"Perry Como's Christmas in Paris" is an hour of unassuming and engaging charm. It was taped in Paris, but not yesterday. There is indeed something foolish about Perry and Angie Dickinson floating down the Seine singing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" when it's barely beginning to look like Thanksgiving around them. The trees are full of zee green leafs, no?
This lack of authenticity turns out to be an unimportant detail, however. Paris probably looks better with leaves than without, anyway, and the ABC special, at 10 tonight on Channel 7, shows the city off handsomely, from a stroll down the Champs Elyse'es (does anyone ever run down the Champs Elyse'es?) to a cancan in Montmartre to le chitchat at Maxim's to Perry's traditional "Ave Maria," sung this time at Notre Dame.
In addition to Dickinson, who looks pleasantly lost, Como is joined by Line Renaud, apparently the French Mary Martin. She radiates something genuinely magical every moment she is on the screen, particularly when joining a crowd of French schoolchildren for a song (this show doesn't miss a trick) or when joining Perry and company for a chorus or two of "Chantez, Chantez" at the Paradis Latin music hall. Pierre Cardin himself greets Perry at his salon and some frog puppets (that is, puppets that look like frogs--we're not slurring the French here) pop up.
It's just all tooooo nice. Como, who should probably wear a button that says "I am not dead," looks great at his age, but who wouldn't if they had hardly ever moved a muscle? When celeste music sneaks in to accompany his transitional ambles from place to place, the special looks for all the world like "Mister Rogers Goes to Paris." Perry really is the Fred Rogers of song. It would be near sacrilege to think an unkind thought about him.
Stephen Pouliot produced the special for Bob Banner Productions. Next to Thursday night's episode of "Hill Street Blues" -- in another league, of course, and absolutely brilliant -- Perry in Paris makes for the sweetest and least cloying holiday hour of the season.