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Showing posts with the label 70's

M*A*S*H Holiday Episodes (1972 - 1981)

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M*A*S*H is a little before my time. I have memories of it existing, but I don't recall actually watching it. That said, I'm familiar enough with some of the characters, so I must have caught a handful of episodes from repeats through the 80s. And of course I've seen it referenced damn near everywhere - this was an influential series.

If you're somehow not familiar with it, M*A*S*H is a series about an army medical base stationed in Korea during the Korean War. It's based on a movie I've never seen, which was in turn based on a book I've never read, so don't expect a lot of context on that end.

Actually sitting down and watching through the Christmas episodes (along with a few tangential episodes we'll discuss in a minute) was a fascinating experience. First, it's not hard to see why it left a footprint: this show has a fascinating tone, striking a careful balance between the hardships of war with the comedic absurdity of the characters. The sho…

A Cosmic Christmas (1977)

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I stumbled upon this early Nelvana production and immediately knew we had to watch it. (I’m mostly familiar with Nelvana because they produced all the Care Bears material in the 80s, but they’re a prolific children’s media production company based in Canada.)

Apparently, when the young studio was trying to break into commercial animation, market research indicated a need for new Christmas television specials. Given a UFO sighting in Toronto and excitement for a then-upcoming movie about some wars in the stars, a sci-fi tinted holiday story must have seemed like just the ticket. And it worked! According to Wikipedia, the popularity and sale of this special put Nelvana on the map.

It's hard to imagine, now in the era of Peak TV, that long-ago time when networks were so starved for content that this quirky, hit-and-miss piece would cause a stir.

Our main character is Peter, a totally generic kid except for the fact that he has a pet goose. Why? We’ll get there.

Peter and Lucy the …

Book Review: Nothing Lasts Forever, by Roderick Thorp (1979)

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Nothing Lasts Forever is, arguably, the most influential Christmas novel written since A Christmas Carol, and if it's title hadn't been changed when it was adapted into a movie nine years later, I wouldn't have to explain why.

That movie, incidentally, was Die Hard.

I'm not sure what I expected from the book, but it wasn't this. I knew going in it was a sequel to a novel Thorp wrote in 1966 called The Detective. I've never read that, but I have seen the film adaptation, which starred Frank Sinatra in the lead role. It's pretty obvious from reading Nothing Lasts Forever that Thorp wrote this with Sinatra in mind.

The plot. It's exactly the same as the movie's. Also, it's completely different.

The book starts with Joe Leland (they changed his name along with the title for the film) being driven to the airport on Christmas Eve. Leland isn't actually a detective anymore: he left that profession at the end of the first book and became a security…

The Gift of Winter (1974)

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The Gift of Winter is a 1974 Canadian television Christmas special with very low production values that inexplicably stars Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd.

Presented as an origin story for snow, the story concerns a group of characters setting out to lodge a complaint against Winter (presented here as sort of a cross between a pagan deity, an ice giant, and a bureaucrat) due to the relentless, bleak season. The characters - and I'll get to them in a moment - are hoping Winter will cancel his season altogether and replace it with more spring or summer.

Well, most of the characters. Two of them are planning to assassinate Winter using dynamite.

"Characters" is almost too strong a word. These are almost better described as caricatures of 70's archetypes. They have names like Goodly, Nicely, Rotten, Malicious... you get the idea. Their personalities are tied to their designs, which are best described as stylized doodles made by a four-year-old. That's not intended as a…

The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town (1977)

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Shockingly, this stop-motion Rankin-Bass special is not the same as the 1971 Here Comes Peter Cottontail. However, it is essentially identical to the 1970 special, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The plots and setups are basically the same - they've just changed the character names and lowered the quality to make them distinct.
In this version of the Easter Bunny's origin, he's a baby rabbit located and adopted by a town of orphaned kids called "Kidville," because contrary to what the special's narrator would have us believe, there is clearly no God. He's discovered in the woods on Easter, so the kids call him, "Sunny," after the Easter Sun, which is not a thing. I'm pretty sure they're thinking of the Winter Solstice, which is (for all intents and purposes) Christmas.


