LIVE TV CHRISTMAS PARTIES
I brought up a few anniversaries recently - Kevin Butler, the king of the local TV anniversary salutes, points out that this Christmas Day holds a special place in NYC TV history: This coming Friday, December 25, 2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the very first broadcast of WPIX 11's annual Christmas Party TV specials.
On that very first Christmas Party the station had their resident kid's TV hosts/performers "Officer Joe" Bolton, "Bozo The Clown" (Bill Britten) and "Captains" Allen Swift and Jack McCarthy engage the viewers in games, craft making songs, holiday stories, magic tricks, comedy and puppet skits along with informational segments.
All of this was wrapped around reruns of old movie cartoons and syndicated TV shows like "The Adventures Of Superman", "Jeff's Collie"("Lassie"), "Sgt. Preston", "Casey Jones", and "The Abbott & Costello Show."
The 6 hour live program was set against the backdrop of the living room of a private house and was sponsored by The Ward Baking Company (the bakers of Bond Bread, "Tip Top Lucky" snack cakes And "Bit O'Honey" and "Chunk Candies").
The show was a hit and Channel 11 decided to air another Christmas Party on Sunday December 25, 1960.
"Officer Joe", "Captain Jack" and "Bozo" returned as the show's hosts ("Captain Allen" Swift had left Channel 11 and "The Popeye Show" months earlier) along with Chuck McCann who was beginning his stint as the MC of "Laurel & Hardy & Chuck" and "Let's Have Fun."
The show was again a hit and TV 11 aired another show on Monday, December 25, 1961 with "Fireman Todd" Russell (formerly "Big Todd" on NBC and ABC's "Rootie Kazootie Clubs") who was then hosting "The Three Stooges Firehouse" added to the list of personalities on the program.
Bolton (who was hosting "The Dick Tracy Cartoon Show") appeared in the show as "Police Chief" Joe Bolton.
Channel 11 aired the fourth Christmas Party on Tuesday, December 25, 1962 only "Police Chief" Joe Bolton, "Captain Jack" McCarthy and "Fireman Todd" Russell appeared on the show as the hosts.
WPIX aired the fifth and final Christmas Party on Wednesday, December 25, 1963. This time "Officer Joe", "Captain Jack", "Fireman Todd", "Bozo", and Chuck McCann were joined by "The Merry Mailman" (Ray Heatherton), "The Old Philosopher" (Eddie Lawrence) and by John Zacherley ("The Cool Ghoul").
Unfortunately, the show's hosts/performers never appeared on camera. Since many TV stations were giving their airtime to covering the investigations into the murder of President John F. Kennedy, Channel 11 didn't tape any on air segments, they simply had the hosts pre-tape voice-overs for the purpose of introducing the films.
Those young viewers lucky enough to participate in those holiday TV specials were able to retain happy memories of spending Christmastime with their favorite television friends while mother cooked the holiday meals.
Saturday, December 19, 2009 8:56am
WAY BACK WHEN
Thirty years ago we were saying, "Tonight, let it be Lowenbrau."
It was Christmastime 25 years ago that Band Aid's single 'Do They Know It's Christmas' hijacked the airwaves.
Who can forget (remember?) The Solid Gold Christmas Special where Rick Dees, Crystal Gayle and the Solid Gold Dancers counted down the Christmas hits. It happened 25 years ago in 1984 and it's not that bad. Considering.
Friday, December 18, 2009 9:32am
LET IT SNOW?
Last year one of the TV stations had every available reporter and intern out in the streets, fanning out over a six city area. They were on the air from 5:30 until 9:00am and not one flake of snow fell. Literally, not a flake and the entire broadcast was made up of hopeless speculation and cutaways to the hapless reporters who had to say something but had nothing to talk about. It was like Waiting For Godot remade as a morning show. If that's not a microcosm of all that's wrong with TV news I don't know what is.
I figure the station managers strongly encourage the weather folks to call for snow if there's even a remote possibility so their the advertising reps can ring up the grocery stores, tell them the station's calling for snow on Friday, then sell them an enhanced ad package. Then again, people think I'm cynical.
Don't get me wrong - I love snow especially around Christmas and the last days of Chanukah. It's just that they're wrong 70% of the time they call for a winter event. But I'll be looking forward to seeing the white stuff fall, if and when - it's so rare these days, not like when I was young and we got 3 or 4 good snows (and a few light ones) a year on average.
Here's something to keep you warm this weekend no matter where you are - the Yule Log!
Friday, December 18, 2009 7:50am
THIS 'N' THAT
Here's an article from The Collectors Weekly - a new interview with Smithsonian pop culture curator Dwight Blocker Bowers.
And now back to the holiday tunes - 'I Believe in Father Christmas' by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer makes my list of post-modern Christmas tunes. Released in 1975, this song takes a more cynical view of the holiday but there's something about the overly bombastic orchestration that gets me - along with the line "The Christmas we get we deserve." Here's a lovely live version from 1994.
Thursday, December 17, 2009 6:20am
Here's some holidays funny from Jim Gaffigan.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:35am
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