I’m not sure if there’s much point in writing about old Christmas commercials the day before Christmas Eve, when 95% of the people who’d be interested are too busy to look. Oh well. If you’re in the remaining 5%, this one’s for you!
A Christmas Story on WPIX! (1990)
Even before the 24-hour marathons, watching A Christmas Story was one of my major holiday traditions. As a kid, it was the only Christmas movie I had to see each year. I usually did that in our old living room, where the television was right next to the tree. Between Ralphie’s exploits and the glow of our mismatched light sets, those viewings were pure, concentrated Christmas.
This WPIX promo was for a 1990 broadcast. I was in the sixth grade by then, and surely opted to watch it in my bedroom instead. After all, in the tri-state area, WPIX was the official network of kids’ bedrooms, which usually lacked cable boxes.
The transition from elementary school into junior high was rough for me. You know those cautionary tales about not letting tamed animals into the wild, because they don’t know how to communicate with their own kind and will probably get eaten in a week? Starting junior high was my version. In the sixth grade, every day felt like war.
That year, I needed Christmas more than ever. I threw myself into the decorations, catalogs, movies and animated specials as much for the distraction as the attraction. To this day, I still look at the trivial joys of Christmastime as a failsafe to keep me from bottoming out. It probably started in 1990, when I watched Scut Farkus on WPIX and tried not to notice how similar he was to those ten assholes from school.
Holiday Rice Krispies Treats! (1996)
I’ve written about my family’s enormous Christmas Eve dinners many times before, but I haven’t told you much about our desserts. They’re just as big. Obnoxiously big. More cakes and pastries than even our giant army can handle — especially after eating a dinner that somehow lasts five hours.
For as long as I can remember, the spread has included red and green Rice Krispies Treats. In fact, the tradition goes back so far that we used to dye the cereal ourselves. (Kellogg’s didn’t offer a special “holiday” version of Rice Krispies until the mid ‘90s.)
If you’ve never had red-and-green Rice Krispies Treats made that way, it’s a different experience. The food coloring condenses the cereal even further, so there’s almost no airiness at all. Every brick has like three bowls’ worth of cereal in it. After you take a bite, you can feel every step of the treat’s journey, from esophagus to large intestine.
I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Maybe I’m just trying to avoid the actual content of this commercial, because breath-on-windows is gross and I don’t want to think about that when we’re on the subject of dessert.
Santa’s Christmas Tales! (1988)
There were dozens of Santa hotline commercials in the ‘80s, but this was by far the strangest. For starters, this “Santa” definitely locked up the real one and took his place. (Notice how Mrs. Claus seems to be signaling for help during her brief appearance?)
I don’t know how you go through the trouble of fabricating a set that features an elf-manned nuclear control panel and forget Santa’s wig. Did they run out of money? They should’ve prioritized before buying that blinking map of the United States. And what kind of room are they even in? It looks like they threw a bunch of Christmas junk into one of those stark lofts from perfume commercials.
Oh, and when they cut to shots of various kids enjoying Santa’s Christmas stories, THEY’RE IN THE SAME ROOM. They’re literally calling Santa while standing in his own damn call center! I guess Santa’s closing line — “Christmas is near, and so am I!” — was meant to be taken literally?
The Hollywood Christmas Parade! (1988)
Man, I’d almost forgotten about the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which is apparently still a thing. I’m sure it was a bigger deal on the west coast, but it used to air around these parts, too — albeit on WPIX without much fanfare, in less-than-ideal time slots.
From what I recall, they were awesome. Just these berserk blitzes of small floats carrying sitcom stars and costumed characters. The Hollywood Christmas Parade didn’t have the production value of the Macy’s Parade, but that was its charm. I mentioned A Christmas Story earlier. Remember the parade scene? Picture that parade, but add Tony Danza and a couple of guys in bad Simpsons costumes.
(If anyone out there taped this in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, please get in touch. I’ll pay handsomely for copies. Seriously, my offer will be sexy and hot.)
Happy New Year from Home Alone! (1990)
Home Alone was released on November 16th, 1990. It was an immediate hit that remained popular well into December, and even beyond. (Hell, it made almost as much in the beginning of January as it did during its debut week!)
Everyone loves Home Alone these days, but it’s fair to say that only a certain contingent of moviegoers would’ve been willing to see it in 1990. Which means that you’d have to credit repeat viewings as a big reason for its success.
With that in mind, Fox continually tossed out new Home Alone promos that were made specifically for people who’d already seen it. This “Happy New Year” spot started airing a little before Christmas, and it certainly wasn’t how you’d pitch the movie to the uninitiated.
Love how they brought Macauley Culkin back for extra footage, and doubly love that they recreated the backstage interview set from Saturday Night’s Main Event for him to hang out in.
To those who aren’t already offline for the holidays: Hope you have a kickass week! I’ll be back after Christmas, hopefully with a few new books and a stomach full of everything. Merry Whatever You Celebrate!