It’s been several years since I took a look at what network television had to offer on Christmas decades ago. I decided to go back to 1976 (40 years ago), 1966 (50 years ago) and 1946 (70 years ago). With a few exceptions, the networks had new episodes scheduled. That’s not the case this year: other than NBC Sunday Night Football and 60 Minutes on CBS, everything on network TV on Christmas will be a repeat.
NOTE: All times listed reflect Eastern Time.
40 Years Ago – Saturday, December 25th, 1976
8:00PM Wonder Woman – “The Pluto File”
9:00PM Starsky & Hutch – “Little Girl Lost”
10:00PM Most Wanted – “The Ten-Percenter”
8:00PM The Mary Tyler Moore Show – “Look at Us, We’re Walking”
8:30PM The Bob Newhart Show – “Making Up Is the Thing to Do”
9:00PM All in the Family – “The Draft Dodger”
9:30PM Alice – “Vera’s Mortician”
10:00PM The Carol Burnett Show – “The Family Show”
8:00PM Emergency – “Welcome to Santa Rosa County”
9:00PM NBC Saturday Night at the Movies – Camelot (Part 1)
All three networks stuck to their regular schedules, new episodes across the board. Quinn Martin produced Most Wanted for ABC. The crime drama starred Robert Stack as the head of a special LAPD task force going after dangerous criminals. It ran for 21 episodes during the 1976-1977 season.
50 Years Ago – Sunday, December 25th, 1966
7:00PM The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood (repeat)
8:00PM The F.B.I. – “Death Wind”
9:00PM The ABC Sunday Night Movie – Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones
7:00PM Lassie – “The Greatest Gift”
7:30PM It’s About Time – “The Mother-in-Law”
8:00PM The Ed Sullivan Show – Christmas program taped in Munich, Germany featuring circus stars of Europe
9:00PM The Garry Moore Show – With Mel Torme, Buddy Rich, Randy Kirby
10:00PM Candid Camera
10:30PM What’s My Line? – With Martin Gabel and Suzy Knickerbocker
6:30PM Amahl and the Night Visitors (repeat)
7:30PM Walt Disney – “The Truth About Mother Goose” (repeat)
8:30PM Hey, Landlord – “How’re You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On the Farm, After They’ve Seen the Rug?”
9:00PM Bonanza – “A Christmas Story”
10:00PM The Andy Williams Show – With the Osmond Brothers, Edgar Bergen, Peggy Fleming
For the most part, the networks stuck to their regular schedules. NBC aired a repeat of its 1963 taped production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at 6:30PM. The first opera written for television, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” debuted in 1951 and quickly became a Christmas tradition for. The 1966 broadcast was the 17th time the opera aired. It was also the last–until 1978–due to conflict between composer Gian Carlo Menotti and NBC.
Elsewhere, ABC offered a repeat of “The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood or Oh Wolf, Poor Wolf,” which first aired in November 1965. Lizi Minnelli, Cyril Ritchard, and Vic Damone starred in a version of the famous fairy tale told from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf.
70 Years Ago – Wednesday, December 25th, 1946
Note: The following listings are for stations broadcasting in New York City.
WCBS (Channel 2)
8:00PM Christmas Dream
8:20PM A Cappella Choir
8:30PM Drama: The Desert Shall Rejoice
9:00PM Hockey at Madison Square Garden
WNBT (Channel 4)
8:00PM Santa Claus at Gimbels Store
8:30PM Feature Films
WABD (Channel 5)
1:00PM-4:00PM News and Music
8:00PM Music for Christmas Night
8:30PM Film Short
9:00PM Goblin’s Christmas
All three New York City stations had Christmas programming to offer viewers in 1946. WCBS broadcast something called “Christmas Dream” as well as a drama titled “The Desert Shall Rejoice” that was probably a version of Robert Finch’s one-act play from 1940 of the same name. WNBT aired what I’m guessing was a live pickup from the Gimbels department store where Santa Claus was handing out presents. Finally, WABD showed Christmas music and “Goblin’s Christmas,” presumably based on Elizabeth Anderson’s 1908 book.
I doubt anyone reading this was watching TV in New York City back in 1946. But perhaps some of you may have turned on the set on Christmas in 1966 or 1976. Any memories of sitting down in front of the TV with family?