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Favorite Christmas Episodes

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Gary OS, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    And continuing with lower tier stuff. Three sitcoms and two rather dark cop episodes for contrast.

    The Bill Cosby Show, S1-"Christmas Ballad"
    -I hadn't looked at an episode of this show in so long it was before the fall of B.C. I find that I can handle him without self-consciousness in this and "I Spy" but never again in Fat Albert and Dr. Huxtable. At any rate, it is a decent Christmas show of him coaxing a bitter man (Rex Ingram) into being Santa Claus for kids at an orphanage.

    The Donna Reed Show, S1-"A Very Merry Christmas"
    -Buster Keaton guest stars, and also ends up getting roped into being Santa for the kids. It's a reminder of what a familiar sitcom device this was for Christmas shows, but so long as the execution is good, the cliche can at least be pleasant watching. Some reverent carol singing at the end also provides a nice reminder of how the powers that be back then understood that it was very realistic to show people taking a moment to remember the sacred side of the holiday (and not some gesture of weakness or pandering as certain parties who shall remain nameless might suggest).

    Taxi, S1-"A Full House For Christmas"
    -Obviously by the late 70s times and tones had changed, but at least we hear a talented kids chorus come into the garage doing an up-tempo "Joy To The World". Louie's successful poker playing brother from Vegas shows up but doesn't want to spend time with their mother so Louie makes Alex play him for a big stakes game that will force him into taking their mother on a trip to Vegas for three weeks.

    And on the heavier side.

    The Untouchables, S4-"The Night They Shot Santa Claus"
    -I was honestly unaware of this show for years until the previous post. I've never been much of a fan of this show (I bought it when it came out more to support vintage releases and because I was more of a "buy every old title" person then) and this one doesn't help its reputation. The producers wisely didn't air it at Christmas, but made it the season opener because it's a very depressing, violent filled episode from the get-go (as we see a Santa gunned down while two kids are watching) with a double-downer ending no-less. There is the novelty of an early Edward Asner appearance and Grace Lee Whitney with darker than usual hair but playing one of her typical showgirl-hooker parts that she was largely known for before she became Yeoman Rand. I don't recommend this one.

    Kojak, S3-"How Cruel The Frost, How Bright The Stars."
    -Christmas in the declining New York of the 70s shows two different storylines in the episode. Nothing particularly uplifting in it but it's a typically solid Kojak drama. Probably the most interesting part of the episode is three future 80s TV stars in small back-end-of-credits parts. Veronica Hamel as Kojak's stood-up date (unconvincing as a fellow Greek), John Larroquette as a naive sailor and Edward James Olmos as a bartender.


    Also broke out my first two vintage Christmas specials.

    Christmas In Washington-12/13/82 (NBC)
    -This was the first in what became an annual tradition for 30 years with a musical special at the National Building Museum in Washington featuring that always had the President attending and giving some closing remarks (as well as a look at the White House at Christmas by the First Lady). I first saw this annual special in 1984 and recorded it for years. It took me decades to find a copy of the 1983 special and only this past year did I finally find the very first one. Musical guests are Dinah Shore, Ben Vereen, Debby Boone and the US Naval Academy Glee Club (who would be part of this for almost the entire 30 years) and the Shiloh Gospel Choir of Washington. Roger Mudd, by this point an NBC co-anchor, reads the famous, "Yes, Virginia" editorial and we even get Eric Sevareid recalling Christmas in 1941. President Reagan in addition to his closing remarks is shown reading to children, "One Solitary Life."

    Perry Como Kraft Music Hall-12/21/60 (NBC)
    -Found this just the other day on the Chicago MBC website. Perry's Christmas shows had a tradition of bringing out the children of production people (the Christmas episode of the "Dick Van Dyke Show" specifically references this). Notable about this is the real Virginia O'Hanlon appears to read her famous letter and Chet Huntley delivers the editorial (and when leaving to say goodbye to Perry says, "Goodnight, David" and in the process reminds me of how IMPOSSIBLE it is for me to envision David Brinkley ever doing a recitation of that editorial since he would have made it sound like a smart-aleck type of rebuke!)
     
  2. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    I'm definitely with you on both scores, Jack. I can still handle Cosby on I SPY because according to allegations it was still before any of his monstrous behavior started, but after that he's really persona non grata for me. I always wonder what Robert Culp would have thought of his good friend's reprehensible behavior had he lived long enough to find out about it.

