(Pictured above: Diana Ross performing during TNT's Christmas in Washington taping in Washington, D.C., December 9, 2012.)
TNT will be presenting the 31st annual Christmas in Washington this Friday at 8 p.m., hosted by Conan O’Brien and headlined by Diana Ross, Megan Hilty, Demi Lovato, Chris Mann, Scotty McCreery and PSY.
The show has been airing on TNT for 14 years and after 10 or so years of working on the program, you might think it’s hard for those of us behind the scenes to keep things fresh-- but nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only is there an exciting and eclectic group of performers each year, from legendary musicians to young and up-and-coming artists, there’s one thing that never gets old – watching people’s faces when the President enters the room.
Regardless of your politics, everyone gets a bit misty-eyed when they see the leader of the free world in person. Combine that with the setting – the truly magnificent National Building Museum, which is even more breathtaking, decked out in its holiday best, and even I still get that shiver of opening night excitement.
Everyone, from Steve Koonin (President Turner Entertainment Networks) and Michael Wright (EVP/Head of Programming) on down is extremely proud of Christmas In Washington and this wonderful tradition. The program’s purpose is to benefit the Children’s National Medical Center, which is an amazing organization. One of the best parts, I think, is when the talent visits the center the day before the show. Conan has gone both years that he’s hosted and this year, Demi Lovato also visited with children suffering from Leukemia. It's moments like that that make you feel pretty good about what you’re doing, and I really get a kick out of seeing how excited the kids in the audience get when they see someone like Justin Bieber or Victoria Justice perform in person. Even the children on stage can’t contain their excitement. When Diana Ross arrived for the taping, the young choirs who were singing with her on the show burst into applause. It was a really spontaneous, moving moment -- so it’s hard not to love working on this show.
We also have a great production team in place. Despite the long, chaotic, always fun, always challenging days leading up to the performance – they know their stuff. This leaves us some time to deal with all the surprises that pop up…and they do.
For example, as you can imagine – security is a big logistical hurdle, but the key is to be flexible and do whatever the White House asks. We have a terrific partnership with Carol Melton, who heads up Time Warner’s Global Public Policy office in Washington. We start working with her and her team very early on the show, so for us, it actually is Christmas in July. Especially since this was an election year – so anything that needed White House approval had to be submitted well in advance. As much as I like to think we’re the number one priority, I suspect the White House staff may have a few more important things to concentrate on.
Still, my motto is: it always gets done. Always. So when you tune in on Friday, you’ll see the joy, the tradition and the exceptional talent that has come together to make this year’s benefit a success – and not all the hard work. Our goal is to make it look seamless and be as entertaining as possible and that is one thing that never changes.