Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Day on TV

By Mitchell

We're back from our brief Christmas break, and just in time to give you the wrap-up of Christmas week programming for 1964 as seen in the pages of TV Guide. I've really enjoyed doing this summary; in going through these old publications you dutifully note what you read, but sharing them with others somehow brings them more alive for yourself.

Friday, December 25, 1964 started with Kukla, Fran and Ollie celebrating Christmas for the entire two hours of the Today show. Captain Kangaroo read "Christmas Is a Time of Giving." The morning rerun of the Andy Griffith show was Christmas-oriented, as was those on The Real McCoys and Father Knows Best. At 10:30 Channel 11 ran The Joyful Hour, with Pat O'Brien and his family introducing a dramatization of the Nativity. (This show can still be seen at Christmastime on EWTN, by the way.)

At 11:30 a.m., NBC presented a live church service from the National Cathedrial in Washington, D.C. This program of lessons and carols was a tradition on NBC for many years, before going into syndication. I wonder if it's still on TV anywhere today? Opposite this were Ernie Ford's Christmas show on his daily half-hour program on ABC, and a film feature on "Christmas Around the World" on Channel 11.

Daytime interview programs are nothing new - the actress Lois Leppart had one on ABC in the mid-60s, and on this day she told the Christmas story. Even the program that followed it, Day in Court, concluded it's week-long story "hours before Christmas." At 2:00 p.m. ABC showed the North-South Shrine college football all-star game from Miami, a game that isn't played anymore but back then was a staple of Christmas day. The Bachelor Father rerun opposite it on Channel 11 was (you guessed it) holiday-themed.

At 3:30 Channel 4 presented a half hour of Christmas music by the Gustavus Adolphus College Choir, and they followed up at 4:00 with the kids show Axel and His Dog presented its annual Christmas show. And at 4:30 they finished the block with the Blackpool Tower Circus from England.

There wasn't much on in the evening, and what there was was mostly on the educational channel, 2 (what a difference from now!) - at 8:30 p.m. Channel 2 had Christmas in Tyrol, a repeat of a Christmas concert from the previous year, hosted by Fr. Richard Schuler, now our pastor emeritus at St. Agnes. Channel 5 had their annual telecast of a Christmas skating show from the Minneapolis Ice Center. At 9:00 Channel 2 was back with holiday music from the University of Minnesota Men's Glee Club, at 10 they presented a medieval play on the journeys of the shepards and the Wise Men, and at 10:30 they showed a repeat of Monday's music show with the St. Olaf choir. Finally, at 10:30 Channel 4 had a movie called The Old Testament, and I'm not sure whether this qualifies as Christmas programming or not!

And so Christmas week came to an end. What kind of conclusions can we draw about what they saw on TV back in 1964?

  1. I think you'd have to say there was more Christmas programming on than there is now, even taking into consideration the fact that there were only five TV stations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area back then, none of which ran for 24 hours.
  2. Most of the programs had religious themes, or at least religious segments in the program.
  3. There has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of local programming shown by local stations.
  4. There were a lot more music programs on, many of them by local music groups. I wonder if there are as many local singing groups around now?
  5. Nobody was afraid to use the word "Christmas."

Yes, times have changed, haven't they? This was fun for us - hope you enjoyed this trip back into the past as well!

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