A few random live-action shots and mock-up newspaper headlines set the scene, but then, we're whisked off to the North Pole, aka Christmastown, where a sentient snowman names Sam (Burl Ives) tells the story.....
On the plus side, Rudolph (Billie Richards) picks up a girlfriend in Clarice, who, unfortunately, doesn't play much of a part in subsequent follow-up specials. If you look close, you'll spot Hermey making a cameo in Rudolph's current ad for AT&T.
Burl Ives was better known at the time as a folk singer and actor, much like contemporaries such as Theodore Bikel. However, Rudolph did more for his career than you could imagine. Having flopped with ABC's O. K. Crackerby, Ives returned to series television in 1969 with The New Lawyers segment of The Bold Ones, and radio stations began playing his folk songs, such as "Little Bitty Tear", in addition to "Holly Jolly Christmas".