Simple idea generates great rewards with ABC special “Christmas Miracles.” Once again, real-life drama proves more heartwarming than a flock of fictitious seasonal stories.
Main premise is of Christmas dreams come true. It’s explored two ways: children’s letters to Santa answered with a TV star in attendance, and adults’ memories of incidents in which nice things happened without a celeb within miles. Secondary thread has other kids answering questions like “How do Santa’s reindeer fly?”
Staged segments include Richard Karn and some special effects people helping a Southern California youngster enjoy a white Christmas; Halle Berry escorting a young man to a dinner for a group of poor children (he’d asked Santa to look after the less fortunate); Melissa Joan Hart and company treating a would-be actress to a day on the set of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (with episode’s guest John Ratzenberger delivering the best line); and Jennifer Love Hewitt buying a bed for a 9-year-old boy who’d been sharing one with his mother.
While the celebs deport themselves well enough (Hewitt more than that), there’s no particular bond between any star other than Hart with the particular wish fulfillment. ABC could have plugged in (say) Ellen DeGeneres, Dennis Franz and Michael Eisner and — though show would have been considerably more amusing — casting wouldn’t have made any difference to the kids. None of them, save for the one on “Sabrina,” seemed impressed by the stars, or even aware of their identities. But the boys who hung out with Berry and Hewitt will have something to reflect on in a few years.
No surprise that real-life “miracles” are more impressive. In one, a soldier reminisces how he and his company helped create a St. Nicholas Festival in 1944 Luxembourg; he was there three years ago when the celebration celebrated its 50 th anniversary. In another segment, an Ohio woman remembers a night in 1959 when her poor family was visited by a mysterious figure dressed as Santa Claus who brought bags of groceries. She swears that neither of her parents could identify the figure. “But we (the children) knew who he was — he was Santa Claus.”
Now, there’s a story strong enough to stir a mouse.