Just recently I reviewed the very entertaining book “The Triple Dog Dare: Watching & Surviving the 24-hour Marathon of A Christmas Story,” seen HERE. The author, Joanna Wilson, was kind enough to sit down and do an interview for me, just in time for Christmas.
David: Growing up, what were your favorite Christmas specials?
Joanna: I’ve always been a voracious television viewer. Growing up in the 1970s, I looked forward to watching the 1971 TV movie THE HOMECOMING: A CHRISTMAS STORY every year when it was re-aired during the holidays. That movie was so popular upon its initial release that TV execs went on to create the TV series The Waltons with many from the original cast. I loved the series so of course, I loved watching the Christmas movie that started it all. In 2011, when organizers were looking to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Homecoming with a theater screening and cast reunion, I was over the moon when I was invited to the screening and to moderate the cast reunion! Definitely a career highlight.
David: Do you still watch any of them every year? If yes, which ones and why?
Joanna: Another favorite from my childhood was 1972’s THE HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE starring Jason Robards, Lisa Lucas and Mildred Natwick. The main character Addie Mills doesn’t understand why her father won’t allow her to have a Christmas tree–even when one is given to her as a prize in school. Her father eventually confronts his unwillingness to embrace joy during the holidays because he’s still grieving the loss of his wife, Addie’s mother.
I also grew up watching all the Christmas episodes from classic sitcoms that aired endlessly in reruns too. Like The Christmas episodes of The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Three’s Company, Good Times, The Andy Griffith Show, M*A*S*H, Sanford & Son. This list could on and on.
As a TV and film historian, I spend my energy and efforts in identifying and discussing the Christmas and New Year’s (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, what have you–year-end celebrations) depicted on screen in order to consider how these stories are alike, how they are different, and how they influence other holiday stories. Ultimately, my goals are about commenting on how these holiday stories reflect and influence our culture. I’m not so much interested in rating the episodes, specials or movies as better or best because that’s the job of a reviewer.
David: I missed out on the first version of “Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies .” When will the updated edition be released?
Joanna: The expanded and updated, 2nd edition of the book “Tis the Season TV: The Encyclopedia of Christmas-Themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies” is scheduled to be released in 2021. (The pandemic and shut down during the early months of 2020 altered the plans for the book to come out this year as originally announced). I don’t have the exact date in 2021 yet, but it will be coming out in time for the holiday season next year, by October or November 2021. I’m looking forward to getting it in readers’ hands.
David: Besides A CHRISTMAS STORY, is there another full-length movie you would be willing to marathon watch?
Joanna: Hahahaha. You’re referring to my marathoning 1983’s A CHRISTMAS STORY 12 times–including commercials–across a twenty-four-hour period–which became the basis for my book “Triple Dog Dare.” At the time I had no idea if I would end up hating the movie after watching it twelve times in a row which was a concern that frightened me. I didn’t want to spoil my affection for that movie. I’m glad it didn’t. If anything, the experience revealed how rich and clever that film truly is. It’s still mind-boggling to me that the 24-hour marathon of the movie still persists and has been an annual TV tradition on TNT (and/or TBS) since 1997. I can’t wait to have it on my TV again this year on Christmas Eve.
Another movie I’d be willing to marathon? Well, I learned the painful difference during that first movie viewing between “marathoning” and “bingeing.” It’s so much easier to binge-watch a program because it’s a continuing story through the duration of the viewing. A viewer’s attention is held by the evolving story lines. But to marathon a movie is to re-watch the SAME story over and over. It is FAR MORE difficult cognitively to hold one’s own focus, and beyond the director’s intention to hold a viewer’s interest for that long. I learned that it’s a completely different experience. But I could see myself marathoning a movie I already love, such as PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, or any number of Bill Murray classics. Movies I already have nearly memorized and would enjoy reciting the dialogue along with the actors. However, I currently have no plans to do that. Let me ask you: what movie would you be willing to marathon?
David: As for Christmas films, I think I could do FRED CLAUS, BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES and perhaps KRAMPUS, though like you, my fear would be that I could never watch them again.
I want to thank Joanna for being a part of this and I highly recommend her books. They are very well written and fun to read. Her writing style is exceptional, making the books quick reads. Don’t forget to read my other CELEBRITY INTERVIEW entries!
If you would like to order any of these books, please click on the images below.