The holiday special The Best Christmas Pageant Ever originally aired in 1983, but I know I didn’t see it until at least 1984. This story of a group of wild kids who get involved in a stuffy church’s Christmas play starred Loretta Swit of M*A*S*H and Fairuza Balk of Return To Oz. I had remembered the monologues Balk delivers to the camera as a part of Return To Oz, but I see now that was a case of cross-memorization. The general idea of the show is pretty clever, as are some of the lines. The “return to Bethlehem” joke was particularly good, and the pussywillow threat scared me for life. You could probably do better at Christmastime, but you could also do worse.
Do you recognize this photo? Probably not. It is an image from the 1985 nearly great sequel to “The Wizard of Oz”, “Return to Oz”. I remembered liking this as a kid so I thought I would watch it again and I was pleasantly surprised. When you sit down you really got to try and forget that it is the sequel to one of the most memorable films in American Film history.
Its a hard act to follow and its flawed to be sure, but the imagery is great and imaginative and Fairuza Balk makes a great Dorothy. If you don’t like it or have not seen it I suggest you watch it again and try to appreciate it in the same way you might enjoy “Legend” or “The Dark Crystal”.