December 25th, 2011 at 12:45pm
For as long as I can remember, Carols By Candlelight has been an institution in my household, being absolutely compulsory viewing every Christmas Eve. For me, it has marked the turning point at which the busy-busy build-up to Christmas ends and the relaxation of the arrival of this most joyous of days arrives.
I’ll admit that, since Ray Martin decided to vacate his position as host of the show, the show has felt less and less special to me each year. It seems as if the show has become less traditional since Ray left, and the tradition of it is what really made it special…it’s what made me (and everyone in the house for that matter) eagerly watch the show or listen to bits of it on the radio if I still had presents to wrap.
This year that slow decline finally hit the point where I could no longer bear to watch. It started with Lisa reading “Dennis Walker” off the prompter without even thinking that it might actually be Dennis Walter, and then discussing with Karl the fact that this “Dennis Walker” is not related to Stan Walker…a clear and sure sign that not only was most of Karl and Lisa’s banter coming straight off the prompter, but they also had no idea what they were talking about or who was going to be on the show.
Then “Uncle Doug”, the eccentric head of the choir, was asked to lead the choir in their usual performance of “Ding Dong Merrily On High”. When Doug sings this song, he becomes quite animated, and it is tradition to see Doug get stuck right in to this song…but no, we got stuck with wide shots of the choir. Doug was in there somewhere, but was practically invisible. One of the highlights of the night each year was gone.
Then, the clincher. Every year for as long as I can remember, and probably longer, Humphrey B. Bear has been involved in the kid’s segment in which Santa comes to visit. In recent years Hi-5 became the main attraction here, and I could accept that given their popularity and prominence within the Nine Network, but Humphrey still had a key role, most recently as Santa’s helper. I was worried when I did not see Humphrey listed in the opening credits, but sat and waited patiently anyway. Hi-5 came on, and at this point everything was normal as Hi-5 always come on first and sing their usual array of songs…but then it got weird as a cross-promotion for a movie came on stage to help Hi-5 find Santa…The Happy Feet Penguins.
When I say “The Happy Feet Penguins” I really mean a bunch of creatures which only bore a passing resemblance to the aforementioned penguins. Santa then appeared, did his thing and left to carry on with his busy schedule. No Humphrey.
At this point I turned the television off in disgust. Humphrey is an extremely important part of the tradition of of Carols By Candlelight; he makes me extremely happy and mellows me to the point where I am nice and comfortable and ready to enjoy the rest of the night’s entertainment. The lack of Humphrey made me angry, and with the rest of the show having not impressed me up until that point, I could not carry on watching it. Others in my household expressed similar thoughts and feelings.
I was later informed that Humphrey appeared later in the night, which placated me to an extent (although he really should be on with Santa), but it turns out that his appearance later in the night was incidental and almost accidental. As David Knox as TV Tonight explains:
Humphrey was at the Bowl making appearances on the night and the Dress Rehearsal, but relegated to commercial breaks.
Humphrey finally came out during the curtain call, a fleeting glimpse of a bear without pants somewhere amongst the crowd….
Well I’m sorry, but I’m livid. Humphrey is an icon, a National treasure and an institution. Humphrey deserves better than to be relegated to warming up the audience. Excluding him from the television show is a disgrace. I can understand the incentive for having the penguins which didn’t look like the product they were promoting as a part of the show, but there was no reason to exclude Humphrey. Humphrey could still have made an appearance with Santa as Santa’s assistant…it didn’t have to be a big role, but he owns the Santa segment and, with all due respect to Santa (who also seemed to shunted aside to an extent to make room for the show-sponsoring almost-penguins), the segment does not work without him.
All I can say is that a Christmas tradition was ruined for me last night, and if Humphrey’s name is absent from the opening titles again next year, I shall not be watching.
To treat Humphrey in such a way is shabby at best, and I won’t allow my Christmas eve to be tarnished in such a way again. If that means that I miss out on Carols By Candlelight, then so be it…they’re not the only source of carolling, and I will get my fix elsewhere.
As David Knox says:
Christmas is one of the few times we get to see Humphrey -please sort this out for 2012
Hear hear! And if Nine can’t sort it out, then I hope that someone else picks up the rights to Humphrey and will treat him with the dignity he deserves. Icons who have entertained and educated generations upon generations of Australians deserve so much better than what Nine did to poor old Humphrey last night. Hopefully it is fixed for next year, and hopefully Humphrey is compensated with an enormous amount of honey…it’s the least he deserves, and about the only way that Nine will get me to watch Carols next year.