Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

Netflix’s New Year’s Eve for Kids (And Don’t Forget Mary!)

Here’s my personal New Year’s Eve philosophy — once the ball drops in Times Square in New York City, it’s all over. On the other hand, lots of other places hit midnight before Gotham, so just about any hour of the night, somebody’s shooting off fireworks.

So, there’s absolutely no reason why little kids need to stay up until midnight in your time zone. If you’re home with them on New Year’s Eve — or if you’ve left them with a babysitter — Netflix has come up with a fun way for them to count down to 2018 with some of their TV friends and still get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Netflix is offering on-demand, New Year’s Eve countdowns for kids. They range from two to five minutes long and feature some popular shows and characters, such as “All Hail King Julien,” “True and the Rainbow Kingdom,” “Puffin Rock,” “Beat Bugs,” “Skylanders Academy,” “Word Party,” “Larva” and “Pororo.”

Here’s a preview trailer:

To access these Netflix NYE on-demand countdowns, parents can search for “New Year’s Eve Countdown” or “Countdown” at any time during the day (they’ve been up since Dec. 26 and hang around for all of January). New for 2017, countdowns will also get their own icon in the Kids row for quick access to all nine videos.

Also, in case you were wondering, while Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is ordinarily a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics, the USCCB has rescinded that this year because the holiday falls on a Monday. Of course, if you still want to go to Mass, feel free to do so.

You can also check out the “Mary” episode of our fast and fun catechetical Web series, “Catholic Central.”

Blessed Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and Happy New Year!

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Venerable Father Peyton — The Power of Family Prayer

On Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had approved a declaration naming Family Theater Productions’ founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., as “Venerable.”

He was previously named Servant of God, and this change moves him one step closer to sainthood (learn more here).

It’s a little crazy to think that a man who spent much of his priestly life in the heart of Hollywood (even today, our local neighborhood includes a strip joint) — and, having worked with many big stars, could properly be called a Hollywood producer — may one day become a saint.

But Venerable Father Peyton didn’t set out to be a producer, that was just the means he used to promote the idea of family prayer, especially the rosary.

As he famously said, “The family that prays together stays together.”

Over the last couple of years, we’ve spoken to Catholics at the annual Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, about a variety of subjects, including Family Prayer and, specifically, Father Peyton.

Here are some of them.

First, Bishop Vann, the Bishop of the Diocese of Orange (which includes Anaheim), talking about his own work promoting family prayer and what Father Peyton means to him:

Next is Joseph Nesta, the Senior Community Relations Officer for Immaculate Heart Radio, who speaks movingly of his personal connection to the Venerable Father Peyton and his work:

Finally, here’s Patrick Coffin, former host of “Catholic Answers Live” and currently podcasting and blogging at his own Websites — and — with a short and sweet message about Father Peyton and the power of family prayer:

And if you don’t know where to start, here’s Coffin’s own personal family prayer:

Image: Family Theater Productions

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

3 for Tuesday: ‘The Middle,’ ‘Scrooged,’ ‘Kranks’

The Middle

Our biweekly TV family-viewing guide returns with three choices between Tuesday and Thursday, starting with the Christmas episode from the final season of one of America’s favorite sitcoms, starring one of our favorite Catholic stars.

The Middle: The Christmas Miracle — Tuesday, 8 p.m., ABC

From ABC:

It’s Christmastime, and Frankie (Patricia Heaton) and Sue (Eden Sher) are devastated after Axl (Charlie McDermott) informs them that he’s not going to church this year because he’s beginning to question his faith. Meanwhile, Mike (Neil Flynn) goes to war with the Glossner kids after they keep defacing his new, giant inflatable snowman; and Brick (Atticus Shaffer) goes all out in an attempt to wrap his first present for a planned Christmas Yankee Swap.

Here’s a promo:

Fans know that Heaton is a devout Catholic, but they may not be aware that Atticus Shaffer is also an outspoken Christian. Here’s a clip of his appearance on season 2 of the interview show “Frankly Faraci” on Dove Channel (click here for season one; click here for info on season 2 on Dove Channel).

MythBusters: Star Wars Myths Countdown — Wednesday, 8 p.m., Science Channel

With “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hitting theaters this weekend, seems like a good time for the MythBusters to look at the scientific truth behind a lot of the show’s most spectacular special effects.

Speaking of the movie, here’s an extended trailer:

Christmas With the Kranks (2004) — Thursday, 8 p.m., Lifetime

This one wound up on the USCCB’s list of recommended Christmas movies, Here’s what the U.S. bishops had to say:

Delightful yuletide comedy about a Chicago couple (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) who boycott Christmas after their daughter leaves home to join the Peace Corps, sparking unforeseen reactions from their militantly merry neighbors (led by Dan Aykroyd). The film is based on the novella “Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham. Director Joe Roth delivers a dose of holly-jolly fun that is, by turns, extremely funny and poignantly tender, and its warmhearted message of selflessness, family and coming together as a community clearly embodies the truest spirit of the season. Some suggestive humor, comic violence and mildly crude language.

