Today is U.S. Thanksgiving, the unofficial kick off to wall-to-wall Christmas specials season. All anybody wants to know is, when does The Grinch air? Or Charlie Brown? Or Rudolph? If you are looking for a handy guide to all the holiday specials on TV this season, check out today's Toronto Star. They asked me to prepare a full list for them in today's entertainment section. For an even longer list, with far more information per title, check out the on-line version here at thestar.com.
There have already been a few early bird holiday specials, including last Sunday's uneven offering, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (it repeats tonight at 10 p.m. on The Comedy Network). The intrusive laugh track is funny the first three times, and the guest list is suitably kitschy (Willie Nelson, Feist, Elvis Costello) but, for me anyway, a half hour of deconstructive silliness is 22 minutes too much.
I much prefer a sillier and better written Christmas special nobody seems to have booked this season: Dave Foley's 2002 effort, The True Meaning of Christmas Specials. The Kids in the Hall player assembled a Pee-wee's Playhouse full of guests, including two other Elvis's (Elvi?): Elvis Stoyko and a Mexican Elvis. A sleigh full of Canadian comedy greats were also on the scene, including Foley's Kids in the Hall buddy Kevin MacDonald, Dave Thomas and his American-born SCTV mate Joe Flaherty, Jason Priestley (as "Santa Dude"), Tom Green and Mike Myers. (Norm Macdonald must have been busy.) Green played Myers' butler responsible for warming the comedian up with a bathtub full of money drawn from large barrels marked "Austin Powers" and "Wayne's World."
Jann Arden, Andy Richter and surf guitar king Dick Dale were also showcased on the special.
The show was supposed to also air that season on ABC Family, but the Disney-owned network balked when Foley refused to make changes to some of the edgier content--like when Foley greets Stojko as a "world champion figure skater and heterosexual."
What really rankled Disney was Foley's on-air suggestion near the end that Christmas isn't about acquiring consumer goods or selling ad time. Echoes of the Grinch, who once observed that "Christmas doesn't come from a store."
"They said it would discourage shopping and be offensive to their corporate sponsors," Foley told me when I interviewed him in Toronto at the time. "What kind of a network gives their ad sales department veto power over what they buy or script approval? I've actually never been more angry in my professional life." Foley refused to make the cut, turned his back on the ABC Family deal--and perhaps future re-run revenues.
Still, this terrific hour should be on The Comedy Network or somewhere Canadians can see it this Christmas. If anybody out there in TV world has it, please contact me here. It's worth scheduling if just to see Foley, as David Bowie, doing that Little Drummer Boy duet with jumbo-eared Flaherty as der Bingle. H0-Ho-Hilarious, even in this crappy YouTube clip: