Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Movie Review: The Christmas Pageant

Photo credit Hallmark Channel

Director Vera Parks (Melissa Gilbert) has a career that is going nowhere fast. Labeled as difficult, she gets fired from several jobs in a row. Her manager, Peter (Steve Lawrence) manages to get her a job directing a small town Christmas pageant.

Things go from bad to worse quickly. While some are eager to work with her, others are destined to fight any change Vera suggests. Vera has problems adjusting from her glamorous life in New York City to the simple life in Ashton Falls. Then she runs into her ex-fiancé, Jack Harmond (Robert Mailhouse). Vera is soon considering whether she should return to New York or stick it out in Ashton Falls.

If ever there was a movie that Melissa Gilbert was born to star in, it's The Christmas Pageant. If Little House on the Prairie was set in modern times, then the storyline from this movie would be a perfect fit. A woman whose life centers around her career and posh city life, ends up in a simple town where there is one mail carrier and everyone knows each other. It's not long before Ashton Falls and its people begin to grow on Vera.

A blend of funny and sweet, this is a classic Hallmark romance. With a superb cast and quaint setting you can't go wrong. If you are looking for a story that will touch your heart and remind you of the joys of being home, be sure to catch this movie on the Hallmark Channel in December. The next showing is Wednesday, December 21st at 10/9 Central.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas Eve Prairie Visit by Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Photo scene from A Christmas They Never Forgot

This is a poem I wrote a while back. It's my attempt at a bit of prairie humor. Enjoy!

A Christmas Eve Prairie Visit by Cheryl Malandrinos

Twas the night before Christmas,
and out on the prairie,
Not a creature was stirring,
not even young Carrie;
The stockings were hung on the mantle with care,
In hopes that Santa Claus would leave his fair share;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of heart shaped cookies sprinkled with sugar danced in their heads;
And Pa in his nightshirt and Ma in her gown,
Had finished their popcorn and turned the bed down.

When out by the barn there arose such a clatter,
Pa sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the kitchen he flew like a flash,
Looked out the window and then heard a crash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Caused Pa to blink twice at the broken fence down below,
When into his wondering eyes came the view,
Of a miniature sleigh,
and a tiny herd of pack mules,
With a little old driver,
so lively and quick,
Pa knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Slower than molasses his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
Move Clementine! Step it up Abner!
Get along Myron and Rupert!
Pick it up Gracie! Pick it up Millie!
Faster now Willie and Albert!
Past the rain barrel!
And past the lean-to!
Now make it around to the side of the house all of you!
As slow as a cow chewing its cud,
When asked to come home and they plop with a thud,
So around the house his coursers they sauntered,
With the sleigh full of toys,
and an old man who wandered.
And soon Pa heard on the side of the house,
The scratching and clawing of old man Claus.

As Pa hid behind the tree and was turning around,
Down the chimney Santa came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his toe,
And his clothes were in desperate need of a sew.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like Mr. Edwards just opening his pack.
His eyes were like Mary's!
His dimples like Carrie's!
His cheeks were like Grace's,
his nose like a cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a pout.
And the beard on his chin covered most of his face, just about;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And Pa thought the tobacco smelled mightly sweet;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed,
Like Ma's bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump,
A right jolly old elf,
And Pa laughed when he saw him,
In spite of himself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon let Pa know
he had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word,
But went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings;
then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh,
to his pack gave a wail,
And away they all meandered like a broken-winged quail.
But Pa heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all,
and to all a good-night!

Christmas at Plum Creek

Christmas at Plum Creek is one of those feel good, classic Little House on the Prairie episodes. Just like the many Christmases Laura Ingalls Wilder shares in her books, you get the feeling that while the Ingalls family didn't have much to spare, they were happy and felt blessed by what they had.

This episode opens in town, with some not often seen snow piling up around the edges of the buildings and bases of trees. Nellie wants Laura to sell her pony, Bunny, to her, but Laura refuses. Back at home, the family starts talking about Christmas and Charles tells young Carrie what Christmas is all about.

It soon becomes a Christmas of secrets. Each family taking out their secret stash of coins and not coming up with much. The family visits Oleson's Mercantile, where Charles and Laura spy Caroline looking at the cook stove and Carrie is captivated by a foil star hanging from the ceiling. Mary takes on a job sewing with Mrs. Whipple. Caroline works on a special gift for Charles, and Charles makes a deal with Mr. Oleson to refurbish a set of wheels so he will have enough money to purchase the stove for Caroline. He doesn't know, however, that Laura has entered into a deal with Mr. Oleson to sell Bunny so that she can buy the stove for her Ma.