Within a year, the bunny has enslaved the children of Kidville (at least that was my reading). For some reason, he convinces them they need to introduce capitalism and trad…

The Brady Bunch: The Voice of Christmas (1969)

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Despite going on for four abysmal seasons and spawning numerous spin-offs, the Bradys only seemed to produce two holiday-themed installments: this and the 1988 made-for-TV movie, A Very Brady Christmas, which we sat through two years ago. That means as soon as this article is over, we'll be free of the Bradys forever.

What I'm saying is Christmas miracles do exist.

Which is actually the thesis of this crappy episode. The premise centers around Carol Brady getting laryngitis right before the holidays. This is devastating to her, because she's supposed to sing "O Come All Ye Faithful" at church on Christmas. Just so we're clear, there's no, "because if she doesn't an orphanage will close" coming. The sum total of the stakes at play are that she won't get to sing like she wants to if she doesn't get better. That's it.

Naturally, everyone freaks out. The maid makes a family recipe that's supposed to cure laryngitis but mainly ju…

Mon oncle Antoine (1971)

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Apparently, Mon oncle Antoine is considered one of the best Canadian films ever produced. Honestly, I lack anywhere near enough cultural background to offer an informed opinion on that claim. For what it's worth, I found the movie interesting enough, despite an intentionally slow pace and meandering point-of-view.

For all intents and purposes, the plot doesn't even kick in until about halfway through. Prior to that, it feels like you're watching a series of vignettes about a few different groups of people living in rural Quebec in the 1940's. An asbestos mining operation serves as the backdrop and is pretty clearly significant to the movie's point, but you really need some knowledge of Canadian history to understand the connection. I skimmed a few Wikipedia articles after watching the movie, but I suspect the film would have had more impact if I had a more personal connection.

The short explanation is that there was a major asbestos strike in 1949 that effectively…

Revisiting Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979)

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First of all, we've covered this already, over here. Lindsay wrote up a pretty glowing review for this and slapped on a "Highly Recommended" label, mainly because it managed to coalesce nearly the entire Rankin/Bass catalog into a single coherent Christmaverse and rebuild Rudolph's backstory using a mythic structure.

I'm not writing this as some sort of retraction, though upon rewatching, I do want to roll back the unconditional love we showered on it the first time around. While it accomplished everything listed above, that accounts for around fifteen minutes of its hour and thirty-seven minute run time. The rest oscillates between a series of mediocre love songs and a holiday-themed stop-motion circus show.

Obviously the main reason I want to revisit this now is to focus in on the "Christmas in July" elements we more or less skipped over the first time. Also, there are 31 days in July, we're doing our best to hold to our post-a-day commitment, an…

Book Review: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Barbara Robinson, 1972

I have been seeing this book on lists of favorite Christmas books since we started the Mainlining project. But reading the back cover blurb made it sound entirely like a cheese-fest, overly religious, or otherwise sanctimonious, so I'd been putting it off.

I have to admit, though, for an eighty-page book written for young readers, this is impressively subversive. Although, it probably seemed less so in 1972.

The plot regards a group of unruly siblings who take over the Christmas pageant in a small town. In doing so, they force the townspeople to confront the reality behind the rote recitation of the myth. This may come as close as any religious-ish story ever has of evoking actual emotion in my cold, dead soul.

The most interesting thing is the narrator. The story is told in the first person, by a young girl. Her opinions and asides add color, humor and context.

The narrator is observant enough to report on all the things th…

The Little Drummer Boy Book II (1976)

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Somehow, in year six, there are still Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas specials that we hadn't seen. I don't know how this happened either.

This one is just as boring as its predecessor, but it does have nicer animation.

It picks up where the first left off, Baby Jesus suitably entertained by Aaron and his magic drum. Aaron wants to do something more (further undermining the message of the original song) and Melchior drags him off to town to help look for some bellmaker.

Melchior looks a bit more Middle-Ages-Europe king than first-century-Damascus king to my eye. Just saying.

The bellmaker, Simeon, has been telling people that Jesus is coming, and while they haven't believed him, he has cast a set of giant silver bells in preparation.

At this point, Erin can attest that I gave the screen some incredible side-eye at the idea that they would co-opt, even just by reference, one of my favorite holiday songs for this dreck, but it never went further than that reference.

