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The Christmas Special Christmas Special (2004)



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Billy Ingram ...


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14 December 2004 (USA)  »

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The film gives the impression that Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" did not become a television tradition until the 1951 Alastair Sim version became popular among viewers. There had been versions of "A Christmas Carol" on television shown regularly since 1947. See more »


Features A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) See more »

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One of the most ill-informed and snide Christmas specials I've ever seen
19 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As a general summary of Christmas specials over the years, this program is useful. However, it is only as one begins to look more closely at it that one begins to see how sloppily the research for it has been done, and what contempt those who made it have for the so-called "highbrow" Christmas specials.

Everything is fine as long as comedy and variety specials of the seasons are covered, but as soon as the program begins to delve into specialized areas, it gets into trouble. As an example, one section covers the "English Christmas" as transplanted to America, citing the classic 1951 film "Scrooge" (starring Alastair Sim) as the prototype for all the other Scrooge-influenced specials that followed. Evidently, the makers of this special were totally unaware that Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (on which the film "Scrooge" is based) has been a television staple since as far back as 1947, four years before the Alastair Sim film was made, and that during the 1960's, the most frequently seen version of the story was the 1938 M-G-M film version. The 1951 production, now considered the finest film treatment of the story ever made, did not begin to appear regularly on TV until 1970, by which time such famous Scrooge-influenced specials as "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" had already become established television classics. It boggles the mind that this easily verifiable information was not checked out by the makers of this so-called documentary.

Even more offensive is their dismissive attitude of another Christmas program that was once a television staple, Gian-Carlo Menotti's one-hour opera, "Amahl and the Night Visitors". We hear the commentator smugly call it "the first - and very likely the last - opera written for television" (which, incidentally, it is not). There follows a smug commentary from one of the many "talking heads" interviewed: "Three little words describing why this never became a Christmas classic: it's

  • an - opera!" Obviously this gentleman has not done his research, or
he would have known that "Amahl" was a Christmas television fixture for more than fourteen years, shown annually between 1951 and 1965, revived briefly in 1978, and produced for television again as recently as 2002 (the 2002 version was televised in England, but not, as yet, in the U.S.). It is the changing and increasingly lowbrow tastes of the public, as well as the poor condition of the 1978 film version of "Amahl", that have prevented its showing in recent years.

And as for the many telecasts of "The Nutcracker" that have sprung up since about 1965, this program completely ignores them, and blatantly offers the observation that "cultural" programs on TV have far less of a chance to become Christmas classics than such items as "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "Frosty the Snowman", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

While that last observation may be true, it is not the truth of it that offends, but the way the makers of "A Christmas Special Christmas Special" seem to endorse it. They seem to be saying, "Highbrow stuff is for the birds", and that is what is so obnoxious about this show. There is certainly a place for the animated specials, and lest anybody think I don't like them, I enjoy "The Grinch", "Charlie Brown", and "Rudolph" as much as anybody; in fact, I think "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is the greatest animated Christmas special ever made, and I never miss it when it is shown. But there is also plenty of room for the so-called "highbrow" specials.

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