When I learned that NBC will air Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol for the first time in nearly 40 years, I thought this was great. It first aired in Living Color in December 1962. It showed the myopic old man (voiced by Jim Backus) enjoying success in a Broadway musical version of A Christmas Carol. Of course, it showed him getting into trouble because of his bad eyesight before and after the play. During it, though, Magoo plays Scrooge straight, and goes a fine job as the miserly old man who learns the true spirit of Christmas. It lead to a weekly show, where Magoo played other figures of literature including Dr. Frankenstein, the Count of Monte Cristo and Ishmael from Moby Dick.
Then I remembered that TV in 1962 is very different than what TV is now. I wondered how much of the original show would survive the cuts NBC would impose to fit in more ads. I know that the special used to be shown mostly uncut in syndication in the 1970s, and just the musical on TNT.
Last night's showing was a disaster. They cut out all of the framing device, half of "The Plunderer's March", and the finale reprise of "The Lord's Bright Blessings". They figured that showing the "Christmas Carol" part was enough.
This is just like restoring the Mona Lisa, but her face is missing, or a Model T without wheels... including the steering wheel
Is there any reason behind this, with the expectation that no one will notice?
I suspect there is. Hardly anyone remembers Mr. Magoo, who used to be a cartoon staple in the movies and TV. He won two Academy Awards, for crying out loud! He used to be on NBC for a time. He was even Uncle Sam in another animated special.
Yet the Peacock network probably didn't even promote this special, but they had ads for what followed, the WWE Salute to the Troops. Promoting a show where pro wrestlers are meeting our troops is a good idea. Mr. Magoo, though, deserved better.
Let's not forget one other thing: the composers of the songs, Bob Merrill and Jules Styne, went on to make another musical you may have heard of....Funny Girl!
Thankfully, there is YouTube, which has the uncut version of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.
It's also available on DVD, along with other Christmas specials that have been trimmed for extra commercials by short-sighted TV bean-counters.