Say what you want about NBC's new fall schedule having its ups and downs: The network's 2012 holiday specials are arguably more festive than anywhere else on television. The only exception is ABC annually trying to fit CBS's old "A Charlie Brown Christmas" into a modern-day format that still works. Otherwise, NBC did a worthy service in TV holiday tradition by hiring two popular performers to help bring back the annual Christmas special.
Take a look at what NBC has in store this year, including going decidedly sardonic and retro.
"Blake Shelton's Not-So-Family Christmas" (Dec. 3)Speaking of sardonic, who would have thought we'd see a country singer decide to do a similar themed Christmas special? No longer are we dealing with the country singers of old, where their brand of holiday conservatism would have fit right in with the audience zeitgeist. In the case of Blake Shelton, there may be a combination of both in his new Christmas special that could become annual.
Alongside what appears to be some quite subversive holiday comedy sketches, the rest of the show consists of down-home duets with Shelton's wife, Miranda Lambert, and fellow "The Voice" judge Christina Aguilera. For the first time, we'll presumably see the latter two sing reverently rather than chat sardonically in those jumbo judging chairs.
"Michael Buble: Home for the Holidays" (Dec. 10)You've likely seen the promotions for this special in recent weeks. It's Buble's second Christmas show, and it's quite apparent it will continue as an annual event in a fitting nod to the crooner Christmas specials of old. That's a prodigious achievement when you consider the last crooner continuing an annual Christmas show was Perry Como in the 1980s.
The point, of course, is that Buble fits the Bing Crosby and Andy Williams tradition of those earlier 1960s and '70s Christmas specials. In his inaugural show last year, Buble even managed to sneak in a few light comedy holiday sketches that were taken right out of yesteryear. His 2011 bit with Oscar the Grouch was both gently retro and modern; he pulled it off perfectly.
Special guest alert this year: Rod Stewart. Buble and Stewart's duet (from Stewart's new Christmas album) comes close to equaling the appealing Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong mixture of satin and sandpaper.
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (Dec. 22)What more could NBC do to gain retro status than celebrate the 50th anniversary of the beloved, animated Mr. Magoo special? While you might say that NBC's annual "It's a Wonderful Life" showings fit that bill over and over again, the Mr. Magoo special hasn't been on TV in decades. However, you can fortunately find it in Netflix's streaming service, Amazon Instant Video, as well as on DVD.
NBC's marketing on this is brave, considering the demographic will be usually shunned older viewers. It's all the more reason that NBC did well in plotting out their holiday specials with the concept that many people associate retro with the holidays.