Friends, in the nearly ten years that I was lucky enough to write for the Retroist site – one of the television shows that I enjoyed sharing memories about the most was WKRP in Cincinnati. Whether that be the hysterical fits of laughter even thinking about the first season episode entitled “Turkey’s Away” or to the fitting if unintended finale to the series with the fourth season episode “Up And Down the Dial“. The series easily ranks in my top five television shows of all time – along with the likes of Night Court and The Twilight Zone. One of those reasons is the exceptional ensemble cast that had been assembled for the show – although as I understand it – originally the focus of the series was going to be more on Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) as programming director for WKRP. Series creator and showrunner Hugh Wilson who based the show off some of his own experiences working at WQXII in Atlanta – wisely saw that series worked best focusing on the staff of the fictional radio station instead of just one person. In fact I’ll let the late and great Hugh Wilson explain it all himself – BE WARNED – when he begins talking about Bette Midler there is a moment of EXTREME salty language.
I suppose once you’ve reached 72 years of age and are being interviewed about your legacy in pop culture – you are understandably allowed to express your true feelings on a subject, right? I am sad to say that Hugh Wilson who also directed the likes of Police Academy, Guarding Tess, The First Wives Club, and Blast from the Past – passed away two years after that interview.
Just like with such television series as Firefly and 1990’s The Flash among many others – the odds seemed stacked against WKRP in Cincinnati with continuous changes to it’s time slot. Which was surprising that it really seemed to have found it’s audience once it entered syndication – which is where I was first introduced to it. I cannot tell you truthfully how many Family dinners with my Grandparents were spent laughing and being moved by the characters of WKRP. At the very least we can all enjoy this hilarious blooper reel from 1981 – which I believe is put together from the third season of WKRP in Cincinnati.
The other day I was lucky enough to be chatting with Rockford Jay and the subject of conversation turned to Christmas specials – which is when he asked if I was familiar with Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol. I was quick to explain that not only had I not seen the 1979 retelling of A Christmas Carol but in all honesty I had never even heard of it. I’m not sure what I was doing on the night of December 18th when this originally aired but it certainly was not watching this country music inspired special. As I have shared just recently, my Grandmother and myself were big into the Holidays – it was very rare that we would miss a Christmas special, so I’m not sure what was going on that night. And we only had that one chance apparently as it was aired once and has never been given a home media release of any kind. While I’m not sure of the actual reason of it not seeing the light of day on VHS or Blu-Ray, etc. – I can only assume it has a little something to do with the amount of talent that were featured in the TV movie. Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol starred the likes of Hoyt Axton, Barbara Mandrell, Martha Raye, and Mel Tillis to name just a very few.
Hoyt Axton might be known best to those of a certain generation as Randall Peltzer from 1984’s Gremlins, the well-meaning inventor and the one who is really responsible for the Gremlin outbreak in Kingston Falls. Hoyt was a very well known guitarist and folk singer as well as songwriter – a few of his bigger hits besides “Joy to the World” were “When the Morning Comes”, “Della and the Dealer”, and “Boney Fingers”. His first credited acting job was in 1965 with an episode of the popular Bonanza series but he would go on to appear in the likes I Dream of Jeannie and even WKRP in Cincinnati. Most of those roles, like in the Bonanza episode entitled Dead and Gone allowed him to show off his musical skills.
Now then, Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol is a then modern retelling of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol as I’ve already mentioned – actually I believe in the special you will see a theater marquee advertising 1977’s Smoky and the Bandit. You won’t find the likes of Tiny Tim or Ebenezer Scrooge as this story takes place in the fictional Flint City, Tennessee – instead Hoyt Axton portrays Cyrus Flint, who is a powerful banker. Obviously most of the beats of the well known A Christmas Carol are featured in this made-for-TV special – with the addition of a whole lot of music. Now the sound in the video below is far from the best – but considering Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol was only aired once we should be extremely grateful we can watch it at all… plus there are a few vintage commercials in the mix too.
While it is most certainly a couple of days after Thanksgiving I felt I should do my best to get a Pop Culture Retrorama podcast out today – a look at the top 5 Thanksgiving Specials that helped me through this month. If you are a fan of the Saturday Frights podcast you might have realized that sadly there was no new show for the month of November, in this Pop Culture Retrorama special episode I explain why that is. It is a very valid reason and as I mention in the show itself – this special today is in part an apology for not being able to get more podcasts out this month. As I also mention, not all of the specials are the kind we think of during this Holiday season – say like 1968’s The Mouse on the Mayflower – in fact some of the offerings on this top 5 list are just Thanksgiving themed television episodes. I do feel however after saying all of that you won’t be too shocked by what made my list of must-see Thanksgiving Specials.
Being a special podcast episode, this year’s Top 5 Thanksgiving Specials runs just a little shorter than a standard show. I have done my best to give you a brief synopsis for each entry on the list as well as bring along a few audio treats for your listening pleasure. In addition I fervently hope you will share your own must-see Thanksgiving Specials that you watched this Holiday season in the comments section below. Furthermore I hope there might be one or two on the list that you’ve not had the pleasure of catching before – maybe you can track them down while you are taking a break from shopping or throwing that big Thanksgiving get together.
As I always do I share my personal recollections and connections with each of the entries on the Top 5 Thanksgiving Specials list. I also take a moment at the end of this podcast to share a few of the things that I am extremely grateful for – which not to be a spoiler most assuredly includes you – for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show.
If you have any suggestions for topics you would like for us to cover in a future episode -or possibly you have comments on the current show itself, email them to me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com You can also contact me on Facebook or even Twitter. Or perhaps check out the Pop Culture Retrorama Facebook page? There you can find posts a couple of times a day – featuring vintage commercials, comic book ads and toys.
The theme used at the beginning and ending of this episode was provided by Earl Green, if you enjoy his work, make sure to check out his exceptional spot on the internet – TheLogBook.com – let him know we sent you.
Subscribe to the Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast:
[iTunes] Subscribe to the Podcast directly in iTunes (MP3)
Directly Download the Pop Culture Retrorama Podcast: