I do not deny that I took notes on the comic timing of Bob Hope and winced at the horrible acting skills of his too-often seen guest star Brooke Shields. The cornier the comedy the better, and the sappier the musical numbers, often set off by the twinkling lights or fake snow falling in the background, the better marks I gave. I envied the fact that Bing Crosby's children all dressed alike in green and red sweaters and that their only girl, Katharine, always donned a big white fur muff like those worn by the sisters in my favorite book Little Women. And I loved the endless stream of pop-rock singers on A Solid Gold Christmas em-ceed by Rick Smith, Marilyn McCoo and featuring the Solid Gold dancers!
The country western stars often gave the best performances. I fondly remember Dolly Parton decked out in a Santa suit and Crystal Gale performing some down-home rendition of "Silent Night." I hate country music, don't get me wrong, but at Christmastime the homeyness reads well and I found myself looking forward to The Mandrell Sister's Christmas Special every year. Oh, and Amy Grant, even though her guest star Tony Bennett was lacking his usual gusto that year. Maybe he was between cosmetic surgeries.
Imagine me in my childhood livingroom, ten years old with the dancing ability of a lame chicken, attempting to choreograph musical numbers for my very own Christmas special. I had a chart of the numbers I would perform, my guest stars -- featuring Christopher Reeve and Dynasty star Emma Samms, and that extra special "surprise" guest Princess Diana of Wales. For musical and variety numbers, I'd enlist the help of Blondie, the multi-talented Dudley Moore, the mimes Shields and Yarnell, and that new guy Tom Hanks from "Bosom Buddies" and that new piano playing guy who could kind of sing - Billy Joel from New York.
In my attempts to construct the perfect Christmas television experience, I would always return for inspiration to that unparalleled moment in Christmas Television Special history -- Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing "Little Drummer Boy." Christmas can unite the strangest of bedfellows and in doing so create a moment in history no one would have dared to imagine. The simply set three minute duet lacked everything I had come to adore about holiday television. There was no fake snow, no twinkling lights, no period costumes and no comedy. Instead, Bing and Ziggy Stardust showed us that less is more than more -- it is everything.
My sons and I have already watched the classic kid's specials this year -- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. While they too make me wax nostalgic about Christmases past, I cannot help yearning for just one old-fashioned, star-studded, over-choreographed and glitter-covered extravaganza. Perhaps tomorrow night I will suggest we turn on the music, put on our dancing shoes and get to work planning the next generation of Christmas Specials.