The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1983)

best christmas pageant ever dvd 1983
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 6/10

Nice story

Dated look, a bit preachy

TV Show Info

TV Show Name:  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Studio:  Comworld Productions/Schaefer/Karpf Productions

Genre(s):  Comedy/Seasonal

Release Date(s):  December 5, 1983

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

best christmas pageant ever herdmans manger

Touch our baby Jesus and die!!!

“Hey!  Unto You a Child Is Born!”  When Beth Bradley (Fairuza Balk) and her brother Charlie (David Alexander) accidentally encourage the Herdmans to come to church, the Herdmans decide to raid the Christmas pageant.  Charlie and Beth’s mother Grace (Loretta Swit) finds herself in charge of the pageant.  While the rest of the church and children think the Herdmans could destroy the Christmas pageant, Grace vows to make it the best Christmas pageant ever…Herdmans or not!

Directed by George Schaefer, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a family holiday special.  The film aired as a TV movie which first aired on ABC on December 5, 1983.  It is based on the young adult novel of the same title by Barbara Robinson which was first published in 1971.  The special was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program.

best christmas pageant ever fairuza balk ocean hellman

I’m just dreaming of Oz

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever shows how times have changed.  I can vividly remember watching this in school.  It is pretty religiously based and though I can see the book read (probably more of an independent thing), I don’t imagine that it would probably be something that wouldn’t be shown in school but maybe in church…rewatching the special, it is definitely very ’80s, but the story still carries some nice sentiment.

The story is a positive tale.  It is about how the miracle of Jesus can affect everyone and tame even the “savage” kids like the Herdmans who are supposed to be the worst of the worst.  Of course now, the worst of the worst would be far different…drugs and crime would be added to the Herdmans’ lists today (but they wouldn’t have kids smoking).  Here, the Gospel of Luke sways the Herdmans and of course the Christmas pageant is not only faithful but memorable.  It rolls out as you rather expect it with everyone learning a lesson.

best christmas pageant ever loretta swit jackson davies

Korea was easier

Loretta Swit was hot off the heels of M*A*S*H and the anchor of the special playing a character very different and less fiery than “Hot Lips”.  Jackson Davies plays Swit’s husband who brings calmness and perspective to the movie with Anthony Holland playing the minister.  The narrator of the special is Swit’s daughter played by a young Fairuza Balk (pre-Return to Oz).  The stars however are the Herdmans who were generally all young actors who hadn’t done much before (or after), but you did feel that you knew some of these kids.

The special is pretty low budget but still looks decent on DVD transfers.  It is a rather simple story with a very simple look.  The Christmas pageant looks like a real Christmas pageant.  It isn’t big or showy.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is fun for kids who remember the story or kids who watched it as kids.  The idea behind the special is still valid so parents still can feel good about letting a kid watch it.  The book is still presented sometimes as a stage play or a musical, and I could see a modernized The Best Christmas Pageant Ever returning to a screen in some format (maybe even an online streaming service).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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