Like many people, I always looked forward to Kathie Lee Gifford’s Christmas specials only to see how they were reviewed by Tom Shales. Here’s the Washington Post TV critic’s assessments of Gifford’s holiday shows and other performances. (Thanks to the Evanston Public Library Periodicals Department for research assistance.)
February 29, 1988
On ABC, The Talk Didn’t Figure; Skating Announcers Mar Olympic Coverage
….Then there’s the charisma quotient of Frank and Kathie Lee: zilch, zero, zip, nada, pas de tout. If they cohosted a morning program it would have to be called, “Go Back to Bed, America.
On Friday, Frank Gifford announced at the start of the broadcast that his wife would not appear that night because of a “long-standing prior commitment.” One suspected that was a euphemism for “ABC News and Sports President Roone Arledge has come to his senses.” Gifford said he would press on alone but lamented that the program would suffer “cosmetically” without Kathie Lee’s presence, thus insulting her even as he attempted to praise her.
February 27, 1992
Oh, Reege! Oh, Kathie Lee!; The Key to Television’s Popular Brew: They Percolate in the Morning
Kathie Lee is basically as wholesome as a corn muffin.
…Ghastly, hideous and downright nightmarish in its desperate cheerfulness, the special gets off to an immediate bad start when the announcer informs us that the guest cast will include “a special appearance by Cody Gifford,” blond tot son of Kathie Lee and husband Frank, the personality-less sportscaster. Cody looks about as happy to be on the special as you will be if you watch it.
Naturally she sings, sings, sings — or rather, not so naturally, just in that excruciatingly bland and vapid way of hers.
At the outset, Kathie Lee announces that Christmas “brings out the best in people.” She should have added, “Present company excepted.”
December 20, 1995
Kathie Lee: The Grin That Stole Christmas
Give her enough tinsel and she’ll hang herself. And she does.
“Kathie Lee: Home for Christmas,” Kathie Lee Gifford’s second annual CBS Christmas special, is perhaps even worse than her first — a sickeningly saccharine vanity production that should really have been titled “O Come, Let Us Adore Me.” That ghastly Gifford grin, ear to ear and back again, seems steeped in self-esteem and almost blinding in its show biz phoniness.
This special is not a treat for the whole family, unless you’re talking only about Gifford’s family. For them, a treat; for others, the equivalent of what commies might have used to torture political prisoners. You can almost hear the poor souls crying out, “No, no — anything but that!”
December 12, 1996
Kathie Lee’s Christmas: Mistletoe by a Mile
At Thanksgiving we get to be grateful that Kathie Lee doesn’t do a Thanksgiving special. … It was often said that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Bing Crosby. But oh brother, would Christmas ever be Christmas without Kathie Lee Gifford.