Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol

A blog dedicated to the making of the first animated Christmas special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The 50th Anniversary Airing of Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol on NBC



Having been perhaps the biggest, if not sole, cheerleader for this classic special for the last 5 years, I have to say I can’t help but feel betrayed by what NBC did to it for its 50th anniversary airing.  Based on the interviews I gave to promote the broadcast, a new viewer would certainly look askance at what was presented and wonder if I had all my marbles.  It was perhaps the clumsiest and most heavy-handed editing job I’ve ever seen, providing no introduction to the story and no satisfying conclusion.  Songs were hacked midway through, story points edited out and considering that the current generation is unfamiliar with the character of Mr. Magoo, the lack of any introduction to the character is hard to fathom.  How is a new generation supposed to embrace this classic special?

The seemingly endless barrage of commercials clumsily placed into the special made the narrative almost incomprehensible.  Because the story was so severely hacked up, cutting back from long breaks made it hard to remember where we had left off and how the new scenes related to the previous scenes.  If this had been just one more seasonal presentation of the special, it could perhaps be dismissed but considering that it was the 50th anniversary of the special and the first time it had aired on broadcast television in 45 years, it’s inexcusable.

I think perhaps the saddest part of the whole ‘event’ was the commercials which seemed to mock the very spirit of the story and to show just how far the culture has fallen in the last 50 years.  If Lee Orgel had been worried at the time about whether or not his special was in good taste, he would have been appalled at the taste exhibited in most of the ads interrupting the show.  In fact, the overwhelming feeling from the airing was that the special was interrupting the commercials, which were clearly the point of the broadcast.  Perhaps what the airing helped to demonstrate is the continuing decline of the relevance of broadcast television.  It was certainly no way to celebrate the special.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

NBC went after our beloved Magoo special with a chainsaw, and we saw the bloody remains tonight. This clumsy mistreatment of the show was inexcusable. Anybody seeing this disemboweled mess for the first time would certainly wonder what the heck we've been talking about all these years. Why didn't they just give the special another 15 or 30 minutes of air time? Why couldn't the show that followed have waited for a bit?

I suppose we'll never see Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol on broadcast TV ever again but, after what happened tonight, it's probably just as well.

John Ayala said...

I must admit I was excited about seeing it on "TV" with that said , it was like they went out of there way to butcher this classic. I stopped watching after the first few minutes. I don't understand the decision to air it if this was what you were planning to do.

Greg Abbott said...

Horrible and sad. Just sad.

JR said...

One of the worst points of the evening was the way it ended... it's like it just stopped...where were the bows? where was the applause? Sad, it was just sad...

Anonymous said...

This would have been the perfect kind of special to be "brought to you with limited interruptions by ...". Instead, NBC destroyed it for any new (and old) viewer. It was an unbelievable hack job. Perhaps I shouldn't have said "unbelievable". Very, very disappointing. Rick from NY

Anonymous said...

Fondly remember watching the special on NBC with my family during the mid-60's. Just appalled at how the show was butchered this time around, especially removing the Broadway show-within-a-show framing. WPIX in New York did some memorable hack jobs in the 70's but nothing like this. As Darrell noted, considering this was marketed as the 50th Anniversary telecase, it's a disgrace.

When "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the Grinch moved from CBS to ABC a few years ago, ABC made the decision to eliminate the edits that had accumulated over the years and aired them uncut by stretching the airtime from 30 minutes to one hour by adding some extra features.

Why couldn't NBC do this with "Magoo" and stretch the air time to 90 minutes? Not only could the framing elements remain intact, but the casting of Gerald McBoing Boing as Tiny Tim [completely ignored] could have been indicated with the inclusion of the short "Magoo Meets McBoing Boing" which was included in the original DVD release.

Let's see..."Magoo" was followed with a wrestling special and a 60-minute repeat of last week's "Saturday Night Live."

NBC had its chance to something really special and went for the commercial bucks instead. Humbug!

Anonymous said...

I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY. WE WERE APPALLED AT THE CUTS AND THEN AT THE END WE SAT HOPING THAT WHAT WE WERE SEEING WAS A PROMO FOR THE NEXT SHOW AND THEY WOULD COME BACK FOR AT LEAST THE FINAL SONG, BUT NO. SO DISAPPOINTING. SHAME ON NBC.

Paul Fitzpatrick said...

