News of the Week: Best Books, Homeless Muppets, and Now We’re Supposed to Hate Christmas Cards, Apparently

In the news for the week ending December 14, 2018, are a new Muppet, an old sitcom, bad Christmas cards, good TV shows, and fruitcake, fruitcake, fruitcake!

Reading a book in front of a fireplace

Weekly Newsletter

The best of The Saturday Evening Post in your inbox!


December Is the Month for Lists

For several years, there was a guy online who would round up all of the “best and worst” lists of the year and put them on one page, with links to each list. It was great to have all of the lists for TV, film, books, music, and more in one handy place, and I miss it. I was thinking of setting up a page and doing it myself, and then I thought, that really seems like an awful lot of work, now doesn’t it? So I forgot about it and turned on The Price Is Right.

But I can link you to some of the “best books of the year” lists I’ve found. In addition to the lists of books we give you throughout the year, the critics at The New York Times have picked their favorites in fiction and nonfiction. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan has her list too, including what she considers the novel of the year. Laura Miller at Slate has her picks for the 10 best of 2018, Bloomberg has their list of (mostly) nonfiction, and the GoodReads community has a lot of suggestions too.

Oh, I know, the reviews for the worst books can be the most fun to read. Here’s a list of the worst fiction of the year from Open Letters Review.

Street Talk

News came this week that Sesame Street is going to feature its first homeless Muppet. Her name is Lily, and she first appeared on the show in 2011. The show hopes that they can shine a light on homelessness and help kids and families who are experiencing the same issues.

First homeless Muppet? I’d just like to point out that Oscar the Grouch has been living in a garbage can since 1969.

Netflix Will Be There for You

When you read about the shows debuting on Netflix and other streaming services, you’re usually hearing of new, original programming. But Netflix just paid $100M for the rights to keep airing Friends, beating out other companies like Hulu, Fox, and Disney.

Now, please note that this deal is only for 2019. One year. WarnerMedia, which owns Friends, is launching its own streaming service next year and will want to start airing the show in 2020 (it’s amazing how popular Friends is across all generations), either exclusively, or perhaps they will still make deals for it to be shown on other streaming services as well.

If you don’t have Netflix, don’t worry: You can still watch Friends on various channels like TBS and Nick at Nite. Sure, they’re heavily edited to fit more commercials, but on the plus side, they’re on 27 times a day.

A Christmas Carol Turns 175

Is there any other story that has been filmed more than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? The number of versions is currently at “a boatload” (with the best being the George C. Scott version and I don’t want to hear any arguments otherwise). And that’s not counting how many other stories, TV shows, and movies copy the “person is visited by ghosts and learns the true meaning of Christmas!” plot. It’s been done by, well, everybody.

The story turns 175 this year. It was originally published in London on December 19, 1843, and proved to be very popular. The full official title is A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, but no one’s going to remember all that.

Here’s the first film adaptation of the story, a 1901 British short film called Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost:

With Every Christmas Card I Write

Last month we found out that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is racist, and last week we discovered that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is unspeakably evil. Sometimes I’m not sure how to celebrate the holiday. Is it okay to build a snowman, or is that a gender thing? Can I drink cider? Is tinsel still allowed? I ask these questions because now Christmas cards are bad.

This article is a year old, but it’s worth discussing because I’m seeing this sentiment more and more in this age of social media. The author says that sending Christmas cards is “the season’s most annoying tradition” because it forces everyone “to waste their time.” She also doesn’t like cards because they’re impersonal and “entirely useless as a method of communication.” I’ve heard the word “distraction” used in many contexts before, usually with social media and phones and the amount of time we spend looking at screens, but never, ever when it came to Christmas cards. Must be an age thing. She also says that not sending out Christmas cards will help reduce our “carbon footprint.” Because smartphones and cars are made from locally grown organic kale.

I bring up the age of the author not to mock the young (though as I age into my mid-50s I see this as a perfectly reasonable pursuit); I bring it up because she herself in the article mentions rather sarcastically that her grandmother still likes to send Christmas cards, as if this is bad because it’s old-fashioned or traditional. I’m not even sure I understand the world of this article because it seems to be based on a world where everyone is still sending Christmas cards to everyone they know, but the number of Christmas cards sent has dropped.

You don’t necessarily have to make your own, but would it kill you to send a card this year, with your handwritten name and a stamp, through the mail? I know that nothing says warm and fuzzy greetings like a quick text with questionable spelling and punctuation, but if you put a little more effort into it, I guarantee it will be appreciated. And hurry up! Christmas is less than two weeks away.

If not for yourself or your loved ones, do it for Louis Prang.