    As for THE UNTOUCHABLES "Christmas episode," I watched it once and will never watch it again. By far, the absolute WORST Christmas show I have ever seen. No, I don't expect all of them to be peace on Earth, good will toward men, but come on, this one goes out of its way to be nasty for no other reason than just to be nasty. No doubt, there are people like these characters and their situations in real life, particularly in Chicago during the violent Prohibition years, but it has no redeeming features whatsoever and that's not to me what Christmas or life is all about. I can handle a lot of depressing subject matter if it has a reason for being other than to just be explicitly and superficially downbeat (for instance the Italian film SALO which is as depressing as it ever gets, but has brilliance in its ideas). That UNTOUCHABLES episode for me had nothing going on besides just TRYING to be ugly and tragic. None of it added up to anything else as far as I was concerned. I echo my friend Jack's conclusion: NOT RECOMMENDED!
     
  3. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    @Gary OS and the rest of our vintage experts - is there by chance a compilation disc or two of various Christmas themed episodes of 50s/early 60s TV shows? Doesn’t necessarily have to be A-list material, I’m thinking about what I can enjoy as background watching the day of, or as little before bedtime treats in the days and weeks leading up to the holiday. (Rest assured I have the Shout Factory Ozzie and Harriet Christmas set on order.)
     
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  4. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    Josh, this is really a nice collection of Christmas episodes from the eras you are interested in. Vintage sitcoms and 30 minute dramas with a great variety of holiday themed stories. Being a Mill Creek set of public domain material, the technical quality is not always so great, but I found most of the shows to be at least watchable. There are also some goofs, like including an episode of RACKET SQUAD that has nothing to do with Christmas, but on the whole it's a nice sampler and well worth the price.

    https://smile.amazon.com/Holiday-TV-Classics-Classic-Episodes/dp/B00198PJNA/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=mill+creek+christmas+episodes&qid=1575547620&s=movies-tv&sr=1-8
    [​IMG]
     
  5. MartinP.

    MartinP. Screenwriter

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    ^^^

    I have that collection that someone gave me once and I agree with Glen's assessment. Some series have more than one episode. There's three Jack Benny and five Ozzie & Harriet, for example. There's a smattering of Thanksgiving and New Year's episodes, too.

    I'd never seen Liberace's shows from the fifties. I've always heard housewives liked watching his show and I can see why. He's always close to the camera talking directly at you. Maybe lonely (?) housewives liked that. Still...I find it kinda creepy!

    Now I'm going to defend this Untouchables episode. What were you expecting? It's an episode of THE UNTOUCHABLES. I can see how one looking for endearing, nostalgic or uplifting Christmas themed shows and choose to watch this out of context might very well find it not what they were looking for, but like I said, it's an episode of THE UNTOUCHABLES. It's story is in keeping with the rest of the series and what it deals with. Yes, if one isn't familiar with the series you might be off guard watching this one as your introduction to it, especially if you're perusing Christmas themed television, but in context of the series itself, I like the episode.

    One of the children mentioned above in the episode is a very young Butch Patrick (The Munsters) and it guest stars Nita Talbot. There's also an actress in it that very much resembles Marion Lorne, which is disconcerting! Heh! Yes, a lot of this episode is hard-edged and cynical. Sometimes the series could be formulaic and I actually appreciate this one as it's anything but. So yeah...you might not appreciate it looking for something to watch at Christmas, but I recommend it as an episode of THE UNTOUCHABLES.
     
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  6. JohnHopper

    JohnHopper Screenwriter

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  7. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    My only postscript on the Untouchables is that if it weren't for the double-whammy bad ending, I would have accepted it in the tradition of the "Kojak" and "Naked City" episodes I've seen.

    Anyway, going from the sublime to the (wonderfully) ridiculous, I had forgotten that "Car 54, Where Are You?" did an even better Christmas episode in S2, "Stop Thief" and it is my pick for the *funniest* Christmas episode I have seen from the standpoint of comedy writing. We start in a scene of a TV cop show rehearsing and the director (a clean shaven Roger C. Carmel) notices the actor for an inspector part is missing so he tells a production man (Dan Frazer, who was later Kojak's boss Captain McNeill) to call an actor on short notice telling him they're filming at the 31st Precinct on 53rd Street, but the actor mixes it up and goes to the 53rd precinct. When he arrives and realizes the mixup and waits for a cab, the actor "Inspector" asks Captain Block to rehearse his scene with him in which the Captain reads the lines of a cop who has been nabbed for being a kleptomaniac. Toody and Muldoon, not realizing the "inspector" is an actor outside the door overhear the dialogue, think it's real and that the Captain has confessed to being a kleptomaniac!

