Picks and Pans Review: Yule Log
Next week brings you our double issue covering the year's best and worst. So this week, a little early, we'll look at a few of the few hundred Christmas specials in December (and then at some normal shows).
In James Gal way's Christmas Carol on PBS (Wed., Dec. 10, 9:35 p.m. ET), that Irish imp of a flutist and showman puts on a light, lilting concert in an English cathedral with an orchestra, a chorus, a boys' choir and a singing congregation. They start with tunes unfamiliar to us Yanks but then play the golden goodies: Silent Night, I Wonder As I Wander, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
You have to say one thing for Christmas With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Shirley Verretton PBS (Fri., Dec. 12, 10 p.m. ET): It's big. As big as its title. As big as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The problem with 325 voices is that it's hard for them to show much subtlety or close harmony. They're best at belting melodies. But melody belting is perfect for familiar carols, and that's why this choir has made its name with favorites like O Come, All Ye Faithful; Angels We Have Heardon High and Joy to the World/It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.
It would take one grouchy Grinch to complain about a kids' show like Christmas at Radio City Music Hall on HBO (Sat., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. ET). I am, of course, a grouchy Grinch, and I could grump about dancing Christmas trees, tap-dancing Santas, Rockettes as toy soldiers, Joel Grey's recitation of the "Yes, Virginia" story for Santa's elves, an off-key musical rendition of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a live camel and some heavy, hokey harp playing. But, hey, it's Christmas. So I won't complain.
The Christmas Star on ABC's Disney Movie (Sun., Dec. 14, 7 p.m. ET) is no Christmas Carol or Miracle on 34th Street. A classic it won't be. It's just a new, nice Santa story. Ed Asner plays a mean crook and convict who escapes from prison dressed as a Santa so he can claim robbery profits hidden in some old department store reindeer. When Ed discovers that his getup gives him magical powers with kids, he enlists an army of young ones to help get the loot. "It's brownie points with Santa," Ed promises them. As you might guess, prolonged contact with wide-eyed children softens up cranky old Ed and then he softens up a greedy landlord, the neighborhood bully and other assorted Scrooges. The movie tries to do a bit too much and gets confused. But it's sweet.
And here is the season's one seasonal show to watch: a rerun of George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol on CBS (Tues, Dec. 23, 9 p.m. ET). Now that it's three years old, it's time we declared this magnificent rendition of A Christmas Carol a classic. Exquisite all around.
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