Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Christmas TV Companion: A Review

Independent publisher 1701 Press recently sent me a copy of their new book - a primer on Christmas Television specials titled The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials & Outrageous Oddities by Joanna Wilson. The Christmas TV Companion joins a growing legion of literature devoted to Christmas specials including Lee Mendleson's wonderful A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition (2005, Harper Paperbacks), The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass by Rick Goldschmidt (2001, Miser Bros Press) and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Special by Darrel Van Citters (Oxberry Press 2009).

Pop culture book lists like TV a Go Go: Rock on TV from American Bandstand to American Idol were infuriating in the pre-YouTube age. Learning about obscurities that were basically unattainable made for frustrating reads. Now that the internet is the internet, we can peruse the archaic artifacts known as books and easily hunt down the recommended works. It's generally worth it.

The Christmas TV Companion covers the broad range of specials and Yuletide specific episodes of the past four decades - recommending Ozzie & Harriet and South Park within mere sentences of each other. A treatise dealing with individual decades would be more desirable (Christmas Television of The Fifties could be a culturally fascinating screed - fighting godless communism with Christian heavy kinescopes? Yes, please!) but admittedly would not have as wide an appeal. The book itself contains no surprises for the holiday seasoned viewer and has, unfortunately, little chronology to its chapters. I found myself skipping over the descriptions of the holiday themed episodes of Becker, American Dad and Xena: Warrior Princess - the mere thought of watching these programs made me shudder and I must admit to being miffed seeing them share space with the names of my belolved fifties and sixties classics. Regardless, the book would be a nice stocking stuffer for the uninitiated (and undiscriminating) and those modern families that can gather cozily around the computer instead of a TV. If you wanna stuff some socks then both The Christmas TV Companion and The Mr. Magoo and Charlie Brown books would compliment this DVD and this DVD quite nicely. Personally, I'd get those four other items before bothering with this book, but fellow TV blogs TVParty.com and Cleveland Classic Media gave it a ringing endorsement so I am perhaps in the minority. Then again, bloggers never want to jeopardize the onslaught of free stuff that is often sent our way. It's the same reason you don't dis Santa Claus.

Recommended Highlights mentioned in The Christmas TV Companion include
Santa Claus (1959)
The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood featuring Eric Burdon (1965) - I'm posting this whole special in a couple days...
Download The Soundtrack from Dangerous Red Riding Hood!
A Solid Gold Christmas (1982)
The Judy Garland Show - Christmas Episode (1963)

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