Rich Little’s Christmas Carol: A Truly Dated Ghost of Christmas Past!

Ok, I give up. This has been requested for nearly 20 years, so you guys win and here it is – the annual induction where I ignore wrestling altogether and focus instead on wacky Christmas movies from the past! This one was horrifically dated at the turn of the century, so I can only imagine how ancient is going to appear now, a full FORTY-FIVE YEARS after it originally came out. Is this our most dated Christmas induction yet? Let’s find out!

Before we get into things we need to talk Rich Little, a comedian coming to us from the Great White North, regaling us with various celebrity and political impressions all the way back to the the 1950s. Yes, the FIFTIES. Even your old buddy and old pal RD Reynolds wasn’t around back then! No, I first caught his act in the late 70s/early 1980s, likely the same time as many of you who requested this. The event I’m diving into here was a staple of the early days of HBO, and was in fact his first ever HBO special. I’m talking of course about the legendary Rich Little’s Christmas Carol. HBO aired it over and over and over and OVER again for like 10 years every Christmas because, well, they owned it and it was Christmas. And thus it became a tradition for many souls of the early days of cable television.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am not one to be trifled with when it comes to the Charles Dickens classic; I’ve covered I don’t know how many different horrible adaptations of it on this site over the years. Ok, that’s a lie – it’s only two. One was a Back to the Future cartoon, one was that totally absurd An American Christmas Carol with the FONZ as Ebenezer Scrooge. That one was also ridiculously ancient, but believe it or not it came out one year AFTER what we’re about to discuss here today! All I can say is this – all will be redeemed if Rich’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is also a disco pimp was a radio obsession.

In the opening montage, we are introduced to the stars of tonight’s presentation. We’re getting Rich Little as WC Fields (heyday 1920s!), Paul Lynde (game show staple of the 70s), Richard Nixon (US president in the year I was BORN), John Wayne (TheSearchers, considered to be his greatest film, came out in 1956) and Edith Bunker (character on All in the Family, had an eight year run from 1971 – 1979). Do whatever you want Rich, but don’t you dare do that scene where we learn Edith finds out Archie was cheating on her. My emotions are fragile enough this time of year and I’m running low on Kleenex.

We open on the streets of London with a jolly little tune called “The Merriest Christmas Yet“. I’d mock it, but it’s actually kinda catchy. My toes were tapping and I was humming along!

We waste no time in meeting Scrooge, who we are told is a “mean, miserable, belligerent, and nasty old skinflint…and those are his good points!” Get ready to laugh it up, kids! Actually on second thought, you don’t need to chortle as the show has that covered with an honest-to-goodness LAUGH TRACK! Is that a WrestleCrap first? Someone let us know in the comments below, I’m far too lazy to look it up.

In this version of the story, Scrooge owns a boat and bottle business. We learn that business has been bad because Scrooge had been emptying the bottles faster than Cratchit could build the boats. To translate, Cratchit is Paul Lynde and Scrooge is an alcoholic in the form of WC Fields. If that’s not Christmas, I don’t know what is!

Scrooge’s nephew Fred shows up next, and if you’re a fan of Johnny Carson (Tonight Show host starting in 1962!), you’re either in luck or totally appalled. Here, give it a listen and decide for yourself. Fred of course invites his uncle to Christmas dinner. Scrooge is appalled, and immediately hits the sauce again. Have yourself a drunken little Christmas indeed!

The charitable men collecting for the poor arrive next in the form of Laurel and Hardy…who were the zenith of pop culture in about the 1940s. I keep bringing this up not so much to say how dated this is today, but rather when this was produced in 1978. I mean, seriously, that would be like if I wrote inductions about wrestling angles that happened in the 1980s!

In case I hadn’t mentioned it already, once you get past the opening scene with a handful of folks on the street, this is pretty much Rich Little and no one but Rich Little. The very definition of a one-man show. To be fair to the man, it’s kinda impressive he’s been able to do this these last 10 minutes, but I have to ask…

…can he keep it up for another FORTY? ONE WAY TO FIND OUT!

Staying true to the book, Cratchit gets the whole day of Christmas off, but is told that he needs to come in an hour early on the 26th. “I came in an hour early last year,” the poor clerk tells us, “and he charged me rent!” (CUE THAT LAUGH TRACK!)

Scrooge sees the ghost of Jacob Marley in the door knocker, but unlike in other versions here it’s the visage of Richard Nixon. Tricky Dick asks if Scrooge believes in him, to which he replies, “No…and neither did anyone else!” He continues and explains that Scrooge will be visited by three spirits. Unlike in other versions, Scrooge is totally fine with this…as long as those spirits are vodka, scotch, and a small pint of gin. HA!

The clock chimes one and the first ghost appears and it’s none other than HUMPHREY BOGART (Casablanca, 1942). He tells old “Moose Breath” if he doesn’t get on his feet he’s gonna slap him silly. Rich Little on Rich Little violence? Say it ain’t so – it’s Christmas!

Fezziwig shows up in the guise of Groucho Marx (1940s) and we get a song entitled “Typical Office Party” (right click it and add it to your own personal Christmas playlist!). And let me tell, this looks like the legendary ones I’d always heard about in the 1970s, with people getting tanked, laughing uproariously, and making out with co-workers in the corner. I’m going to my first office Christmas party in about ten years later this week and if I don’t see someone swinging like Tarzan over the production floor I’ll be sore disappointed.

