Mr. Peabody’s Stocking Stuffers
Noel Holston - 12/11/2014
On behalf of our namesake, George Foster Peabody, who had a white beard and a philanthropic streak to rival St. Nick’s, I hereby suggest the following 10 Peabody Award winners, all readily available for purchase or rent on Amazon, Netflix or such like, for your holiday consideration.
None is them is a Christmas special per se, but each has the potential to put a big smile on your face, touch your heart or expand your sense of wonder. What could be more seasonally appropriate?
In chronological order, the Peabody-winning stocking stuffers are:
Free to Be…You and Me (1974) - With a little help from her friends – Tommy Smothers, Dionne Warwick, Michael Jackson, Mel Brooks and Cicely Tyson, among others – Marlo Thomas made this delightful musical special that gently makes the case for letting kids have the freedom to be who they are. It’s still relevant and still a delight. You can order this title here. (Links to sites where you can order programs are strictly for your convenience. We do not receive any financial remuneration if you purchase these titles through Amazon or any other vendor).
Faerie Tale Theatre (1984) – Shelley Duvall was the visionary producer of a wonderful set of 26 semi-fractured fairy tales, with casts that include Robin Williams, Vincent Price, Eric Idle, Susan Sarandon, Angelica Huston and dozens more stars. You can watch the entire Snow White installment below, and several other full episodes are available on Youtube.
When It Was A Game (1991) – A lyrical and loving look at our national pastime in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, when even star players had to have off-season jobs and corporate skyboxes didn’t exist, it’s assembled almost entirely from home movies that Major League players shot. You’ll be singing “Take me back to the ball game” before it’s through. The video below is a trailer for the second installment of the HBO documentary series, and HBO subscribers can currently access When It Was a Game III on HBO GO. You can order here the first installment described above here.
Wallace & Gromit (1995) – People tend to forget that the imaginative, endearing animations featuring eccentric inventor Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit were made for BBC television, not movie screens. Look for the collections of shorts. The toothy twosome’s misadventures are fresh as ever. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can stream them for free here.
The Crossing (2000) – In this engrossing made-for-TV movie, Gen. George Washington crosses the Delaware with his bedraggled, battle-weary troops and stages a daring, game-changing raid on the Hessian garrison in Trenton, N.J., at Christmastime, 1776. Jeff Daniels, properly resolute as Washington, gets solid support from costars who include Sebastian Roche and Roger Rees. You can order it here.
Door to Door (2002) – William H. Macy co-wrote and stars in this uplifting but never sappy TV-movie based on the life of Bill Porter, a man who didn’t let cerebral palsy stop him from become a super-salesman and an inspiration to pretty much everyone he ever met. Costarring Kathy Baker, Helen Mirren and Kyra Sedgwick. Find it here.
Classical Baby (2006) – Intended to stimulate early childhood learning, these delightful short pieces set vibrant, animated interpretations of famous paintings to music by composers as diverse as Tchaikovsky and Duke Ellington. Small children will be mesmerized, adults at the very least charmed. Find it here.
Craft in America (2007) – Honoring the history and significance of craft in these United States, this three-part documentary series is a work of art in itself. Watch clay rise on the wheel to become pots, glass melting into stunning shapes, scraps of cloth becoming quilts. Hands-on and hands down, it’s exquisite. View these programs for free online at PBS.com.
Wonders of the Solar System with Brian Cox (2010) – A guided tour of our planetary neighborhood, with zoom-ins on some amazing Earthly locales, it combines eye-popping opticals and serious science like no series since Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
Summer Pasture (2012) – The best documentary ever made about nomadic yak herders, it plays at times like a Tibetan Honeymooners. Beautifully filmed on the windswept grasslands of Dzachukha, it’s an artful, intimate portrait of culture, at once unique and universal.
For more rental possibilities among Peabody-winning programs, please go browsing at peabodyawards.com/awards.
One past Peabody winner that I had really hoped to add to the stocking-stuffer list is Hot Dog, a 1970 series produced by Frank Buxton and Lee Mendelson (best known for his Peanuts animated specials) that showed kids how everything from #2 pencils to Louisville Slugger baseball bats were made. Arguably even more engaging than the films were the “explanations” of the rotating hosts: Jonathan Winters, Woody Allen and “Laugh-In” regular Joanne Worley.
Alas, Hot Dog is nowhere to be found on DVD or even VHS. The only trace of it is this “living color” video of the credits that I spotted on YouTube. Relish it.