Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special Is A One-Of-A-Kind Holiday Special

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/CBS

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/CBS

Holiday television offerings are not what they used to be. From its golden age up to about the early 1990s gathering the family around the television during the holiday season was one of the best parts of the holiday season’s annual festivities. By comparison to today’s offerings (or the lack thereof) the holiday specials turned out in television’s past were special in more than just name only. Now thanks to Shout! Factory one of those classic specials has finally been released on Blu-ray. And it is one of the most outrageous holiday specials to ever see the light of day, too. What is the special? It is none other than Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special. And it was released earlier this month thanks to the people at Shout! Factory, the leading name in home entertainment. There is plenty to like about this new re-issue of the classic holiday special beginning with its very presentation. It has been presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio from its original broadcast. And nothing has been added to or deleted from its original presentation. On another level, the script behind the special is just as noteworthy. It presents the classic story of someone learning the true meaning of Christmas. Yet it does so in the way that only Pee-wee’s Playhouse could do. Last but not least worth noting of this presentation is its bonus material. Between the bonus in-show commentaries and the retrospective behind-the-scenes featurette audiences get a thorough look at everything that went into bringing the special to life as well as the importance of the special in regards to the series’ overall run on television. It is all collectively one more reason that Shout! Factory’s new re-issue of Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special. Together with the special’s overall presentation and its writing, all three elements together make this presentation a great addition to the home DVD/BD library of any of the now grown up Pee-wee’s Playhouse fan and potentially one of the year’s best new DVD/BD re-issues.

Shout! Factory’s new BD re-issue of Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special is a great addition to the home DVD/BD library of any now grown up Pee-wee’s Playhouse fan. It is also potentially one of the year’s best new DVD/BD re-issues. The central reason for its reception of such high marks is its overall presentation in its new Blu-ray release. Its release earlier this month is not the first time that the special has ever seen the light of day in its own standalone release. It was released on DVD roughly eleven years ago. But its release on Blu-ray earlier this month marks the first time that it has ever been released in its own standalone Blu-ray release. It is presented here in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. And being presented on Blu-ray, it looks surprisingly impressive even being presented in its original standard definition presentation. Making the presentation even more impressive is that nothing has been edited out of the original showing. That means that audiences get in this standalone re-issue Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special in its full original presentation. This is significant in that there are some classics that have been re-issued by other companies minus one part, another or more. This is not one of that mass. It is a piece that any of the series’ original fans will appreciate in large part because it is presented in full. And it is just one part of what makes Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special so special for anyone that grew up watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse when they themselves were kids. The script behind the special is another element in the whole of the special that makes it such an interesting presentation.

The overall presentation of Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special is in itself plenty of reason for those that were fans of the show in their own childhoods to check out this new re-issue of the classic holiday special. For all of its importance to the whole of the program, it is just one part of what makes it so enjoyable. The script that lies behind the program is another of its elements that makes it so interesting. The central plot at the center of the program’s script is nothing new by any means. Through the course of the fifty-two minute presentation, Pee-wee learns the invaluable lesson that the true meaning of Christmas is the joy of giving, not getting. However, the fact that the show’s writers were able to maintain all of the wild, zany antics that made the series in whole throughout it all is what’s really impressive about the script. It would have been easy for the series’ writers to just take the easy way out and get schmaltzy. But they opted to not take that road. Rather they opted instead to make the special feel just like every other episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse that had come before. Even more impressive of the script is its rapid fire introduction of the show’s list of celebrity guest stars. The very use of the guest stars is in itself a classic element of the great holiday specials of yesteryear. But none of those specials introduced their celebrity guests at such a fast pace. That pacing also tied in to the story in whole, allowing for the story to advance quickly without losing viewers to either confusion or boredom. That is an impressive feat. And the writers are to be commended for maintaining such a balance in regards to the show’s pacing. The expertise exhibited in that balance alongside the balance of the program’s wild, zany elements and more serious message come together in the grand scheme of things to make even more reason for audiences to be impressed by Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special. It still is not all that audiences will find interesting in the program’s new re-issue either. The bonus material included in the special’s new BD re-issue rounds out the special’s positives.

