A reader donated over seven hours’ worth of Christmas specials, all taped off television back in 1987… with every commercial left intact. Yes!
(Thank you, Robin!)
Everything in this edition of Classic Christmas Commercials is from that tape, so imagine them breaking Rudolph and Frosty’s adventures into manageable chunks.
KFC’s Holiday Meal Deal! (1987)
Whenever a TV commercial blended fast food with Christmas, I lost it. I’ve loved that pairing for as long as I can remember. To this day, I still consider ordering pizza and eating McDonald’s as inherently Christmassy things… so long as you do them in December.
Given that, I’m all about this Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial, wherein the notoriously-thrifty Ebenezer Scrooge sees merit in KFC’s Holiday Meal Deal. In fact, Scrooge is so smitten with the Holiday Meal Deal that he seems barely coherent. He’s like Alfred by way of Bulworth.
Scrooge collects enough empty fried chicken buckets to build a Christmas tree out of them (!!!), which sounds amazing until you remember than an “empty” bucket of fried chicken is never truly empty. So yeah, this whole situation is kinda gross, even if I will admit that it does make me want chicken.
Zayre Discount Stores! (1987)
I don’t know if I’d ever even heard of Zayre stores before now. I’m guessing they were like understated Kmarts?
Along with whatever else, Zayre sold toys, and they got away with murder in their TV spots. Take this one, where a bunch of retail playthings come alive like it’s a Toy Story prequel.
I’m not sure if that was false advertising in a legal sense, but there had to be a reason no major chains or companies did stuff like this.
My favorite bit is with those stop-motion G.I. Joe guys, who march determinedly while looking weirdly spooky. Keep an eye out for the Battle Android Trooper, which as everyone knows was the best figure.
(If you somehow disagree, you’ve obviously never run a fingernail across his lenticular chest sticker. Best feeling in the goddamned world.)
The Magical Sprite Snowman! (1987)
Here we have some kid trying to make a sad snowman happy. Instead of simply rearranging the coals on the snowman’s frown, the kid gives him a can of Sprite. That’s a stretch, but I submit that it’s a really good kind of stretch.
The snowman sneaks a sip while the boy has his back turned, and I’m left wishing Rudolph got the thirty seconds and this story got 22 minutes. I’m all-in on snowmen doing emotional 180s over soda. Like I could not possibly be more in.
Side note: Isn’t that the dog from Gremlins? He was named Mushroom in real life. Also starred in Pumpkinhead. I know this because Mushroom has an IMDB listing.
Crayola Crayons for Christmas! (1987)
I am very much in the “crayons for Christmas” camp, thanks to the time I watched my childhood best friend open his presents on Christmas morning and completely flip over a box of crayons.
Even then, I recognized the Christmas Story-level purity in both the gift and his reaction, and was immediately jealous. Every year since, I’ve asked for crayons. (Yes, I still ask for crayons. Crayons and things that numb.)
There was a practicality to it, too. A box of crayons was another one of those “failsafe” gifts — something you held in reserve in case you plowed through the charms of your bigger gifts too quickly. Crayons were too familiar to be showy, but 64 of them could eat up just as many hours.
Sunkist Fun Fruits Dinosaurs! (1987)
This isn’t a Christmas commercial, even by my increasingly flexible standards. It is, however, a commercial that aired during a Christmas special.
One of the best things about prime time Christmas specials was how they dragged kid-targeted commercials in with them. I can’t overstate the fuzzy feeling that came with seeing a Sunkist fruit snacks commercial at 9 PM. Like a cross between having a good dream and exploiting a Nintendo glitch.
The commercial breaks were so important. As much as you love the specials you grew up with, don’t some of them feel kinda sterile when you watch them on DVD? They’re just not the same without Ronald, Geoffrey and that guy who goes living room skiing after eating a Peppermint Pattie. Burgers without fries.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Robin for donating the goods!