“HOLIDAY” PROGRAMING HAS RUN ITS COURSE..?

As you may be aware, those movies and TV programs once called “Christmas” programs, now being labeled as “Holiday” programs, have been airing through all of the media portals since the Labor Day weekend. (No kidding!) 

Some viewers expressed through social media that many of them have overstayed their welcome. That is, those titles have been airing on TV just too many times, almost to the point that they became rather stale.

This theory is far from being new. In fact, we reported some ten years ago, long before streaming media became a practical method of getting one’s television programming content, that some Christmas/Holiday movies and TV shows were being run to death.

The article that we reported on this fact under the title You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out…Again first appeared in Vol. 17-No. 51-Week of December 10th, 2012. Some of the elements within this article still ring true to this very day. See if you can “price and compare” to what we were writing about…

Vanity Fair magazine in conjunction with CBS News conducts opinion poll questions on various topics, usually taking subjects that involve subjects from domestic life to pop culture. As reported in VF’s December, 2012 issue, one of the questions asked by some 1100 adults via phone calls nationwide involved the burning topic: “What holiday movie is the most overplayed on television?” 

According to the poll, the top six titles that the poll revealed are (with the percentage number as replied):

1-A Christmas Story (23%)

2-Elf (14%)

3-National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (13%)

4-A Charlie Brown Christmas (13%)

5-It’s A Wonderful Life (12%)

6-Miracle on 34th Street (9%)

OK…let’s perform a breakdown on these half dozen titles on why (or how) are these classics became overplayed.

Starting off on the first selection. A Christmas Story, a 1983 MGM release that stars Peter Billingsley as ten year old Ralph whose Christmas wish is to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for the season while living in Cleveland, Ohio c.1940. Based on a short story written by humorist and one-time WOR late night radio personality Jean Shepherd, it’s a charming tale of a kid’s desire to get a BB gun in spite of his mother’s warning that “it will shoot your eye out”, and his dad’s obsession with a prize that he won; a table lamp consisting of a woman’s leg in a stocking. This film, recently added to the Library of Congress’ film registry, is noted as “overplayed” since The Turner Network (a.k.a. TNT) who owns the rights to this film, hosts a 24 hour marathon where on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s run consistently back to back. Thus, its overplaying is lumped into a 24 to 36 hour run. Outside of that, it’s only aired so often.

Number 2 in the selection. Elf, 2003 New Line Pictures release, features comic Will Ferrell playing one of Santa’s elves who discovers that he’s actually human, setting off from the North Poll to New York City to seek his long lost father. Although this title doesn’t have the charm charm as A Christmas Story, it’s still an amusing title for a post 2000 creation. As to its overplaying on TV? This selection may fall into that category as a handful of TV outlets tend to run this title for what it is. Perhaps its “modern” setting (rather than from a movie made in the 1940’s or 50’s) is the reason for its overplaying.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation coming in at number 3 can also be lumped for the same reasons as Elf. Released by Warner Bros. in 1989, Chevy Chase stars as the head of the Griswold family (first appearing in National Lampoon’s Vacation a few years before) who makes an attempt to spend a Christmas with his family, in spite of the fact that he’s a bungling disaster prone idiot. This movie holds plenty of slapstick and is amusing, but far from memorable. This title, along with Elf, holds on to the same reason for its overplaying as local TV stations and a few cable/satellite outlets post this feature on their December TV schedule.

Number 4-A Charlie Brown Christmas, should not belong to this group since it’s not a “movie”. It’s a 1965 TV special that first aired on CBS and its long time sponsor was the Coca-Cola Company, is a cartoon that features the Peanuts gang where CB (with the help of Linus) seeks the true meaning of Christmas. The story line, based on a series of daily and Sunday strips that first appeared in newspapers in December of 1962, had been aired each Christmas since ‘65, and made its first appearance via home video in the middle 1980’s. It’s “overplaying” has been spread out for fifty years. Nevertheless, it’s not a movie, but a 26 minute short. 