If ever there was an episode about selfless love, Christmas at Plum Creek is it. Mr. Oleson is so great in this episode as he works to keep everyone's secrets, and how he helps Carrie buy the star that ends up on the top of their tree. My heart aches each time I see the Olesons arrive to collect Bunny. I also love the ending with Carrie putting the star on top of the tree and announcing, "Happy birthday, Baby Jesus!"

This is one episode you need to watch this time of year.

Archive of American Television Interview with Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert (Laura Ingalls, LHOP NBC) was interviewed for the Archive of American Television. "Founded in 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television has conducted over 700 long-form interviews (over 3000 hours) with the legends of television."

You can find her interview at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/melissa-gilbert

She talks not only about her years on Little House On the Prairie, but her early career, her family, her production company, and many of the special people she's worked with.

Did anyone catch her recent movie on Hallmark Channel? I have it The Christmas Pageant on my DVR, but haven't watched it yet. If you have, what did  you think?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Survey - Which Christmas Episode Will You Be Watching This Year?

Our annual survey is back. I like to post it each year to see if the results change. There are four episodes that are set during Christmas and there is also a Christmas scene in The Pilot where Mr. Edwards crosses the river to deliver presents for Santa Claus to the Ingalls girls.

Feel free to vote in the poll in our sidebar for which episode you'll be watching this year. You can share your comments in this post.

Blizzard - Little House on the Prairie, Season 3

With Little House on the Prairie shot in California, there weren't many episodes where viewers saw snow--even though Walnut Grove was in Minnesota. Of the episodes that featured snow--The Pilot, Christmas at Plum Creek (Season 1), Survival (Season 1), Blizzard (Season 3), and A Christmas They Never Forgot (Season 8)--only two portrayed the challenges the pioneers faced on the prairie in the 1870's (Survival and Blizzard), and only one of them (Blizzard) is set around Christmas.

It is well known that Michael Landon often used real life for inspiration when writing episodes, and it is thought that when he wrote this one he drew inspiration from The Children's Blizzard that happened on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie in 1888. The day started out unseasonably warm and many children walked to school without coats and gloves. But that afternoon, with no warning, temperatures plunged and a blizzard ripped through the area. By the next morning, over 500 people had died, many children on their way home from school.

While this might sound a bit morbid, I always enjoyed LHOP episodes that portrayed the difficulties the pioneers faced on a daily basis. It wasn't done all the time, but when the writers and producers decided to create such an episode it was done well.

Blizzard is set on Christmas Eve. Carrie is a guest at school and Miss Beadle releases the children early because it has started to snow. What was only a few flurries when the children left, soon turns into a huge storm. When the women arrive at the schoolhouse, they are distraught to find the children gone. Isaiah and Charles return from hauling freight and come to the schoolhouse. They organize the men in town to begin searching for the children. The school is turned into a clinic, as children arrive and need medical attention. One man, Mr. McGinnis, who handles shipping and receiving in town, dies in the blizzard. All the families are back safe and sound except for Mr. Edwards and his children.

When Christmas Day arrives, the blizzard is over, and Charles rousts everyone to look for Edwards. The door to the school opens and in walks Isaiah and his children, Carl and Alicia. Everyone rejoices, but poor Mrs. McGinnis and her son, Henry, feel the loss of their beloved husband and father. Charles picks up the Bible from Miss Beadle's desk and recites the Christmas story for a dramatic ending.

Even though this is a sad episode, there is much to enjoy about it: the children's joy over the coming of Christmas; the way the town pulls together (Mrs. Oleson even offers coats, lamps and kerosene to the men without considering the cost); and the joyous reunion of Grace with her husband, Isaiah and the kids. Definitely a classic Little House on the Prairie episode.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Melissa Gilbert to Star in The Christmas Pageant on Hallmark

Photo credit: Hallmark Channel
Melissa Gilbert is starring in a new seasonal movie titled, The Christmas Pageant, on the Hallmark Channel. It premiers this Sunday, December 11th at 8 PM EST.
She visited The Talk (a show where her younger sister Sara is a co-host) yesterday to promote the movie. You can see the full episode at http://www.cbs.com/shows/the_talk/video/2174095228/the-talk-12-6-2011
In addition, she will be on the Today Show tomorrow to talk about it.

You can find out more information on the movie at Hallmark's website http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/microsites/cast.aspx?simscode=419-26631&pageid=3502&castid=3346.