JIGGENS: Nostalgic treasures to be found on YouTube

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Binge-watching television shows has become all the rage during the COVID-19 pandemic. With little or no live sports to watch during much of this time and with no new episodes of ongoing series being produced, we have turned our attention to shows that are already “in the can,” and we’re gobbling them up quickly on platforms such as Netflix, Crave and Tubi.

Now that colder weather has set in and Christmas season is well underway, we’re back in front of our TV sets as we were when the pandemic first began.

The latest binge-watching fad seems to be an appetite for the vast array of Hallmark Christmas movies, which can be seen not only on the aforementioned viewing platforms, but also on such TV channels as W and Lifetime. These particular movies – airing 24 hours a day on at least one channel – tend to be made from the same template, with essentially the same plot and even the same casting in many cases. I’ve noticed a core group of actors and actresses who have appeared in five or six of these cookie cutter-type movies, playing entirely different characters.

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I can take only so much of these movies. It makes me long for the simpler days of yesteryear when basic network television annually aired a smattering of Christmas specials that were so much fun to watch. Through the magic of YouTube, it’s easy to relive those days of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

So far, I’ve enjoyed a number of well-preserved Christmas Specials from the likes of Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Glen Campbell and many others. Just last week, I discovered an absolute gem of a Christmas special that first aired in 1978 and was – I believe – rerun for a few more years afterward. It was a CBC production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as presented by Canadian impressionist Rich Little. Unlike some of YouTube’s other content, which tends to suffer from poor video and audio quality from being preserved for so long on VHS tape, this hour-long special was a treat to the eyes and ears.

I suspect it’s probably lost on anyone who is 40 or younger, or maybe even as old as 50. Little plays all the major characters in this timeless Christmas story which, of course, is a comedic twist on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Little’s talent for impressions has him playing Scrooge as W.C. Fields, Bob Cratchit as Paul Lynde, Mrs. Cratchit as Edith Bunker, Tiny Tim as Truman Capote, Jacob Marley as Richard Nixon, the ghost of Christmas past as Humphrey Bogart, the ghost of Christmas present as Lt. Columbo and the ghost of Christmas yet to come as Inspector Clouseau. Throughout the story, Little plays various other characters as portrayed by Johnny Carson, Groucho Marx, John Wayne, George Burns, James Mason, and Laurel and Hardy.

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Most people under the age of 40 are likely unable to identify whatsoever with most of the aforementioned celebrities and may not have even heard of half of them. But for those who grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, or before, tune into this treasure from the past for a good Yuletide chuckle. You won’t be disappointed.

This was also one of the first productions to successfully emerge from that era’s ongoing line of wretched Canadian-produced comedies. Remember The Trouble With Tracy, Snow Job or Check It Out? Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol stands out from the rest, but its shelf life is limited. Younger audiences who watch it for the first time today will have no reference point to the celebrities being mimicked, and the laughs just won’t be there.

Once Christmas is over and if I still find myself hunkered indoors, I’ll have to take the time to see what other treasures can be found on YouTube. There’s still lots of binge-watching remaining.

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