The 16 Worst Christmas Specials of All Time

By Rob Bricken in Cartoons, Daily Lists, TV
Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 8:04 am
6a00d83451b8c369e200e54f5d3afe8834-800wi.jpgThroughout the years, there have been an array of Yuletide-themed programs that have tried to make your December merry and bright. The sad truth is that for every smile that watching the Peanuts gang dance around in A Charlie Brown Christmas brings comes countless tears caused by inferior holiday programming. This time of year is difficult enough to slog through without having to also endure lame specials injecting a bit of extra bah into your humbug. But which of these shows are the televisual equivalents of misfit toys? Let's find out in this Scrooge of a list that reveals the 16 worst Christmas specials ever made. A word of advance warning though, just because some of these entries may feature characters you love doesn't make them any less fa-la-la-la-lame.

Note: This list was co-written by Teague Bohlen and Chris Cummins, and originally ran on TR on December 24th, 2008. Hilariously, I still don't have the ability to list two authors at once. --Rob

16) Elmo's Christmas Countdown

Elmo is Grover for a new generation, although that generation is made up entirely of stupid children. Grover was ticklish first, and he was also the Monster at the End of this Book, so suck it, Elmo. Ahem. More to the point, this throwaway Sesame Street special follows in the long line of poor transfers of the classic kid's show to a something more -- everything from the big screen to specials on the small (I think we can all agree that Follow that Bird was no Muppet Movie). This 2007 Christmas special isn't all that bad -- the Sopranos' take on Bert and Ernie is sort of funny, even if its pop-culture shelf-life will be something like five minutes -- but Elmo's sway over the whole scenario makes even the supreme and sublime Sesame Street sort of suck. Sad to say, but someone had to speak up (this criticism is brought to you by the letter S and the number 5.)

15) A Very Brady Christmas

The Rolling Stones weren't referring to the Brady family when they sang about what a drag it is getting old, but they may have well as been because there's something so depressing about seeing the Bunch all grown up. In this 1988 TV movie, the days of card house-building contests and pay phone antics have replaced by job and relationship woes for the Bradys. When they all gathered together for the holidays, the formerly fun-loving family faced their biggest crisis ever when Mike became trapped in a building collapse. Thanks to some well-timed flashbacks and an "O Come All Ye Faithful" sing-along, things turn out A-okay for Mike and his intensely permed head. It was CBS execs who really had the best Christmas of all, as the film got crazy huge ratings and ignited a new surge of interest in anything Brady-related. It also resulted in the downbeat 1990 series The Bradys, in which Marcia was a drunk and Bobby was paralyzed. Happy holidays!

14) Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Despite some considerable assets (voice acting by some of the greats -- Red Skelton, Morey Amsterdam, Frank Gorshin, and Paul Frees, to name a few; being produced by the legendary Rankin/Bass; being a continuation of the popular Rudolph storyline), this 1976 special is anything but "shiny." Rather, it's a pretty dull affair all around, referring to characters we don't know and don't care about, and de-aging Rudolph from the newly-adult stag that led Santa's sleigh to the more bumbling young buck that couldn't pronounce "independent". And seriously people, a holiday show that sports Ben Franklin, a medieval knight, a caveman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer in the same scene? Yeah, somethings desperately wrong with the wayback machine, Mr. Peabody. (On the other hand, this show could easily have been where the idea for Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure came from, so I guess that's something.)

13) Voyage of the Damned

Obviously not learning a lesson from the disaster that was Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic, this 2007 Doctor Who Christmas special is marred by a terrible villain (which you can read about here), Kylie Minogue's forgettable companion, Astrid Peth, and a generally uninteresting plot. With a script that is self-indulgent at worst and derivative of The Poseidon Adventure at best, "Voyage of the Damned" fails to meet the high expectations raised by the previous holiday specials--while also setting the stage for the show's disappointing fourth season. If you haven't seen this yet, save yourself an hour and check out above fan made music video that hits all the high points and awesomely features Chicago's "You're the Inspiration."

12) Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular/Larry the Cable Guy's Star-Studded Christmas Extravaganza

For the past two holiday seasons, Larry the Cable Guy has been inflicting his sleeveless "comedy" upon audiences in Christmas specials for VH1 and CMT. This has led to many things, including the unholy union of Larry and Carrot Top. There may be a Santa, but clearly there is no god.

11) Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

Rankin/Bass went back to the "what does not kill you makes you stronger" claymation well once more in '77. Poor little Nestor the donkey is born with long ears, which makes him the butt of serious abuse (Rudolph, Dumbo, etc.) and leads to his mother dying in order to keep him warm one cold night (Bambi!). It's all so pathetic that almost any ending would feel insufficient. Indeed, it makes kids want to see Nestor to go all Rambo, grab a scimitar, and start slicing himself up some helpings of sweet, sweet revenge. Which, of course, is sort of an awkward thing to try to fit into a story about the Nativity.

10) I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown

Despite the lingering affection for Charlie Brown Christmas specials (this is the fourth, made in 2003, and each one is an increasingly thin attempt to recapture the magic of the original), this Peanuts special suffers from several issues. First, it barely has anything to do with the holiday itself -- the show could just as easily have been called I Want a Dog for My Wintertime Birthday, Charlie Brown, and it could air virtually unchanged. More importantly, it doesn't involve Charlie Brown himself much at all. Instead, it revolves around Lucy and Linus' little brother Rerun, who is essentially just a whinier version of Linus. It also doesn't help matters that his appearance is indistinguishable from that of his blanket-clutching sibling. We realize that it's unfair to compare this show to A Charlie Brown Christmas because they are so completely different in terms of tone and story. But judged purely on it's own merits, I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown is still a pretty dull affair.

9) ALF's Special Christmas

We realize that to some of you Topless Robot readers badmouthing ALF is akin to setting fire to a mint-on-card Vlix from the Star Wars: Droids action figure line. But I have let loose on the show before and I will do it again, because it really was terrible--completely devoid of laughs, proper acting, laughs and laughs. The only even remotely funny thing to come out of the series were those photos of Max Wright (a.k.a. Willie Tanner) enjoying some crack that the tabloids went apeshit over a few years back. So it should come as no surprise that this 1987 Christmas special is a joyless affair that comes complete with a dying kid and a suicidal cabbie. Shot on film to give it that extra special "for your Emmy consideration" sheen, the show has the Tanners planning on renting a cabin in the woods for the holidays. When ALF screws things up with his Melmacian antics, he winds up being mistaken for a stuffed animal and comes into the possession of a charming--and doomed--young girl named Tiffany. In the end, lessons are learned, heart strings are pulled and everyone lives happily ever after. Except Tiffany, of course.
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