“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and just about every other perennial Christmas classic are ready for their close-ups this year on readily accessible broadcast TV and basic cable.
But for the second consecutive year, the king of the animated Christmas shows -- “A Charlie Brown Christmas” -- will once again be trapped behind a streaming paywall.
As such, Christmas will come and go without most people watching this touching half-hour show about the true meaning of Christmas.
It aired for 50 years on free network TV before Apple TV+ bought up the rights to all the “Charlie Brown” holiday specials in 2022.
As it did last year, Apple is reportedly making “A Charlie Brown Christmas” available for free this Christmas season to non-subscribers for a day or two.
But the dates are difficult, if not downright impossible, to find on the Apple TV+ site.
The bottom line is: Hardly anyone will try to seek them out anyway. Why? Because who wants to look far and wide to find airdate information for a show whose airdates were once easily known to all at this time of year?
The TV Blog wrote an entire screed about this situation last year at this time, so let’s look on the bright side -- all of the others still live on the free side of streaming TV’s paywalls.
First up is the stop-motion classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from 1964 (pictured above), airing tonight (Friday, November 24) from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
This one features the late actor and singer Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman, an example of how some of old Hollywood’s most revered stars lent their talents to some of the most iconic Christmas shows in TV history.
CBS also has the much newer animated special “Reindeer in Here” from 2022 and the U.K. produced “Robbie the Reindeer” from 1999 -- both scheduled for December 2. Both take place at the North Pole at the headquarters of Santa Claus.
One of the most enduring animated Christmas classics, “Frosty the Snowman” from 1969, comes to CBS December 16.
One of the highlights of “Frosty” is the opportunity to hear the late gravel-voiced Jimmy Durante, one of the top entertainers of the 20th century, serve as narrator.
Two other beloved, perennial Christmas specials enlisted the participation of three top stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
In the stop-motion classic “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town,” Fred Astaire served as narrator and Mickey Rooney provided the voice of the special’s main character, a boy named Kris Kringle who grows up to be Santa Claus. This 1970 special airs December 12 on ABC.
Perhaps the best Christmas-special narrator of them all was Boris Karloff, whose unique voice was one of the most memorable in all of old Hollywood.
Karloff was 79 when he provided the voice of the Grinch/narrator for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”, an animated classic produced by famed animator Chuck Jones and Ted Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, who wrote and illustrated the original story.
TBS has been the traditional home of “The Grinch” for years. This year, the network has scheduled it for five dates, one of which is already passed, November 18.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” boasts no Hollywood star voices. It did not really need any, since the Peanuts characters were the most famous comic-strip characters of their era, known to one and all.
Their Christmas special was known to one and all too. Perhaps one day, it will be again.