Thursday, December 21, 2006

A well-known critic.

Criticism, despite its analytical pretensions, will never be a "science" because it never (or at least, not so far) has been predictive. It's got the same problem as economics, I suppose, only on a scale at least several orders of magnitude greater.

Take what may be one of civilization's most intriguing puzzles - the rise and fall of the Christmas special. Why were critics so blind to the charms of this form in its heyday, and why were they so long unaware that said heyday had passed?

But wait, you say - surely the Christmas special is hardly an endangered species! Aren't there at least a few new ones every year? I suppose so; but few of these are worth watching, and none match the quality of the reigning triumvirate, "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"(1964), "A Charlie Brown Christmas"(1965), and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966).

Note, despite the expected tilt toward children's literature, the wild diversity of these titles: a cartoon based on a children's book, directed by Chuck Jones and starring Boris Karloff; a stop-motion musical featuring Burl Ives, extrapolated from a song devised as a store promotion; and another cartoon inspired by a comic strip, with perhaps the catchiest piano bass line in existence. How did such divergent points of the culture converge on Christmas, over such a short period (three years), to such brilliant effect? And why, only a year or two later, was Christmas essentially a dead cultural letter?

Hmmm . . .

Well, I've puzzled and I've puzzled, till my puzzler is sore; but I haven't thought of something I hadn't before. So I guess it's time to wrap the presents.

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