Thursday, December 22, 2022

12 Days of Christmas Watching 2022 Day #10: A traditional Christmas...with the Solid Gold Dancers and Madame

Solid Gold was a pretty big deal back in my youth--an hour of music, comedy, and the Solid Gold Dancers! With modern eyes, I see the music is excerpted/lip-synced in many cases; the comedy isn't so great; and the Dancers, while posited back then as the embodiment of straight male fantasy, are just bizarre

So of course I love it! We put Solid Gold into a Listeners Poll a few seasons ago, and it lost to Soul Train. There's no shame in that defeat, but I am still watching the occasional episode, including the 1982 Christmas Special posted above. This one is not only Christmas-y, it is very Solid-Goldy.

As the uploader indicates, a few things have been trimmed for various reasons, but this is most of the original two-hour special, which aired in syndication before Christmas 1982. This episode takes a different approach in counting down not the top 10 hits of the week, but the top 40 seasonal hits of all time. We can quibble with the choices. OK, we can outright complain about the choices--Christmas Waltz at #2? Overall, it's a good list, and I won't argue with the #1 pick.

The execution is sometimes uneven. A handful of special guest stars do most of the songs, while many are presented in snippets of the original recording while the Solid Gold Dancers do weird interpretive dances. Donna Summer, with a new hairdo and serious look, handles some of the more spiritual tunes. Marie Osmond does several, including "Let It Snow" (but sadly not with Erik Estrada--see our Osmonds post yesterday). 

Peter, Paul, and Mary are all over the place for some reason, as is John Schneider, who does some heavy lifting on "Silent Night" while doing almost as many wardrobe changes as the Solid Gold Dancers. John Davidson is amiable enough in doing various numbers, and Laura Branigan brings a lot of energy and a jarring transition to a couple of standards.

Of course co-hosts Marilyn McCoo and Rex Smith are in the house, but Smith gets the proverbial lump of coal. McCoo does numerous duets and performances while Smith is on the sidelines most of the show, seemingly usurped by Davidson, of all people. 

Let's talk about the comedy!

Wait. It's Christmastime. Let's talk instead about my favorite guest performances in this episode:

4) Andrae Crouch: "Joy to the World": I was less happy about them pairing him with Peter, Paul, and Mary later. He is truly joyous here!

3) Jerry Reed, "Please Come Home for Christmas": Reed was pretty cool for a while back in that era, and I enjoyed his take on this one.

2) Crystal Gayle, "Silver Bells": Forget the S.G. Dancers, the personification of early 1980s glamour to me was Gayle, and she does a classy version of this timeless ballad.

1) The Chipmunks: What a coup by the producers to book the Munks! They do a great song, but Wife of the Show Laurie was distracted by the single tooth each one had, and I was distracted a bit by the Dancers performing as, uh, sexy candy canes (?) for no apparent reason.

OK, the comedy: Wayland Flowers and Madame are outrageous as ever, and Jeff Altman works hard, but the latter didn't go over very well in this household, and indeed he seemed to be doing the same characters he always did on the show. Much funnier is a bizarre video of children playing set to Kenny Rogers singing "Kids." Much funnier than THAT is a random "man on the street" segment that asks about favorite holiday gifts and gets offbeat responses like a young man grinning while embracing his wife and saying, "The time we sent her mother back east for a couple weeks!"

So there IS comedy, just not in the expected places always. And, oh, those dances are pretty amusing.

Overall, this is a fantastic piece of 1980s entertainment with a strong Yuletide flavor. I haven't even mentioned Sister Sledge!

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