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YULE TUBE: Cool Christmas shows online!
December 22, 2009  | By Diane Werts
3rd Rock Christmas cast.jpg

Haven't been able to find your favorite Christmas shows in the TV listings? Try online streams. You'd be surprised how many tube holidays can be watched somewhere on the web -- from Jack Benny to Lou Grant, from Donna Reed to Donny & Marie, from Liberace to ALF, from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to 3rd Rock From the Sun.

Video/audio quality isn't always primo, but hey -- it's free, it's anytime/anywhere, and it's there. Which is more than we can say for holiday shows that don't seem to be surfacing anyplace. (Alastair Sim's A Christmas Carol, where are you?)

Some prime sites for free seasonal streams:

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HULU - Searching "Christmas episodes" hits nearly 100 titles in high quality streams -- comedy (Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, ALF, Newsradio, Hearts Afire), drama (Alfred Hitchcock, Adam-12, Lou Grant, Party of Five, Studio 60), family viewing (Muppets, Benji), specials (A Colbert Christmas). Many current shows, too -- 30 Rock, Modern Family, South Park, American Dad, Psych, Jennifer Hudson's holiday special.

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TVS HOLIDAY - Here's a crazy mix of early TV sitcoms (Jack Benny, Burns & Allen), kid stuff (Howdy Doody, Annie Oakley), familiar faves (Beverly Hillbillies), merry music (Bing Crosby, Liberace, Donny & Marie), cool obscurities (Joe Santa Claus, Lux Video Theatre's Holiday Affair). Many shows are not listed individually in the homepage pulldown menu -- just click on Christmas TV, and peruse the list that scrolls next to the video window.

NOSTALGIA MERCHANT - The longtime distributor of vintage shows on VHS and DVD presents holiday streams including Date With the Angels, Highway Patrol, Dennis the Menace, Dragnet, Crossroads, The Gray Ghost.

INTERNET ARCHIVE - Technical quality at this grassroots site really varies. But here, you can not only watch old shows, you can download them, too. Titles tend toward the truly vintage (a feast for TV history buffs like me!) -- Jack Benny, Ozzie & Harriet, Love That Bob, Dragnet ('50s original), even seasonal soap from Search for Tomorrow.

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CRACKLE - This Sony-owned site showcases the studio's seasonal episodes (some are full-length, some are well-edited 5-minute Minisode digests) -- The Addams Family, Bewitched, Barney Miller, SWAT, Jackie Chan Adventures, Married With Children, more.

CBS - Handy "Holiday Central" collection clicks you through to The Twilight Zone, Family Ties, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, more.

ABC FAMILY - Christmas-crazed cable channel offers online TV movies (Snow, Holiday in Handcuffs), animation (Cranberry Christmas, Holly and Hal Moose), more.

TV.COM - Hard-to-find holidays from shows like Cagney & Lacey and Square Pegs.

Obscurities abound! Some of my favorite strangeness:

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The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood - ABC's 1966 musical staging doesn't actually have all that much to do with the holiday, other than a handy setting, but what bona fides! Liza Minnelli gets her first starring role, Cyril Ritchard plays the Wolf, Eric Burdon's group The Animals are his Wolf Pack, and the original songs come from Broadway legends Jule Styne and Bob Merrill (Funny Girl). Too bad this print is in nth-generation black-and-white. But again, we should be happy to have this pop culture nugget in any form. (Click the Christmas TV button.)

Jim and Tammy Christmas Show - Oy to the world. This one must be seen to be believed. Once seen, however, it's hard to watch. This is from those high-flying PTL '80s when the evangelist Bakkers had a TV network, an amusement park and, clearly, a too-big budget for wardrobe and makeup. Scary stuff. (Select show from homepage pulldown menu.)

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Date With the Angels - It's not that this 1957 sitcom holiday episode is so wonderful, but it's great fun to see TV treasure Betty White in just her second series lead. (She'd already done Life With Elizabeth.) Today, 52 years later, she's still kicking butt and taking names! (Last year Boston Legal; this year The Bold and the Beautiful, et al.) Secondary thrill here: Another TV institution, Burt Mustin, who specialized in playing funny old men for decades.

Click directly to some of the all-time best holiday episodes:

The Jack Benny Program

Barney Miller

My So-Called Life

3rd Rock From the Sun

South Park

Holiday music videos are streaming, too, at VH1 CLASSIC, where you'll find seasonal songs of all sorts -- Bob Dylan, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Natalie Cole, No Doubt, Twisted Sister, Rick Springfield, Hall & Oates, New Kids on the Block, The Chipmunks, Ren & Stimpy.

To get you started with streams, here's one of TV's warmest music moments, from 1963's The Judy Garland Christmas Show, with the star's real-life kids Lorna and Joey. Happy holiday viewing!



1 Comment 


Mac said:

Betty White was even on Craig Ferguson's show last night (Dec. 21), pretending to be a Salvation Army bell ringer complete with Santa suit. Craig and Betty exchanged a couple of naughty holiday double entendres and plugged a DVD she was in.

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