Friday, December 24, 2004

Continuing Coverage

“Welcome back to CNN’s continuing coverage of Christmas Eve 2004. After all the ads, after all the pleading and tantrums, after all the ‘I’ll be good this year’ comments, it comes down to this night. Tonight, we’ll finally see who’s been naughty, and who’s been nice. I’m Wolf Blitzer, and I’ll be joined this hour by a host of analysts who can help to put all that’s happening tonight into perspective. My colleague Judy Woodruff is at the North Pole, literally the epicenter of the evening. Judy, what’s the mood there?”

“Wolf, I think it’s fair to say it’s one of expectation, but also one of relief. After months and months of making toys, opening wish lists and listening to countless children tell Santa what they want, tonight’s the night that it all comes together. This year, for the first time, a new computerized matching system is being employed to pair the perfect present with each deserving child. Developed by a unprecedented collaboration between Apple Computer and Intel, the R200 Ultimate Declinating Overt Level Parcel Handler, nicknamed RUDOLPH, has been busy cranking out page after page of shipping and packing instructions to keep this operation humming like clockwork. Joining me to talk about how RUDOLPH has changed Christmas Eve as we know it is S. Nicolas Klaus, the Chief Operating Officer for North Pole Inc. Mr. Klaus, how important is RUDOLPH to a successful Christmas?”

“Well, Judy, while we’ve done it for years by hand, it’s been a backbreaking task. By Christmas day, all we’ve wanted to do is sleep. This year, for the first time, we hope to have everything wrapped up well before first light, so we can enjoy a little eggnog as well.”

“Are there other benefits?”

“For sure. We expect to see an increase in accuracy, and eliminate slipups like the time we delivered that ‘Make Your Own Children’s Book’ kit to Madonna. We’re still hearing about that one.”

“Mr. Klaus, thanks for talking with us. Wolf, back to you.”

“Thanks, Judy, we’ll check back with you later. We’re coming up to 8PM in the East, when the first children will be going to bed. With me to analyze the early results are James Carville and Larry King. Before we see the first presents tonight, James, any thoughts?”

“Wolf, after all the talk about decorations and about the incessant carols in the stores, I think we have to remember this: it’s the presents, stupid.”

“To the point, as usual. Larry?”

“Wolf, as I was saying to Nancy Regan when we had dinner at Julia Roberts’ house… I was sitting next to Meryl Streep and across from Jude Law… it’s the simple company of close personal friends that trumps a gift every time. The Donald thought that was kind of funny.”

“Food for thought, as always. Gentlemen, thanks to you both. It’s now 8PM in the east, and CNN has he following predictions to make. In Philadelphia, William “Billy” Soltuna, 6 years old, will be getting a Robiosapiens mechanical toy. In Baltimore, little 7 year-old Anna Bruchowski will be unwrapping a Bake It Myself Oven. And in Athens, Georgia, PJ Tamberlane, who is 5, will have a Super Soaker Series 2 Master Blaster Water Cannon under his tree. Jeff Greenfield, it’s a little early to spot any trends, but your analysis of these early gifts.”

“Wolf, as I’ve always cautioned in the past, we in the media can jump to conclusions on the basis of early returns. And I think it’s important to keep that in mind as we see the East Coast coming in first. If you remember back in ’99, there was an early run on Teletubbies, and we said that it would be the year of the TV stuffed animals. But it turned out that the results were skewed due to a PBS fund drive that didn’t extend east of the Mississippi. When the west came in heavy for Nintendo, it completely erased any move towards PBS tie-ins. So other than saying we we’re starting the evening by leaning towards hands-on selections, I think we have to see what really develops.”

“Well, what would be some things that our audience should watch for as being indicative of movement towards a particular style this evening?”

“Well, if we see Jimmy Collins in Fort Bragg score an X-Box, or Melina Del Fabrini in Jacksonville get a Sims Vacation Pack… and keep in mind those are 9 year-olds with a later bed time living in 1 computer households… then I think I would be more inclined to give credence to the “Tech-mas” analysis that some have predicted.”

“Jeff, thanks as always. We’ll be back to you as more results come in. I want to take a moment to remind our audience that CNN will have a special post-Christmas Eve wrap up on Christmas Day, complete with analysis of gift giving patterns in all 50 states. I’ll be joined by our usual line-up of CNN experts, plus a host of correspondents who have been embedded with families in Pennsylvania, Kansas and Oregon since Thanksgving. They will give us an inside glimpse of not only the reactions house by house, but also the thinking that went into everything from which wrapping paper was this year’s favorite to the all important strategy centered around when to go to Wal-Mart to start the return process.”

“We’ll continue our coverage as we approach 8:30PM in the east, and focus on the very influential 8 year-olds in Wheeling, West Virginia, usually a reliable predictor of outdoor trends. But first, a word from one of our sponsors, Tums. Stay with us… there’s lots more to come. This is CNN live coverage of Christmas Eve 2004… we’ll be back in just a minute.”

Marc Wollin of Bedford started and finished his holiday shopping this year by the week after Thanksgiving. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.