Tonight on CBS

I’m not a fan of colorizing movies and TV shows, but if colorization is what makes CBS put The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy on in prime time every single year, then it’s a good thing. The shows always get good ratings — which warms the heart — and you can watch two episodes of each show tonight starting at 8 p.m. EST.

RIP Geoff Murphy, John D.F. Black, Tim Rossovich, and Evelyn Berezin

Geoff Murphy was the second unit director on a number of well-known films, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also directed Under Siege 2, The Quiet Earth, and Young Guns II. He died last week at the age of 80.

John D.F. Black co-wrote the classic action film Shaft and also wrote for several TV shows, including Star Trek, Hawaii Five-0, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as the pilot movie for a Wonder Woman series that starred Cathy Lee Crosby (it’s much better than the Lynda Carter version). He died in November at the age of 85.

Tim Rossovich played football for USC (where he was Tom Selleck’s roommate) and the Philadelphia Eagles before becoming an actor. He appeared in such movies as Night Shift and The Main Event and TV shows like Magnum, P.I., The A-Team, MacGyver, Remington Steele, and Soap. He died last week at the age of 72.

Evelyn Berezin was a somewhat overlooked computer industry pioneer credited with building the very first true computerized word processor. She also founded the first company to sell the machines. She died last weekend at the age of 93.

Picture of the Week

When you tell the barista at the coffee shop how to spell your name:


This Week in History

James Thurber Born (December 8, 1894)

Last year the Post talked to several Thurber Prize-winning humorists, including Calvin Trillin, Sloane Crosley, and Ian Frazier, to find out what makes people laugh.

Italy and Germany Declare War on U.S. (December 11, 1941)

Four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declared war on Japan, leading both Italy and Germany to declare war on the U.S.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Christmas Photograph (December 11, 1954)

Parents try to take a photo of their children for a Christmas card. Their daughter sits patiently and dignified; their son slouches with a disgusted look.
Christmas Photograph

This cover was created by Amos Sewell, back when it was still okay to send Christmas cards.

It’s National Fruitcake Month

Everyone makes the same joke at Christmas, and it involves fruitcake and how bad it is. If a dessert can be unloved, fruitcake is that dessert. Has anyone ever had a good one? There are rumors still floating around that someone made a really great fruitcake in Minnesota around 1985 or ’86, but it has never been confirmed.

But if you could make a fruitcake this year that your family actually likes, this could be the best Christmas ever. Food Network’s Alton Brown claims to have the recipe for the best fruitcake ever (there’s also a helpful video to go along with the recipe). Alcohol seems to be really important; then again, it always is.

If you want to be more adventurous, try this fruitcake recipe from a 1912 issue of our sister publication, The Country Gentleman. And you can insert your own joke here about how every fruitcake we eat seems to have been made in 1912.

The funny thing about fruitcake is that it’s usually the fruit part that makes it taste ghastly. But if you don’t include the fruit, well, it’s just cake.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Answer the Phone Like Buddy the Elf Day (December 18)

If you don’t remember the way Buddy answered the phone in the movie Elf, it was “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” Answer the phone that way all day today, even at work. Especially at work.

Go Caroling Day (December 20)

Last Saturday I drove around the block near my post office approximately 11 times. I wasn’t going for a casual ride, I was looking for a parking space (from Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic was terrific.) When I finally found a space — completely by accident, another car pulling out just as I got to the end of the street — I parked and put a couple of coins in the meter. I was irritated, but as I walked away, I heard a group of carolers across the street. I stopped for a moment to listen to them, and instantly got into a better mood. I don’t see a lot of carolers in my town, and it put a smile on my face.

We need more caroling.

Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now


  1. Thanks for including the link for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” ‘News’ column of 12/7/18. It’s worth reading again, AND the comments below. Bob was chastised big time for it. I was also, for agreeing with him and for my comments in Gay Haubner’s ‘North Country Girl’ series. Gay and Dean Martin got a tongue lashings too, but to a lesser extent. This is why Bob’s questioning if this or that (or anything) is okay now. He has legitimate reason to, trust me!

    I love sending Christmas cards with a handwritten note inside. The more people don’t do something, the more I like to, and the more important it is. I got the cards out last Monday and certain people will see just how much I love arts and crafts. These are for the people I like. My relatives (overall)? Not so much. I love getting cards too, naturally.

    I think I’ll pass (once again as always) this year on any fruitcake. I have suggested to some friends that a German Chocolate cake would be splendid to have at a Christmas party, thanks to the Post’s own Andy Hollandbeck and his recent feature on it.

    We definitely DO need more 19th century-style carolers, in general, and especially in my state (CA) now ranked 50th out of the 50 states. I’m VERY grateful though, medium (89) gas is at ARCO is down to $3.35 for now. It’s better than nothing.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *