type 5)
Upside: Both stories have a certain charm to them that always makes you feel warm inside. Christmas  Carol is a heartwarming story about one man's change of heart in one night, and how he left his penny-pinching ways. The Nutcracker is a different thing in each incarnation, but its popularity in America scores it major points.
Downside: A Christmas Carol is too widely interpreted when one interpretation was clearly intended, and The Nutcracker is too filled with the past and generalizations. I think we should look more to the future for our holiday staple shows, because in my opinion, you're nothing without hope of a brighter future.

5. "A Christmas Story" (1983 Theatrical Feature, Type 5)
Upside: There are hilarious moments, such as the tongue scene and the decoder ring scene, and the running gag involving Ralphie being told he'll "shoot his eye out" if he receives the Red Ryder BB gun is hilarious every time. I've only seen it once, and it was a heartwarming tale about family - as I experienced it initially.
Downside: Dated gender and racial stereotypes, in addition to some other dated stuff and some scenes where it's hard to distinguish between imagination and reality. The lamp that the father puts up in the window and the mother subsequently breaks is a little raunchy. If this movie were set in the 2010s rather than the 1940s, which would mean fewer gender or racial stereotypes and no dated feeling, and if Ralphie's ideal gift was something other than a gun, it might be my #1.

4. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1968 TV Special, Type 1)
Upside: This special is the only one on this list in which Jesus is mentioned. It communicates its message well and has its share of hilarious moments, and as many heartwarming moments to balance them out. Charlie Brown's devotion to his friends through emotional upheaval is inspiring, and that last shot will stay with you.
Downside: Again, striking back against commercialism when commercials are such an inspiration to me can be unsettling at times, similar to the downside of the Grinch special. The piano music is well done but can be annoying and/or make you skittish when it's not there to underscore a good scene.

3. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (1970 TV Special, Type 2)
Upside: Of the Christmas specials with a "better to give than to receive" sentiment, this one does it best, through truly magical stop-motion animation, the best song-and-dance numbers of any show on this list, Paul Frees as ten different characters, and, of course, the classic title song. Fred Astaire's original rendition is a fitting end to this 48 minutes of bliss.
Downside: "One Foot in Front of the Other" is either a really good song or a really obnoxious one, and the mythology surrounding how Santa came to be can cause debate. Otherwise, this is Rankin/Bass's best work.

2. "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947 Theatrical Feature, Type 3)
Upside: The classic actors showcased in this 1947 black-and-white film are a spectacle, and Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his portrayal of Santa. The "believe" message sent Macy's on its way to become the department store most frequently associated with Christmas, and I think it's safe to say I'd have a much smaller portfolio if this film was never made.
Downside: Some things, though, are never quite explained, and the story is taken mostly at face value. Also, it takes some understanding to "get" the climactic scene in the courtroom, but other than that, it's a fantastic film.

1. "Home Alone" (1989 Theatrical Feature, Type 5)
Upside: Burglars. Booby traps. An escapade of a hilarious family that forgot its most hilarious member. And, of course, the magnificent music of John Williams. Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is a memorable character that stays with you, and he's the closest thing to a real kid in anything on this list. I also especially like how loving and careful his mother (Catherine O'Hara) is, and their reunion is, in its own way, as good a scene as any slapstick this movie deals you.
Downside: There is none. Nothing wrong with this film at all when it comes to being a good Christmas show. It nails the concept. Unlike the fantasy installments you see on the list, this one is real and comedic at the same time and doesn't have any downsides to how real or fantastic it is.

So closes my list, and if this were a video, cue me falling over after getting hit in the head with a can of paint.


It's Finally Here - A Christian Version of "The Grinch" Story!

What follows is an adaptation of Dr. Seuss's 1957 book and Chuck Jones' 1967 NBC-TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas that does one thing the original did not - mention Jesus. This version goes out of its way (but not too far out of its way) to be a Type One Christmas Tale rather than the Type Two the original was.

But first a brief (am I lying?) retrospective on the piece of work you are about to read.

In 2011, my grandmother sent the family a Christian take on the Grinch poem. I reacted savagely to Gammy's work, first because my sister rather than myself taught the Grinch about Jesus; then because I thought my family had been incorrectly portrayed as one-dimensional, religion-crazed evangelists in the work. But the most likely explanation was that I just believed I could write a better poem.

