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Bubblegum Machine

Holiday Entertainment Forecast 2003: Cashing in on Christmas

By Lisa M. Puskarcik, Crimson Staff Writer

The holiday season is a special time for celebrities—not in the heartwarming, family-oriented, spiritual way, but in the Hollywood media time-to-cash-in-and-hit-it-big way. Slowly but surely the stars have been announcing their new holiday albums, television specials and movies, even promoting new “complete season” DVD television series. It is a special time when celebrities who are dangerously close to crossing into “has-been” territory attempt to reinvigorate their stardom, as consumers have the power to show that ‘tis the season for generosity, second chances and thus the potentially successful comeback. It is also an opportunity for big names to further etch themselves into the minds of entertainment consumers who have long gift lists that may include myriad albums and videos.

Some of these celebrity opportunities are risky, however, as bad, cookie-cutter holiday entertainment can turn into a recipe for disaster. Well-respected celebs can blatantly showcase their unbridled capitalistic greed and thinly-veiled exploitation of fan base, or, as in the case of Will Farell’s Elf, gamble with projects that may completely flop and/or irreparably tarnish their image.

One too many Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float rides through Herald Square with unfashionable earmuffs, chapped lips, fake smile, beauty-pageant wave and a runny nose from the cold is enough to permanently ruin a pop diva’s persona—as I have known no diva to benefit from lip-synching in sub zero Manhattan temperatures while accompanied by nerdy high school band and dance team. Nevertheless, stars seem undeterred by the volatility of the holiday consumer base as they continue to market themselves better than most toys on shelves (unless of courses they are promoting their own toys created in their likeness, like the Eminem action figure, for example).

Celebrities wishing to cash in on Christmas face increasingly stiff competition in a saturated market—everyone wants a piece of the fruitcake. The days when the only original holiday special featured Kathy Lee Gifford dressed as Mrs. Claus and occasionally bursting into song with husband Frank and son Cody sporting matching light-up reindeer sweaters are a thing of the past.

This year VH1 has created a new holiday variety show with rocker/rapper Kid Rock that will feature a Christmas dinner “Detroit Style” with Rock’s mother and celebrity special guests. And that’s only the tip of the icicle. For office party background carols one can choose American Idol finalists singing the holiday classics, or R&B diva Ashanti belting out a few originals on her soon-to-be-released holiday album. Out of Nashville Kenny Chesney has released his album “All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan” and thus joins the ranks of country artists from Dolly Parton to the Judd’s to Randy Travis and Vince Gill, all of whom have twangy holiday albums on shelves in Wal-Marts nationwide.

In the teen scene, Christina Aguilera and N’Sync have rather successful holiday albums under their belts. In tandem with a new album and the launch of a new tour next spring, I am hoping to see a Britney Spears holiday special, broadcast from her hometown of Kentwood, La, and hopefully with cameos from her mom and lil’ sis Jamie Lynn. The three could probably pull off shimmery ice queen and princess looks, and showcase Britney’s favorite stocking stuffers such as the pink diamond-encrusted Louis Vuitton cigarette lighter she has been flashing during interviews these days. If producers went for a heartwarming holiday reunion theme with a few of her high school pals, with their incomprehensibly thick southern drawls, mixed with some of Britney’s fellow cast mates from the Mickey Mouse Club, I guarantee that ratings would soar. Just imagine the debauchery—eggnog, mistletoe, “Hit me [Santa!] One More Time!” Who needs Ralphie and the traditional A Christmas Story when you can have Britney?

I am excited about the new entertainment that continues to pop up as the holiday nears, though I hope that the more respectable celebrities will exercise caution in their holiday special endeavors. My few words of advice to entertainers as a holiday consumer: don’t use this as a time to experiment with crossing genres from singing to acting or vice versa, or to soften a hard image by surrounding yourself with singing children or elderly people. And when in doubt, do as some stars do and mysteriously, or rather strategically, disappear from the holiday radar screen—at least until Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

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