Two of my favorite television shows that are no longer on television are Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip and The West Wing. I’m borderline obsessed with these, and own both series in their entirety. The writing is very strong, and the plot lines are wonderfully developed and complemented by the fast-paced dialogue that is expected from an Aaron Sorkin production. I particularly love the Christmas episodes of the shows, and I’d like to share a clip from each with you.
The back story: This show only ran for one season (2006-2007), so it only had one Christmas episode, but it sure packed in the messaging in that one hour time slot. The series ran one year after Hurricane Katrina, and it used the Christmas episode to highlight the fact that the city was still struggling to recover from the devastation. The plot line of the episode centered on a guest musician asked to fill in as a member of the variety show’s band after one of its regular members calls in sick. As the episode progresses the producers of the show figure out that musicians across the city from numerous late night shows have been calling in sick, and phenomenal musicians have appeared out of nowhere to take their place. As it turns out, these substitute musicians have traveled from New Orleans to try to make some money in order to provide for their families and to buy Christmas gifts for their children. The crew at Studio 60 gives the musicians a chance to perform as a group in one of the most beautiful renditions of O Holy Night that I have ever heard.
What made this episode really special is that the audio recording of the song was made available as a download with all purchases going to support the Tipitina Foundation in support of the real-life New Orleans musicians whose families were impacted by Hurricane Katrina. This was one of the most outstanding examples of using a mass media product (the show) and product placement (the song) to support a cause and build goodwill with audience members. Okay… enough about the public relations feat – enjoy the music!
The West Wing
The back story: This show, which ran from 1999 to 2006, had several Christmas episodes, and each one was great. A quick YouTube search will give you a good fill of the music they utilize to make these episodes so wonderful. Here is one that featured an important reminder that not all are as lucky as we are. Toby Ziegler, the president’s communications manager, donates a coat to Goodwill. He accidentally left a business card in the pocket, and when the coat is found on the body of a homeless veteran who has frozen to death, Toby receives a call. He arranges for a military honor guard funeral for the homeless veteran, which is beautifully set to music. I love that the show’s producers (again, a shout out to Aaron Sorkin!) took advantage of their large audience base to communicate their message that this time of year is a time for celebrating with family, but also for thinking of ways that we can help others – even if it’s just by donating an old coat. Check out the clip by clicking here.
(With all this Aaron Sorkin love of Christmas, I really really wish that The Newsroom was airing right now. Oh well – maybe next year!)