If a Christmas special nobody watched is canceled, did it really exist? Well, in the case of TNT’s “Christmas in Washington,” technically, yes, it did, for 33 years (the first 16 of which were spent on NBC). But last December, TNT canceled “Christmas” for 2015 and beyond after a final airing, and not a creature stirred.
The annual special began in the Reagan years, a concert featuring various musical acts (famous and non-famous) and pre-taped segments with the First Family, hosted by one celebrity (Debby Boone) or another (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). The concert wasn’t just a naked cash and power grab, though -- proceeds went to the Children’s National Health System.
But all the Justin Bieber and Backstreet Boys performances in the world couldn’t drum up enough audience interest on the Friday before Christmas, the special’s usual airdate and a notorious TV dead zone. It didn’t even work as a promotional vehicle for TNT, who often used talent from its shows as hosts, i.e. Conan O’Brien (late night’s “Conan”) and Johnson (ill-fated reality series “Wake Up Call”).
So, after years of ratings that would horrify even a Krampus, TNT finally consigned it to the big tub of broken old ornaments in the attic after last year’s telecast.
Producer George Stevens, Jr., who also produces the Kennedy Center Honors, tried to find another broadcast partner, but even that effort failed, and for the first time in more than three decades, America will be without its inside-the-Beltway Christmas special this December. Not that anyone seems to be noticing its upcoming absence: Requests for recollections of the special were met with a uniform, “Huh?” from Baby Boomers, the prime target for this kind of holiday tradition.
Your best bet for Reagan-era Christmas nostalgia is now to hunt down a VHS copy of “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.”