HBO News Blog

HBO Classics: Holiday Programming II

By Jef Dinsmore on Dec 28, 2012 to HBO Classics


What’s left to talk about you ask? Well, not only did HBO feature unique programming for Christmas it also had a special lineup to herald in the New Year. Again, while looking at this content you must remember that there was only one HBO channel back in the day, so a variety of programming was on the schedule. Today the format is quite different.

OnLocation_DillerIn the early days HBO had unscripted comedy programming on all the time, by that I mean not comedy series but comedians and their standup routines. There were two different ongoing shows called ON LOCATION and STANDING ROOM ONLY back then. Between both of them they offered quite a variety of talents on the air.

ON LOCATION was strictly a showcase for stand-up. HBO’s cameras went to the comedy clubs to capture comedians like David Brenner,comedy_special George Carlin, Phyllis Diller, Rich Little, Robin Williams, Freddie Prinze, Jay Leno, Redd Foxx, Richard Belzer and many more go through their paces. There was also the Annual Young Comedians Special that gave no-name jokesters their chance to shine.


STANDING ROOM ONLY featured musical performers, variety specials and other stage entertainers. It presented show divas like Totie Fields, Diana Ross, Victor Borge and Jerry Lee Lewis as well as ventriloquists, burlesquRoss_SROe acts and vaudeville troupes. There was so much variety and comedy on through the year that I just can’t list them all!

So, what do all of these shows have to do with the Holidays? Well, at the end of each year, from like 1976 – 1985, HBO would run a marathon of these specials. Every night between Christmas and New Year’s the channel would lay it on thick. HBO would re-air some of the highlights in comedy & variety that may have been missed earlier in the year. Then, on New Year’s Eve a marathon of stand-up would count down to midnight.


As proof of what I am talking about here are some clips of end of the year programming. Here is a snippet from New Year’s Eve 1979.

Here is another one from 1982. You remember Scott Baio in “Stoned” right? I hope you get a chuckle out of the movie previews too. Oh, and I wish Dick Cavett still hosted HBO MAGAZINE each week.


Okay, that’s enough of that. Anyway, so you can see via my HBO Holiday Programming posts that December on the channel was a fun and entertaining time each year. With the seasonal programs and great comedy and variety specials HBO offered the good old days were truly HBO CLASSICS. Oh, one more thing…hbo-lastlaughs-1979_2


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