What “War on Christmas?” As holiday stocking stuffers go, “The Great Christmas Light Fight” is about as inoffensive and low-wattage as reality-TV gets, which isn’t necessarily bad, except the whole exercise could easily be dispatched as a weeklong segment on “Good Morning America.” As is, this five-part series (after the premiere, back-to-back hours will run the next two Mondays) features four families in each episode, with members of the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” team deciding who claims the $50,000 prize. In practical terms, consider it a festive way for ABC to try keeping the lights on ratings-wise while waiting for “The Bachelor.”
“Makeover’s” Michael Moloney is featured in the premiere (Sabrina Soto is the other judge), crisscrossing the country from California to Georgia, Virginia to New York. Surprisingly, other than a former New York firefighter who survived Sept. 11, the participants don’t come armed with sob stories, beyond a love of Christmas and family and, in one case, a questionable eagerness to dress up in elf costumes.
Each family talks about why they started putting together these elaborate light displays, then Moloney – and of course, the entire community – come out for the big unveiling, designating a winner near the end. And that’s pretty much that.
Admittedly, a cynic might argue the spirit of the holidays would be better served if the cash went toward some charitable endeavor or higher calling, or the families spent a little more time talking about the meaning of the season and less obsessing about whether there might be a dud bulb somewhere. Still, given the genial nature of the enterprise, that’s splitting hairs.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of “Great Christmas Light Fight” is its inherent limitation – namely, even if this works, about the best ABC can hope for is to do the whole thing over again next year right after Thanksgiving. (For what it’s worth, the program does include a pitch for those who’d like to participate in the future to send in their information.)
Then again, fretting about that is a bit like putting the sleigh before the reindeer. Besides, ABC and FremantleMedia should have a pretty good idea by Tuesday morning whether this Christmas bauble will merit a second coming.