If you give Appellate Judge James A. Stewart a Christmas special before Halloween, put zombies in it next time!
"Santa Claus is comin' to town."
As The Dean Martin Christmas Show opens, Santa is being assembled before viewers' eyes: his beard, mustache, eyebrows, hair, hat, and nose are being put on Dean Martin. That's what you get for coming to the set just in time for taping, Dino!
Soon, Martin (The Wrecking Crew) is surrounded by dancing Santas, one of whom is losing a hat as the cameras keep rolling. The musical number is interrupted by bits of comedy from Bob Newhart and Dom DeLuise, who also are playing Santa.
Except for the Christmas theme, The Dean Martin Christmas Show was business as usual for Martin in 1968. Each week, Martin helmed a variety show with singers, dancers, comedians, and celebrity cameos.
For Christmas, Martin's doing comedy sketches with Dom DeLuise and Bob Newhart. The best is a pantomime bit that finds DeLuise working late while everyone else is having an office party. Dennis Weaver, then of Gentle Ben, stops by to sing to the children of Martin's staffers, with intentionally hilarious effect. Cameos are abundant as stars shine their light on the show's toy drive; among them are holiday figures Jimmy Stewart (It's a Wonderful Life) and Bob Hope (The Lemon Drop Kid).
That office party bit gets risque, but most of The Dean Martin Christmas Show is warm and fuzzy. There's even a carol sing-along at the end.
Presented in standard definition 1.33:1 full frame, the picture quality is decent, but the 1968 videotape source material does exhibit occasional lines. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is serviceable for vintage television. If you just want to hear Martin sing, a Christmas album might be a better bet, since the emphasis here is on comedy and warming hearts. This time around, the usual booklet with song and guest list is missing; it could have helped with all those cameos, since it's not 1968 anymore.
While not an essential, The Dean Martin Christmas Show will likely be a nice little stocking stuffer for the Dino fan in your life. It could also be a nice surprise for some whippersnapper who listens to Diana Krall or Harry Connick Jr, but missed out the golden age of TV variety shows. Since it's only one episode, definitely look for a price under $10.
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