See you later with 5 for Friday, looking forward to the weekend.

Image: Courtesy ABC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Santa Claus and St. Nicholas — A Tale Told in Videos

From “Miracle on 34th Street” to “The Santa Clause” (and sequels), Santa Claus has been the subject of movies and TV specials, and used to sell everything from Coca-Cola to M&Ms.

The origins of Santa Claus have tantalized filmmakers, who’ve come up with all sorts of fanciful tales about how the gift-giver came to be, where his elves came from, and why he has reindeer. Here’s a clip from “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” a 1970 stop-motion animated special that may be one of the more … imaginative versions of the origin tale.

But something that has Fred Astaire can’t be all bad …

In the real world, Santa Claus is a blend of Norse, Germanic, Catholic and Dutch traditions, filtered through folklore and two major 19th-century influences — Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and the work of artist Thomas Nast.

Speaking of the famous poem …

Our current iteration of the rotund man in a fur-trimmed red coat is a gift of the Coca-Cola Company, a creation for an ad campaign in the 1920s (and not coincidentally, he’s wearing the signature colors of the beverage maker).

But Catholics know that the true beginning of the Santa Claus legend was in 4th-century Turkey, with the famed Bishop Nicholas of Myra. Born into wealth, which he inherited while young, devoutly Catholic Nicholas gave all he had to assist the sick and needy.

Made a bishop early in life, he became known for his generosity, and his love for children and for those who go down to the sea in ships.

Bishop Nicholas suffered for the Faith under Roman Emperor Diocletian and spent time in prison. He died on Dec. 6, 343 A.D., and that day is now his feast day. Nicholas’ fame grew after his death, and many legends are told of him.

European tradition states that children who leave their shoes out on St. Nicholas Day Eve find them filled in the morning with treats and small gifts (if they’ve been good).

According to news reports from October, the tomb of Saint Nicholas may have been found in southern Turkey — under a church named in his honor, in the town where he was born (where else, indeed?).

But does this mean Santa Claus is dead? Of course not. St. Nicholas is in heaven, waiting to pray on our behalf. And as for Santa Claus, he is the spirit of generosity, and as long as that exists, he lives on.

Oh, and a group of filmmakers is trying to make a movie about “Nicholas of Myra,” which, according to the IMDB, is to come out in two parts, in 2018 and 2019.

Click here for the official Website, and this is what they have so far:


Remember to watch the skies on Christmas Eve, when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) begins its annual satellite tracking of Santa Claus’ journey across the world.

Here’s a preview:

And here’s a look back at how NORAD took on this very important duty — which has the feeling of a bit of divine intervention …

Head to the official site to follow the Jolly Old Elf as he makes his rounds.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

3 for Tuesday: ‘Nature,’ ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘Elf’!

Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars

We hope you’ll take your family out to see the animated Nativity movie “The Star” this week (click here for our review), but if you’re doing in-home entertainment, here are some great choices to share between Tuesday and Turkey Day.

All times Eastern, check local listings for time and channel in your area. For those who’d rather listen than read, here’s an audio version of this post.

Our Tuesday offering is actually a holdover from last week, when we highlighted “The Princess Bride” (click here to read that). If you missed it then, it airs Tuesday at 8 and 10 p.m., on BBC America. It’s also available for streaming on Amazon Video.

On to this week’s new picks:

Nature: Nature’s Miniature Miracles — Wednesday, 8 p.m., PBS

All about the new episode, from PBS:

Great things come in small packages and animals are no exception to the rule. Learn the epic survival stories of the world’s smallest animals as NATURE shines a light on these tiny heroes who have evolved extraordinary skills and achieved mind-boggling feats: from a tiny sengi, considered the cheetah of the shrew world, to a hummingbird who travels thousands of miles north each year, from a small shark that walks on land to an army of baby turtles instinctively racing to the safety of the open ocean. Through vast savannas to rocky plateaus and down to the depths of the seas, it is a great big world out there, but for these animals, size does not matter.

BTW, it’s followed by “NOVA: Extreme Animal Weapons,” but that may be a bit intense for little ones.

Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars — Thursday, 8 p.m., PBS

Author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s high-spirited orphan Anne Shirley comes to life in this Canadian-produced version of the classic children’s book. “The Good Stars” is the second of two movie-length productions aired on PBS.

Catholic American actor Martin Sheen stars as Matthew Cuthbert, half of a brother-sister team of foster parents helping to raise Anne (Ella Ballentine).

From PBS:

When Anne Shirley turns 13, she faces complex issues with her friends, inspirational adults and Marilla and Matthew. At the same time, she begins a friendship with Gilbert Blythe that emotionally escalates to disrupt the status quo of her peaceful world. Her free-spirited nature is challenged by her perceived need to become sensible, and her journey toward this goal is fraught with confusion and more than a few unfortunate – albeit, amusing – mishaps.