I wrote several drafts of this Christian take on the classic Grinch story (one in which I cast myself as the Grinch), but finally settled on this one in the end. The final text does borrow some lines and plot points from several of the cheesy rehashes I blogged about on May 22.

An important thing to observe about this poem is that, unlike the cheesy rehashes which I wrote about, has a consistent rhythm. The rehash writers knew Dr. Seuss rhymed, but didn't realize that the rhythm of a Dr. Seuss text was as important as the rhyming aspect. So in a Christian "Grinch" rewrite like the ones I analyzed, there would be lines such as:

Then that mean old Grinch went to the altar and beside it he knelt,
And a strange feeling he felt.

Do the two lines rhyme? Yes. Do the two lines have a consistent rhythm? No!

Also, it's important to observe that I have not made this story too Christian, it's only about as Christian as A Charlie Brown Christmas. This story does mention Jesus, and the Grinch does learn about Jesus, but I have been careful to make sure that the story does not say that Christian = good (or, for that matter, non-Christian = bad - I would never write anything that does that.)

Final note before you begin reading the poem: The sentiments expressed in this poem do NOT reflect the sentiments that Leo Finelli holds. If anything, the sentiments expressed in the poem reflect those his grandmother holds. If you are here to see the Whos, please leave the site, for in this version, there are no Whos. The Grinch instead robs Faithville.

An audio file will soon be up with this post. Now, the poem.



Dr. Seuss once told a child's fable
About the Grinch, who was unable
To steal the cheer that Christmas brought
And about the lesson he was taught.
But if you'll lend an ear or two,
we'll tell a story fresh and new,
About the Grinch and his Christmas crime,
But a little something more this time.
It's an example of Christmas snobbery
That became known as....

"THE GREAT CHRISTMAS ROBBERY."

Everyone down in Faithville liked Christmas a lot -
But the Grinch,
Who lived just north of Faithville,
Did not!

The Grinch disliked Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
But please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be his shoes were a wee bit too tight.
However, the most likely reason of all
Was that, without Jesus, his heart was too small.

And so, with a heart full of meanness and doubt,
he watched Christmas Eve as the people came out.
They set out their presents, they bowed heads in prayer,
Which made the Grinch happy that he was not there.
But tomorrow, he knew, all the town's girls and boys
Would wake bright and early, and reach for their toys.
And the noise! Oh, the noise! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the people of Faithville would kneel in their way,
And they'd pray! And they'd pray! And they'd PRAY! PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!
Then they'd stand close together, with their church bells ringing,
They'd stand hand in hand, and they all would start singing!
And the more the Grinch thought of the town's Christmas Sing,
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!
Why, for too many years I've put up with it now!
I must stop this Christmas from coming? But how?"

Then he got an idea.
An awful idea.
The Grinch had a sinfully awful idea!

"I'll pretend that I'm Santa and steal all their toys,
And steal all the joy from the girls and the boys!"
So he called his dog Max and he loaded a sleigh
With some bags and some sacks, and he went on his way.
With Max as his reindeer, he went down through the air,
And soon came to the first little house on the square.
Then, breaking the tough window pane with a rock,
He reached on inside, and he opened the lock.
"This is too easy!" the fake Santa hissed,
As he tiptoed inside with a curl in his fist.
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
He reached under the tree, and he took every present!
He took all the ornaments off of the tree,
And pitched the tree out with a smile of glee.
Then he made his way to the Nativity scene,
He smashed all the figures - and wiped the place clean.
He was just getting ready to smash God's own Son,
When he listened real closely - he then heard someone!

"Who's there?" he asked slickly, and spun with a whirl,
And there stood by the doorway a small Faithville girl.
"Santa, what are you doing?" she asked. "Who are you?"
The Grinch said to the girl, with no clue what to do.
"My name is Christina, and why are you taking
The sweet baby Jesus, whom you're nearly breaking?"

"He's coming apart," the Grinch said as a lie,
"I'm taking him back to my shop, and that's why.
I'm fixing him up and I'll bring him back here,"
said the Grinch to Christina, who slowly walked near.
So the Grinch pulled the wool over Christina's eyes
with his Santa Claus suit and his cleverest lies.
Christina came near, the Grinch patted her head,
but was taken aback at the next thing she said.