It’s a Wonderful Life is the only film in this list that (at one time anyway) holds the distinction of being overplayed. First making an appearance in 1946 and released by Frank Capra’s Liberty Pictures (and distributed by RKO) stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey of Berford Falls, USA who makes a wish that he was never born and discovers that things would become a lot worse without his presence! Another title registered by the Library of Congress, this movie is perhaps the most beloved Christmas film ever released. However, it became discovered (and overplayed) when in 1974, this title did not get its copyright renewed. (At the time, copyrights lasted 28 years, and had to be renewed in its 28th year to extend its legal protection for another 28 years.) Because of this legal goof, TV stations starting in 1975 ran this movie without paying for any TV rights. Because of this overplaying, TV viewers discovered its charm and appeal. This overplaying lasted throughout the 1970’s, 80’s and well into the 90’s. (Not counting the flood of videotape releases by various companies in the 80’s.) However, Republic Pictures, a descendant to the original “B” movie company active in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, hired an army of lawyers to find some loophole to renew some form of legal protection. It seems that the music score was the element found to remove its public domain status. Today, NBC holds the exclusive TV rights to this title, and only aires it occasionally, usually on times where the rating would be low(er).

Finally, rounding out the list is Miracle on 34th Street, a 1947 20th Century Fox release that stars Edmund Gwenn, an elderly man who is hired to play Santa Clause for Macy’s Department Store on the titled street, who insists that he is the real St. Nick. This feature was later remade twice as a 1974 TV movie starring David Hartman and a 1994 theatrical release featuring film director turned actor Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle. The poll doesn’t state what version was the one as overplayed. However, it’s assumed that it’s a tie between the original ‘47 release and the ‘94 remake. (The original because that version has been running on TV since the 1960’s, and the ‘94 version because it’s more up-to-date!)

So there you have it! However, there are lots of Christmas theme movies to see via one’s video device, many well loved and others long forgotten if not forgettable! So as one decks the halls, shops like there is no tomorrow, and programs tunes for the season (again, well loved and overplayed), just remember that if you were not born, you would never ask Santa at Macy’s (now nationwide) to get that Red Ryder BB gun, go shopping for a scrawny tree while Santa’s elves seek for his dad, and perhaps getting a jolt stringing up Christmas lights! After all, all of this takes place but once a year!

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Theater West presents WINTER WISHES: A HOLIDAY CABARET THEATRE, a musical review program featuring seasonal songs and stories.

In this stage program, a talented group of players consisting of Luis Anduaga, Amanda Boutaud, Harleigh Ford, Stella Grimaldi, Cody Kelepolo, Mimi Kmet, Robert W. Laur, Constance Mellors, Zoe Miner, Scottie Nevil, Alyssa Rupert, and Michael Van Duzer offer a performance review that consist of a blend of seasonal favorites along with a few charming monologues peppered with humor that speak itself up for this time of year.

Backed by a quartet of musicians consisting of Bill von Ravenberg on bass, Pete Snell on guitar, Jim Varley on percussion, and Paul Cady on keyboards as well as serving as musical conductor, the mini orchestra resting off stage right gives their musical chops a go while the repertory of players perform the classic tunes of yore as well as the more contemporary favorites. And since this is a holiday program, they even include tunes for Chanukah! (The Latke Song is rather catchy!)

The stage setting itself holds a selection of seasonal lights as arranged among a darkened backdrop. Yet everyone performing through voice and music are highlighted among the electric tinsel and holly.

Overall, this show is very pleasant and operates through the time-tested rule of “less is more”. It’s more of a “show and tell” than something that’s overwhelming and elaborate. Yet it’s been staged for the holidays that won’t overload one’s senses! It’s for those that desire to experience a program that is upbeat yet mellow,and this cabaret lineup will fit that bill. It’s the ideal stage show for all ages to desire and appreciate.

WINTER WISHES: A HOLIDAY CABARET THEATRE, present by and performs at Theater West, 3333 Caluenga Blvd, Los Angeles (Universal City adjacent) until December 11th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For ticket reservations, call (323) 851-7977, or online at http://TheatreWest.org

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