Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Christmas TV Companion by Joanna Wilson -- A Stocking Full of Christmas Treats (and some tasty lumps of coal)

And now for something completely different -- The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials and Outrageous Oddities by Joanna Wilson. The author diligently viewed and researched hundreds of TV episodes, motion pictures, and animated features and shorts, to create a compendium of the charming, offbeat, bizarre, irreverent, offensive and crude interpretations of Christmas and its popular icons, including Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the Nativity Story. Her entries run the gamut from amazing to thoroughly tasteless; however, they are never dull and often fascinating.

The book is divided into five major chapters, Macabre , Sci-Fi, Variety, Animation, and Dark. Each section includes three subcategories, Kids' Christmas, Hidden Gems, and Make Your Own Marathon, which highlight additional material not previously covered and deserving of a special mention. Some of the well-known Christmas staples are omitted in favor of presenting a worthy list of esoteric, rarely seen, and difficult-to-find holiday fare. The author made sure that the majority of the titles were available for public viewing, either on DVD, VHS or online. The details of each selected title are summarized in paragraphs, ranging in length from one devoted to the Academy award nominated 1993 short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life to an in-depth analysis of the 1978 debacle The Star Wars Holiday Special. She also provides occasional margin notes as further comment on the current topic. Other entries in this eclectic compilation include Mad TV's send-up of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as a Martin Scorsese-directed mobster film, Raging Rudolph; Hard Nut, a revisionist version of The Nutcracker Suite by the highly-regarded Mark Morris Dance Company; a 1958 Christmas episode of the Western TV series Wanted Dead or Alive entitled "8 Cent Reward"; and Carol for Another Christmas, a 1964 made-for-television movie retelling of the Dickens Christmas classic, written by Rod Serling as a film with a political message. It boasted a star-studded cast including Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazzara, Peter Sellars, and Eva Marie Saint.

The above-mentioned titles are merely a micro sample of the wealth of information found in this unique guide. Television enthusiasts searching for unusual Christmas TV and film topics, presented in an informal and entertaining format, should seek out The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials and Outrageous Oddities. The extensive index provides references and cross-references to all material contained in the book, the good, the bad, and the ugly of holiday entertainment, offering myriad possibilities for creating personalized Christmas viewing schedules based on family traditions, childhood memories and genre preferences.

This is the first book by Joanna Wilson, a bona fide TV junkie from childhood, who earned a college degree in film and an advanced degree in philosophy. She draws upon these two areas of expertise to provide cogent analysis of the film and television elements which comprise the content of her initial effort as a published writer.

The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials & Outrageous Oddities will be published by 1701 Press on November 10, 2009. This 160-page book retails for $22.00 and can be ordered through and booksellers everywhere.


  1. Saz, this is a very entertaining review. If the book is as much fun, I'm interested in it. I remember the MADtv parody RAGING RUDOLPH! My wife and I caught it by chance one Christmas season and thought it was hilarious (and a wee violent). While I've seen Rod Serling's famous TWILIGHT ZONE Christmas episode ("Night of the Meek" with Art Carney), I'm was totally unfamilar with his CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS. Facts like that make this book sound promising.

  2. I really enjoyed your review, Saz! This book sounds like it is being released at a very appropriate time, just before Christmas shopping season. I like Wilson's specific focus and am intrigued to page through her book.