"Dear God, I am thankful that every year,
You send Santa to help us remember you're here.
And God, I am thankful for that night you gave your
Great Son and his light to become our great Savior."

And when she had finished, the Grinch was then crying,
And he sent her to bed, then he kept up his spying.
He took the Lord Jesus and smashed him to pieces,
He packed it all up, and he made his releases!
And the one piece of Jesus he left in the house,
Was his big toe, yet it was too small for a mouse.

Then he robbed all the rest of the small Faithville houses,
Leaving pieces too small for most all of the mouses!
Then, at quarter till dawn, he went up to Mount Crumpet,
With all of their stuff! He was ready to dump it!
When he came to the top it was getting quite light,
And he stopped his old sleigh and he hitched it up tight.
He jumped off the sleigh and he went to the ledge,
And stood looking expectantly over the edge.

"The people of Faithville," he said with a sneer,
"Know that Christmas will just not be coming this year!
They're wailing and moaning and shedding a tear!
That's a noise," said the Grinch, "that I wish I could hear!"

And he did hear a sound, rising over the snow,
It started in low. Then it started to grow...
But this sound wasn't tearful!
Why, it sounded quite cheerful!
Everyone down in Faithville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his feet very cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, "How could it be so?
They sing without presents! They sing without toys!
They sing, though I thought I had stolen their joys!
He puzzled and puzzed till his green fur turned red,
Then that old Grinch remembered what Christina said.

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe it's about Jesus, it's me he came for!"

And what happened next?
Well, in Faithville they say
That the Grinch's heart grew a lot larger that day!
He rode down to the square and brought back what he'd stole,
and he joined all of Faithville in praise as a whole!
Then he went to the manger and beside it he knelt,
As he praised the Lord Jesus for the peace he now felt.
He hugged young Christina (who'd known all along),
And he joined her in prayer, and in love, and in song.
And wherever he went, he repeated the call
That Jesus himself....
Jesus came for us all!


TIPS ON PERFORMING "THE GREAT CHRISTMAS ROBBERY"


  • As for performing "The Great Christmas Robbery", it can be done a number of ways. Playing the complete audio file, with people lip-syncing the dialogue as they act it out in mime, could work. Or you could actually act out and deliver the lines as someone else reads the narrator's part.
  • If you are having an actor play the Grinch, whether he is delivering his lines or merely lip-syncing to the audio file, you can address his motions in several ways: you could go all out and have a set, even with a sled and other props, or you could do it simply, and have the Grinch actor mime his motions. 
  • When you perform this, I believe the fact that Christina is a child is more important than the fact that she's female. Thus, if you have no little girls to portray the role, I'd rather you change Christina to a little boy than have an older girl (13 or older) portray the role. In short, Christina needs to be played by someone 12 or under, even if you have to change her to a boy. Her innocence as a child must show. Said actor can do their own lines as the act, or lip-sync to the audio file. They should come back to interact with the Grinch at the end.
  • As for involving more characters than just the Grinch, the narrator, Max the Dog, and Christina, you could: 1) Split up the narrator part between several people; 2) Have a large number of people act as the people of Faithville, singing; or 3) Have 1-4 angels come in and surround the Grinch as he is "born again". 
  • You could also involve children by having the story read from the script by a narrator who is sitting in front of a tree and telling the story to a group of children. Their imaginations cause them to see the action as it happens and the actors come out and mime the parts as the story is read to the children. There is no lip-syncing, but all the voices and parts are done by the person reading the story.
  • Earlier I mentioned that Christina can be gender-flipped if you have no girls 12 or under to play the role. The Grinch, too, can be gender-flipped into a female - all you have to do is change the pronouns.
  • As for costumes, the Grinch should be dressed like the Grinch, either the animated 1967 Grinch from the NBC-TV special or Jim Carrey's Grinch from the 2000 live-action Ron Howard movie. Christina should, however, NOT be dressed like Cindy Lou Who. Although her role in the story mimics that of Cindy Lou in the original, she and the other people of Faithville should not be dressed like Whos. They should be dressed like real people. This is what sets it apart from the TV classic. It represents human characters and what would happen if the Grinch lived on Earth instead of "just north of Whoville."
  • If you feel the need to change any of the passages, leave your queries in the comments.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Television Commercials

Since most of my screenplays are based on TV commercials, I figured I'd rank my top ten favorite TV commercials I've ever seen. Many, if not most of these, have made me cry, but very few seem to have the magic touch that results in a screenplay.

