So as we get ready to show 2010 the door and usher in 2011 I want to wish all of you the very best for the coming year.
2010's been a feast on one hand and a famine on the other. Whattya say we all work on having there be more feast and less famine in 2011?
And although it's great to look forward to what's next, Christmas is always a good excuse to look back too. I'm not one to entertain a whole lot of nostalgia, it never seems like a productive use of time. However there are some exceptions. Most people get all excited every year when the Grinch comes on TV. Or how about A Charlie Brown Christmas? For other people it's all about A Year Without a Santa Claus. The Christmas stuff I remember so fondly never makes it back onto TVland or ABC Family.
I'm talking about Christmas variety shows of course. They're the ignored art form from the days of network only TV. Well thank heavens for YouTube. Even now, despite all of my classical longings, it's not Christmas in my house until I break out the Andy Williams.
Andy Williams defined Christmas for me as a kid. Everybody was nice, sung well and wore sweaters. What more could you ask for really?
And of course, Andy Williams discovered the Osmond Brothers. The addition of the Osmonds to Andy's Christmas specials ratcheted up the treacle levels to near-cavity-inducing levels but it was a lot of fun anyhow.
The Osmonds took their early fame and turned it into an entertainment moguldom that should make the Brittanys and the GaGas squirm with discomfort. These people were an entertainment machine. One of the neighbor kids and I used to ask each other all the time "Who would you want to be adopted by, the Osmonds or the Jacksons (of Jackson Five fame)?" I would always pick the Jacksons. Even then, at nine or ten, all that forced happiness made me uncomfortable. It was sure fun to watch though.
Once everybody figured out that there was money to be made in TV variety shows, Christmas specials in particular, the floodgates opened and everybody got in on the act. Watch, if you dare, this clip from Sonny and Cher. Count the B-list celebrities.
Variety shows always made for strange bedfellows. Whether it was Charo and Señor Wences chewing scenery with Donnie and Marie or Ruth Buzzi hamming it up on the Flip Wilson show, variety shows brought together the weird and the wonderful and everybody ended up singing. In the next clip, the has-been and desperate meet the new and eager in an orgy of self-promotion at any cost.
Though variety shows as a rung on the career ladder peaked in the mid-70s, the genre lived on as a vehicle for selling records as evidenced by this gem from the early '80s. I'm dedicating this to my great friends Brandon and Kevin who abandoned me and the glories of Christmas in St. Pete for the sordid bacchanal of New Orleans a couple of years ago. The memory of their drunken renditions of Hard Candy Christmas, sung a capella on my sofa every year, sustain me through hard times.
Finally, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when John Denver's agent sobered him up and explained that they were going to save his career by having him sing with puppets on TV.
So have a great Christmas one and all. If Christmas isn't your thing, enjoy having the movie theaters all to yourselves this weekend. I'm going to take a couple of days off and I'll be back next week.