Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer airs next Tuesday on CBS; I'm actually kind of surprised it's that late in the year, as it's been run as early as the day after Thanksgiving in the past. First seen in 1964, Rudolph's showings were as part of General Electric's occasional Fantasy Hour specials on NBC.* Nowadays programs don't generally have single sponsors, but when G-E sponsored Rudolph they went all out - the elves even appear in the commercials! It's a shame that we can't see this on the broadcasts today, because these charming bits are every much a part of the show as Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius.
*Explains why Rudolph's nose lights up like a G-E bulb, doesn't it?
Those first couple of years, the elves - and the rest of the cast - even appeared in GE's print ads:
Great stuff, isn't it? There's something slightly primitive about it that is thoroughly charming. I know it's all commercialism, whether you're talking about the 60s or today, but wouldn't it be nice if there was at least a little thought put into it today as there was back then?
You can see more great Rudolph info, along with more neat things, over at the blog of Rick Goldschmidt, the Rankin-Bass historian.