I watched Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol on a library DVD yesterday afternoon, because I wanted to see it uncut. I was going to check in on NBC that night to see how they cut it, but I forgot, and I suppose it was just as well that I did. Darrell, your comments are so right about the stste of TV today. Gentleness, taste, and quality production are done away with in favor of noise, attitude, and long clusters of commercials which only provide part of the stations' and networks' income now that they can charge cable and satellite providers for the privilege of carrying their signals. And the networks seem to have abandoned the family audience for the most part, as though kids have all defected to Disney, Nickolodeon and Cartoon Network, which themselves are filled with clutter and noise. Someone needs to come along and quiet things down.

Michael Leddy said...

My wife persuaded me to live-blog the show for fun. What we both thought would be an exercise in unembarrassed nostalgia became a matter of anger at the corporate mentality that hacked this beautiful show to pieces. We knew things were going wrong from the very beginning, with the frame story gone. I was also horrified by what they’ve done to the colors. So much red. As I wrote last night: No razzleberry dressing for you, NBC.

Paul Fitzpatrick said...

By the way, it wasn't the first airing on broadcast TV in 45 years. I remember it being on TV in the New York Metropolitan area in the 1970s.

Anonymous said...

I waited eagerly to watch this Magoo special. I watched this with my parents and later with my kids. I was almost in tears at the hatchet job done on this classic holiday cartoon. NBC did not show this classic the respect it deserves and EVERYONE at NBC should be ashamed of themselves.

Darrell said...

That may have been syndication rather than broadcast.

Edward R. Cox said...

I agree with everything said so far about this horrid representation last night of a beloved, historic and important animated/musical television special such as Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. I sat open jawed in disbelief from start to finish and was appalled at the hacksaw treatment the network gave to the show, the fans and it's first time viewers! To loose the unique "Stage show within a show" concept meant we lost a lot of the fun and heart of the piece, along with many songs and well thought out bits of character business and interactions.

I had spent much time online since the broadcast was first announced, getting people interested and excited in seeing a dear old friend once again on national TV, as well as stoking interest in much younger people who had no idea the special existed... all the while pointing them to Darrell's great Mr. Magoo website for the special, etc. The reactions on my facebook page last night the second the special was over were embarrassing to behold. Truly, more time could have been allowed to show the special in it's entirety and there is no excuse the network could (or I guess would) offer for their hacksaw presentation. I am all the more grateful now for Darrell's great book on the special, his websites for it and the soundtrack CD. Too bad NBC never respected the original special with this re-broadcast, much less the importance of the 50th Anniversary aspect or even the documentation of such an important special to give it the dignity it obviously deserves.

Anonymous said...

The way the 50th Anniversary was presented was/is a complete tragedy, and truly very sad. I also doubt this will ever be shown in prime time or NBC ever again. It clearly shows that the people in charge really do not care for the special - plain and simple. No mention at all that it is the 50th celebration , even the butchered black credits / edits at the end did not give Jim Backus credit!? I am sick to my stomach and disgusted. The Mago0 Admirer

bradactor said...

This special is only about thirty minutes long I think tops and yes they butchered it. Fortunately the dvd is available and it is also available on Netflix. I have a dvd but have not watched on Netflix but have it saved. So there are choices but this could have been a great opportunity for the network thar originally aired this show to do it justice

Anthony D. said...

Out of 365 days a year, NBC couldn't sacrifice one day to make a little less money and not only that, one measley hour! Even more so, it was the 50th anniversary of the first animated Christmas special. I would've shown the special in it's 52 minute form with 8-7 1/2 minutes of commercials. I remember when Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town was shown on ABC for it's 40th anniversary (well, not really), they showed the thing uncut (again, not sure). I mean yeah, we should be thankful NBC showed it (I'm glad they may have been aware it turned 50 this year), but they couldn't just leave it be? If anything, maybe they should've started the program at 7:57pm and ended at 9:01pm, something like that I think would give us the chances the show it uncut.

Anonymous said...

Darrell, while this really didn't surprise me, I was just as disappointed as you were with the hatchet job NBC did with Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. I remember watching it on its premiere night back in 1962 as a 5 year old. Growing up back then I was aware of the criticisms about the increasing commercialism of broadcast television. Watching Christmas Carol last night made me feel like I was that 5 year old again, being transported magically by the ghost of Christmas Future to 2012 to see how bad broadcast network television could become. Unfortunately, unlike Christmas Carol, that nightmare has become true. But at least to offset our despair, as time and electronic technology have evolved, we have your book, your website, and the DVDs to enjoy Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol in such dimensions of communication, presentation, and historical understanding that we could have never imagined until recently. Thanks Darrell and everyone else that helped to chronicle Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol for all time. It evoked fond memories for me and I learned a lot along the way about animation's past contributions to popular culture.

bradactor said...

I just checked on Netflix and it runs about an hour and sixteen minutes, not sure of the dvd I have. I thought it was shorter than this. I guess it depends on how they cut it. Netflix doesn't run commercials.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I were both upset that we missed Saturday's broadcast. After reading all the comments, we're now glad we didn't see it. It's a shame how the networks hold no regard for the classics anymore. As for all the commercials, no one should be surprised - after all, NBC actually stands for "Nothing But Commercials".

bradactor said...

The showing on Netflix also included a cartoon of Mr. Magoo as Rip Van Winkle. What a treat

Dale said...

I watched the special and was not the least bit surprised at the hacked up editing job. Network television no longer cares about quality. In fact, as much as I love Magoo's Christmas Carol, this presentation put me to sleep about half way through. I recorded it on DVD to review the way they edited the songs and story. I'm appalled but the editing job is about what I was expecting given the current mentality of network television.

Larry Rapchak said...

Tragic...appalling...pathetic.

My entire family and I have loved MMCC since seeing it that night way back in '62. Last night, I was on the phone doing a running commentary with one of my sisters while we both watched on our respective TVs. OUTRAGE doesn't begin to describe our reaction.

As I wrote to Darrell, last night's travesty probably struck a serious blow to the prospect of attracting a new, younger, "uninitiated" audience for Magoo's Carol. Considering the sense of anticipation created by all of the advance PR (especially the excellent NY Times article), I can't imagine anyone who is unfamiliar with MMCC being impressed. It came across as piecemeal, incoherent drivel, when those of us who know and love it realize it is one of the most magnificent and moving entertainments ever created.

So I guess our job as advocates has become a bit more difficult.

Anonymous said...

NBC cut out 13 minutes out of the 53 minute run time. They turned a classic into a chopped up mess.

The idea of offering a 50th anniversary showing of a real classic and cut it to pieces what horrific. Why bother even showing it?

Fortunately, one can go to YouTube, buy the DVD or wait for it to pop up on cable. So, unlike 1962, there are other options.

What was even worse about this si that virtually every song was cut. But, the to fully cut the reprise of "The Lord's Bright blessing". Shameful.

Anonymous said...

Dear Darrell,

I too was horrified by last night's broadcast. And I have a question that I am hoping that you or anyone else who watched the show last night on WNBC here in New York can answer.

I tuned into the program just before it began (at 7:59 pm) and just before the NBC promo for their show "The Biggest Loser" I caught what looked like the mentioning of one of the car companies sponsoring the Magoo special.

*Is that true? Did one of the car companies officially sponsor the show last night?

*If so, which car company was it?

*And lastly, before the show did NBC mention anything about it being the 50th anniversary of the show?

Anything anybody can offer would be greatly appreciated! Thanks loads advance!

Anonymous said...

What a sad commentary on our society. My family and I love Magoo's Christmas Carol.My daughter knows all the lyrics and sings them every season Thanks for your book , loved it.It answered soooo many questions.

8traxrule said...

NBC was also the first of the 'big 3' networks to keep their logo onscreen all the time! They've been doing that for 16 years now and it's disgusting they haven't gotten more complaints about it! I stopped watching a LONG time ago just because of that, what have they GAINED from it???

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Darrell said...
"That may have been syndication rather than broadcast."

The cable network USA Network use to air this in the 1980's (of course that was outside broadcast TV itself).

Anthony D. said...
"Even more so, it was the 50th anniversary of the first animated Christmas special. I would've shown the special in it's 52 minute form with 8-7 1/2 minutes of commercials"

That would've seem reasonable to me, even if the spots had to be like 15 seconds each just to get by. You'd think limiting the ad time would've driven up the competition a little for those spots to be that exclusive like the Super Bowl but I guess not. A better idea would've been to add on anther half hour and did an extensive intro that told of the special's importance and the people who made it possible, perhaps get Darrell himself to interview if need be (he deserves it). There was no excuse.

Of course I recall Darrell didn't want us to feel angry over it before it aired, yet we did talk extensively over not trusting NBC on this matter and it showed in the outcome. I feel sorry for the editors there that had to make the decision to cut it where they did (whether they had seen the special or not I don't know, they seem like they never had).

Dale said...
"I'm appalled but the editing job is about what I was expecting given the current mentality of network television.

