Saturday, December 13, 2008

Married...With Christmas

After snuggling up with a cup of Rice Nog and a crackling fire to view a batch of old Christmas specials-I realized that there was actually a theme–they all were hosted by married couples! The first show in my mini-marathon was CAPTAIN & TENILLE: THE CHRISTMAS SHOW from 1976. For those unfamiliar with Daryl Dragon and Toni Tenille-they were a Grammy-winning duo who rose to fame with the instant pop classic "Love Will Keep Up Together," followed by a string of other memorable light tunes. They created quite a media sensation for a year or two. Little girls wanted their hair to look like Toni's and gay boys wanted to play with dolls that looked like The Captain.They were like a funkier version of The Carpenters, only married. As their fame grew, ABC awarded them with their own primetime variety hour which was highlighted by Toni's Southern charm and Daryl's "I didn't sign on for THIS" look in his eyes.This holiday-themed episode features an appearance by the very talented Pointer Sisters (back then it was four, later three-and now, sadly two) but to balance things out, the decidedly less talented Tenille Sisters also perform. The hour crawls by and we can't help feel sorry for the Captain, who never seems at ease when the camera is on him. Well, he must have gotten used to it because 30 years later, he's still performing Christmas with Toni! Love has kept them together!Next up I watched 3–count 'em 3–SONNY & CHER Christmas episodes. What can be said about Sono Bono and Cher Sarkissian that hasn't been said already? He was a talented Italian-American songwriter (the classic "Bang Bang") and she was a beautiful Armenian-American (among other things) singer with great comedic chops as well. Their marriage ended - and she became a solo superstar, cosmetic surgery disaster and gay icon, winning an Oscar ® along the way. He played a bigot in the original HAIRSPRAY, became a Republican senator and died by crashing into a tree on skis. Their daughter Chastity grew up and out to become a lesbian activist. The end.
Their first Christmas show from 1972 features guest William Conrad (CANNON, JAKE & THE FAT MAN) playing - who else? Santa! The highlight is an animated segment featuring the Three Dog Night song, "Black and White".For the second show, from 1973, Conrad returns, and there's another cartoon–this one set to Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground". There's also an entertaining medley of Christmas carols set in an old-fashioned Christmas village, with Cher singing an amazing rendition of "O Holy Night."
The third show in the trilogy is from 1976 after Sonny and Cher were divorced and the guests are Bernadette Peters, Captain Kangaroo and a certain duo we like to call Shields & Yarnell. These semi-annoying street mimes were discovered by Marcel Marceau (...or so the legend goes) and before you know it they were appearing on virtually every variety and talk show of the 1970s. Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell thrilled millions with their act - creating several unique characters that at times won over people who normally who hate mimes (I have no scientific data to prove this). They even hosted their own semi-popular CBS series in 1977-78 - and appeared on the cover of Dynamite magazine!
In 1978 - the still-married duo (they divorced in '86) hosted NBC's CHRISTMAS IN WALT DISNEY WORLD, not to be confused with CHRISTMAS IN DISNEYLAND. 
This unbearable hour of torment features barely any cohesiveness and guest appearances by Avery Schreiber (as Gepetto), Phyllis Diller (a highlight, as always)and WHAT'S HAPPENING's Danielle Spencer (a low point-did this child ever learn how to deliver a line?). My advice to anyone who loves Disney: avoid this at all costs. I'd opt rather for 1966's DISNEYLAND AROUND THE SEASONS (available on dvd) or 1962's HOLIDAY TIME AT DISNEYLAND (rare and hard-to-find).So there you have it - an evening of Captain, Tenille, Sony, Cher, Shields and Yarnell. And once again, I've watched them all so you don't have to!

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Shields & Yarnell - what a flashback. I love the captain & tennille now as much as ever. I don't think I've seen the xmas special (yet).