Some…

Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Holiday Chills and Thrills (2012)

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This DVD compilation includes Christmas or winter themed episodes from across the dozen or so incarnations of Scooby Doo over the years. Unfortunately, the majority are less Christmas than winter, and we already reviewed one episode, A Scooby-Doo Christmas, a few years ago. We're going to review the other two Christmas centered episodes, Haunted Holidays and The Nutcracker Scoob, on their own. That leaves ten of dubious holiday connection.

We almost didn't write these up at all, but a few included some holiday allusions or references, plus the snowy visuals were certainly evocative of Christmas. Ultimately, we decided to cover them together, along with some discussion of how each ties to the holidays, if at all.

First, though, let's talk about this "13 Spooky Tales" line. They released several of these DVD sets with different themes about the same time, each collecting ostensibly similar episodes throughout the years. In this case, even the math to get to 13 epi…

Mork & Mindy: Mork's First Christmas (1978)

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As far as I can remember, this is the first episode of Mork & Mindy I've ever seen. It was a fairly significant show in that it was Robin Williams's first major role. For better or worse, the series also paved the way for shows like Alf, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and even things like Invader Zim.

If you've never seen Mork & Mindy, the series is a bizarre spin-off of a character who appeared in what was originally a dream episode of Happy Days. Mork is an alien who's come to Earth to observe humanity, and the vast majority of jokes concern his odd behavior and misunderstandings of our nature and customs.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Christmas episode was probably fairly representative of the first season of the show (my understanding is that it transformed pretty dramatically from season to season in an attempt to hold ratings). The episode opens with Mork initially mistaking Christmas for some sort of contagion. They run with this joke for a minu…

The Partridge Family: Don’t Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa (1971)

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Oh man, The Partridge Family. I’ve had sort of a lingering urge to see The Partridge Family again since Shirley Jones appeared in style on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me last year.



I hope you enjoyed that, because this episode was not what I would call a winner. If you’re blissfully unaware, The Partridge Family was a sitcom about a single mother with five kids who become a traveling musical act to support their family. So the episode opens with, what else, a song. And it’s not bad. I mean, none of the people on film are singing, but the song is just a corny 70’s pop version of a holiday tune.

The family packs up after this gig and is headed home for Christmas. In an unlikely turn of events, their bus breaks down in a Hollywood backlot. Sorry, I meant a ghost town, complete with one picturesque local living alone with a donkey.

The donkey’s only in one scene. Maybe his agent was a good negotiator.

So they can’t get help, and the old guy invites the mom and young kids inside while the ol…

Raggedy Ann and Andy in The Great Santa Claus Caper (1978)

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Okay, I had no memory of ever having seen this, but it was very familiar by the end, which makes me think I must have seen it at some point. In the annals of Christmas TV Specials, there’s a reason this one doesn’t make the list of classics. However, there are bits that are clever, and it’s nice and short.

The special opens by introducing us to our villain, Alexander Graham Wolf, aka Big Bad. He’s got some sort of weird plan involving the North Pole and Santa, and it’s all very unclear. It’s clear enough, though, to reindeer Comet, who zips off for reinforcements to save Christmas. Since she can’t carry anything too heavy, Comet chooses two rag dolls and a rag doll dog for her helpers. Not the smartest member of the team, our Comet.

They get back to the North Pole to investigate. Santa and company have all gone to bed (at like six hours to Christmas! This was the most unbelievable part of this for me), so Wolfy has free run of the workshop. He sets up a giant expanding machine-

I thi…

The Six Million Dollar Man: A Bionic Christmas Carol (1976)

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Let's say you're a TV producer in the 1970's, and you're holding the rights to a science-fiction/spy thriller novel you want to adapt for television. Do you go with the original title of the work, "Cyborg," or do you name it "The Six Million Dollar Man?"

That, in a nutshell, is why most TV sucked in the 1970's.

This episode opens the day before Christmas. Steve Austin, the Cyborg Six Million Dollar Man, is sent on a mission to investigate possible sabotage at a company contracted to develop gear necessary for a mission to Mars.

Just so no one gets any ideas, no on goes to Mars in this episode. That probably would have been cool.

The company's problems, surprisingly, aren't due to sabotage. Instead, they're caused by the owner's adherence to the absolute minimums specified by the contract.

Also, he's Scrooge. His name is changed to Budge, but he's clearly Scrooge. He even lives in a mansion built to resemble every version…