December 9th, 2009
03:41 PM ET

Christmas specials: A ratings winner

The most popular show with viewers last Wednesday wasn't a musically-inclined high school series or a crime procedural drama, but a 45-year-old cartoon about a reindeer with a shiny nose.

According to Nielsen, the annual airing of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was the top show with viewers last Wednesday, both in overall numbers (10.6 million viewers) and in the key 18-49 demo (five million viewers, about 200,000 more than "Glee").

On Tuesday, ABC aired "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which first aired in 1965.

While it finished third in its time slot (behind "NCIS" and "The Biggest Loser"), preliminary results show more than 11 million people watched the "Peanuts" gang.  A new Christmas special, "Disney Prep & Landing," did even better, with more than 12 million viewers.

In an age where network TV occasionally tries to stretch the limits of good taste and exploitation in the thirst for ratings success, it's refreshing to see that there's still room in the market for family-friendly "comfort" television.

There's nothing elaborate about most of these Christmas specials - the animation style on some of them look quite ancient to those growing up on Pixar and DreamWorks. But these specials continue to endure and entertain people of all ages, and it's easy to see why.

The story of "Rudolph" is one that we can resonate with.  We've all felt like the odd one out at least once in our lives, just like the red-nosed reindeer.

Likewise the lesson of  "Charlie Brown"  that sometimes, you have to pause and reflect on the true meaning of the holidays, even when bombarded with buying the latest gifts, putting up elaborate decorations and cooking a multi-course feast.

The moral of looking beyond commercialism can still be found in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," even after all the editing ABC appeared to have done with the most recent broadcast.

A number of bloggers have noted that several scenes were missing from Tuesday's airing, including Sally's letter to Santa, Schroeder's multiple renditions of "Jingle Bells" and the kids discussing the taste of snowflakes.  Not to mention the outcry over the special being bumped for a speech by President Obama.

If this doesn't prove how iconic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has become, I don't know what does.  I also hope ABC listens to these complaints and airs the special again the way it should be broadcast - with said scenes intact.

What are your favorite Christmas TV specials and movies?  Why do you think they continue to endure after all these years?  And were you upset with the  "Charlie Brown" edits?

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Filed under: Glee • television

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Jennifer

    My favorite is "A Christmas Story" ... Ralphie, you'll shot your eye out. I've been TVOing all of the classics. My daughter is 3 now and she is fully aware of how wonderful Christmas is. We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas yesterday, and I was upset too about all the scenes that were cut out. On the other hand she enjoyed. I wish TV shows and times could be as clean and safe as they used to be. I am just happy that I can enjoy all the Christmassy oldie but goodies together with my daughter. Happy Holidays to all!

    December 11, 2009 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    The stupid mindless editing of a classic is a prime example of why people are leaving network tv in droves. Why put up with the stupid commercials, the editing and "squeezebacks" when you can buy the disk for $10 and enjoy it over and over? ABC...that little red light on top of your camera is your career dissipation light going off. You had better get a clue about what WE, the viewers want.

    December 10, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TV viewer from the Midwest

    I'm not surprised that the ratings on these shows are still really good. part of it (I think) is because the messages on them are timeless. I really did not notice that the Peanuts special was edited at all. I was just glad that it was on at all, since the first scheduled showing was postponed because of the President's speech. I also enjoyed the Prep & Landing show that came on afterwards. I like the Grinch who stole Christmas, Santa Claus is coming to town, and the Peanuts Christmas too. also Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer. one of the things that made these shows special back when they first came on (like 40 something years ago) was that nobody back then had a VCR, DVR, or Tivo. you had to watch them when they were on, or else you had to wait until the next year for them to return. these days, most (if not all) of these shows are on DVD's, so people can watch them whenever they want to. also lots of these shows are on Cable TV (ie., the ABC family channel). and if you don't have Cable (or if you don't have them on DVD's), you can't see them at all anymore. I really miss the Fat Albert Christmas that they used to show all the time years ago, and the Nestor program too (I think it was Nestor the sad-eyed donkey?)

    December 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Debra R

    I love these old shows, however there are so many commercials, I just spurged on a gift set so i can watch them uninterrupted.

    I would really like to see Nestor again.

    December 10, 2009 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |

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