Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Venerable Holiday Special (or Saying Goodbye to Night Talk)

It's that time of year again. Time to take a break from work. Time to eat way too much food. Time to spend some quality time with friends and family. And time to watch the annual parade of holiday specials on the television (or streaming service). Of all the wide variety of holiday traditions passed down from generation to generation, it seems that the yearly march of holiday programming is the one that has stuck with me, at least.

By the time I was aware of such things, the truly classic specials were already established. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) were all awaited with much anticipation in our house. Most other specials seemed to fall into the Christmas pile, with Rankin Bass stop-animation favorites such as Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus.

In the 80s, we got some new holiday specials that, while they didn't reach the level of "timeless classic" were fun in their own right. 

Foe of Mondays and fan of lasagna, the Garfield comic strip started in 1978, and by the 80s had become nearly as famous as Snoopy himself. In 1982, he made the leap to television with Here Comes Garfield, produced by the same duo who produced the Peanuts animated specials, Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. By the time Garfield's first special had come out, Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985), Phil Roman had taken over production duties, and produced the rest of the Garfield animated specials up to 1991's Garfield Gets a Life. In the meantime, two more holiday-themed specials were released, A Garfield Christmas (1987) and Garfield's Thanksgiving (1989). Similar to the Peanut's specials, the animated Garfield specials were a mix of original story elements, and bits taken from the weekly comic strips. While the holiday specials, particularly the first one, received regular airings along with the other classic holiday programming, the Garfield specials haven't seen any airtime since around 2015, although this year the specials have been streaming on the Garfield YouTube channel if you'd like to give them a watch.

The 80s were a heyday for Henson's Muppet properties. The Muppet Show had just ended, but they were starring in motion pictures, HBO had the surprisingly successful Fraggle Rock, CBS was airing Muppet Babies on Saturday mornings, and PBS was still home to the long-term resident Sesame Street. It would be unforgivable if the Muppets didn't get their own holiday special. In 1979, the cast of The Muppet Show starred with John Denver in John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. The special's plot is, much like The Muppet Show, about the making of the Christmas special. Of course, there is a lot of good music and Muppet mayhem to be had. Then, in 1987, the Muppet properties combined to bring us A Muppet Family Christmas. This one was more of a story-driven special, with the various casts coming together at Fozzie Bear's mother's farm to celebrate the holidays. One of the most memorable bits is a running gag of everyone slipping on the ice as the come into the front door of the house, regardless of attempts to warn them of the danger. Overall, a really fun special, and the first time that a lot of kids had seen the Fraggles if their parents didn't subscribe to HBO at the time. Sadly, these specials didn't even garner the staying power of the Garfield specials, much less that of the likes of Peanuts or Rudolph, and outside of a few replays in subsequent years, were relegated to VHS records that people had made at the time of broadcast.

Of course, there were also movies that have since become holiday viewing necessities, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and The Muppet Christmas Carol. Given all of the specials and movies that I have grown to love over the years, sometimes it seems that there's just not enough time during the holidays to watch it all. But I sure do give it a try every year. And will likely continue the tradition for many more to come.

On to this week's strips, in which we say a final goodbye to Night Talk.

Strip 146/166 - A night of a thousand stars, and weird awards

To be honest, I didn't really know enough about the actual awards that were presented during the Academy Awards to really come up with things that sounded out of the ordinary. It really should have read as more of a list of Razzie awards, but didn't come out quite like that.

Strip 147/166 - Time to make it back home

Time to move the story on again. I decided that it was an appropriate time to take our duo back home to Furbulia. I'm not sure that catching an interstellar flight was the best idea for travel, though. I'm sure they'll find some way back.

Strip 148/166 - I guess that would be my fault. Sorry.

It's a hole. I mean, who amongst us hasn't jumped head-first into a giant hole of unknown depth. It's just a thing that you do, right?

Strip 149/166 - The last Night Talk strip

Time to tie up some loose ends. I had kind of left the late-night talk show hanging, especially since I had already decided to move on from the concept. So, much like Johnny Carson gave up the reigns and handed them to Jay Leno, so do we hand the presenter's mic to Slime. I think perhaps things won't go quite as well here as they did eventually for Leno. But, what do I know?

Next week, back to Furbulia.

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