Revisiting an obscure but beloved Christmas special from decades past.
SOCIAL MEDIA POST FROM DECEMBER 26, 2009 “One night in 1978, I stayed up with my pop and watched an animated anthology on PBS called “Simple Gifts – Six Episodes for Christmas,” and it became one of my few favorite Christmas specials. I have not seen the special in the 31 years since that night, but now a stranger has given me a simple gift by posting it on YouTube. If you have the time, watch it. I dare you not to be charmed.” – Michael Dobkins
“Prologue” by Maurice Sendak
A Memory of Christmas” from Moss Hart’s autobiography, “Act One.” Narrated by Jose Ferrer.
“Lost and Found” from Fontaine Fox’s classic comic strip, “Toonerville Folk.”
“The Great Frost” from Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando.” Narrated by Hermione Gingold.
“My Christmas, an entry in the diary of Teddy Roosevelt, age 11
“December 25th, 1914” from a letter from The Western Front by Captain Sir Edward Hulse.
“No Room at the Inn” from R.O. Blechman’s “Tutto Esaurito”
Cruelly candid photos from the front lines of early days of the War on Christmas!
I used to think the War on Christmas was an overwrought alarmist myth until I stumble across this photographic evidence proving that the Hollywood show biz elite has been waging a battle against the Yuletide holiday since the early days of classic Hollywood. This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks.
To create a character — the complexity of skills necessary for the simplicity of execution — is an amazing thing. I was too old to be part of the target audience for Sesame Street when it premiered, but my younger brother was.
My whole family watched Sesame Street during those early years when it when it was a brand new thing. It was witty, clever, funny, and entertaining, but it also had heart. And its heart was Big Bird.
There was something ingenious about making the “child” character in the ensemble also the largest, and all the other characters treated this sweet innocent giant with such gentleness.
At Big Bird’s core, literally, was Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer inside the suit, bringing Big Bird to life with something unique inside of him. Somehow this adult man could become a child again — questing, learning, feeling, growing as all children do.
It was a gift, especially for children making the same journey that Big Bird was making. That’s what true artistry is, a generous gift shared with us all.
This clip of Big Bird struggling with the death of one of the original Sesame Street character, after the actor playing the character had passed away provides a taste of what that gift was.
Imagine a child who had lost someone important — like a grandparent, a parent, or a teacher — seeing Big Bird struggling to process the same emotions and experience and loss. Hell, I’m decades past childhood but I can still recognize Big Bird’s feelings and confusion in myself.
Sad news. Dorothy Fontana and I both worked on the Make Way For Noddy television back in early 2000s, and I was lucky enough to spend some time with her at a writer’s meeting for the show. She was a lovely lady.
I doubt I made very much of an impression, but I was thrilled because she had made an impression on me long before I even met her. There’s her work on Star Trek, of course, but she also wrote for the original Land of the Lost, Then Came Bronson, Circle of Fear, The Waltons, Babylon Five, and… even Wild, Wild West.
I didn’t even realize she had worked on that last one until checking IMDB. All of these shows were part of the pop culture stew I lived on back in the days, and she worked on all of them, and many more. The woman had a career and should be an inspiration to anyone with aspirations to write for television.
I’m glad we had her for so long, and I’m glad I got a chance to meet her.
I’m still unpacking and opening boxes, so there’s not a lot of content here yet. There’s an exciting new project I’m launching on New Year’s Day that should interest screenwriters and creative writers, and I’ll share the details soon.