The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show: Gracie's Relatives (1951)

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show was a 1950's sitcom. It seams to fall within fairly common parameters for the time: the comedy is primarily built around one character being shockingly oblivious to their surroundings and misinterpreting even the most common of phrases. Grace Allen is the proverbial screwball here, while her husband, George Burns, plays the straight man. Despite being an old joke, the writing was surprisingly clever. On top of that, Burns and Allen were great on screen. In particular, George Burns had an astonishing amount of presence. He served as narrator in addition to star, and he commanded attention. The plot of this episode was pretty straightforward: it revolved around Gracie's sister and her three children coming to visit for Christmas. Needless to say, hijinks ensue.  One of the more bizarre artifacts was product placement for Carnation Evaporated Milk. I say "product placement," but that's a misnomer: it was really

Fiction: Lights on the Roof

For day four of 25 Christmas Eves, I've got another science fiction piece for you. Hope you like it. By: Erin L. Snyder Christmas Eve, 1954 Brian Wicks lay in bed with a candy cane dangling out of his mouth like a cigar and an issue of Captain Marvel clutched tight in his hands. Sure, it was dark, but the multi-colored glow from the lights dangling right beneath his window was more than enough to make out the words, though his mom would have thrown a fit if she knew. “You’ll go blind!” she’d have hollered. “Blind for Christmas!” Of course, she’d have been far more upset if she knew about the candy he’d snuck into bed. “Rot your teeth out! What’s Santa gonna bring you then? Dentures?” But what his mom didn’t know wouldn’t hurt either of them. Well, unless his teeth really did fall out or that blindness-thing was actually true. But Brian had heard enough of his mom’s stories to dismiss the lot of them out of hand. Besides, if there was one night of the year he should

Dragnet Holiday Episodes (1952, 1953, 1954)

Oh man, I like this show. I haven’t actually seen too many of these original black-and-white episodes, but I really enjoyed these. I like the writing, the little flashes of wit, and the straightforward style with a minimum of fuss or drama. Once you are used to the deadpan style, I think it makes the subtle moments of action or drama really resonate. Dragnet’s not to everyone’s taste, but they’re solid, well-produced, cleverly scripted stories. Dragnet: The Big Little Jesus (1953) The first one we watched was also the most religious. And yet, except for maybe a split second here or there, it didn’t bother me. Sergeant Friday and his partner Smith investigate the theft of a Baby Jesus statue from a church. This is a sweet episode, clearly playing on the holiday themes. Everything turns out fine in the end, while it has enough of Friday’s dry-as-can-be wit to keep me interested and amused. Dragnet: The Big .22 Rifle for Christmas (1952) This is a well known episode, because they

Musical Interlude, Part 1

Oh, what a long, strange year it's been. Lindsay and I now find ourselves in a new city and a new time zone. And, thanks to a ridiculous number of clearanced CDs we found used and a few targeted purchases from Amazon, we've got a healthy serving of new Christmas music. At the time I'm writing this, my playlist of new music includes approximately 1000 songs (an exact count would be extremely difficult, since there are likely duplicates appearing on various compilations). Keep in mind this is in addition to the music we had last year - all told, we're now over 2,000 tracks of holiday cheer. Last year, I went through my music collection alphabetically by song to make sure I got to experience the love and joy inherent to each and every one of those goddamn songs. Ah, the memories. This year, I thought I'd try something a bit different and try to go through the new music album by album. This... might take a while. Album: An American Christmas Artist: Folk Like

Book Review: The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas

The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas Madeline L’Engle, 1984 Premise: Vicky Austin is always excited in December, but there’s a lot more to be excited about this year, since she’s been cast as an angel in the Christmas Pageant, although her Mother is very pregnant, and who knows whether she’ll be home for Christmas! This little short story was.... fine. Cute, even. It’s all from little Vicky’s perspective, so the drama is very small and the solutions are very black-and-white. Oh, no! Mommy might be in the hospital over Christmas! Oh, now she’s being sensibly reassured. Oh no! Vicky is too clumsy to be an angel! Oh, Mom just taught her how to walk with a book on her head, so she’ll be fine. Well, good thing there wasn’t any tension. The title alludes to the Austin family’s habit of doing something “special” every day leading up to Christmas. However, since some of those “special” things are as simple as opening Christmas cards and there isn’t even a list of all the activities for ki

Fiction: Mistletoe

Day three of "25 Christmas Eves" appears below. Every day between the 1st and 25th of December, I'm posting new genre fiction. Today's is a short piece entitled, "Mistletoe." By: Erin L. Snyder It’s bitter cold, but that doesn’t stop Patty from staking out the door, mug of eggnog in hand, to greet each new arrival as they enter. Wendel’s the next to show up, gift clutched tightly (yet another bottle of wine, wrapped in metallic green foil), and he practically runs into Patty, who stops him with a wry smile. “Wendel,” she says pointing upward. “Mistletoe.” She grabs his tie and pulls him into a kiss tasting of sweetened alcohol, sugar cookies, swedish meatballs (courtesy of Beth, who’s been eying Patty’s greetings, and may have just mouthed something uncomplimentary beneath her breath about her former roommate), candy canes, and a single bite of Jacob’s fruit cake that Patty had indulged in “just to see if it’s really as bad as they say” (much to he

Paddington: Christmas (1975)

Oh. Oh wow! I forgot all about this show, but it all came rushing back at the first notes of the opening music. This is a holiday-themed short based on the Paddington books. I love Paddington, and I especially love this Paddington. There’s a dry British wit at play here, as well as copious amounts of charm. The animation is the real star, though. Paddington himself is a three dimensional stop-motion bear, and some of the things he interacts with are three dimensional, but all the people and the backgrounds are two-dimensional cut outs. The use of color is very deliberate, and all the voices are done by the same narrator. In all, it’s very evocative of reading a picture book. The story of this particular short is just a straightforward account of Paddington’s experience with Christmas, with little jokes about his gifts and special note of all the tasty food. It’s sweet, and amusing, and well worth tracking down just for the unique style. Here, it’s only five minutes: http://ww