When I was a teen and young adult, I always liked to be the last person in the house awake on Christmas Eve. I enjoyed putting presents for family members under the tree and I liked the quiet moments that time of night – that particular night – brought.
Being a child of TV and a fan of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” I also enjoyed “Christmas with Friends.” The show was a half-hour NBC special that aired on Christmas Eve in the Carson show time slot.
Videos of the show I’ve seen online indicate the special aired in the early to mid-1980s, but I swear that I remember it from before that time. I also remember the show differently, without the Christmas “video” segments and with more bits from Johnny Carson – usually glimpsed just at the beginning in a Santa outfit – and his dependable “Tonight Show” crew.
The show really revolved around “Tonight Show” bandleader and trumpet player without peer Doc Severinsen, who led the show’s orchestra in a few classic Christmas tunes.
Tommy Newsom, saxophone player and comic foil, was also on hand, as was Ed McMahon, Carson’s sidekick for many years.
“Christmas with Friends” seems unlikely today, and I can’t personally imagine any late night TV traditions less tongue-in-cheek than the current David Letterman tradition of Jay Thomas throwing a football at a meatball on top of Dave’s tree.