And Christmas specials!

CHRISTMAS CAROL II: The Sequel is an episode of the George Burns Comedy Special in which Scrooge (James Whitmore) learns from Marley and the three ghosts that his irrational generosity is turning everyone around him (including Roddy McDowell and Samantha Eggar as the Cratchetts and Ed Begley Jr. as the grown up Tim) into selfish spongers. A clever follow-up to the original.
I doubt anyone doesn’t know the plot of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, so I’ll just mention that it remains as charming now as it did 40+ years ago. “They’ll stand hand in hand with the Christmas bells ringing/They’ll stand hand in hand then the Whos will start singing!”
Last year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special guest-stars Michael Gambon as a cruel old miser who refuses to deactivate his weather-control system, even if it causes the space liner carrying Rory and Amy to crash to destruction. So the Doctor begins changing the man’s past (this was, I’ve been told, Stephen Moffat showing that the Doctor has no qualms about changing history) in the hopes of changing his present, starting by visiting him on Christmas Eve years earlier … Another good Dickens riff.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY was in a pack of Christmas Specials I bought this year, and so I rewatched the story of how the title character meets the infant Jesus and overcomes his bitterness over the depths of his parents. Minor even by Christmas programming standards (and the Scheming Arab stereotypes are unpleasant) but a remarkably strong cast——Jose Ferrer as the Arab schemer, Greer Garson as narrator and vocal legend June Foray somewhere in the mix.
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN and RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER were on the same package––two more where there’s nothing much to say, but I do recommend this guide to classifying holiday specials by D&D alignments. And these DVD editions do include bits that weren’t in my on-air tapes,such as Yukon Cornelius in Rudolph discovering a peppermint mine (“I’m rich!”).
CRICKET ON THE HEARTH, from the same package, is only marginally Christmassy, being the animated Dickens story of an impoverished toymaker and his blind daughter struggling until her long-lost love returns in time to save the day. Very unimpressive (my first time catching it).
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, as that alignment chart article points out, isn’t all that Christmassy either: Despite Santa showing up to save the day, most of the magic seems to happen without any connection with Christmas. It was accompanied on the specials pack by FROSTY RETURNS, a really weak entry in which Frosty helps a young girl stop a greedy millionaire from wrecking the environment (and the annual winter carnival) with a miracle snow-removal chemical.
A CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CAROL turns multiple Christmas carols, such as “We Three Kings,” “O Tanenbaum” and “Carol of the Bells” into Claymation sketches, introduced by a pair of dinosaurs trying to figure out the meaning of “Here We Come a Wassailing”——another one I’m very fond of.
And last but not least, the perennial A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, in which Charlie Brown grapples with the Christmas blues and directs a Christmas pageant while Linus explains what Christmas is all about. Always worth rewatching.

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