The holiday season is approaching as your local store tosses out the bag of fun-sized chocolates to make room for pre-lit Christmas trees. But are pine branches and blinking lights really what makes the holiday happen? Of course not. Christmas doesn’t come from a box or hang from a limb. Christmas emanates from deep inside your TV set. What’s the point of talking “Peace” and “Joy” if you’re stuck watching another Real Housewives of marathon. The minute your TV is all about Santa, egg nog and a little bit of Nativity action. For the longest time, networks in December were clogged with Christmas specials starring family friendly singers, legendary actors and trained animals. That fun no longer seems to exist as the cable dial clogs up with washed up stars straight to Lifetime movies about turkeys that don’t defrost. Thankfully a taste of the old ways has returned on home video. Bob Hope: Hope For The Holidays contains two of the legend’s TV specials from both ends of his historic career at NBC.
The main event is Bob Hope’s Bag Full of Christmas Memories which aired in 1993. This was one of his last major specials. The show is a fine retrospective of the decades Hope warmed the cockles of our hearts in mid-December. Seeing how Hope was 90, there’s no need for him to do much heavy lifting. So he invites numerous stars over to his Palm Springs home that’s been recreated on a Hollywood soundstage to share in the bounty of clips. Among those welcomed through the front door are Loni Anderson (WKRP), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie), Joey Lawrence (Gimme A Break), Ed Marinaro (Hill Street Blues) and Lynn Swan (Pittsburgh Steelers). Barbara gets to flashback Bob to one of his holidays with the Troops when she was wearing something not G.I. approved. Loni takes us to a sketch where Bob’s a toy maker and she’s his mechanical doll. The jokes are naughty enough to be reported to North Pole’s HR department. The big score was having The Judds (Wynonna and Naomi) reunite for “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” Bob warms up the evening like a bottle of Scotch. The historic clips bring back departed stars like Bing Crosby and John Wayne as ghosts of Christmas Specials Past. The nice part is how many of his own family members join him in the living room.
The other Christmas special is one of Bob’s first as NBC’s The Comedy Hour from 1950. The big stars are Lily Pons, Robert Cummings and Mrs. FDR. That’s right, FDR’s widow has a special message for all of America. The big thing is a church choir bringing the cheer. There’s plenty of singing, dancing and even a harpist. The show was originally broadcast on Christmas Eve in New York City, but Bob’s introduction makes it sound like this 16mm version was aired two weeks later in Los Angeles.
Playing the two specials back to back mixes perfect with your first cup of hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows. Even with 43 years between the specials, Bob’s eternal in his joy and sense of style. He’s more than consistent than Santa Claus over the generations. Before you go looking for garland and tinsel, unpack the joy of Bob with Bob Hope: Hope For the Holidays.
The videos is 1.33 full frame. The quality is fine for Bob Hope’s Bag Full that was shot on standard definition videotape. The Comedy Hour is rather rough since it appears to be a 16mm kinescope that has scratches. The holiday spirit comes through the damage. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The audio on The Comedy Hour is better than the video. Both specials are Closed Captioned.
No bonus features.
Time Life presents Bob Hope: Hope For the Holidays. Starring: Bob Hope, John Wayne, Bob Cummings, The Judds, Loni Anderson and Bing Crosby. Running Time: 110 minutes. Released: November 1, 2016.
Tags: Bob Hope, Christmas, John Wayne