Stories of leadership, persistence & achievement of TV women


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Scripts from Advanced TV Herstory episodes are from production dates June 2015 to present. Audio clips from external sources are noted in italics.

Off Script Viewing: Judy Garland Christmas Show

Welcome to a special installment of Advanced TV Herstory. Regular listeners be warned, we’re going off script. It’s the holidays and some things are just meant to be enjoyed.

For those of us of a certain age, Christmas variety shows were very much a part of growing up. Advanced TV Herstory has looked where women stand in the category. With special in-studio guest Kelli Johnson, we’re going to watch the 1963 Judy Garland Christmas Special. No category more American than Christmas variety shows. No entertainer more accomplished giving her all on TV in 1963-64 than Judy Garland. That makes this show, which airs annually on various cable channels, a true time capsule.

Throw out Norman Rockwell. Judy Garland, in her only Christmas show, helped set a formula that remained a staple on TV for 30 years.

Before we jump right into the show, here’s a little background on Kelli. She knows her TV. Her memory for TV is uncanny, which is really helpful to me sometimes when I’m looking for details or information not found on the Internet. Kelli’s got the grasp of American History that makes you want to have her on your bar trivia team. And, she’s got an eye for detail that I am confident will help bring this show to life.

Kelli grew up in a small, homogeneous Scandinavia-themed town in southern Minnesota. I grew up in a Minneapolis suburb and our church didn’t have a basement. That’s pretty much the story.

One of the many things we share is the appreciation – okay call it love – of TV and how it represents America at the moment.

Off-script viewing

Before I roll the credits for this installment of Advanced TV Herstory, it’s important that I share a few notes. First, the primary ingredients in Contac Cold Medicine in 1963 would have been Phenylephrine, a decongestant and acetaminophen or aspirin maybe, as a pain reliever. Second, Kathie Lee’s maiden name is Epstein. With her first marriage to Paul Johnson, she was known on Name That Tune as Kathie Lee Johnson.

Third, we actually had more to share about Lorna Luft than time permitted. Lorna went on to perform in a few movies and TV guest roles, but made her greatest impression in TV as producer of the 2001 mini-series, Judy Garland: Me and My Shadow. It was based on her family memoir of the same name, published in 1998. The mini-series was nominated for an Emmy in 2001.

As is often the case however, the memoir reopened old wounds between Liza and Lorna. Until recent diagnosis of, treatment for, remission and re-emergence of breast cancer, Lorna had toured the United Kingdom headlining a Judy Garland Tribute Show. There is real talent there and we wish Lorna only the best in 2016.

Which brings me to a final thought Kelli shared with me, regarding the expectations we place on women performers to not only perform, but project a perfect life with perfect children. It was a different standard to uphold – male entertainers, just as their counterparts in politics, business or sports, were expected to give their all to career, craft or the people.

So as we close out 2015, let’s remember that our women performers are only human. This Christmas episode is as much a walk into the past as it is an understanding of how much smarter we are today and how we can all stand to become a little more compassionate.

Thanks for listening today. The Judy Garland Christmas Special, complete with original commercials, can be found on YouTube. Thank you to Kelli Johnson for a a fast paced, insightful viewing session. Follow Advanced TV Herstory on Twitter, look for the handle TVHerstory.

Please, post a comment or suggestion for a future show at our hosting site Libsyn, or at iTunes. Wanna keep your name out of it? Shoot me an email at Thanks for listening. I’m your host, Cynthia Bemis Abrams.