During the month of December, television is jam-packed with holiday-themed specials, along with episodes of television series with the obligatory holiday themed show. Some are hits and some are misses, and if you need help getting into the holiday spirit via some good television episodes, then consider these five.
5. The Simpson’s Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Not too many people know that the first episode of Fox’s long-running animated series “The Simpsons” was a Christmas special, centering on Homer secretly taking a second job as a shopping mall Santa in order to earn enough money to pay for his family’s Christmas gifts since there is no Christmas bonus and the money saved up was spent to remove a tattoo off Bart. Sure, the animation is a lot cruder than what we see currently on the show, but it reflected a lot of charm in the writing and helped make it the success it is today. It’s also how the Simpson’s family dog, an abandoned race track dog named Santa’s Little Helper, came into being.
4. Any South Park Christmas Themed Episode
Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have managed to create memorable Christmas moments in television, whether it’s the loveable Mr. Hankey or warming the heart of Charles Manson. One such episode featured the creation of what was actually the first appearance of the characters in a “video Christmas card” titled “The Spirit of Christmas,” which is a unique watch in and of its own if you can find it.
3. Batman: The Animated Series’ Christmas with the Joker
This one is always a treat to watch during the holiday season. The Joker’s antics of hosting his own crazed version of a holiday special are not as extreme as anything the character did in “The Dark Knight,” but provide plenty of entertainment. It’s also amusing to hear Bruce Wayne’s thoughts on the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” being he is Batman and all.
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Sure, the Jim Carrey version has its merits, but nothing beats the classic starring the voice of the Frankenstein Monster himself, Boris Karloff. Much like the Charles Dickens story that inspired it, “A Christmas Carol,” the character of the Grinch has become part of the lexicon and shows that being a grouch during the holiday season is not as fun as celebrating it with your fellow man. It makes my heart grow three sizes each year to see the Whos gather around their town’s Christmas tree singing “Welcome Christmas.” It perfectly sets the tone of the holiday season, even if you’re an extreme cynic.
1. TV Funhouse’s Christmas Day
Comedy Central’s short lived parody of Saturday morning programming displayed many merits absent in Christmas specials before or since then. The puppet characters, called the Anipals, extract “Christmas Cheer” from the show’s host Doug’s spine, which is treated as a drug that makes them take the holiday season a little too hard, just like what happens to anyone on drugs. When they ask where they will find the strength to stop their addiction, they look no further than Jesus, who “died for us all” and are moved to tears. The episode’s segments throughout are just as clever, poking fun at the usual “Christmas tension” that always seems to pop up, along with cartoons depicting the Harlem Globetrotters playing a game of basketball in order for Joseph and Mary to obtain a manger for the birth of their son.
Honorable mentions go out to the stop-motion works of Rankin Bass (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”), along with a rare animated special starring The Little Rascals in animated form. If you have yet to bear witness to the infamous “Star Wars Holiday Special,” then I triple dog dare you to do so this holiday season.
Happy viewing and hopefully you won’t be watching them alone, because no one deserves to be alone for the holidays.