Elf (2003) — Wednesday, 8:50 p.m., and Thursday, 6:40 p.m., Freeform

It’s not the same kind of actually Christian Christmas movie as “The Star,” but Catholic reviewer Steven Greydanus finds worthy elements in this story of a human (Will Ferrell) raised among elves, who returns to his human kin.

From Greydanus:

The core of the movie, though, is Buddy’s relationship with his human father (James Caan). Can the man be redeemed? Can he learn to care for Buddy — as well as the rest of his family? And can Christmas spirit be restored to a jaded New York City?

Of course, the Christmas spirit we are talking about here isn’t the real McCoy — the recognition that Jesus Christ is born, the kind that would make one want to sing “Joy to the world; the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!” No, it’s the Hollywood kind of Christmas spirit, involving only sentimental warm-fuzzies to fight the cold winter air of white Christmasses that never come in Hollywood. But still, it’s something.

See you on Friday, with no doubt the beginning of the big Christmas-TV-special season.

Happy viewing!

Image: Courtesy Breakthrough Entertainment/PBS

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

5 for Friday: ‘Princess Bride,’ ‘Grinch,’ ‘Oz,’ ‘Charlotte’ and Thanksgiving Baking

The Princess Bride

Our biweekly family-programming guide returns with a weekend (and Monday) slate of classics old and new, and a bit of Thanksgiving-baking magic.

Remember, all times Eastern (check local listings for time and channel number in your area).

The Princess Bride (1987) — Friday 8 and 10 p.m., BBC America

Screenwriter William Goldman once famously said:

Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion-picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.

Well, Goldman guessed right on this cult classic, adapted from his own novel, itself based on a story he made up for his two daughters. In the film, a grandfather (Peter Falk) tells his ailing grandson (Fred Savage) about princess-bride-to-be Buttercup (Robin Wright), and Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmboy who finds his inner swashbuckler.

Their adventures are filled with colorful characters (played by, among others, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane), incredible beasties and a cornucopia of memorable lines — all in service of a satire of the fairy-tale genre that also pays tribute to it.

Wrote Catholic reviewer Deacon Steven Greydanus:

[Director] Rob Reiner’s great cult classic The Princess Bride is one of those rare satiric gems, like The Court Jester and Galaxy Quest, that doesn’t just send up a genre, but honors it at the same time, giving us the excitement and pleasure of the real thing as well as the laughs of a comedy.

The movie also got a shout-out in an episode of our new YouTube series, “Catholic Central” (all episodes available here):

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) — Saturday 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., TBS

The beloved book by Theodor Geisel, a k a Dr. Seuss, became an equally beloved animated special, featuring narration by Boris Karloff and a memorable performance of the Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft. This tale of redemption begins with a grouchy creature suffering from a pinched heart, who envies the happy Whos of Whoville — especially their Christmas celebration.

With his dog Max at his side, the Grinch decides to crash the party, only to find out that he was wrong about Christmas — and the Whos — all along.

Pass the Who pudding (recipe here) and the roast beast!

The Wizard of Oz (1939) — Saturday 7 and 9:15 p.m., TBS

Judy Garland is the once and always Dorothy in this cinematic marvel, as the Kansas farmgirl whisked by a tornado into a magical land, where she makes a few friends, at least one enemy, and discovers that all is not as it appears to be.

Based on the American fairy tale written by L. Frank Baum, this is one of the 15 films that the Vatican deemed to be art, in a list released by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1995, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of cinema.

It’s a long movie (especially with commercials), and the flying monkeys still give me the willies, but there’s a lot here for families to discuss about friendship, courage, loyalty and not taking things at face value.

Charlotte’s Web (2006) — 9 p.m., Saturday, and 7 p.m. Sunday, Discovery Family Channel

This live-action version of E.B. White’s acclaimed 1951 children’s book may not be the best possible version of the story about the friendship between a farm pig and a barn spider named Charlotte, but it has its moments.

Deacon Greydanus had a mixed reaction:

All in all, Charlotte’s Web is fair family entertainment, though the story would have been better served by a more faithful adaptation — and more inspired direction. The basic appeal of White’s story is sturdy enough to survive the filmmakers’ more dubious choices, and the emotional climax may even leave viewers with a lump in their throat. Even so, I’d rather rewatch the cartoon with my kids, or better yet, reread the book.

Speaking of the 1973 animated version, it can be viewed here.

Holiday Baking Championship: Thanksgiving Genius — Monday, 9 p.m., Food Network

The seven remaining bakers in the reality-competition series must devise a spectacular dessert using a mystery canned fruit, then they must combine two traditional desserts into something entirely new.

As it always does, this show celebrates creativity and inventiveness, and is a merit-based competition that rewards effort and excellence.

See you on Tuesday, with three more family-suitable choices to take you through Thanksgiving Day.

Image: Courtesy 2oth Century Fox

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.