What to watch over Christmas

By Robert Lloyd - Los Angeles Times - (TNS)

Peter Billingsley in “A Christmas Story.”

Peter Billingsley in “A Christmas Story.”

Christmas television has been going roughly since the day after Halloween (earlier in fact: Hallmark Channel premiered its Jane Austen update “Christmas at Pemberly Manor” four days before), and we approach the day itself with many of its most cherished films and specials having come and gone.

That does not mean you will be left wholly on your own to weather the holidays. TV will continue to perform its traditional duties as a balm to the lonely, a bond for the family, or an excuse not to have to talk to anyone. It’s Styrofoam peanuts for the psyche.

Basic cable’s Hallmark, which makes Christmas movies like there will never be another Christmas, has another premiere left in the calendar year. “A Midnight Kiss” (Dec. 29) rounds out the year in a New Year’s mood. Romantic love, familial love and the spirit of giving are the usual subjects, as if “It’s a Wonderful Life” were continually being stripped for parts. If you’ve ever bought or received a Hallmark card, you know what this is about.

There are only a handful of actual holiday classic films. Whether “Die Hard” is among them, or is a Christmas movie at all, has been the subject of some Christmasological debate. But IFC has evidently settled that question in its favor, and has stretched its Christmas night stocking to bursting with “Die Hard,” “Die Hard With a Vengeance” and “Live Free or Die Hard,” for those for whom the unwrapping of presents does not constitute sufficient mayhem. Yippee ki-yay, ye merry gentlemen (and ladies).

Streaming services like Hulu, Amazon and what’s that other one … oh yes, Netflix, each are chockablock with Christmas content, original and acquired; unlike broadcast and cable TV, with their real-time schedules (excluding the SVOD services many such networks now run), they are as bottomless as Santa’s bag. If much of what they offer is of middling quality and interest, they do offer much. Did you miss “A Legendary Christmas With John and Chrissy” when it aired on NBC around Thanksgiving? It’s still living on Hulu.

Netflix has a much-advertised new original picture, “The Christmas Chronicles,” a save-Christmas movie starring Kurt Russell as an off-course Santa; its main points of interest are its production design and Lamorne Morris in a small role as a Chicago cop. Better is “Angela’s Christmas,” an animated short based on a children’s book by Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”), in which Angela, age 6, confiscates baby Jesus from the local church nativity because it’s freezing in there and he’s practically naked. And because it wants to be all things to all people, it is also producing Hallmark-style holiday movies, on a slightly bigger budget, to equally slight effect. Look them up and sort them out for yourself.

Beyond the streamers, there are YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion, which are technically streamers as well, but made of user-uploaded content and free to use. (YouTube also produces original content through the subscription YouTube Premium.) They operate as platforms for the distribution of content both legitimate and illegitimate, and though theft of intellectual property is of course nothing I wish to condone I am also happy that things otherwise lost to time and economy are available to see, until the lawyers take them down.

They are infinite attics crammed with old Christmas odds and ends — specials from Judy Garland, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, the Carpenters (1977, with Kukla and Ollie; 1978, with Gene Kelly, singing and dancing), Bob Hope and Julie Andrews in an offbeat British hour from 1973 heretofore unknown to me.

And then there is a little game I call Random Christmas Video Roulette in which you enter “Christmas” and any other word into a search engine, then refine by “video.” (Or search from within YouTube, Vimeo or Daily Motion and skip the refining.)

And you can take that anywhere you like — Christmas plus pizza, Christmas plus Bigfoot, pigs, whatever. The possibilities are as good as endless.

Peter Billingsley in “A Christmas Story.”
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2018/12/web1_ENTER-TV-HDY-LA.jpgPeter Billingsley in “A Christmas Story.”

By Robert Lloyd

Los Angeles Times


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