Holiday TV specials inspire nostalgia, teach about love, war

Note: This column appears in the 11/24 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/26 issue of the Peoria Times

Television is a big part of my annual holiday experience.

For me, much of the nostalgia that surrounds this season revolves around movies and specials that I continue to watch on TV, even if those movies/specials have nothing to do with the holiday itself. For example, this Thanksgiving I will be greatly upset if I do not see two movies that have come to define this holiday: the original Willy Wonka and Home Alone. The former aired for whatever reason during a few Thanksgivings of yore, and I steadfastly continue to search for it on TV each year, even though I don’t really like the movie and find it bizarre and disturbing. The latter traditionally airs every Thanksgiving night, and I will not be able to sleep unless I see Joe Pesci fall and hurt himself 80 times. Again.

This week will also unleash the flood of Christmas specials, few being as special as A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is by far the best Peanuts special ever. (A close second being the one where they all went to France. Remember that one? No? Whatever.) It has, however, been tarnished in recent years by CBS’ decision to air a more contemporary Peanuts special afterwards, with slightly different voices and more nonsensical yet not-as-endearing plotlines. (They did this with Frosty, too.) But it’s still worth it.

(Speaking of nonsensical—I could never quite figure out the drawn-out sequence of Snoopy being a WWII fighter pilot. What is that all about? Where does it fit in? I do not understand.)

I am not one of those people, however, who cling to the oldies while ignoring the new stuff. In fact, a more recent holiday obsession of mine involves Lifetime holiday movies, which are all spectacularly bad in a great kind of way. They all have the same exact plot and simply feature different sitcom castoffs. Two years ago we watched a Lifetime special that featured Uncle Joey from Full House, except in the movie he despised kids, until those very kids showed him the true meaning of Christmas. It was terrible, and I have been desperately searching for it ever since.

The truly great ones hold a special place in my heart though. As a family, we used to sit together on Christmas Eve and watch my parents’ favorite version of A Christmas Carol on TV—the one starring Alastair Sim from 1951. I too believe that no version is better. Until, of course, Lifetime premieres its own version starring Tony Danza and Delta Burke.

The night before Thanksgiving this year—tomorrow night!—we have plans to watch a few new holiday specials with our daughter. Maybe one day A Madagascar Christmas will be her Charlie Brown. Though I hope she likes Charlie Brown too, if only because it’s her parents favorite.

When she develops her sense of irony, we will introduce her to Lifetime. In the meantime, the crime, violence, and terrible parenting portrayed in Home Alone should do.

Happy Thanksgiving.

This is going to be the chocolatiest Thanksgiving ever!


Lisa said…
Willy Wonka is the best and not scary at all!!
mkenny59 said…
I used to have nightmares about floating into a propeller in a giant wind canister, and turning purple and self-combusting. Plus orange little people dressed like clowns? No -- not scary at all.
Lisa Ramos said…
"What are you running here Wonka, some sort of fun house?"

This movie is #1 on my list of movies I loved as a child.

Maybe if you were bad like Veruca Salt or Violet Beauregarde then perhaps that might seep into your nightmares.

I slept well with the Charlie Bucket dream in my head.

But just as an aside, the part about the fizzy lifting drinks was my least favorite