In terms of festivity, Florida winters aren't so hot. Or rather, they are too hot, which makes the tradition of sitting in front of a fireplace on Christmas Eve often rather uncomfortable, even without having to make conversation with your relatives.
So instead, Floridians have the Yule Log, a televised fireplace with festive music that doesn't bother you with heat or smoke.
The faux yule log tradition began in 1966 with Fred Thrower, the CEO of New York television station WPIX (now owned by Time Warner), who sought to bring fireplaces to those in apartment buildings too small to support fireplaces. His broadcast of the WPIX Yule Log ran with no commercial breaks on Christmas Eve and cost more than $4,000 to produce. While absurd, that night the yule log was the most-watched program in New York. Over the years, it spawned merchandise, an Internet fan forum and even a documentary.
Nowadays, Thrower's program faces competition from other major cable providers and stations hoping to fill every television box with a festive fireplace. Time Warner's signature log, as well as its 3D and non-log brethren, is free for Time Warner subscribers through its on-demand feature. Bright House subscribers can watch a locally filmed log this Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. on Bay News 9, as well as for free on-demand; Verizon cable offers free on-demand showings of their own classic log.
With so many years' worth of logs and knockoffs, tb-two* has decided to review Time Warner's logs over the years and let you know which burns the brightest.
Yule Log Classic
The original yule log was a seven-minute loop filmed at Gracie Mansion, the home of New York City's mayor. An accident during filming cost the camera crew a hefty sum when a stray spark damaged a vintage rug. Fortunately, there is no risk of flying debris with the televised version. Since 2004, the footage has been enhanced and color corrected in HD to help you truly appreciate the glowing embers.
A few critics will question the abnormally loud crackling, which sounds like Santa is making popcorn inside your TV set. However, while some may think that this log is petrified, true yule log aficionados agree that the best faux fireplace is this original. With its soft colors, diluted with age, and a feeling of Christmases with Red Rider BB guns under the tree, the classic yule still remains king.
Rating: 5/5 logs Even Jack Frost's heart would be warmed by this classic fireplace.
Yule Log 2008
This 2008 recreation of the classic blaze was meant to be more contemporary, featuring a minimalist log made out of a lighter color wood, but it boasted a soundtrack composed of '40s and '50s radio Christmas songs to add more spirit than its ancestor. It became a sort of black sheep in the family when negative reception during test runs caused producers to pull the log from the air, which leaves us with a harrowing vision of what Christmas Eve could have been.
Yule 2008 looks like a poorly constructed Zen garden that failed its fire safety inspection. The big band Christmas music is far too peppy for what is supposed to be a relaxing home fireplace scene and should earn the producer a lump of coal.
Rating: 1/5 Logs If you could still see this version, we'd recommend burning it. But that would not be good for your TV.
Yule Log 3D
Perfect for that brand-new 3D TV you bought for Christmas, Yule Log 3D is the pinnacle of media innovation. With sparks that seem to leap out of the TV and soothing classic carols, this is the closest many Floridians will get to an actual fireplace.
Although it doesn't hold the same nostalgia (or wear) from years of repeats, Yule Log 3D is a step in the right direction for the future of virtual fireplaces. Anyone who calls 3D a useless addition has never felt the warmth of simulated flames popping out of your TV, although having to wear 3D glasses does reduce the immersion. We can only hope 50 years from now, our kids will be able to breathe in the scent of their yule logs with "smellovision" technology.
Rating: 4/5 logs Not your grandma's log, but she wouldn't want it anyway.
Yule Log Mobile
For true Yule Log addicts, Time Warner has created a free smartphone compatible stream of their new Yule Log, giving you the usual holiday warmth in a pocket-sized variety.
Warm and cheerful, with an appealing reflective chimney background, this Yule Log does not disappoint. No more will you be plagued with having to decide between running out to grab a carton of egg nog and watching the Yule Log burn. The only problem you'll face is the identity crisis when you realize you care more about a fake fireplace than your own family.
Rating 5/5 logs: The "must-have" app of the season
Encouraged by the success of the classic log, Time Warner is releasing a special snowman-themed broadcast this year with a pleasant snowfall accompanying classical music. It's also available in a pine-tree "wintergreen" flavor.
While the production values are surprisingly high for a 20 minute looping video of a snowman, what kind of yule log program doesn't include the log? Bah humbug.
Rating: 2/5 logs Frosty is a lukewarm pile of mush put next to the real log.