Both the overall presentation of Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special and its script play important parts in their own right in the special’s enjoyment. While both elements are both important in their own right, they are not all that make the program so enjoyable. The bonus material included with the special in its new BD presentation is just as important to the program as those elements. The bonus material in question includes two audio commentary tracks that play over the special and a collection of standalone rerospective interviews with the show’s cast and crew. Audiences get quite a bit of insight through the interviews including the fact that the Marine chorus that opens the special is in fact not a Marine chorus at all. It was in fact actors dressed as Marines. In today’s society some might find that to be a smack in the face of those that wear and have worn the uniform with pride. It definitely is one of the more interesting tidbits noted in the commentary. There is also an intriguing anecdote about the cast kidding around with Kevin Carlson, the actor behind Corky 2000 at that point because of his inability to move inside the Conky suit. There is also some humor about Pee-wee putting up a dummy to deal with a certain annoying caller that will have audiences laughing just as much as they would with other tidbits revealed through the commentaries. As if all of that isn’t enough, the insights offered via the bonus standalone interviews adds even more interest to the program in whole. That being the case, the bonus commentaries and interviews included with Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special prove in the end to be just as important as the program’s presentation within itself and its one-of-a-kind script. All three elements together show that Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special is in whole a great addition to any of the series’ original fans this and any holiday season and potentially one of the year’s best new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

Shout! Factory’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special is a great addition to any of the original Pee-wee’s Playhouse fans this and any holiday season. It is also potentially one of the best of the year’s new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues. That is the case primarily because it is presented here in whole from its look to its general content. Its one-of-a-kind script makes it just as interesting to take in. The bonus material included in this re-issue rounds out the presentation, adding quite a bit of insight and enjoyment to the program in whole. The end result of all three elements is a presentation that any original Pee-wee’s Playhouse fan will enjoy this and any holiday season. It also results in the program being potentially being one of the best of this year’s crop of DVD and Blu-ray re-issues. Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special is avaiable now in stores and online and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:




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New Carol Burnett Set One Of 2012’s Best Box Sets

Courtesy: Timelife/Star Vista

Television today is at a critical point.  Regardless of one’s server, a single trip through the channels shows the dominance of very specific styles of shows.  It shows increasingly that the last bastion of family friendly programming is indeed PBS and its digital sister stations.  Politics aside, that speaks volumes.  So what’s a person to do in the search for something family friendly other than just PBS?  The answer:  The Carol Burnett Show.  Thanks to Timelife and Star Vista, this classic family friendly variety show is available once more for the entire family.

The Carol Burnett show and its namesake were groundbreakers in every sense of the word.  Burnett herself was the first female to host a variety show.  And the show itself can and should be credited as an influence for Saturday Night Live, which didn’t even air until years after The Carol Burnett Show was well into its prime.  And in comparison to shows such as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour—both of which ran around the same time as The Carol Burnett Show–, it was a groundbreaker in that it went in a somewhat different direction than those shows.  Ironically, as audiences will see, Burnett actually had the Smothers Brothers on her show during its run.  And that episode is one of many highlights of the complete twenty-two disc retrospective box set released by Timelife and Star Vista.

The Smothers Brothers’ appearance is only one of so many highlights from The Carol Burnett Show.  What really makes The Carol Burnett Show stand out is its skits.  It’s obvious the influence that these skits had on Lorne Michaels and all involved with Saturday Night Live.  And the way that Burnett’s show mixed its musical performances and skits is a near identical mirror to the format that SNL has used ever since its inception years after The Carol Burnett Show hit the airwaves.  There was more influence there than from say, The Smothers Brothers or even Sonny and Cher.  Audiences will see that throughout The Carol Burnett Show:  The Ultimate Collection.  Staying on the topic of the whole box set, audiences will be pleased to go through each separate box included in this new complete set.  The first noticeable factor of each set is that within each box, the discs each get their own spot on an inserted “leaf.”  Placing the discs in this fashion not only is ergonomically smart, but it also protects the discs from scratching, thus increasing their longevity.  This is a very smart packaging manner.  This is just the beginning of the packaging’s positives.  Another positive to the packaging is the inclusion of a booklet in each box.  The booklet in question includes outlines of each episode along with some added history specific to each history.  This adds even more enjoyment to the overall viewing experience.  On top of the boxes is an even larger commemorative collector’s booklet that includes even more history behind the show, and even quotes from the cast.  One of the most interesting pieces of extra history is centered on Burnett’s co-stars, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.  It is noted in the extra booklet that Korman couldn’t look at Conway without breaking out in total laughter once Conway did certain things.  Audiences will see that for themselves throughout certain episodes of the show, too.

The laughs provided by Korman, Conway, and the rest of the cast are again just another tiny piece of the overall puzzle that makes The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection a must have for any classic television fan.  Bringing things full guest spots from the likes of The Smothers Brothers, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Telley Savalas, and so many more make for so many more laughs.  They’re included in their own skits, as well as episodes of the show’s most beloved and longest running skit, “The Family.”  Speaking of “The Family”, how many variety shows have managed to take its skits and turn them into such a success as that.  Sure, Saturday Night Live has taken its skits and tried to make them into movies.  But save perhaps for Wayne’s World, none of its other skits have ever really had any true success.  Mama’s Family by comparison was a huge hit throughout its run on television.

