It’s time to set the DVR, and download those holiday specials, so let’s get right down to it with our TOP TEN holiday specials of the small screen!
By Jon Smith:
10: Prep and Landing: Starting off our list at number 10, The newest of the Christmas specials on this list. Disney’s Prep and Landing actually turns ten years old this Christmas. It can be seen yearly on any ABC network, and this year we can catch it on the Disney+ on-demand platform.
The story centers around Wayne, an elf who helps prepare the homes of the kids on Santa’s list for the big man’s arrival on Christmas Eve. After 225 years of faithful service is due for a promotion. Which, spoiler alert he doesn’t get. What comes next is a lesson in Christmas spirit. It’s a great show for families and one of my 5-year-old daughters favorites. There was also a sequel which is just as good, but not on this list.
9: A Garfield Christmas: Going back to 1987 for everyone’s favorite Monday hating/lasagna loving fat cat, Garfield, who along with Odie head out to the country to visit their owner, Jon Arbuckle’s family. It’s a rare look at Jon’s family history including his Mom, Dad, Grandma and his brother, Doc-Boy. Garfield’s Christmas was shown every year until the year 2000, and is now only found on DVD or digital download.
Or! It’s on Youtube! Check it!
8: Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer: I know what you’re thinking… “Dude! Rudolph needs to be higher on this list!” And to that, I say “NO”. How long has it been since you’ve seen this one? Rudolph’s parents are straight-up terrible, and even Santa lays down the shade like a bad gym teacher from the 1970s. Try explaining to your kids why Santa shames Rudolph’s parents and even scolds the elves for not singing well enough. Not only that, but Hermie the Elf/Dentist yanks out the Bumble’s teeth! Savage!
7: The Year Without A Santa Claus: Another Rank N Bass classic! This time from 1974. Sometime before Christmas, Santa wakes up with a cold and is told by his Doctor to take some time off. So no Christmas this year. Yikes. Mrs. Claus tries to get him to snap out of it, but Santa’s mind is made up and he’s off to the Bahamas for a break. Meanwhile, two of Santa’s Elves Jingle and Jangle take reindeer, Vixen to save the day but are caught between the feuding MISER BROTHERS! Oh no!!
6: Frosty The Snowman: In 1969 Jimmy Durante narrated the story that goes along with the famous song about our favorite snowman.. no, not Olaf. We’re talking about Frosty, man! and how the world’s worst magician had his hat stolen by a bunch of kids when they discovered it made Frosty come to life! Frosty and his new pal, Karen along with Hocus the rabbit have to get Frosty to the North Pole so he can “bellywhop” year-round.
5: Santa Clause Is Coming To Town: In the late 60’s early 70’s the team of Rankin/Bass were the KINGS of Christmas. If it was a TV special in that era it’s a good chance that they were the team behind it. This of course includes my personal favorite, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. in 1970 we visit the small village of Sombertown, a town that has banned toys at the order of the Burgermeister Miesterburger. A baby dropped anonymously at an elf shack nearby grown up to deliver toys to the kids of Sombertown, becoming a criminal in the process. A lot of help from schoolteacher Jessica, and Topper the penguin get him to recruit the Winter Warlock and become the Christmas legend we all know today!
4: How The Grinch Stole Christmas: Originally a Dr. Suess book from 1957, The Grinch became a bonified Christmas Classic in 1966. Imagine being a kid in 1966 and seeing a Christmas Special where the villain STEALS Christmas and is voiced by the guy who played Dracula. That’s about as scary as it gets. Imagine Pennywise the Clown from IT telling your kids about the true meaning of Christmas. That’s a stretch, right? That being said, I liked the new movie better than the TV special.
3: Mickey’s Christmas Carol: From 1983, Mickey and the gang take on the classic Dickin’s tale of Scrooge. Played by, well.. Scrooge (McDuck). If you’re a Disney nerd like I am, you’ll note this is the last time we hear the original voice of Donald Duck, Clarence Nash. A very cleverly written version, which a young animator by the name of John Lasseter was part of the production team. That’s pretty cool, right?
2: The Star Wars Holiday Special: The now INFAMOUS Star Wars Holiday Special! When I was a kid, this was practically an urban legend! It was only shown once in 1978. 41 years later, it is pretty much available at our fingertips thanks to generations of fans copying, and recopying their VHS tapes to DVDs, and now to Youtube. If you’ve never seen it, just know. It’s bad. Really, REALLY, bad. On Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk, his family is preparing for “Life Day”. Which is some sort of Wookie Christmas. Turns out, Chewie has a wife and a kid! Whhhaaaaat?!! We get cameos by Harvey Korman, Jefferson Starship, and Bea Arthur! It DOES have all the original Star Wars cast including Luke, Leia, and Han. It’s also the first time we see the gaxay’s most notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett! But it’s still really bad. Watch it anyway!
1: Charlie Brown Christmas: Of course our number 1 spot goes to everyone’s favorite blockhead and his pal from the Peanuts Gang. First shown in 1965, and was originally commissioned and sponsored by the Coca Cola Company. In fact, there is a scene that has been cut since the first airing, in which Linus flies into a Coke billboard during the opening scene.
and even ended with a Christmas Wish from Coka-Cola in the credits.
Not bad for a Christmas special that blasts commercialism during the holidays. It was a pretty gutsy move, and the CBS network was reportedly unhappy with both the anti-commercial tone, as well as the religious references in the special. None the less, A Charlie Broan Christmas is the top of our list of TV specials this year, and every year thanks to Chuck, Linus, Snoopy, and a little tree that just needed some love.
Merry Christmas everybody!