Ask Joanna Wilson what Christmas TV special she waits for every year and she offers an unsurprising answer.
"I must see 'A Charlie Brown Christmas,'" the author of two books on Christmas TV told me. "That's one of those specials I watched as a kid. And I like to watch it with the commercials, I like to watch it on TV."
In other words, despite having the DVD, she's likely to be joining millions of us tonight at 7 when ABC repeats the 45-year-old animated classic. (It airs in Milwaukee on Channel 12.)
Wilson will be at Boswell Book Company at 7 p.m. Wednesday, where she'll be talking about her two books: "The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials and Outrageous Oddities" and the forthcoming "Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials and Made-For-TV Movies."
She also regularly blogs on the topic.
Wilson's books arose from a personal interest, almost an obsession, with cataloging the almost countless Christmas TV offerings. Like many of us, she traces her connection to the topic to her childhood, remembering that she played Peppermint Patty in a school version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in the second grade back in the 1970s. Her best friend played Lucy.
"Even in second grade, I knew that special. We all did."
And before some smarty-pants comments, she knows that Peppermint Patty wasn't in the original 1965 Peanuts Christmas special.
Wilson sees those holiday specials and Christmas episodes as an intrinsic part of the season.
"Christmas is traditions," she said in a phone conversation. "It's rituals, every year it's doing the same things. TV has become a very special part of it.
"A lot of these shows have heightened emotions. They always have a happy ending. That clicks with what we want at Christmas."
As she's been out speaking around the country on her favorite topic, Wilson most frequently gets questions about a special that only aired once on television and isn't available on a commercially issued DVD: 1978's "Star Wars Holiday Special."
"And yet still everyone has seen it," she said, with bootleg videos and Internet copies. "I think that's part of it. it's forbidden. It is so awful."
Here's the opening:
In a more conventional vein, Wilson's favorite Christmas episodes of regular TV shows includes the holiday "Dick Van Dyke Show":
And before we move on, here's a key moment from the Charlie Brown special which airs tonight and on Dec. 16 this Christmas season:
On TV: FX has decided not to bring "Terriers" back for a second season.
- NBC has cut its order for episodes of "Chase," from 22 to 18, not a good sign for the future of the show.
- ABC has pulled "The Whole Truth" from its schedule, with no word on when, or if, the remaining episodes will air. Reruns of other shows will air in the 9 p.m. Wednesday slot for a while.
- It's official, Showtime will bring "Dexter" back for a sixth season, which is not a surprise.
- Deadline.com reports Joel McHale has signed on for two more years as host of E! Entertainment's "The Soup," which is very good news.
An early look at "Game of Thrones": HBO has released a preview of next spring's big program, "Game of Thrones," which will start airing in April.
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.