5 Holiday TV Specials We Might Increasingly Tune Out
Nat King Cole's soft reminders of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Burl Ives' repetitive rant about having a holly jolly Christmas still fill the air, but they're slowly beaten back by Mariah Carey's soaring high notes in All I Want For Christmas Is You . Even televised holiday standards have a tough time holding up to today's Disney (DIS) , DreamWorks (DWA) and adult-approved Victoria's Secret holiday specials.
Somewhere around the 20th time we saw Ralphie put a violent end to the Scut Farkus affair on TBS last year, it occurred to us that some of the season's most cherished holiday specials are showing their age a bit. Scratch that: The specials most of America places among its holiday classics have been with us for nearly five decades or more.
This would be akin to the whole country taking one month out of the year to tune out Modern Family and replace it with The Milton Berle Show , pull The Big Bang Theory off the air for reruns of The Honeymooners and put Survivor out to pasture in favor of original episodes of What's My Line? Yet every year, major networks that are already seeing their share sapped away by cable, satellite and streaming options opt to air holiday chestnuts that were first shown long before most of their key demographics were born.
Does it pay off? Do Charlie Brown, Rudolph and the other holiday mainstays still draw the eyes and ad dollars they once did? We consulted with the folks at Nielsen (NLSN) and got more than five years' worth of ratings for a handful of holiday favorites. The numbers aren't altogether merry, but these specials' continued presence in network lineups and performance against newer shows provides some reason for holiday cheer.
It's A Wonderful Life
Debut: 1946 (in theaters)
Current network: NBC (CMCSA)
2007: Dec. 14 at 8 p.m., Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. Averaged 5.5/4.5 million viewers
2008: Dec. 13 at 8 p.m., Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. Averaged 4.9/5.3 million.
2009: Dec. 12 at 8 p.m.. Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. Averaged 4.5/5.3 million.
2010: Dec. 11 at 8 p.m., Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. Averaged 4.9/4.7 million.
2011: Dec. 3 at 8 p.m., Dec. 24 at 8 p.m. Averaged 4.5/4.8 million.
20012: Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. Averaged 4.2 million
Think 24 hours of A Christmas Story are unbearable? Gen Xers remember this film being shown just about once a day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Director Frank Capra's story about working stiff George Bailey and his nagging need to put others before himself was aired ad infinitum during the late 1970s and 1980s after a clerical error let the film's copyright lapse and slipped it into the public domain. Local stations still paid royalties on it, as it was based on Phillip Van Doren Stern's short story The Greatest Gift , but were given a deep discount as the images themselves were no longer owned by anyone.