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A Very (Television) Special Christmas: Legendary Brings Como, Burnett, “Sesame Street” to CD and DVD

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Carol Burnett ChristmasHoliday specials have long been a television tradition, from the beloved (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas) to the programs their creators would rather forget (The Star Wars Holiday Special).  Legendary Entertainment Alliance has recently drawn on the archives of producer Bob Banner for three new releases, each available as a DVD, a CD soundtrack and a CD/DVD combo pack.  Christmas with Carol Burnett reaches back to the earliest tube appearances of the famed comedienne, presenting three episodes of The Garry Moore Show for the first time on home video.  Christmas Around the World with Perry Como is a two-hour special (previously available on VHS) drawing on the relaxed crooner’s annual Christmas specials as recorded in various locales.  And last but not least is A Special Sesame Street Christmas, one of the only Sesame Street programs to be produced without the participation of Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) and one of the oddest instances of Muppet-related arcana.  All three releases feature guest stars galore and are throwbacks to the nearly-gone days of Christmas variety programming.

The Garry Moore Show launched the television career of the young Carol Burnett, star of Broadway’s Once Upon a MattressA Carol Burnett Christmas includes three episodes from the 1958-1964 iteration of the CBS program.  Burnett was a regular from 1959 to 1962, and the selected holiday episodes date from 1959, 1960 and 1961.  (The 1961 episode has, alas, been edited from its broadcast length.)  In addition to Moore and Burnett, you’ll see performances from Jonathan Winters, Durward Kirby, Cliff Arquette as Charley Weaver, gospel great Mahalia Jackson, Broadway’s legendary Gwen Verdon, comedienne Marion Lorne (Bewitched’s beloved Aunt Clara) and Burnett’s pal and future TV co-headliner Julie Andrews.  Fans of The Sound of Music (and who isn’t?) should delight in Andrews’ performance of the musical’s “My Favorite Things” long before she was cast as Maria Von Trapp in the film version.  The 1959 episode also features Candid Camera interludes from Allen Funt.  Special features include a music-only mode and an image gallery of Christmas cards based on the episode stills of Burnett.

Christmas Around the World with PerryIn a similar vein is Legendary’s Christmas Around the World with Perry Como.  A Como tradition was an annual Christmas special from a different locale, including Mexico, Austria, Paris, New York, London, Hawaii and San Antonio.  Vignettes from sixteen of Perry’s holiday specials were recut into one two-hour program by producer Bob Banner, and this compilation was previously released on VHS from Reader’s Digest.  Now the two-hour special arrives on DVD (with musical highlights on CD).  Among the guest stars joining the laconic crooner are John Wayne, Debby Boone, the Vienna Boys Choir, Angie Dickinson, Richard Chamberlain, Sid Caesar, Toni Tennille, Vikki Carr and Dorothy Hamill.  Songs include Como classics like “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas” and “Home for the Holidays.”  Special features include a music-only mode and a “Perry-oke” mode “where the whole family can croon karaoke-style with Mr. Christmas himself.”  This makes a fine companion to Real Gone’s recently-reissued Complete RCA Christmas Collection collecting all of the late crooner’s classic Christmas recordings for his longtime label.

After the jump: the story of A Special Sesame Street Christmas, plus track listings and order links for all titles!

A Special Sesame Street ChristmasA Special Sesame Street Christmas has been much-maligned over the years, but Legendary’s new release should allow you to decide its merits for yourself.  It had the misfortune of airing the same year of 1978 as Children’s Television Workshop’s Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.  While that beloved special has lived on, A Special Christmas has been largely relegated to the dustbin of time – until now.  CTW turned over the rights to Sesame Street for this one special to Bob Banner, who enlisted an eclectic array of stars to join Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird and Barkley on the CBS network.  No other Muppets appeared, and only Mr. Hooper (Will Lee), David (Northern Calloway), Bob (Bob McGrath) and Maria (Sonia Manzano) were retained from the regular cast at the time.)  Among these celebrities visiting Sesame Street: Leslie Uggams, Imogene Coca, Dick Smothers, Henry Fonda, Anne Murray, Ethel Merman and Michael Jackson!  There’s plenty of music, including Murray serenading Big Bird with her hit “You Needed Me” (!), The Merm belting “Tomorrow” from Annie, and a medley with Uggams’ “Sleigh Ride,” Merman’s “Winter Wonderland,” and full-cast renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “I Saw Three Ships.”  It’s all loosely based on A Christmas Carol, but the special lacked the heart of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, which featured Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt among the Muppet performers.  Lee, Calloway, McGrath and Manzano all appeared in that special, as well, as did Carroll Spinney as Big Bird and Oscar.  Still, A Special Sesame Street Christmas received an Emmy Award nomination.  Special features on the DVD include a “Rappin’ with Oscar” “Bonus Dance Remix” with Oscar and Michael Jackson.

