• Christmas Season Means Return of Family Favorites

    by  • December 12, 2016 • Broadcast Decency, Family Friendly, Movies, Television • 12 Comments


    A compendium of classic holiday programs – and where to find them.

    Note: each of the following Christmas specials can be ordered direct from Amazon by clicking on the links below.  If you make an order, log-in to the smile.Amazon program  here and a percentage of the purchase price of any item you order from Amazon.com will be gifted to the Parents Television Council.

    From the beginning of television in America, Christmas has been a time of special, holiday-themed programming. In this article, we pay tribute to the many beloved specials which have become classics, and which for many are synonymous with “Christmas.”

    Heading any list of holiday favorites must be the animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Memorably directed by top Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones and narrated by horror icon Boris Karloff (who also did the speaking voice of the Grinch), and with the unforgettable song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, this tale of the Christmas-hating monster whose “heart was two sizes too small” – the best retelling of the Christmas tale. (In our opinion, the 2000 live-action version starring Jim Carrey is to be avoided.)

    Equal in stature is the first – and still the best – of the many cartoons bringing the Peanuts crew to television. A Charlie Brown Christmas still has power to charm with its affirmation of eternal truths in the face of over-commercialization. When Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas (an explanation which the network opposed, but upon which Peanuts creator Charles Schulz insisted), and the children sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” the heart still throbs.

    To children and adults of several generations, the name “Rankin-Bass” is practically synonymous with “Christmas.” Whether it’s Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, and Hermie the would-be dentist elf’s adventures with the Abominable Snow Monster and the Island of Misfit Toys in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Kris Kringle’s origins and conflict with Burgermeister Meisterburger in Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town; the rivalry between Heat Miser and Snow Miser in The Year Without a Santa Claus; or the march of the children down the main street of town, led by Frosty the Snowman, these Rankin-Bass specials are favorites all.  Nor can we forget the R-B special that poignantly details the ORIGINAL true meaning of Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy.

    Charles Dickens’ beloved tale A Christmas Carol has been adapted many times in film and TV – including versions starring Mickey Mouse, Mister Magoo, The Muppets, The Flintstones, The Smurfs, and even comic impressionist Rich Little. But there have also been many “straight” adaptations of the classic story. Among the most acclaimed and popular dramatic renderings have been those starring Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart. Also available are musical versions starring Kelsey Grammer and The Stingiest Man in Town, starring Basil Rathbone. Finally, an animated version using performance-capture techniques starring Jim Carrey was released by Disney in 2009.

    There are also many theatrical movies which predate television, but which, due to their frequent play on TV during the holiday season, continue to delight old viewers and newcomers alike. The champion of such films must be Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, in which Jimmy Stewart learns what the world would have been like had he never been born. Another favorite is the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street, a saga of a department-store Santa who goes to court to prove he is the real Santa Claus. And a more recent addition to the ranks of classic holiday films is A Christmas Story, a tale of a young boy in the 1940s and his hope of receiving a genuine Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas. Other favorite Christmastime movies include the bing Crosby favorites Holiday Inn and White Christmas; The Bells of St. Mary’s, with Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley and Ingrid Bergman as the lovely Sister Mary Benedict; and The Homecoming, the Christmas-themed pilot for the 1970s TV program The Waltons.

    For those musically inclined, broadcast TV typically offers a variety of holiday-themed concert broadcasts, including various versions of Tchaikovsky The Nutracker; Christmas in Rockefeller Center, featuring traditional Christmas favorites and the lighting of the Center’s monumental Christmas tree; the pop-flavored A Home for the Holidays, and the Country Music Association’s CMA Country Christmas provide entertainment for fans of those genres.

    Finally, there are the many Christmas-themed programs on cable’s most family-friendly networks. UP is home to new Christmas productions (which can be watched via Amazon); INSP offers many original classic and new holiday films, along with its original movie Christmas in the Smokies; and the Hallmark Channel is a veritable cornucopia of Christmas-themed original movies.

    All in all, the holiday season the time of year which offers the most family-friendly programming, for viewers of all ages. It is a pity the entertainment industry makes so little effort at producing and airing similar family shows the rest of the year; but at least at this time of year, families can delight in the abundance of holiday riches.




    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    12 Responses to Christmas Season Means Return of Family Favorites

    1. Joy
      December 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      Another great film is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, starring Loretta Swit and based on a book by the same name. Anyone who has ever taken part in a Christmas production will recognize the behind-the-scenes machinations and will (hopefully)be touched by the ending.

    2. Eugene
      December 22, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Road to Avonlea. It’s from the 1990′s, but the time line is of the early 1900′s era. and is good family viewing.There is no particular Christmas theme, it just feels Christmas like, to me. It is Canadian TV. Sullivan Entertainment.

    3. Mrs. Michael Connelly
      December 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      A Blessed Merry Christmas one and all! We have two Christmas favorites, one in the animated category and the other a full length film.
      A Charlie Brown Christmas thanks to Linus reminds us of the true meaning of the holiday.
      George Bailey, with the help of his Guardian Angel finds out, before it’s too late, that it’s in giving that we receive and leave the most lasting impression on others :)

    4. L
      December 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      “It’s A Wonderful Life” will always be the best Christmas movie ever made in my eyes. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is good too.

    5. Jo Jensen
      December 19, 2016 at 5:53 am

      I’ve found some new favorites on TCM: It Happened on 5th Avenue with Victor Moore and Gail Storm; also Remember the Night with Fred McMurry and Barbara Stanwyck. Both are stories of lives turned around because of love and forgiveness at Christmas time.

    6. Darryl Malcolm
      December 19, 2016 at 5:35 am

      I would have to rank Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life and the Christmas Story. The best Christmas Carol was the one starring Reginald Owen

    7. ann
      December 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      My family favorite is Sound of Music. While it is not strictly a Christmas story, the songs are wonderful and it has a story that the whole family can enjoy.

    8. Michael
      December 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Yes loved the Classics…The Cartoons…How the Grinch Stole Christmas…Boris Karloff Narrating!!, A Charlie Brown Christmas…A Tradition lost…hard to find either Alastair Sim or Reginald Owen version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ on TV …Sad…Also.. Cary Grant ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ and ‘Going My Way’ & ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s'…..These were my favorites as a kid of the 50′s….Hard to find a hint of any mention of the reason for the season…..

    9. Michael
      December 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Yes loved the Classics…The Cartoons…How the grinch stole Christmas…Boris Karloff Narrating, A Charlie Brown Christmas…the Tradition lost…hard to find either Alastair Sim or Reginald Owen version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ on TV …Sad…Also.. Cary Grant ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ and ‘Going My Way’ & The Bells of St. Mary’s…..

    10. Patrick
      December 18, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      I have some that I remember watching when I was little. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Charlie Brown Christmas”, and I love watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform on PBS. I am glad that PBS still airs the performances. I like Yanni and I remember in 2002, PBS

    11. Victoria DeLacy
      December 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      My favorite for the family when my 6 children were growing up was the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon which had Linus quoting the Christmas story straigtht out of the King James Bible, Nothing could have been better for my children. I personally also enjoy the original (1955 version with Alistair Sims still found at youtube today as is the Charlie Brown cartoon for those interested) “A Christmas Carol” classid movie, a treat for all ages.

      • Marilyn Vandekieft
        December 18, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        I’m with you Victoria. My favorite is the “Charlie Brown Christmas” also ….because it features the REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON — Jesus!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *