Every year the holidays bring dozens of Christmas-themed DVDs to store shelves. Many are reissues of previously released favorites, some are new movies from family-oriented cable-TV channels and far too many are about dogs. No kidding.
Apparently a lot of Christmases have been saved by man’s best friend, and if the titles that crossed my desk this year are any indication, 2012 is definitely the Year of the Pooch: “Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups,” “12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue,” “12 Christmas Wishes For My Dog,” “The Adventures of Bailey: Christmas Hero,” “Chilly Christmas” and “The Dog Who Saved the Holidays.”
And yet there hasn’t been one about Christmas cats.
Another trend in recent years has been DVD collections of Christmas episodes from various vintage sitcoms, ranging from “I Love Lucy” to “The Beverly Hillbillies” to “Father Knows Best” to “Happy Days” to “Cheers” to “Frasier” and many more.
This year, however, seems to be the season of the boomers — as in baby boomers. A number of 2012 videos have risen up like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past, providing hours of nostalgia for viewers of a certain age whose earliest years paralleled the infancy of television.
One features two complete episodes of “The Danny Kaye Show,” which is significant for fans because the only DVD release of Kaye’s four-season variety series up to now has been a decade-old best-of compilation of skits and songs, a reissue of a 1998 VHS.
Another new collection features three complete episodes of “The Garry Moore Show,” which was Carol Burnett’s first showcase. Material from Moore’s shows appear as bonus features on the “Carol Burnett Show” discs that came out in September, but before that they were, like Kaye’s program, locked up in a vault somewhere.
Also newly released are a Christmas episode from Dean Martin’s variety show and a best-of collection of segments from some of Perry Como’s annual Christmas specials.
Except for Como’s filmed-on-location specials, all of these shows were taped before live audiences and it’s fun to see the players feed off of the response, occasionally ad-libbing or cracking up.
For those of us who grew up anticipating Como’s annual Christmas programs and for those who are fans of Martin, Burnett or Kaye, this is quite a bounty of heretofore unreleased material.
• “Christmas With Danny Kaye” (Inception, 1963/1966, b/w and color, $14.98, two episodes, 15 songs, excerpt from 1965 episode; a written memory by Kaye’s daughter Dena). Kaye’s first Christmas show, a black-and-white episode with guests Mary Tyler Moore and Nat King Cole, starts things off, followed by a color program that aired three years later, with Peggy Lee and Wayne Newton. A bonus excerpt from another episode has Kaye reading from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Harvey Korman was a regular on Kaye’s show (before he graduated to “The Carol Burnett Show”), and he’s on hand for comedy skits in both episodes. In the first show he’s paired with Jamie Farr (a decade before Farr became Corp. Klinger on “M*A*S*H”). And a segment has Kaye teasing and singing with the Clinger Sisters, a Mormon quartet of young singers from Orem, Utah.
• “A Carol Burnett Christmas” (LEA, 1959-61, b/w, $19.98, three episodes, 28 songs). This one is a bit misleading with its color cover photo of Burnett in a Santa cap, obviously snapped during the period when she had her own variety show. The disc is actually comprised of three black-and-white Christmas episodes of “The Garry Moore Show,” which is where a very young Burnett got her start.
Still, fans and those who enjoy the old variety format shouldn’t feel cheated. Burnett is in the ensemble cast and she gets to shine in some amusing skits and perform some enjoyable songs that reveal her budding talent in its earliest form. She’s also teamed in one episode with Julie Andrews and Gwen Verdon, and they work wonderfully together. (Burnett and Andrews became close friends and would later team up for three hugely popular “Julie & Carol” TV specials. Why aren’t those on DVD?)
• “The Dean Martin Christmas Show” (Time Life, 1968, $12.98, one episode). This disc contains just a single episode of Martin’s show, but it’s also priced right, and there is some wonderful comedy and music. Martin is in a very jolly mood, making up comic lyrics as he sings and giving the entire affair a very light tone.
There’s also a hilarious comedy skit with a very young Bob Newhart, in which he and Martin go off script for an escalating war of off-the-cuff exchanges. Dom DeLuise is also here, along with Dennis Weaver and surprise guest Bob Hope. A lot of big stars also turn up at the end for cameos promoting a charity.
• “Christmas Around the World With Perry Como” (LEA, 1975-82, $19.98, 26 songs). This nearly two-hour “best-of” collection features colorful sequences from six of Como’s 1970s and early ’80s holiday specials, which were filmed around the world, from the Holy Land to Paris to Colonial Williamsburg, among other locations.
Guests include John Wayne, Angie Dickinson, Sid Caesar, Richard Chamberlain and many more, with skits and readings and some dancing, but the emphasis is squarely on music and song in Como’s patented relaxed style.
All of these may be purchased for much less than the retail prices listed here; some are in local stores and others can be found on Amazon.com and other online stores.
• Note: Last week’s column on Christian Vuissa’s film “Silent Night” prompted quite a bit of email asking where it can be purchased. Seagull Book and Deseret Book — both the physical stores and the online stores — have the DVD in stock for sale, and the film is scheduled to be shown on the cable channel BYUtv several more times between now and Christmas Day.