10. "The Camp Gyno", Hello Flo
This ad for women's hygiene products may be a little disgusting because it uses words like "vagina", "menstruation", and "period", but its unrepentant usage of those terms isn't what I like about it. It's the unstoppable girl characteristics and assertiveness the girl (Macy McGrail) shows in her leadership role. That enough sealed the deal.

9. "This Girl Can", Sport England
This ad is aimed at getting girls to exercise and, to an extent, avoid the false perceptions that come with their body's shape and size. Yet another emotional "femvertisement" that really made me emotional, yet I did not cry.

8. "Real Beauty Sketches", Dove
This ad was meant to show that a person sees themselves negatively and focuses on their flaws, while others are capable of seeing the good in them. It went viral in 2014 and is considered the first of the recent trend in "femvertisements".

7. "Imagine the Possibilities", Barbie
This ad asks "What would happen if a girl could be whatever she imagines?" and shows girls fantasizing about doing stereotypically male jobs. You're noticing a trend here, I'm guessing. It's hard to believe even Barbie, long considered an ambassador of negative female stereotypes, is getting in on femvertising.

6. "Daughter", Audi
This Audi 2017 Super Bowl commercial tells the story of a father who is worried that the skills of his daughter will be valued less simply because she is female, but sees his doubts erased when she takes the checkered flag in a go-kart race. There's a pretty big gap between those who liked and disliked this commercial, and I definitely liked it.

5. "I Will What I Want", Under Armour
Here, a young girl (Raiya Goodman) reads a rejection letter Misty Copeland, the world's most celebrated ballerina, got at age 13, while Copeland dances for the camera. The effect is astounding, and even boosted Under Armour's sales to women over tenfold.

4. "Inspire Her Mind", Verizon
Actress Reshma Saujani narrates this ad as a mother who wants her daughter to grow up to be "pretty". The girl is drawn away from a STEM career because of her mother's urging. This ad communicates a message of a field that needs more girls, and furthers the "future is female" mantra.

3. Any Target Christmas commercial from the past three years.
These commercials feature kids, talking Target toy aisle staples, and Twizzler octopi (occasionally), and I like them because the acting performances by the kids (Shiloh Nelson, Olivia Trujillo, and Bobby Sloan starred in the 2015 "Holiday Odyssey" campaign; Kylie Cantrall starred alongside John Legend, Isabella Russo, and Chrissy Teigen in the 2016 "Toycracker" campaign) are top notch - almost as good as the performances of the kids in "E.T." These kid actors are the kind you'd want in front of a crowd to deliver the right message, even if the message isn't "buy this at Target".

2. "Like a Girl", Always
Directed and voiced by my idol Lauren Greenfield of Chelsea Pictures L.A., this ad asks, "What does it mean to do something 'like a girl'?" To young girls, it means to do their best. To everyone else, it means to do poorly. You just have to experience it, the way I did on Super Bowl Sunday 2015 - and I ran into another room bawling and watched no more of the big game that year. This commercial also partially inspired my screenplay "Fearless Girl".

1. "The Wish Writer", Macy's
The ad that I adapted into a screenplay last year at Christmas. The ad that started my career as a screenwriter. The ad that tells the instantly classic story of a girl who acquires a magic pencil, uses it to do good deeds for others, and finds her good heart rewarded when her brother uses it to get her a gift she'll never forget. This ad stands out among other Christmas stories because it blends reality and fantasy perfectly and shows kids at Christmastime as they really are.

And it was an ad I'll never forget. This list may change, for as Master Yoda says, "Difficult to see....always in motion is the future."



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Complete Guide to The Family Programming Month (And My November 1 Post Wasn't That Already)

A couple weeks back I posted some of the biggest telecasts of the Family Programming Month (what they are, mostly). Now, I am posting a complete guide to ALL network television family and big-time programming during the month, an unabridged list of where and when you can catch these telecasts. All times Eastern.

First up, the lineup on...





  • 4:30 PM, Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23): NFL Football: L.A. Chargers at Dallas Cowboys. Thanksgiving Day football game number two. Keep an eye on Dak Prescott. 
  • 8:00 PM, Black Friday (Friday, November 24): Frosty the Snowman. A lovable snowman comes to life but will melt away unless a little girl with a big heart can protect him and his magical hat. 51st straight year on CBS. 
  • 8:30 PM, Black Friday (Friday, November 24): Frosty Returns. A sequel to Frosty the Snowman that pales in comparison and cheapens the original. I advise you not to watch it. 
  • 8:00 PM, Saturday, November 25: Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire. Whatever that is. 
  • 8:30 PM, Saturday, November 25: Robbie the Reindeer: Legends of the Lost Tribe. I presume this is the sequel to Hooves of Fire. 
  • 9:00 PM, Saturday, November 25: The Story of Santa Claus. A 1994 attempt to compete with the classic Santa Claus is Coming to Town for the prize of most accepted Santa backstory.
  • 8:00 PM, Tuesday, November 28: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Rankin-Bass classic returns to network TV for a 53rd straight year. Burl Ives tells the story and you've been living under a rock if you need more information about this one. 
  • 8:00 PM, Saturday, December 9: Encore presentation of Rudolph.
  • 9:00 PM, Saturday, December 9: Encore presentation of Frosty.
  • 9:30 PM, Saturday, December 9: Encore presentation of Frosty Returns.
Next up:


  • 8:00 PM, Wednesday, November 22: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Charlie Brown finds himself roped into throwing a Thanksgiving feast for the neighborhood children. Hilarity ensues. Don't miss.
  • 8:00 PM, Black Friday (Friday, November 24): Santa Claus is Coming to Town. A mailman answers children's questions about why Santa Claus does what he does and how he came to be. Stars the voices of Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire, and Keenan Wynn.
  • 8:00 PM, Monday, November 27: CMA Country Christmas. I presume this is just country singers singing Christmas songs.
  • 8:00 PM, Thursday, November 30: A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Peanuts gang celebrates the season. But something is missing, and only Linus knows what. 
  • 9:00 PM, Thursday, November 30: The Wonderful World of Disney Magical Holiday Celebration. I've never watched this, so I'm assuming it's like a variety show.
  • 8:00 PM, Thursday, December 7: Shrek the Halls. A Christmas special featuring Shrek. I don't like the look of this.
  • 8:30 PM, Thursday, December 7: Toy Story That Time Forgot. Something involving Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and time travel. I've never watched it.
  • 8:00 PM, Sunday, December 10: Frozen. I actually have an easier time with The Sound of Music being telecast at Christmas than I do Frozen, even though the latter's ice/snow themes make it more of a Christmas movie than the former. 
  • 8:30 PM, Thursday, December 14: Prep & Landing. Bizarre names for elves. Yes, Prep and Landing are elves.
  • 8:00 PM, Saturday, December 16: I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown. The other, lesser known Peanuts Christmas special, with all the commercialism the first one dissed.
  • 8:30 PM, Tuesday, December 19: Prep and Landing 2: Naughty vs. Nice. The sequel to Prep and Landing - that's all I know.
After that:


  • 9:00 AM, Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23): The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Celebrities, marching bands from around the country, and other acts gather in New York for a ceremonial parade. The biggest attraction, however, is always the Macy's commercials that air during the parade. (For me, at least.)
  • 8:30 PM, Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 23): NFL Football: New York Giants at Washington Redskins. The Thanksgiving night football game. 
  • 8:00 PM, Black Friday (Friday, November 24): How the Grinch Stole Christmas. For the 51st straight year on NBC, Chuck Jones' classic cartoon will delight us and make our hearts grow three sizes. Or thirty, if you read my Christianized version.
  • 8:30 PM, Black Friday (Friday, November 24): The Trolls Christmas Special. A world premiere of a new special based on last year's movie. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick return to the lead roles.
  • 10:00 PM, Monday, November 27: A Very Pentatonix Christmas. Pentatonix sings Christmas songs.
  • 8:00 PM, Wednesday, November 29: Christmas in Rockefeller Center. Live from New York, a Christmas variety show featuring oodles of celebrities.
  • 8:00 PM, Wednesday, December 6: Encore presentation of A Very Pentatonix Christmas.
  • 8:00 PM, Saturday, December 9: It's a Wonderful Life. The classic 1946 movie about a man who sees what life would be like if he were never born. Never watched, but will possibly do so this year.
  • 8:00 PM, Christmas Eve (Sunday, December 24): Encore presentation of It's a Wonderful Life.
So there you have it - every single family telecast in the Family Programming Month. Only problem is...it's impossible to catch them all on television. 

But isn't that why we have Netflix and Amazon Prime?

Let's just hope Netflix doesn't kill TV. 







Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Update

"Isabella vs. the Womp Womp" is cancelled. Upon watching the Old Navy music video that inspired the idea, I've decided I need to tell a story with similar themes that's not necessarily based on that ad.


November 1: The Countdown Begins

It's officially on. Slowly approaching is The Family Programming Month - the stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas when network TV - CBS, ABC, and NBC - airs programs that can attract the entire family. Not all of these telecasts are Christmas or Thanksgiving related, but most of them are, and no telecasts during The Family Programming Month are bigger than the Big Eight.

What are the Big Eight? They are the telecasts that advertisers rush to get their commercials played during (though nowhere near as big as that football game in February). They are the eight most watched television events during The Family Programming Month. They are:

  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 30-minute cartoon, not the feature film with Jim Carrey)
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  • Santa Claus is Coming to Town
  • It's a Wonderful Life
Here's a brief (just kidding, it's in-depth) history of these seven telecasts.

THE MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE is an annual event held in New York City since 1926. The parade ends at Herald Square outside the giant Macy's store in New York and often features celebrities and/or singers, giant balloons, and marching bands. Since the mid-1950s, NBC has televised it every year. This year, it will air Thursday, November 23 at 9:00 AM EST on NBC. 
A factoid about this telecast: Macy's is close to bankruptcy. 


RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER is a 1965 hour-long stop-motion puppet fantasy that was made by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass, the celebrated team behind many holiday classics. The special is based on Gene Autry's 1949 song and stars Burl Ives, Billie Richards, and Paul Soles. Rudolph premiered Sunday, December 12, 1965 on NBC as an episode of "The General Electric Fantasy Hour" from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. NBC played it for 45 years until 2011, when it moved to its current home on CBS. This year, it will air twice: Tuesday, November 28 at 8:00 PM EST on CBS and Saturday, December 9 at 8:00 PM EST on CBS.
A factoid about this telecast: The original Rudolph stop-motion figure still exists and is in a private collection. 

FROSTY THE SNOWMAN premiered Sunday, December 3, 1967 on CBS from 7:30 to 8:00 PM. The special is based on Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins' 1951 song and stars Jackie Vernon, Jimmy Durante, and Billy DeWolfe. CBS has aired the 30-minute cartoon every year since its premiere. This year, it will air twice: Friday, November 24 at 8:00 PM EST on CBS and Saturday, December 9 at 9:00 PM EST on CBS. Both telecasts will be directly followed by 1993's Frosty Returns, which I encourage you to avoid at all costs.
A factoid about this telecast: If you watch and listen closely, "Christopher Columbus" is among rejected names for Frosty.


HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS is a 1967 30-minute animated special based on the 1957 Dr. Seuss book of the same name. This animated adaptation gave the Grinch his iconic green color and the unforgettable performances of Thurl Ravenscroft as the narrator and Boris Karloff as the Grinch. The special premiered Sunday, December 10, 1967 on NBC from 6:30 to 7:00 PM and has been aired by NBC every year since its premiere. This year, it will air Friday, November 24 at 8:00 PM EST on NBC. 
A factoid about this telecast: The Grinch is green because he represents the corporate greed for money.


A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS is a 1968 30-minute animated special based on Charles M. Schultz's Peanuts comic strip. It premiered Friday, December 6, 1968 on CBS from 8:00 to 8:30 PM. CBS played it for 36 years until 2002, when it moved to its current home on ABC. This year, it will air Thursday, November 30 at 8:00 PM EST on ABC. 
A factoid about this telecast: Despite its negative portrayal of commercialism, it was commissioned by Coca-Cola. 


A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING is a 1972 30-minute animated special also based on the Peanuts strip. It premiered on Thanksgiving Day 1972 from 7:30 to 8:00 PM on ABC. This year, it will air Wednesday, November 22 at 8:00 PM EST on ABC.  
A factoid about this telecast: My grandmother also lives in a condominium.


SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN is a 1970 hour-long stop-motion puppet fantasy that provides an origin story for Santa Claus, as well as being the origin of the classic song. The special premiered Friday, December 4, 1970 on ABC from 7:30 to 8:30 PM and stars Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, and Keenan Wynn. It is currently a staple of Freeform, an ABC cable affiliate, and doesn't air on ABC / network television every year, but typically gets the highest ratings for Freeform of the year. This year, however, it will air Friday, November 24 at 8:00 PM EST on ABC. 
A factoid about this telecast: It's not broadcast in its full format anymore. ABC cuts two songs, trims two other songs in half, and abridges the opening nowadays.


IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a classic 1946 movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The movie flopped during its original 1946 theatrical run, but in the 1960s, when it started being a TV staple, it evolved into a classic. Although the story and movie are in the public domain, it is almost always aired on NBC, and this year will air twice: Saturday, December 9 at 8:00 PM EST on NBC and Sunday, December 24 at 8:00 PM EST on NBC.
A factoid about this telecast: It's a bit disgusting how they did some of the special effects in this movie. Some of them involved coffee stains.



 SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALICHRISTMAS

But these aren't the only family movies that air at Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is a long history of movies that have NOTHING to do with either of those holidays airing at that time because of how ripe it is for family-oriented programming. This is why I call it "The Family Programming Month" and not "The Christmas TV Month." Here are five movies that have a history of being broadcast at Christmas and Thanksgiving but have nothing to do with those holidays.

"The Sound of Music": This might be the best-known example of a non-Christmas-related movie becoming a Christmas staple. This is part of the reason My Favorite Things is often on musicians' Christmas albums, the other being the fact that the song contains many instances of winter-related imagery. (And no, it's not because the song sounds like a wish list. Who's ever found raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens in their stockings?) For more information on The Sound of Music becoming a Christmas tradition, click here.

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory": This 1971 movie musical was frequently aired by CBS at Christmastime, though never for more than five years consecutive. Unlike the songs from The Sound of Music, I've never heard "Pure Imagination'' or "Oompa Loompa" on a Christmas album or on K104.7 radio.

"Mary Poppins": You might be noticing that movie musicals have a trend of being telecast at Christmas. From 1966 to 1999, ABC aired Mary Poppins annually at Christmastime. I have heard some of the songs from that movie on Christmas albums, though not as much as the Sound of Music soundtrack.

"The Wizard of Oz": Ah, the granddaddy of all the movie musicals. For nearly 50 years, from 1953 all the way to 2000, NBC aired The Wizard of Oz during The Family Programming Month. I have no record of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on Christmas albums, but that may be because Wizard of Oz usually aired on Thanksgiving Day, directly after the parade.

"Star Wars": Sometimes just the original film, and sometimes the whole original trilogy, but, yes, Star Wars was a Christmas staple (and still is - The Last Jedi comes out December 14.) In 1982 and 1984, CBS aired the original Star Wars movie at Christmastime. From 1985 to 1989, NBC aired the entire original trilogy all Christmas Day. There is no need for Star Wars scores played by Kenny G, because I already associate "Rey's Theme" and such with December.



STILL THE ONLY TIME FOR FAMILY PROGRAMMING?

Well, I'm pushing to change that. On the other side of my big break, back to school may become a big family programming time - my screenplay "Surviving Middle School" and my idea-in-the-works "Isabella vs. the Womp Womp" (click to see Old Navy ad that is my inspiration) could shape it into such.

But for now, there's not really such thing as a television special that's not a Christmas television special. Could my plans to publish a book entitled "The Illustrated Screenplays of Leo Finelli" change that? Could that be my big break?

You tell me, loyal readers.





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