by Andy Capp
"The holidays are too commercial!" It's one of those phrases that makes me a little embarrassed, like, "I don't believe the liberal media" or "be kind -- please re-wind." Hearing these always brings to mind other phrases like, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem," "no man is an island," or "that'll be a 50 cent re-winding fee, sir."
Yes, I have contributed to the commercialization of the holidays...there, I admit it! I've re-done Deck The Halls to sing, "Deck Your Walls With New Wallpaper, Fa, La, La, La, La or maybe paint!" I've had three wise "guys" following a spotlight to a new Mexican restaurant ("oh, and hold the refried beans; we have another party to crash tonight..."). I've written reindeer selling snow tires, elves contemplating chiropractic, Santa wondering about weight reduction. I've committed every crass Christmas caricature you can conceive, and even when alliteration finally failed me, I never once gave a thought to the words....
"The holidays are too commercial!" I think I was about four when I first heard it. I had been watching the red-nosed reindeer special on TV. My mother was trying to tell me that the show was over and I needed to go to bed, but I was insisting that the show was not over! It was a ruse I had used many times to hold off bedtime, but this time I could prove it! I pointed to the TV -- there, in the same puppet animation that turned Burle Ives into a singing snowman, was Santa, sliding down a snowy slope on a sled that looked suspiciously like the top of my dad's electric razor. "No dear," my mother sighed. "That's just a commercial. Now go to bed!" As I scampered to my room, thinking up other excuses to keep from going to bed (excuses, I might add, that my children have genetically inherited), I heard my mother use those words for the first time....
"The holidays are too commercial!" Okay, it does bother me a bit. In fact, I've let it become a personal cross to bear. A while back, I took a part-time job as Santa at a local mall. I considered it, "a search for the true meaning of Christmas." Actually, spending time in a mall during the holidays searching for the true meaning of Christmas is like watching Chevy Chase to learn how to be a talk show host - sure, on the surface it seems like a good idea.
The following year, I did a one-eighty and played Scrooge at our local playhouse. Mr. Idealism reasoned, "maybe the lessons learned by Scrooge on stage would absolve the signs of the heathen commercial producer." The lesson I ended up learning was that a woman with two kids and one on the way is no one to "abandon" in order to be in some "damn play" during the holidays. (That was one long, cold winter....)
"The holidays are too commercial!" Why is it such a personal issue with me? It never bothers me the rest of the year, earning my Bob Crachit-like paycheck writing and producing commercials. Maybe it's because no one seems to complain about how commercial the rest of the year is. I'd probably feel guilt pangs if someone mentioned that Halloween is just a commercial conspiracy by candy companies and dentists, or that Easter is just a commercial conspiracy by...ahh...candy companies and dentists.... (I wonder if anyone has ever looked into that.)
It comes down to this: the holiday season is usually the biggest money maker for our clients, so it's usually when they do the most advertising. We, as producers, are condemned to spend hours giving that advertising "the holiday spirit." We're also challenged to keep it interesting so our listeners don't tune out the eighth commercial in a row with the same "away in the manager" underscore. To this end, we end up "re-wrapping" holiday traditions to suit our needs.
Is this the Grinchiest of crimes? Hardly. Radio commercials are only one small cog in the mammoth machine known as "the holidays that are too commercial." And besides, aren't there worse crimes in the world today? Look at Somalia, the deforestation of the rain forests, that candy company/dentist thing.... (I'm writing Ralph Nadar.)
"The holidays are too commercial!" I'm not going to let it get to me this year. I have a plan. By the time you read this, I should have my early Christmas present finished. I'm finally building my home studio. I'm going to get done what I have to get done at work, get home on time, and bring overflow work home to do after the kids have gone to bed. I'm going to produce the best holiday commercials I can, then spend time with my family, concentrating on the true meaning of the holidays -- tapping out the plastic so the kids can have all the toys they saw advertised on Saturday morning TV.