The guest stars and the overall set packaging of The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection are impressive to say the least.  The quality of the footage is just as impressive.  Timelife and Star Vista make note on each disc that the footage may contain some discrepancies.  But the reality, it’s amazing how well the footage has stood the test of time.  And that it looks as good as it does so many years after the show’s end will create that same sense of nostalgia that an old jazz vinyl will create.  It will take anyone who remembers the show back to another time; a better time.  And it will show newer audiences everything that was at one time right with television.  It’s something which so many of today’s television execs should revisit as it shows that television can be funny and family friendly, even in the twenty-first century.

So much more could be said of The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection.  Doing so would take up far more space than is possible.  Audiences will see for themselves everything that this set has in store when they pick it up for themselves.  Fans of this legendary show can purchase it online now via Timelife’s online store,

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New Carol Burnett Show Re-Issue A Great Piece of TV Nostalgia

Courtesy: Time Life/Star Vista

Television today is largely anything but family friendly.  As Peter and Lois Griffin joke in the opening to Seth McFarlane’s hit cartoon, Family Guy, “all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV.”  While that line is meant entirely in a tongue-in-cheek manner, there’s a certain modicum of truth to it in today’s television culture.  Thank goodness for companies such as Time Life.  Time Life officially released yesterday what is one of the greatest sketch comedy/variety programs of all time and one of the greatest family friendly programs in television history in The Carol Burnett Show.

Time Life released “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” yesterday.  The six-disc compilation contains seventeen episodes considered among the “best” of the show’s roughly eleven year run on CBS.  The episodes compiled for this new set leave no doubt that Burnett’s show was one of the influences behind NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  The sketches from this show clearly hint at the bits that would come from the latter.  The Carol Burnett Show even spawned a little show called “Mama’s Family” that would last a total of six seasons on television.  Saturday Night Live, on the other hand, has tried multiple times to spin off its sketches to both the big and small screen with little success.  That goes to show the importance and staying power of The Carol Burnett Show to this day.  It’s even been spoofed by a number of television shows that have come since.  And after all, it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

“The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” is a wonderful collection for those who are unable to pick up the complete twenty-two disc collection.  That collection was released yesterday alongside this compilation.  It contains every episode from the show’s run.  Among some of the best episodes included in the six-disc “Carol’s Favorites” are the ones that include the hilarious skit, “The Family.”  That skit was the precursor to Vicki Lawrence’s hit TV sitcom, “Mama’s Family.”  Fans of “Mama’s Family” will be happy to know that on this set is the very first episode of “The Family.”  Guest star Roddy McDowall even gets his own role in the skit.  McDowall is just one of a bevy of guest stars to make appearances on the show.  Also appearing on the show in this compilation are the likes of:  Joan Rivers, Johnny Cash, The Jackson 5, Steve Martin, Betty White, Vincent Price and loads more.

From the original skits to the guest stars, The Carol Burnett Show offered so much great entertainment for the entire family.  That’s not all that makes this set such a great addition to the library of any classic television fan.  The set’s packaging is another bonus.  While the box may seem slightly bulky, the packaging for the discs themselves is very impressive.  Three inserts hold all six discs inside the box.  Each disc has its own spot on the inserts, thus protecting them and increasing their longevity.  This may come across as something minor.  But the longer the discs last, the more families will get to enjoy this TV classic.

The packaging goes a long way to making “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” a joy for families and fans alike.  But one would be remiss to ignore the most obvious factor of this set that makes it such a joy.  That factor would be the footage itself.  There are those who would speak badly of the footage quality.  But as with so many shows from that era, watching it from its original airing recordings is like listening to an original classic jazz song on vinyl.  The static on those old original vinyls creates a certain sense of nostalgia.  In the same vein, seeing this show as it originally aired will bring back that sense of nostalgia, too.  Trying to enhance it would only decrease that sense of nostalgia.  So kudos to Time life for keeping it how it was. 

There are shows that deserve to be resurrected on DVD and blu-ray.  And then there are those that are better left dead.  The Carol Burnett Show is one of those shows that belong in the prior category.  Despite what some critics may have to say, this newest reintroduction of this classic show is quite welcome.  Now a whole new generation can experience what is an example of television with real heart.  “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Time Life’s website,

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