I've known this for about a decade already myself (going back to the days when ABC use to edit some of the Peanuts specials they had on at first).

Anonymous said...
"NBC cut out 13 minutes out of the 53 minute run time. They turned a classic into a chopped up mess."

Wow, 40 minutes! That's a new low (I suppose a half-hour program runs at 18-20 minutes nowadays).

"The idea of offering a 50th anniversary showing of a real classic and cut it to pieces what horrific. Why bother even showing it?"

You can't begin to know how many times I've said this myself.

8traxrule said...
"I stopped watching a LONG time ago just because of that, what have they GAINED from it???

Absolutely nothing. Shame they could've used that night to redeem everything but simply chose to stay on the safe side like usual.

Anonymous said...

What a hack job!.. I emailed NBC and told them such, and advised if they can't be bothered to show something correctly, don't even bother in the future.. they ruined it for anyone new watching it! This is what has earned them the Nothing But Crap description!

Paul Fitzpatrick said...

Darrell -- If I could have your permission, I would like to print out this blog entry and the thread of comments, and send it to NBC. If it is okay with everybody.

The Lord's bright blessing to all!

Darrell said...

Be my guest!

Frank Provasek said...

I also saw the 1962 broadcast at age 5. Some of the scenes were pretty intense, like Christmas Future making Magoo look at his grave. But the framing of the story as a perfomance on Broadway made it a lot less scary to me. It even seems that the orignal even pulled the camera back at the end of each act to show that the action was happening on a stage, and you could the backs of the seated audience. But when NBC abruptly switched to a commercial in the middle of song, my first thought was that someone in the NBC control room hit the wrong button...

By the way Darrell, you seem confused that the word "broadcast" refers only to a NETWORK broadcast. Any show is "broadcast" even if it's syndicated or even shown on ONE station. But this was the first NETWORK broadcast in 45 years, and as such NBC could have shown some class and given it the promotion it deserved. In a 90 minute slot, they could have shown the entire unedited film, some background information AND have room for even MORE commericals.

Anonymous said...

It really ruined the whole story the way NBC cut it up. It was not as I remembered it at all. It's such a shame that NBC did not give it the treatment it deserved. Too greedy for commercial time. I agree with some of the other posts: show it unedited or not at all! How could you guys cut out the finale and just end it abruptly? Terrible, just terrible.
Such a classic.

Nickelpic said...

I was appalled at the editing of the credits and the first five minutes and so couldn't bring myself to watch the whole broadcast. How sad to think when it first aired they had a huge viewing party at Sardi's (?) with TVs brought in especially for it. No respect.

I immediately went to Amazon Prime on my Roku box and watched the whole, unedited masterpiece for free.

Darrell said...

Actually, the 21 Club but yes, how far it's fallen.

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy but don't I recall the whole show being a self contained package sponsored by GE (General Electric) ? I swear I recall Magoo saying "Oh GE, you've done it again" in one of the purpose made commercials.

Ditto for Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, I'd swear there was an internal ad, maybe at the end where they zoom in very tight on Rudolph's nose and it's actually a red GE lightbulb with the squiggly GE logo.

Anonymous said...

Yes, dreadful - but typical of NBC. This year has been a parade of gaffes. (Olympics?)

Glad to be in this company. Thank you for your tenacity and loving devotion to the original. Like many of you, I was in front of the TV for the debut in '62, and shivered through it every year possible, thereafter.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with everyone else -- I was appalled by the clumsy hack job done on this superb animated special. I have loved MMCC since first watching it as a child, and it still makes me tear up. I bought the DVD years ago when it was first released and watch it faithfully every year, but was looking forward to the captioned version on NBC (the DVD has no closed-captioning, and much of the dialogue and lyrics are difficult for me to make out).

Since most of the songs were either edited or deleted altogether, I was doubly frustrated. Why didn't NBC just make a 90-minute special out of this and promote their own historic involvement with the first animated broadcast Christmas special? It baffles the mind...

Brian Sibley said...

As someone living on the OTHER side of the Atlantic who LOVES this film (and has done so since it was first televised in the UK) I was appalled and saddened to hear of its recent defilement.

NBC don't deserve to have access to this classic and if there was any justice in the world the God of TV would take it away from them and put a jink on all their advertising deals for the next 365 days!

Anonymous said...

