A Keaton Christmas Carol

I got my Christmas shopping done well in advance this year (thanks much to Flack for suggesting Cyber Monday), but I wanted to pick up a few extra surprises for Hot Pink Heather and my daughter, so I swung into the local Walgreens. There wasn’t much to get there, and as I stood in line I remembered this scene from the Family Ties episode “A Keaton Christmas Carol”. I saw this live and haven’t forgotten it since.

If you’d like to see the whole episode, which obviously riffs on Dickens’ Christmas Carol, you can catch it on Hulu.

David Copperfield TV Specials

I know we’re all thinking about Christmas TV specials right now. Those of us who have stopped thinking about Halloween Christmas specials are, anyway. But there were other specials on TV besides the Christmas and Halloween ones. There were also the non-holiday-related David Copperfield TV specials.

Copperfield

I don’t know how many of these specials there were nor over how many years they aired (Ann Gillian says they have been airing for nine years in one of the videos below), but I do know that I watched and love several of them. Here are my favorites:

The flying special. I wondered for years how Copperfield pulled this one off. Even knowing (thanks to this video), I still think this is one of the best presented illusions ever.

I’m not sure which one this was, but I remembered this segment. I think it was the opening of the show, and I always think of it rather than Footloose anytime I hear “Holding Out For A Hero”.

I was kind of disappointed in the Alcatraz special because David clearly used staged illusions rather than real escape techniques. That was my uninformed opinion, anyway, and even if it isn’t legitimate, I still remained slightly disappointed in this one. I still remember it, though.

The disappearance of the Statue of Liberty blew my mind. So did Morgan Fairchild.

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown – The Most Sincere Peanuts Special

It is quite likely that Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is the first Peanuts special I encountered as a kid. And while I think all the early Peanuts specials had good messages, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown has some of the most “sincere” (to borrow a term from a different Peanuts special) messages. It presents some very honest truths about love and all the other affections that go with it.

One such truth is the desperation of wanting to be loved. We get this truth close to the end, after Charlie Brown has failed to receive any valentines at all, much less a valentine from the Red-Haired Girl. He says, “I’d give anything if that Little Red-Haired Girl had sent me a valentine.” And not only does he say that, but he says it with such resignation, such a realization that it is just not going to happen.

Another is the material and other constraints of the search for love. Though Linus admires the ground upon which his teacher walks, he knows he is too young, and when he misses his opportunity to give her the valentine he had purchased, he laments the fact that he “spent all [his] money.” The loss of money, a precious and scant commodity at that age, is a further insult to the injury of the loss of love.

Yet another is the “hope springs eternal” aspect of love. After talking over his disappointments with this year’s valentine haul, Charlie Brown switches gears and starts dreaming about the loads of valentines he will get in years to come.

Fortunately, all these truths are balanced with great jokes (Snoopy and Woodstock catching and eating the chocolates Linus throws off the bridge in his anger, Violet saying that she bought a bottle of “heart-shaped shaving lotions” for a man who “wears a beard and saying it to Linus while he is in a rush to catch his teacher, the messages on the candy hearts). They are also offset by the weird way Sally, who threatened to slug Linus if he tried to hold her hand in The Great Pumpkin, now is ready and willing to kiss her “sweet baboo”. But they are still there. I learned them as a kid from this special and experienced them later in life. I’m sure we all did. And while I can’t say I’m happy I did, I can’t really say I’m sad either. Perhaps the best I can do is what Linus did, and just say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” come what may.

Retroist Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Podcast

Retroist Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Podcast

Welcome to the Retroist Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Podcast. Christmas comes a little earlier to the Retroist and we love it. On today’s show I talk about the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This is one of my favorite holiday special, so I was very excited about this episode. I talk about the history of the show, the talent behind it and its place in pop culture and television history. Also included is some great sound and music to get you in the Holiday mood.

The above art was again provided by Artist/Illustrator Christopher Tupa. To see more of Christopher’s work, drop by his website at http://www.ctupa.com.

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E.T. and Friends: Magical Movie Visitors

In 1982 E.T. mania was washing over the world. You could not turn on the news without an interview or news report about how awesome the little alien was. Much like Star Wars, E.T. was a phenomenon and just like they did with Star Wars they needed to capitalize on the fame right quick. What better way to do that, than with a hastily thrown together television special. “E.T. and Friends: Magical Movie Visitors” is that hastily thrown together special. Hosted by Mork from Ork himself, Robin Williams, the special follows the evolution of America’s perception of aliens culminating with our new undying devotion to our extraterrestrial messiah, E.T.

The special starts with some behind the scenes footage of the making of the movie. Mostly showing Spielberg directing his child actors. Let me tell you, that young Drew Barrymore really knows how to cry and is absolutely adorable. The we get some Williams, who is shot out of a cannon, riffing on all things space and E.T. Williams is supposed to represent the average American as he explains how he was frightened of aliens when he was younger and by saying this, he infers that perhaps his opinion has changed and that maybe it has to do with a certain alien?

A highlight of these early scenes is when William mentions that a drink has been named after E.T. and they cut to a shot of it being made, then a guy in an E.T. mask picks it up to drink it, but he is not E.T. he is some guy in a suit, in an E.T. mask. Priceless.

This is only recipe I can find for an E.T.:

1 part Vodka
2 parts Cream Liqueur
2 parts Melon Liqueur

Once they give us a taste of the E.T. landscape its all clips of Williams narrating, punctuated by largely improvised skits. Some are OK, like the cameo by Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris and Laraine Newman as the Coneheads and others, like the used space vehicle scene, are just wonderfully cheesy. Its a dog in a mask! Yes!

The special culminates in a rather nice “moment” as E.T. approaches Williams as they float, via the magic of green, screen over L.A. at night. Williams asks E.T where he is going. Of course he warbles, “Home”. He then asks Williams to come, which of course he does. They then walk into the darkness together. Williams is now obviously in control of his fear, just as E.T. now controls the hearts of all Americans. I think you might need to see this for yourself.

Pretty sweet, huh? Well since you may not be able to see enjoy the magic that is “E.T. and Friends: Magical Movie Visitors” anytime soon, please enjoy this gallery of screen captures. Its fairly robust.

Special thanks to Doug, a reader of the site, who sent me a copy of this hard to get special, thus making my month worthwhile.