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Bill Murray: Will his holiday special succeed on Netflix?

Murray is hosting a holiday special for the streaming service that will debut this December. Holiday specials used to be a staple of network programming in the 1960s and 1970s.

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    'A Very Murray Christmas' stars Paul Shaffer (l.) and Bill Murray.
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Netflix will be streaming a holiday special this year, and it will be hosted by none other than Bill Murray. 

The special, “A Very Murray Christmas,” will arrive on Netflix on Dec. 4, and, like the holiday specials of decades past, will include plenty of guest stars, including George Clooney, Chris Rock, Rashida Jones, Maya Rudolph, and Miley Cyrus. Paul Shaffer of David Letterman’s “Late Show” will be popping up on the piano. The special is directed by Sofia Coppola of “Lost in Translation.” 

Holiday specials used to be almost a genre of their own and often followed a variety show format. Singer Bing Crosby, actor Dick Van Dyke, and even the “Star Wars” cast headed up holiday programs in the 1960s and 1970s. The specials often include celebrity guests and are often based around the conceit that the TV network happens to be filming a holiday get-together between friends. 

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The format has been revived recently – while still on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert aired “A Colbert Christmas” in 2008, with guests including Elvis Costello, Toby Keith, John Legend, Feist, and Willie Nelson, among others.

Staples of network television’s past are popping up all over the place. NBC revived the live TV musical with “The Sound of Music Live!” in 2013 and seems to be making the programming a new holiday staple, airing “Peter Pan Live!” last year and planning on “The Wiz Live!” for this year. The network also put a new variety show similar to programs like “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” and “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” on the air with the new program “Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris.” It remains to be seen whether “Best” will be a success. 

It’s interesting that Murray’s holiday special is popping up on Netflix, however, since these revivals of old TV formats have so far mostly been on network television. Murray’s special continues Netflix’s effort to diversify its programming. Besides its original scripted series, Netflix will be debuting another network staple: a talk show hosted by comedian Chelsea Handler will be released sometime next year.

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