All three titles are available as DVDs, CDs or CD/DVD combos, and can be ordered at the links below!

A Carol Burnett Christmas (Legendary Entertainment Alliance, 2012) (DVD / CD / DVD & CD Combo)

CD Track Listing:

  1. What a Happy Christmas Party – Full Cast
  2. A Christmas Car Ride – Carol Burnett and Durward Kirby
  3. The Holy Baby – Mahalia Jackson
  4. Christmas Medley – Mahalia Jackson and Full Cast
  5. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Louise O’Brien
  6. Christmas Medley – The George Becker Singers
  7. A Christmas Wish (Poem) – Marion Lorne
  8. Beautiful Trees of Christmas – The George Becker Singers
  9. My Favorite Things – Julie Andrews
  10. Everybody’s Doing It – Carol Burnett, Julie Andrews and Gwen Verdon
  11. The Little Drummer Boy – The George Becker Singers
  12. You Meet the Nicest People/International Holiday Medley – Full Cast
  13. Silent Night – Julie Andrews
  14. We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Full Cast

Christmas Around the World with Perry Como (Legendary Entertainment Alliance, 2012) (DVD / CD / DVD & CD Combo)

CD Track Listing:

  1. Ave Maria – Perry Como
  2. Carol of the Bells – Andre Gagnon
  3. Deck the Halls – The Vienna Boys Choir
  4. Do You Hear What I Hear – Perry Como
  5. Fanfare for a Dignified Occasion
  6. Happy Holiday – Perry Como
  7. He is Born, the Holy Child – Perry Como
  8. How Beautiful is the Child – Debby Boone
  9. Christ is Born – Perry Como feat. Notre Dame Boys Choir
  10. Home for the Holidays – Perry Como
  11. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever – Perry Como
  12. I Wonder as I Wander – Perry Como
  13. I’m in Love with Vienna – Perry Como
  14. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Perry Como and Angie Dickinson
  15. Jerusalem of Gold – Perry Como feat. Vienna Boys Choir
  16. Le Saint Laurent – Perry Como
  17. O Christmas Tree – Perry Como feat. Vienna Boys Choir
  18. O Come All Ye Faithful – Perry Como
  19. O Holy Night – Perry Como
  20. Silent Night – Perry Como feat. Vikki Carr and Toni Tennille
  21. Sing – Perry Como
  22. The Little Drummer Boy – Perry Como
  23. The Lord’s Prayer – Perry Como

A Special Sesame Street Christmas (Legendary Entertainment, 2012) (DVD / CD / CD & DVD Combo) CD Track Listing:

  1. It’s the Thought That Counts – Leslie Uggams & Cast
  2. Christmas Blech – Leslie Uggams
  3. Six Days of Christmas – Oscar the Grouch
  4. You Needed Me – Anne Murray
  5. Oscar Remembers – Leslie Uggams & Oscar the Grouch
  6. Yakety Yak – Oscar the Grouch
  7. Look at That Face – Leslie Uggams
  8. Christmas Morning – Full Cast feat. Henry Fonda and Imogene Coca
  9. Tomorrow – Ethel Merman
  10. If Just One Person – Leslie Uggams
  11. Christmas Medley – Full Cast
  12. Your Imagination (with Michael Jackson and DJ Oscar)
  13. Angels We Have Heard on High – The Merry Mistletoes
  14. We Three Kings – The Merry Mistletoes
  15. Jingle Bells – Full Cast

Written by Joe Marchese

November 30, 2012 at 10:54

One Response

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  1. The Perry Como CD taken from the various TV special clips varies in sound quality from excellent to fair — but its great having his alternate version of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” from his Williamsburg Christmas show and “I Wonder As I Wander” from his Jerusalem Christmas show on CD. The quality of the Como DVD varies as well – it actually looks like it was taken directly from an old copy of the Readers Digest videocassette — a copy I transfered from my VHS copy to DVD looks almost identical. Its too bad that original masters of these TV specials were sought out but I wonder if they even exist anymore….

    Rich D.

    December 1, 2012 at 08:27


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