He then meets a co-worker and it’s none other than Jimmy Stewart (star of one of my favorite movies ever, although I should note It’s a Wonderful Life hit the silver screen in 1946). We get ANOTHER song, which begs the question…did this get an LP release? And will someone buy it for me for Christmas? I’ve been a good boy this year!

The Ghost of Christmas present shows up next, and I believe it’s Columbo. You know, from the show Columbo, the one that came out in the 1970s so it’s positively TIMELY by this show’s standards. If you’re looking at that picture and asking, “Wait, is he laying on the bed with Scrooge?” then I commend you for making it this far in the article as that is exactly what he’s doing. We do learn that Scrooge doesn’t have a waterbed, but rather a beer bed. Because as we may have mentioned, Scrooge is a boozer.

You know, I get misty eyed around this time of year. And hearing this just reminded me…I kinda miss my old waterbed. Did anyone else have one of those contraptions? Have to sign a waiver with the landlord to bring it in like I did? Like I said, emotions are running high and me being triggered about a WATERBED I haven’t had in 25 years proves it.

So we go to the Cratchit house (where the meat is so thin it only has one side!) and we get Edith Bunker as Mrs. Cratchit…

…and Tiny Tim in the form of Elton John! No wait, my bad that’s Truman Capote. You want to know another reason I’ve avoided writing this induction for all these years? Because I’d have to try to explain TRUMAN CAPOTE IS. But now thanks to the wonder of ChatGPT, I no longer have that fear!

In the annals of literary history, there exists a peculiar figure who, despite his diminutive stature, looms large in the world of wordsmithery. Enter Truman Capote, a man whose literary endeavors can only be described as a bizarre collision of haute couture and highfalutin prose. Picture, if you will, a diminutive dandy with a penchant for penning prose that straddles the line between high art and high camp. Capote, often seen as the Andy Warhol of the literary set, managed to turn the act of writing into a spectacle akin to a wrestling match between thesaurus-wielding wordsmiths. His infamous soirées were legendary, where the clink of champagne flutes mingled with the clatter of typewriter keys. With a literary style that can only be compared to a luchador donning a feathered boa, Capote grappled with words like a seasoned ring veteran, leaving behind a legacy that, much like a wrestling match gone awry, is as perplexing as it is unforgettable. Truman Capote: the scribe who turned literature into a flamboyant, literary smackdown.

I can’t decide if that’s awesome or horrible. It’s kinda both right?

And here comes our Ghost of Christmas yet to come – and it’s Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther movie franchise. Granted, that’s horribly dated now, but it had more or less just come out when this originally aired. The character for those unfamiliar was that of a bumbling sleuth, played by Peter Sellers. The series of films had a pretty big following, substantial enough that it got a reboot with Steve Martin in 2006, so we’ve hit a vein that we can date as recently as just a touch under twenty years ago. PROGRESS!

We then meet some of Scrooge’s business associates, including John Wayne…

…George Burns (a fixture on television in the early 1950’s when it FIRST CAME INTO EXISTENCE!!!)…

…and James Mason, star of yet another of my favorite films, North by Northwest (1959). You know, the more I write about this, the more I realize that I keep writing “one of my favorite films” and they’re all from like 60 or more years ago. I really have no right mocking this thing for being in a time warp.

We then go to a graveyard that looks like it is right out of the original Ghostbusters TV show.

You remember that one, right? The one with the monkey?

Anyway, Scrooge finds his grave (after Clouseau falls in it in a funny moment), and naturally wants to repent. We then get arguably the best line of the entire show, with the Inspector claiming that Scrooge has never lifted a finger to help anyone. Scrooge: “That isn’t true – I’ve given many people who needed my help the finger!” He is then told he will need to honor Christmas, help other people, and give up liquor. At this point Scrooge breaks the fourth wall and says, “Two out of three isn’t bad, is it?”

Scrooge awakens from his dreams and is of course overjoyed that he’s been given a second chance. He runs to the window to ask a ‘little boy’ what day it is, and it’s none other than Jack Benny (whose radio show was all the rage in the 1940s).

We then get the obligatory song and dance with Scrooge giving out presents and turning over a new leaf, and then heading over to nephew Fred’s house for dinner. He’s also offered a drink, but he does everything he can to avoid it. I bet Dickens wasn’t thinking his story would ever be turned into an AA meeting, but here we are.

We go back to Scrooge’s Boat & Bottle Shoppe, but having giving up the booze, Scrooge needs a new partner to create those empty bottles…which we get in the form of DEAN MARTIN! Sadly, we just get his voice, but again, that made me legitimately laugh out loud.

I came into this fixing to rage on it and bury it six feet under as I hadn’t seen it probably since it originally aired. But you know what? By the end I was laughing far more than I expected. Sure it’s absurdly dated…but so am I and y’all seem to still like me just fine! Just knowing that puts a smile on my face and lets me know that yes, this may well be the Merriest Christmas Yet! Hee haw and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, and may God bless you with a spectacular 2024 ahead!!

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