When Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer flew onto screens 50 years ago, the stop-motion-animated musical did more than charm: It changed how we watch TV at Christmastime.
" Rudolph was indeed the granddaddy of the holiday TV special," says Walter J. Podrazik, coauthor of Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television .
Before Rudolph , holiday TV meant a Yuletide-themed episode of a scripted show, like I Love Lucy . Or, it meant the occasional special event, like Amahl and the Night Visitors , a made-for-TV Nativity opera that NBC staged a handful of times in the 1950s and 1960s. Or, for a time, it meant Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol , a retelling of the Charles Dickens tale through its title character's myopic point of view that premiered on NBC in 1962 as TV's first major animated holiday special, but fell off the network map only a handful of years later.
Most commonly, holiday TV meant variety specials from variety stars, like the bundled-up Andy Williams toasting marshmallows on a soundstage or Bing Crosby popping up to croon "White Christmas."
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBS .
The Saturday-morning cartoon on broadcast-network TV is dead. And while former kids cried into their Sugar Pops, today's target audience barely noticed.
Perhaps that's because on other platforms —cable and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu — the Saturday-morning cartoon is alive and well. And the web is filled with all kinds of other videos that kids find captivating — no TV necessary. "In my own house, [my children, ages 12 and 9] don't even ask me to turn on the television ever, let alone Saturday mornings," says Jessica Hartshorn, entertainment editor of Parents magazine.
Here's a sampling of what's keeping your kids glued to their (usually handheld) screens:
You've checked in with The Simpsons ' latest "Treehouse of Horror." You've paid your annual respects to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown . Now what?
Here's your viewing guide to six high-quality, off-the-trick-or-treat-path Halloween TV specials. (Please take note of the deliberate use of the phrase "high quality." The Paul Lynde Halloween Special will not be discussed here except in passing, specifically to note that you can find the whole strange thing on YouTube; look for rock band KISS at about the 26-minute mark. You're welcome.)
Though cult favorites all, these shows have fallen out of the regular TV rotation — but they deserved to be rediscovered. Settle in.
The Korean drama is booming. Hollywood is circling. And the K-drama fan is worrying.
"It's hard to see one's favorite K-drama be reimagined into something else," the blogger known as Kaedejun tells Yahoo TV in an email. "You tend to think the original is sacred and should not be touched."
These deals and more come as DramaFever, the K-drama streaming site and Hulu partner, reportedly is notching up to 20 million monthly unique viewers, the vast majority of of which are not Asian, a demographic footnote underscoring the genre's reach.
As the format explodes, the concern (or is it pessimism?) about Hollywood grows. Perhaps the headline on the Asian-pop blog Asian Junkie summed up the sentiment best: "America Is Now Going to Ruin K-Dramas..."
To be sure, Miami Vice started a fashion revolution, but its most lasting influences have little to do with pastel suits and loafers sans socks.
On the occasion of the series' 30th anniversary — it launched via a two-hour TV-movie on Sept. 16, 1984, and aired its first regular episode nearly two weeks later, on Sept. 28 — it's time to look at how Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) changed the game for cops and crime shows:
1. Stubble wasn't just for bad guys anymore. In the pre- Miami Vice world, Hawaii Five-O 's Detective Danny Williams (as played by James MacArthur on the original series) was as clean-cut as a Jack Webb recruit. After Crockett made barely-there beards heroic, Danno (as played by Scott Caan on the current Five-0 reboot) got as unshaven as a Charles Bukowski character. (Note: While we acknowledge Crockett wasn't the first good cop to sport stubble — the likes of Bruce Weitz's Mick Belker got there before in Hill Street Blues — we argue he was the first leading-man cop to do so.)
Gilligan's Island is 50 years old. Its music is timeless.
"'Just sit right back, and you'll hear a tale...' The catchy theme from Gilligan’s Island is etched in the memories of generations of Americans, including mine!" Rick Bogard, music professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, said via email. "The familiar five-note intro is sure to send me to the television to watch another rerun of one of the favorite shows of my childhood."
