How about a new edition of Classic Christmas Commercials? Okay good, you approve!
If you’re new to the site, this is where I gush about ancient TV spots that have some tie to Santa Claus, no matter how minor. The commercials below were rescued from old VHS tapes with incorrect labels. “Hey here’s WrestleMania III siiiiike it’s Rudolph.”
Enjoy them, perhaps now more than ever:
Carvel’s Thanksgiving Cakes! (1980s)
This isn’t a Christmas commercial, but since I’ve always considered Thanksgiving “Little Christmas,” I think it still fits.
Tom the Turkey was (and probably still is) Carvel’s official Thanksgiving mascot. He was named after company founder Tom Carvel, who also did the voice-over for this spot. (Yes, even for that crude cartoon turkey at top.)
If you’re thinking that Tom’s ice cream cake looks suspiciously like Cookie Puss, you’re right. Carvel reused the Cookie Puss mold for all sorts of cakes, whether the shape was appropriate or not. (It’s like how they turn Fudgie the Whale into Santa Claus every December.)
This was an extremely low-budget TV spot, and if it seems almost intentionally rough, well, maybe it was! It’s weird to say, but part of the chain’s success stemmed from its ability to seem smaller than it was. There were Carvels dotted all across the northeast, but every store still felt like the ol’ neighborhood ice cream parlor.
Spot Saves Christmas! (1988)
Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to this one, as it’s truly among the most beloved Christmas commercials of the ‘80s. (I think it was still in rotation through half of the ‘90s, too?)
More than any other piece of 7UP-related media, THIS is the thing that made me a Spot fanatic. Were you to literally set me on fire, you would not warm me any faster than the sight of cartoon Spots posing as Christmas tree ornaments.
I loved all holiday commercials as a kid, but there was a certain “top shelf” reserved for the ones that felt like TV specials in of themselves. For me, this one crossed that threshold. It may have lacked the emotional punch of Ronald McDonald teaching a shy boy to ice skate, but it was an instant spirit boost no matter how many hundreds of times I saw it.
HOT Robot Toys! (1984)
This promo was for a 20/20 segment on the “robot toy fad” of the ’84 Christmas season. Yeah, come to think of it, there was a lot of robot shit going around at the time. You had Transformers and Gobots, of course, but you also had those wild “real” robots from Tomy.
Some of my favorite Christmas memories are connected to robot toys. There was the time my older brother gave me a complete set of Dinobots, but signed the gift tags with various Transformers’ names. (My Grimlock was from Optimus Prime, while Megatron played against his own interests by gifting me a Snarl.)
Then there was the time my best friend’s aunt dropped by on Christmas Eve, dressed as Santa Claus. I knew who she really was and loudly told her so, even after she ho-ho-ho’d and gave me a Gobot. Cop-Tur was cool, but yelling “I KNOW WHO YOU ARE” at Santa Claus was even cooler.
A Very Brady Christmas! (1988)
A Very Brady Christmas aired in December of ‘88, and the TV movie was a monster ratings hit. Actually, its success was directly responsible for The Bradys, the ill-fated TV series that turned a cheery sitcom into a weird drama.
It’s pretty obscure by 2020 standards, and by “obscure” I mean that I’m the first person to type “A Very Brady Christmas” in almost ten years. I concede that it’s a you-had-to-be-there thing, but I *was* there, and I’ll always have a soft spot for the film.
Granted, I don’t remember much about it. I know that Jennifer Runyon played Cindy because Susan Olsen was on her honeymoon, and I vaguely recall that the Bradys’ long-awaited return to television culminated with Mike getting trapped under a collapsed building. Honestly, isn’t that enough?
Season’s Greetings from E.T.! (1991)
In 1991, Sears went all-in on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Not only did they sponsor a CBS broadcast of the film on Thanksgiving night, but Sears also snatched exclusive rights to sell E.T. videos at their stores.
On top of that, Sears gave Santa the year off and enlisted E FUCKIN’ T for their holiday photo ops. Pay the fee, and you’d get a shot of your kid riding Elliot’s bicycle, complete with a nonplussed E.T. popping out of the crate.
I wonder if it was all worth it? E.T. was the top dog in 1982, but it always seemed like his market value during revival periods wasn’t quite what companies must’ve hoped for. I mean, Toys “R” Us was still liquidating toys from the film’s 2002 rerelease on its dying day.
On the other hand, I don’t think kids needed to be major E.T. fans to enjoy this promotion. Put yourself in a five-year-old’s shoes. If someone gave you the choice between a photo with Mall Santa and a photo with a magical space alien, which are you picking?
Thanks for reading. Another edition of Classic Christmas Commercials is coming soon!