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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 11

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 11

Within Television's first fifty years emerged what would quickly be known as the "Variety Show." This was a program that combined song and dance numbers with comedy skits in an attempt to entertain viewers for approximately 22 to 45 minutes between misogynistic commercials of the Flinstones pitching everything from Winston cigarettes to Busch Beer. Many of the regular variety shows would have seasonal specials and then sometimes stand-alone seasonal variety shows were released too. YouTube has forever changed the need for variety shows, giving the viewer the ultimate control over what they choose to watch for entertainment, and eliminating much of the fun these specials once provided.

Warning: This is not a Spoiler Alert, this is an outright WARNING! If you are of the younger generations, today's selection may come as quite a shock. Yes, this was entertainment 50+ years ago. This was considered acceptable. This selection has not been homogenized or watered down so everyone can watch it and not freak out. But, for the older generations, this may be a sweet reminder of the Christmas specials you used to know.

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar December 11- The Dean Martin Christmas Show (1968)

Ah, yes. Dino.

For years crooner Dean Martin was a loveable drunk, the butt of countless alcohol jokes, the life of any party and a Las Vegas Casanova with the females. The Dean Martin Show ran for nine seasons, from 1965 to 1974. (The final season was made up of his famous roasts that are still a thing today but much crueler than the days of old comedians getting together to trade insults until Don Rickles dropped an atomic bomb on everyone in the room.)

The show produced many Christmas Shows. I recently caught up with the 1968 Christmas Show, which originally aired on December 19, 1968.

It begins with Dino being made up for the camera as Santa Claus, squinting his eyes and mugging for laughs. You wonder how many spiked egg nogs he's already had, and we're just beginning.

He goes into a multi-Claus dance number with rapid fire skits hitting the screen. Dom DeLuise as a cop giving Santa a parking citation; Bob Newhart as a department store Santa who's wife arrives to sit in his lap and ask for either a divorce or for her list of materialistic demands be met, leading up to the big "Who do you think I am, Santa Claus?" punchline; and Dennis Weaver as a weary St. Nick home from a long night only to be asked by Mrs. Claus to run out for a gallon of milk.

Oh, my. What are we in for tonight?

Dino segues into a brief monologue filled with alcohol humor and seasonal cheese, then a song and dance number with a couple of cute Santa's Helpers in which he smokes and coughs his way through.

The following skit sees Newhart trying to return a toupee his wife gave him for Christmas that spilled into the cheese dip at a Christmas party. Dino is the store manager bent on giving Newhart a hard time. At some point, any possible script is abandoned for Newhart and Martin to do everything they can to crack each other up until the punchline.

Everything happens so fast and furiously, one skit and then a song and dance number after another. Even if you are not entertained by any of this, you are certainly not bored.

In the next song and dance, Dino is joined by The Golddiggers, a troupe of singing and dancing girls who call Dino "Daddy." He eats it up while blowing smoke all over them.

An office Christmas party skit follows. DeLuise is a straight laced type who resists his fellow employees' urgings to join the party. When he continues to refuse, these well meaning bullies spike his drink and encourage him to partake in a little holiday assault with the female associates. (Hey, man. I'm just calling it what it is.) When Dino the manager joins the party, it's time for Martin and DeLuise to do everything possible to crack each other up. This skit is played out silently, with zero dialogue, and although some of the hijinks are sketchy as hell, it has a kind of sweet ending (that would never fly today).

The wrap-up includes Weaver singing to the children of the show's crew. The kids are tripping balls on sugar plums and amped up from being exposed to all that second hand smoke and alcohol around them. Dino asks some of them questions and the kids are as drunk as he is. A four-year-old Melissa Gilbert is among the children.

The bit ends and is followed by a long segment of stars appearing to mention Children's Hospitals or Orphanages all across the country where Santa would be delivering gifts donated by the stars. This segment is star studded and rings of the kind of good will these silly variety shows were built around. The cavalcade of stars includes Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, George Burns, James Stewart, Johnny Carson, most of the cast of Bonanza, Joey Bishop, Tony Bennett, Jack Benny, Raymond Burr, it goes on and on. It's sweet.

Once this one wraps up you just sort of fall back into your Barcalounger recliner exhausted, but somehow you feel a bit of the Christmas spirit nipping at you. Once you catch your breath, you'll find yourself wandering over to your bar to fix a little Christmas spirit to nip at. You might be humming while you fix it. You may imagine Dom DeLuise standing there, giggling.

Anyone got a cigarette?

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