I agree with something USA Today TV critic Robert Bianco said recently: where would we be today at Christmastime if TV executives in the 1960's hadn't produced a lot...and I mean, a lot, of holiday specials?
Most of them are still running today. Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch and any number of cartoon/animated characters are still visitors in our homes today during the holidays.
But the special which, in essence, began the animated-special-that-is-rerun-every-year trend hasn't been seen as often. It will be, next Saturday (assuming the Mayan calendar is wrong).
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol is, as the title suggests, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic work. I first saw it when it made its debut in December, 1962, as a six-year old. I had never read Dickens' story about Ebeneezer Scrooge, but I had seen Mr. Magoo in the cartoons. And this was a departure from the normally goofy, nearsighted character whose voice was supplied by Jim Backus; far darker than the usual cartoons.
NBC, which first aired the special, is airing it again (meaning it will be aired on WTAP). It led, a couple of years later, to a series which lasted one season, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, in which Magoo appeared as a number of historical figures. The special aired regularly during the 1960's, and has been released on DVD, but recently hasn't been shown on TV as often as the shows it inspired.
And I believe, of all the cartoon characters that came around in the mid-20th century, Magoo is one of the forgotten ones. Jim Backus, in fact, is better known these days for Gilligan's Island, where he played the castaway millionaire, Thurston Howell III. Perhaps this year's showing will begin a new tradition.
Welcome back to TV-and the holidays-Mr. Magoo!
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