Indeed, "The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle," written by sitcom creator and executive producer Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle at the behest of network execs who worried audiences wouldn't understand how a shipmate (Bob Denver), a skipper (Alan Hale Jr.), a millionaire (Jim Backus), and the rest came to be stranded together on an uncharted island, is oft-cited as a TV favorite. (It was named the greatest theme song of all-time in our 2013 Yahoo TV reader poll.)
1. The original theme song from the original pilot
2. "Let Me Entertain You"
4. "You Need Us"
The Cosby Show premiered Sept. 20, 1984, with what Time called one of the "10 greatest TV pilot[s]" ever. Among the episode's highlights: the scene where Huxtable family patriarch Cliff (Bill Cosby) schools his teenage son, Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), on the financial realities of the world with a handful of Monopoly bills. Thirty years later, it's still on the money. Literally.
"It's a very simple analysis that is more accurate than people give it credit for," says Giacomo Santangelo, a lecturer in economics at Fordham University.
At the heart of the scene is Theo's argument that his school grades don't matter because he doesn't intend to go to college; instead, he aspires to be "regular people," perhaps a gas-station attendant or bus driver. Cliff's counterargument is that Theo is insane.
And Cliff would still be right.
Bewitched turns 50 years old today, so it's about time you got something straight about the witch-marries-mortal sitcom: You've been doing Samantha's spell-casting nose twitch all wrong.
"Everybody thinks it was the nose, and that's why people can't do it," says author Herbie J. Pilato, who's written two books about Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery and the definitive guide to her series, The Bewitched Book .
Explains Pilato: "You have to wriggle your upper lip, and then your nose."
The very first nose twitch — or, rather, mouth twitch — occurs about five minutes into the very first Bewitched , which premiered on ABC on Sept. 17, 1964.
Newlywed Samantha Stevens, played by Montgomery, breaks out the move in an attempt to magically evict overbearing mother Endora (Agnes Moorehead) from Sam and husband Darrin's honeymoon suite. Plot-wise, the twitch doesn't work, but it sticks as a signature move — it's immortalized from the get-go in the series' animated opening-credits.
Joan Rivers outlived Johnny Carson. She overcame the "Carson mess."
Rivers , who died Thursday at age 81, starred with the Tonight Show legend in the longest-running, most-entrenched battle of the late-night TV wars. The standoff spanned decades and talk-show host regimes. To call it a feud would suggest heated words where, in reality, there were only icy silences.
[Photos: Highlights From Joan Rivers's TV Career]
Here's a look back at the twists and turns that brought Rivers and Carson together, tore them apart, and ultimately led Rivers back to Tonight :
1965: The 31-year-old Rivers performs her first stand-up set on Carson's Tonight Show . Comedy's reigning tastemaker approves; his loyal audience takes note. "I went on his show once, and I was a star," she said earlier this year.
1984: Thicke of the Night is canceled; Carson and Rivers roll along.
Garry Shandling, meanwhile, is tapped to fill in as guest host for the now-banished Rivers.
Robin Williams was something of a regular at the Emmy Awards: He received eight nominations spread over roughly 30 years. In June, he was in the game again, in the running for an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series bid for his sitcom comeback, The Crazy Ones . But it wasn't meant to be.
Williams's attempt to garner a ninth-career nomination fell short at the nomination stage in July.
"It's so competitive now for an Emmy," says Michael Schneider, executive editor of TV Guide .
Williams, who died Aug. 11, will be posthumously honored by Billy Crystal at Monday's 66th Primetime Emmy Awards.
[Related: Remembering Robin Williams's Best TV Moments]
Even with six slots up for grabs in Williams's category, one more than in most of the glamour races at the Oscars and Grammys, there wasn't enough room for the acclaimed performer and two-time Emmy winner. His bid might have been sunk the minute The Crazy Ones was canceled in May.
"It's always tough with a canceled show," Schneider says.
But that, too, was not meant to be.