This past Tuesday, CBS ran RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER for the umpteenth TV Holiday season. Originally shown on NBC in 1964, this sleigh guide has been a perennial every year since then. This year, despite it’s age, RUDOLPH was the second highest rated show on any network Tuesday night. Simply amazing for something that has been seen so many times, but it has become so important to the season that you sit and watch it every Christmas season.
I did, and I already have it on DVD!
The question though, is “did you see all of it?”. Over the years, many shows are altered from their original broadcast form due to time constraints, increased commercial time or updating the credits if the original show was sponsored by a single company. This may also happen if there are inferior source copies that won’t allow a quality showing. At rare times, it may be because of copyright on a song or an objection to material.
RUDOLPH is a great example of this.
RUDOPLH premiered on December 6th, 1964 (my 9th Birthday!!!) under the umbrella title THE GENERAL ELECTRIC FANTASY HOUR. It premiered outside of primetime, at 5:30 PM EST. All the ads were for GE small appliances and some featured the elves interacting with the appliances. It had different end credits. The original airing did not include a final scene with the Island Of Misfit Toys. More on that after this reel that has much of the original material that does not appear anymore…
In 1965, in response to viewer demand, a scene was added at the end. In the original show, Santa makes a promise to the Island Of Misfit Toys that he will come back for them, but he simply heads off to deliver his workshop toys on Christmas Eve. Viewers felt that showed that Santa had broken a promise, and they added the scene where he goes back and takes the Misfit Toys with him.
Other cuts and changes are chronicled on the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Wiki page. Just click the link.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS has also suffered the same fate. When released in 1965, it was sponsored by Coca-Cola and had actual product placement in the print. Over the years, those were removed. Trims were made for additional commercials or to fit a time slot. Even the version that runs on ABC TV has some trims to allow it to buddy up to a second holiday cartoon in a one hour time slot.
Footage of the Coca-cola opening and placements, as well as any other cuts, are very hard to find.
A similar fate befell MISTER MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL over the years. Because of it’s original 53 minute running time, subsequent showings required trimming scenes. Because the show used the conceit that Magoo was actually going to star on Broadway as Scrooge, there was an opening number that shows Magoo in his standard guise of driving to the theater and causing havoc because of his bad eyesight. This framing device was usually cut.
Many other Christmas specials suffered the same fate. Most DVD release include all or most of the original cuts, but not always. So, hold on to your childhood memories of TV Christmases past, because they may be the most complete versions of these.