    That sets up a scene that puts me on the floor completely. Muldoon suggests that maybe it's not true because in ten years, they've never seen anything go missing from the station, and that leads Gunther Toody to say that just shows how clever he is because according to Toody a clever thief avoids getting caught by not stealing, ever! Which leads to this priceless reaction from Muldoon.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Message #708 of 884 Dec 5, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
    Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Josh, there are several Christmas compilation sets around that I'd recommend. The one Glen mentioned gives you, by far, the most bang for your bucks. The video quality is lacking, but there are some fine examples of lesser known Yuletide episodes from 50's and 60's TV. If you pick that set up I'd personally recommend the following episodes as ranging from good to very good: the aforementioned Ozzie & Harriet episodes, Annie Oakley, The Beverly Hillbillies, Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, Dragnet, Jack Benny, and Petticoat Junction. There are many other solid episodes as well, but these I find particularly enjoyable. Some of these can be seen in better quality on different sets.

    I'd also recommend these sets:

    CBS Holiday 2-Pack - Gives you solid quality on classic episodes from I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, TAGS, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties, The Lucy Show, The Odd Couple, another Beverly Hillbillies episode, and better quality on Petticoat Junction. Unfortunately, as was mentioned previously, the classic 2nd season Happy Days Christmas episode was not included, and the terrible 4th season episode was inserted instead. Why I have no idea.

    Merry Sitcom - This set is a must for the following shows: Father Knows Best, Bewitched, and The Donna Reed Show. Has some others as well, but those 3 are true classics.

    Classic TV Christmas Collection - A bit more pricey, but if you like Dr Kildare, CHiPs, and Eight is Enough it's worth it. Admittedly, the best Dr Kildare Christmas episode was not included on this set (the classic of all classic Christmas episodes - 'Season to be Jolly' - from the 1st Season of that show), but the 4th season offering on this set is fair.

    As for the so-called Christmas episode from The Untouchables, I have to agree 100% with Jack and Glen's thoughts. It's truly horrible and gets the lowest rating I could give it. Avoid it like the plague.

    Last night my family shamed me into watching The Addam's Family and Charles in Charge (the 3rd season episode, which was a step up from the 1st season one). Neither are bad by any stretch. Both are typical and warmhearted, so I shouldn't complain. A person could do much worse in terms of holiday viewing.

    Gary "I'll be watching more tonight as I really begin to get rolling" O.
     
  9. Message #709 of 884 Dec 5, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
    Gary OS

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    It is a nice page, but my one qualm with it is that it lists a few episodes that really don't qualify as true Christmas outings. Such as Leave it to Beaver (oh, that it had a real holiday episode!), Cimarron City, The Texan, and The Wild, Wild West. It's also missing quite a few that were Christmas episodes.

    Gary " less than 3 weeks till Christmas!!!" O.
     
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  10. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    I agree on your point about The Untouchables versus Kojak and Naked City. It was just so downbeat at the end that there wasn't one scene in it I could say was even slightly warm, redeeming or in keeping with the season.

    Also agree that the 2nd season Christmas episode from Car 54 was much better than the 1st season one.

    Gary "great points all around fellow Christmas TV watchers" O.
     
  11. Message #711 of 884 Dec 6, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
    Professor Echo

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    Martin, you're right. Had it not been a Christmas themed episode or at least had I not watched it during the Christmas season, I might have appreciated it more. THE UNTOUCHABLES is by and large a solid series, but I do think they could be gratuitous on occasion and the more notoriety they got for it at the time (which they did!) the higher the ratings, which only increased the excess. Also, if one is familiar with the true events of that time, which I have studied and written about extensively, it doesn't have much reality to it, but it's not supposed to be a documentary so a certain amount of artistic license is fine.

    There are definitely serious Christmas episodes, like the aforementioned NAKED CITY, KOJAK and a particular favorite of mine, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, that I do enjoy so it's certainly not just about bells jingling, hahaha.

    EDIT TO ADD: Lest anyone think I’m TOO sentimental about holidays, my annual watch on Valentine’s Day is Roger Corman’s superb 1967 film, THE ST. VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE. Much to the chagrin of my girlfriend!
     
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  12. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Well stated, Glen.
     
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  13. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Knight Rider, S2-"Silent Knight"
    -I watched this and one other KR episode (the first Ann Turkel one) since it had been a long time since I'd seen one. I watched this show regularly when I was a young teen and I always liked the second season (with Rebecca Holden) best but both episodes gave me a reminder of why this and a LOT of early to mid-80s shows don't age well and one reason in particular (though this applies more to the Turkel episode and not this Christmas one) is that anytime computers, video games etc. are involved the dated aspects of the production stick out even worse than 70s fashion does on a 70s show. It reminds me why even though the 80s was the last decade I gorged on first-run network TV, I have little nostalgia for 80s shows in terms of rewatch etc. (my one 80s unreleased grail title is "Crazy Like A Fox" with Jack Warden and John Rubinstein). Anyway, the episode itself is typical KR of Michael must help someone in distress, in this case a gypsy kid in a small town who sees bank robbers after they've ditched their masks (though it doesn't make sense for the robbers to stay around town to try and bully the kid's older sister into revealing where he is, because hey, can't SHE now identify them???).

    Happy Days, S2-"Guess Who's Coming To Christmas?"
    -One of the best 70s Christmas episodes. This was also the last time Chuck Cunningham appeared before he became conveniently forgotten for the rest of the run!

    West Point-"Christmas Present"
    -An episode of the one season 50s syndicated series. Par for the course in general. Jack Webb's second wife Jackie Loughery appears in this as the object of attention between a Plebe cadet and an upper classman during the Christmas break period.

    Christmas In Washington-1983 (NBC)
    -The second in this annual tradition is the first when this special locked itself into a traditional format that would endure for the next decade. The Naval Academy Glee Club would open with a "Christmas In Washington" song written for this special, and then we would get a structured format of musical performances with an opening medley (the lighter secular carols), a brief look at Christmas in the White House, specialized performances, a closing medley (more sacred carols in the closing medley), closing remarks by the President and finally a group performance of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". Guests this year, Andy Williams, Leslie Uggams, Julio Iglesias.
     
  14. Message #714 of 884 Dec 7, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
    Jeff Flugel

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    Similar to Glenn, I started off with a little post-Thanksgiving viewing, and finally launched into Christmas TV watching, with the following sitcoms:

    The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet
    - 1.9 "Day After Thanksgiving"
    This was my first time watching a complete episode of this seminal family sitcom, and I thought it was pretty great, in its own unassuming way. Afterwards, I watched some of a Biography profile on the Nelson family, and host Peter Graves compared this show to Seinfeld, as in both were essentially about nothing, just little random amusing slices of life, and no real plot to speak of. I don't care for Seinfeld, but I think I'm going to like this show a heck of a lot.

    At any rate, as the title says, it's the day after Thanksgiving, and Ozzie has had his fill of turkey and isn't interested in any leftovers...or is he? Harriet and little scene-stealer Ricky get in some good zingers, but it's Ozzie who holds center stage here, as he grows increasingly fixated on getting some turkey leftovers as the episode progresses...all kicked off by neighbor Don DeFore sticking a half-eaten turkey leg in his face several times. I enjoyed this episode very much and will be watching more soon. I don't have the Alpha Video Ozzie & Harriet Christmas 8 episode set (are the transfers on it any good?), but hopefully will be able to find some good Christmas episodes on YouTube.

    McHale's Navy
    - 1.11 "The Day They Captured Santa"
    Started off my Christmas TV viewing with this seasonal outing from my Merry Sitcom DVD sampler. McHale and company run into trouble when their annual visit to bring toys and turkey dinners to an orphanage on a nearby island coincides with a Japanese landing party taking them captive. Even by McHale standards, this is pretty broad stuff, but amusing enough, if you can look past the iffy caricatures of the Japanese soldiers. The actors, all seasoned pros, help carry it over the goofy spots. Don't think this one will be joining the "watch every Christmas season" list, but I wouldn't be averse to watching it again in several years' time, either.
     
  15. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Something weird going on, Jack. I watched those 2 as well night before last. Since you've described them well, I'll not bother going over that again. I'd give the Knight Rider episode, just barely, a Not Recommended rating. The plot was fine in the tradition of that type of 80's show, but it didn't emphasize Christmas enough to really qualify for recommended viewing in my book. West Point I'd give, again just barely, a Recommended rating. A tad more Christmas feeling in it. But both were right on the edge.

    I came very close to pulling out the McHale's Navy episode night before last as well, Jeff. I'll probably give it a spin in the next day or two. I know it well enough and do give it a solid Recommended rating.

    Gary "watched several episodes last night - mostly animation - and will get to those later today" O.
     
  16. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Watched some classic Animation Christmas last night.

    Looney Tunes: Tweety & Sylvester - "Gift Wrapped" has cat after bird, dog after cat, and Granny after both dog and cat. Typical stuff, but with a Yuletide backdrop. Recommended

    Tom & Jerry – “The Night Before Christmas” is one of my favorites. The atmosphere in this style of animation is fantastic. The colors are vibrant, and it’s chock-full of everything Christmas. It even has a typically sentimental ending that works well. This one is Highly Recommended

    Popeye – “Seasons Greetinks” has the usual hijinks with Popeye and Olive doing some ice skating on a frozen lake. Of course Bluto arrives and creates havoc. Not a strictly Christmas episode, but it’s framed around that time of year and does mention the season. Recommended

    Jetsons – “A Jetson Christmas Carol” was created during the 2nd season of the show which ran in 1985. I vastly prefer the 1st season of the show from the early 60’s and wonder how different a holiday episode might have been. This one uses, as the title suggests, the Christmas Carol motif with Mr Spacely playing Scrooge. A swing and a miss for me. Not Recommended

    Batman:TAS – “Christmas with the Joker” is a solid entry into the DC Animated universe. I love this series (best version of Batman ever in any film/TV form). Involves Batman and Robin trying to settle into spending Christmas Eve at home watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” only to have the Joker break out of Arkham Asylum and take Commissioner Gordon and others hostage. Mark Hamill is the definitive Joker in my book. Highly Recommended


    Gary “I still have several more animated TV episodes and specials to watch, but this was a nice start” O.
     
  17. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    As an aside, I just saw a commercial for ABC’s Prime Time lineup this coming Tuesday night. They were advertising all Christmas episodes. It was absolutely horrid. None of the four episodes they were pimping looked good. Thank goodness for TV on DVD!!!

    Gary “Christmas ain’t what it used to be on television anymore, that’s for sure” O.
     
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  18. Purple Wig

    Purple Wig Stunt Coordinator

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    For some reason Ebay gave me $5 credit free and I used it to buy this, postpaid. Looking forward to some great viewing.
     
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  19. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Three lites and a semi-"big" one.

    McHale's Navy, S1-"The Day They Captured Santa."
    -To my embarrassment, I have *never* seen this since the original Shout release and had forgotten all about it as an episode for Christmas rotation so this was more a first for me! Yes, the Japanese soldier caricatures are broad but hey, it's not Vito Scotti in "Gilligan's Island"! (In fact it's hilarious to see their major be a Binghamton like counterpart). At any rate, a good one, though not as funny as "Car 54" S2.

    Bewitched, S1-"A Vision of Sugar Plums"
    -Hadn't seen this in a few years since "Bewitched" is not one of my favorite sitcoms, but at least this is an Endora free episode and unlike most other "Bewitched" episodes is more genuinely situation-driven.

    Gilligan's Island, S1-"Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk"
    -Re-editing the unaired pilot so it could be used in this Christmas time episode turned out to be a good move since there are some funny moments, and the Santa Claus tag is priceless.

    A Christmas Carol (1971)
    -The Richard Williams animated version with Alistair Sim and Michael Hordern reprising their roles from the 1951 classic. The animation is magnificent and the only thing wrong is that it's only 25 minutes. What we see is beautifully done and there's a moment from Dickens original that's never been done in any other adaptation I've seen where Christmas Present takes Scrooge out to a lighthouse and a ship at sea to see the Christmas spirit in full-force.
     
  20. Message #720 of 884 Dec 8, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
    Jeff Flugel

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    David Nixon's Christmas Magic, which aired on Thames Television on Christmas Day, 1974. I had never heard of David Nixon, but since Network released some of his work on DVD, I've become a fan. He was one of those classic all-round entertainers, who could sing, dance, tell jokes, and perform magic, while playing the avuncular host and making it all look effortless. This is a very pleasant special, with Nixon performing several neat magic tricks, with some interesting guests, including comedienne Aimi MacDonald (who does a sort of Brit version of blonde, Goldie Hawn ditz), singer/songwriter Lynsey de Paul, illusionist Robert Harbin, and Shari Lewis, who does two funny skits with her sock puppets, Lamb Chop and Hush Puppy (and even dances with the latter, all the while never moving her lips).

    There's another Christmas special (from 1975) on the DVD, which I'll be checking out later this week. Good stuff, the kind of variety show not made any more.

     
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