“Christmas Classics” continues.
On December 18, 1966, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” debuted to big ratings and bad reviews.
The half-hour special – based on Dr. Suess’ classic 1957 children’s book – told how the Grinch tried to rob the town of Whoville of its holiday spirit by stealing the residents’ decorations and presents. Of course, as the Grinch soon discovers, this doesn’t prevent Christmas (“Somehow or other, it came just the same!”) and he learns the true meaning of the holiday.
Boris Karloff narrated the special, which was animated by Chuck Jones and Dr. Suess himself, Theodore Geisel, and reportedly cost $315,000 and 10 months to produce.
Critics weren’t all that impressed.
“[T]he book was better than this expensive half-hour color TV adaptation proved to be. Perhaps I was expecting too much,” the Los Angeles Times’ Hal Humphrey wrote in his review.
The Baltimore Sun’s critic agreed, writing:
The settings, just right in the printed tale, lost some of their impact in the televised form. Strangely, the voicing of printed verses by Boris Karloff, lessened their effect. The books of Dr. Suess, it seems, were meant to be read, not turned into what amounts to a silent, pantomimed animated cartoon.
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was among the week’s 10 most-watched programs.
The full top 10: “Bonanza” (NBC), followed by a “Charlie Brown Christmas” rerun (CBS), a Danny Thomas special (NBC), a Frank Sinatra special (CBS), “The Red Skelton Show” (CBS), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (CBS), “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” (NBC), “The Andy Griffith Show” (CBS), the “Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Doomsday Flight,” an NBC movie.
CBS aired “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” each year until 1987.
After a two-year break, the special moved to TNT; it has since been shown by TBS, Cartoon Network, the WB and ABC.
The original special was 26 minutes, but it’s been edited in the ensuing years to squeeze in more commercials.
In 2000, a live-action movie version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” opened to big box office and bad reviews.
But who knows? Maybe one day the movie will be considered a classic, too.
See for yourself: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is available on DVD and can be purchased at iTunes and Amazon. “Christmas Classics” concludes tomorrow.
Here’s the prime-time lineup for Sunday, December 18, 1966:
7: “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (ABC), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (CBS)
7:30: “It’s About Time” (CBS), “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” (NBC)
8: “The F.B.I.” (ABC), “The Ed Sullivan Show” (CBS)
8:30: “Hey Landlord” (NBC)
9: “Francis of Assisi” (ABC), “The Garry Moore Show” (CBS), “Bonanza” (NBC)
10: “Candid Camera” (CBS), “The Andy Williams Show” (NBC)
10:30: “What’s My Line?” (CBS)
For the week of December 18, 1966:
Top novel: “The Secret of Santa Vittoria” by Robert Crichton
Top song: “Winchester Cathedral” by New Vaudeville Band
Top movie: “A Man For All Seasons”
Top TV show: “Bonanza” (NBC)
In the news: Lots happened
Caption: The Grinch and his dog Max in a scene from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” courtesy IMDB.com.