1/16/12
RobGems.ca wrote:
First of all, it's really surprising that NBC would bring back the oh-so-nearsighted Magoo character back to their stations. Over the years, NBC has become one of the most over-the-top politically correct TV stations with personalities like Chris Matthews & Rachel Maddow cluttering up the roster with their left-wing opinions & news stories. A character like Mr. Magoo would seem outdated to these pundits, due to him making fun of the nearsighted and the nearly-blind. I'm farsighted myself, and had to wear glasses for 26 out of my 44 years, and I still find Mr. Magoo a funny character,with no offenses at all. When John Hubley originally co-created Mr. Magoo with some other UPA artists back in 1949, he meant Mr. Magoo to be, in his own words "bullheaded, stubborn, and downright nasty sometimes",just like a real old fuddy duddy. UPA director Pete Burness softened up Magoo around 1952,much to Hubley's chagrin at the behest of UPA producer Steve Boustow,and thus, made him more family friendly,which also helped the UPA studios gain a couple of Acadamey Award winners (starting in 1953, with "When Magoo Flew").Hubley wasn't pleased with the new improved Magoo character, and soon left UPA studios to form his own studioi with his wife Faith Hubley. By the time Magoo reached the NBC network in 1962, Bostouw sold the rights of UPA to Henry G. Saspertien,and the TV airings started to begin in 1960, but with less quality than the theatrical UPA releases. "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" wasconsidered an improvement over the weak 1960 TV cartoons, and did well tremendously,leading NBC to give Saspertien the rights to commission a new prime time Magoo series in late 1963 (it debuted in September 1964 on prime time as "The New Adventures Of Mr.Magoo.)Flash foward nearly 40 years later when Mr. Magoo was to be commissioned for an awful live-action movie. Jim Backus was already deceased, so the late Leslie Neilsen was inducted to fill the part. It wasn't a good movie as a result, and the most annoying moment of all is at the very end of the closing credits, when the soon-to emerge Politically Correct left-wing version of Hollywood had to issue a disclaimer at the outset "apologizing" to all of the blind & nearsighted people of the world that Mr. Magoo offended these people. Mr. Magoo's days as a TV rerun figure were numbered as a result of that disasterous campaign,and wouldn't be seen on TV or in the theatre until this botched-up rerun to comemorate the 50oth anniversary of the 1962 showing of "Mr.Magoo's Christmas Carol." Of course NBC would botch it up, because the PC executives(like Jeffery Immelt)don't like and are deeply offended by Mr.Magoo simply because of his nearsightedness. They think he is all that is wrong with politically incorrect jokes towards the blind and the nearsighted, and were more than delighted to butcher up the TV special for their dumb commercial breaks. After all, the 1962 had only two commercial breaks in its showing (sponsored by Timex Watches),while this rerun had about five!If John Hubley saw this today,he would've wanted to crawl back into the grave where he was buried, because he's be so ashamed to what TV and movie executives did to his character. After all, he once stated that Magoo was based on a cross between a stubborn uncle of his (and Jim Backus's businessman of a father)and did not let the practice of not wering glasses top make his eyesight and mindset an improvement of his goodwill;instead Magoo would still be a stubborn old coot if he did decide to wear glasses. This is something that the PC's miss entirely; Magoo is still a bullheaded fool with or without perfect vision, as he stubbornly gets into one mishap after another because he just won't listen to other people's suggestions, Or take other people's good advices.Or as Hubley would've put it, he'll always be a stubborn, narrow, bull-headed old coot!

glancingbackmovingon said...

Yes to all that - but hey, it got publicized, and it's on Netflix in its original form.

Perhaps someone at NBC really wanted to do this, and he left NBC with the obligation, and they did what they wanted.

What the hell was with the awful color change? They may call it "restored," but I call that "reupholstered!"

Darrell said...

Actually, it's not restored, just remastered. Restoring it would have required much more attention to detail, like color timing the scenes so that all scenes within a sequence matched in color temperature. As it stands now, the color temps are all over the map, both within sequences and throughout the film. Scrooge's jacket changes from sequence to sequence, for example. Also, the transfer is compressed for broadcast which also changes the way the color reads.

As it's now quite evident, the best bet is the DVD, even with its flaws.

Pokey said...

NBC deserves to be haunted by all four of those ghosts in the Charles Dickens story (Jacob Marley too.) SHort sighted themselves (I am,too, but not the way those networks are.) I'm glad therefore that I didn't see this repeat. I' ve seen it intact many times before (Of course what Art Clokey did to the soundtracks for my owner Gumby's shows was as bad)..:()

"Dang networks, you've done it again!.S.Carras