I’m in a Christmas mood, so I thought I would offer a special holiday edition of Doyle’s Half Dozen. The topic this week is Six “Underrated” Characters of Popular Christmas Shows.
The criteria involves both television specials and movies, animated and real life. These are characters who were the scene stealers. The show wouldn’t be as entertaining without them. They are a pivotal part of the plot (how’s that for alliteration, Mr. Hobbs?).
These are just from my perspective and of the Christmas shows that I enjoy the most. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list (half dozen, remember?), so I am certain I may overlook somebody. But I welcome all feedback.
So in no definite order, here’s my six “underrated” Christmas show characters.
- The Narrators of the Rankin/Bass Animated Christmas TV Specials
Right off the bat, I throw a curve ball (a mixed baseball metaphor). This is a troop of characters, but they serve a similar purpose in all of the favorite Christmas shows children began watching in the mid ‘60s and continue doing so today.
From Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Frosty the Snowman and beyond, all of these holiday favorites that were produced by Rankin/Bass Productions wouldn’t happen without a storyteller or a narrator beginning the show. And they all were voiced by celebrity actors of yesteryear.
Burl Ives played the snowman who told the story of Rudolph. Legendary screen star Fred Astaire gave us the history of Kris Kringle in Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Jimmy Durante kept us glued while we watched Frosty.
And there were others – Andy Griffith, Red Skelton, Greer Garson, Roger Miller and so on. You can’t have a story without a storyteller, and these actually told our favorites at Christmas time.
- Max, the Grinch’s dog
I felt sorry for Max. That Grinch definitely was a mean one, and nobody put up with his heart being two sizes too small than poor ol’ Max.
His wooden antlers were too heavy. He didn’t get to ride in the sleigh. Max even had to pull it all by himself with the Grinch cracking the whip on him.
But in the end, Cindy Loo Who offered him a piece of the roast beast, and all seem well.
- Randy, the younger brother in A Christmas Story
There’s plenty of nominees from this holiday favorite. Flick getting his tongue stuck on the frozen flag pole, the “Old Man” and his leg lamp, even adult Ralphie doing the voiceover throughout the film is a prime candidate.
However, Randy’s laugh sticks out for me. It’s a perfect little brother laugh. Plus, the poor kid looks miserable after his mom makes him wear all that winter gear; he can’t even put his arms to his sides, and when he falls down in the snow when Scut Farkus terrorizes the gang, Randy’s garb doesn’t allow him to get back up.
He’s a perfect complement for the frequent funny film found often on TNT at Christmas time.
- Fred Gailey, Miracle on 34th Street
The name may not come immediately to mind. Fred Gailey is the attorney neighbor who offers Kris Kringle to be his roommate in this classic favorite.
The story has fascinating twists, and it’s fun to watch how Kris passes the many tests to prove he is the real Santa Claus, but the plot takes an even higher stake when he goes on to a highly publicized trial, and Fred is there to represent Kris, pulling off an unbelievable victory.
- Clarence, It’s a Wonderful Life
Everybody loves George Bailey, and rightfully so. But when George is faced with the possibility of committing suicide, who is there to save him, in a rather unorthodox fashion?
Clarence is a welcoming sight at this point of the story. It’s a rather dark, stressful scenario that George experiences as he faces criminal charges and financial ruin. Clarence adds some comic relief while helping George understand how wonderful his life is. And it’s Clarence who provides the best line, written in the Tom Sawyer book that George finds among the pile of money, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
I conclude with the one who appears in the best scene of the best Christmas show ever. Linus is priceless. He may be Charlie Brown’s sidekick, but as the one who delivers the ultimate answer to Charlie Brown’s plea of wanting somebody to tell him what Christmas is all about, Linus is a superhero.
A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted 51 years ago, and even in a time of political correctness and discrediting Christianity, I am thankful this simple animated tale continues to be a light in the darkness, with Linus delivering the Good News.