When I was a kid, back in the Stone Age before Beta, VHS, DVD and Blue Ray brought T.V. shows and movies into our homes whenever we want; back before cable brought us a zillion channels 24/7, back when we had all of 6-7 channels to watch and there was no On Demand, if you wanted to watch your favorite Christmas movie or Christmas special, you had to watch very carefully for when it was scheduled.
We would carefully preserve the T.V. listings book that came in each week's Sunday Washington Post, and we would look at the week ahead to find out what was scheduled when. There was one T.V. in the house, which often led to arguments when we disagreed as to what to watch at any given time. Such arguments were rare, however, when it came to Christmas. Most of the shows we would watch together as a family, and they were favorites for all of us.
And they still are.
Here's a list of my favorite Christmas shows/movies. Now, almost by definition, Christmas shows tend to be sappy. Whether comedy or drama, cartoon or real actors, there's usually a moment when something catches in your throat and tears form, no matter how many times you've seen it. Sappiness is allowed at Christmas. Expected, even.
OK, so here's my list. You can disagree, that's fine, but don't get all self-righteous on me. It's a matter of preference.
Any list starts with "A Charlie Brown Christmas." As kids we never missed this. It wasn't Christmas without Charlie Brown. As an adult I am struck by how primitive the show is. The animation is bad, and the kids reading the lines do so without any feeling or inflection. The music is first-rate, however, and who among us hasn't imitated some of the repetitive dance moves of the kids on the stage?
Please tell me I'm not the only one.
The whole thing is redeemed by Linus quoting Luke on a darkened stage, and the kids somehow adding, not just decorations, but also branches and needles to Charlie Brown's scrawny tree. Classic.
"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was next on our "Must-See T.V." list. And as good as Jim Carey is in the movie version, nothing beats the original. That's true for everything on this list, mainly because of nostalgia.
That's why the original black and white version of "A Christmas Carol" starring Alastair Sim is still the best version. I thought George C. Scott made for a great Scrooge for the same reasons he made for a great Patton, but Marley and his chains and the graveyard scene with the Ghost of Christmas Future should be seen in black and white.
No one has anyone ever tried a remake "It's a Wonderful Life." Who would want to mess with perfection? James Stewart, Donna Reed, a perfect villain in Mr. Potter--and Clarence gets his wings.
I know that "Miracle on 34th Street" should be on this list, but we never watched it as kids, and I've only seen it a couple of times as an adult, so it can't really be on my list. But if it were, the black and white version would be the one.
OK, you may disagree with the next two, but it's my list.
I think "Home Alone" is a great movie. Improbable, maybe, but few modern movies can pull off slapstick, and this is one of them. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are great as bumbling bad guys, and when the old man neighbor is reunited with his estranged daughter at the end...
Finally, "The Santa Clause," if for no other reason than it gives a credible answer to every kid who has ever wondered how fat Santa gets down a skinny chimney, or what happens when there is no chimney.
So, here's my list. There are some movies that should be on that aren't. I'm not a big movie-watcher, so there are some movies that are people's favorites, and when I admit I've never seen them I always get, "You mean you've never seen 'A Christmas Story'?" Or "I can't believe you've never seen 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'!" I know, maybe someday I will, and maybe they'll make my list.
But probably not. There's just something about the Christmas shows of your youth that later productions can never match.
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