For readers in Los Angeles, this is largely a "Good News" Media Alert -- at 8 PM tonight (Saturday), KTLA -- channel 5 -- is showing the glorious Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. But here's the really wonderful news: to their everlasting credit, they're showing in a 90-minute time slot!!
When shown today, the program airs in a one-hour slot. I'm not sure about 1962 when the show initially aired (this was the first animated musical holiday special on TV, before even A Charlie Brown Christmas), but I suspect that was the case, as well -- but back then there were only nine minutes of commercials per hour. So, it could fit in an hour timeslot back then, with its 52-minute running time, but not even-remotely today. What this means is that when it airs today in an hour slot, over a quarter of the show gets cut! But KTLA, bless their hearts for running it and running it this way, is giving the show its full due. God bless them, everyone
Now, it's possible that other cities are airing the show tomorrow, too, or upcoming, and doing so in a 90-minute time period, as well. But for those who won't be getting it, here's the next best thing. Here's the entire show embedded below.
[Update: I was reading an article online about the show in an Oregon publication, and it's running there in a 90-minute slot, too. Tracking down more information, what I've subsequently read is that the CW network bought the broadcast rights this year,so clearly they're showing it properly on all their stations. Hats off to them.]
If you haven't seen the classic, it actually tells the story well. Though it's by necessity too truncated to do the story full justice. And ultimately, of course, it's Mr. Magoo... But what really makes the special leap out is the remarkable score. Not just likely the best score ever for an animated TV special, but probably in competition as the best for any TV special, period.
It's written by two legendary Broadway song writers, Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, and the score is of Broadway quality. Separately, their credits are impressive -- Styne wrote the music for such shows as Gypsy, Bells are Ringing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and half of Peter Pan. Merrill's shows on his own (for which he wrote both the music and lyrics) include Carnival! and Take Me Along. Eventually, they teamed up, with Merrill doing the lyrics and Styne the music. And while they wrote Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, they were in the midst of writing a Broadway show -- Funny Girl. So, this score came during that peak of creativity.
(There's a famous story that one day a producer of the TV special was wandering past Styne and Merrill's office and heard them working on a song. He was thrilled how great it was, and stopped in to tell them. They had to break the news to him that the song wasn't for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, but rather for Funny Girl. It was the song, "People."
And with that, curtain up. Here is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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