Christmas TV Classics
By John C.
Last week, I took the time to profile different comedies that are good choices to watch around Christmas. Today I’m going to take a break from talking about the feature-length, to look back over a select few of the many classic television specials centred around the holidays that have aired over the years. The majority of these titles are also available on DVD.
No matter how you celebrate the season, I hope you’ll find the time to watch the Dr. Seuss classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The 1966 short film was created with first-rate animation and still holds up just as well today. In my opinion, you can ignore Ron Howard’s 2000 “revamp” and just spend 25-minutes watching this classic on DVD.
The hit TV show Glee recently paid homage to the Dr. Seuss classic in a bizarrely brilliant way. On last week’s Christmas episode, the always Grinchy cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) donned green make-up as she trashed the Glee club choir room. “Sue the Grinch” was just one of many highlights on the suitably excellent episode of the musical TV show. Others included Brittany’s belief in Santa, which led to one of the most touching scenes involving the wheelchair-enabled Artie, and a soundtrack of perfectly matched songs. Watch the entire episode here.
Several years ago, Dreamworks Animation produced Shrek the Halls – an animated TV special centred around characters from their popular franchise. Last year they continued the tradition with the very funny Merry Madagascar. This year’s entry was the charming Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special, which is perhaps the best of the entertaining series. But in terms of modern-day TV specials, it was last year’s brilliant elf-themed Disney production, Prep & Landing, that became the most successful.
For nostalgic reasons alone, from Frosty the Snowman to The Little Drummer Boy, the animated Rankin/Bass specials – although arguably dated – are always worth a watch. It’s undeniable that 1964’s story of Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer who has to guide Santa’s sleigh on Christmas eve, has provided some of the best memories over the years.
The majority of TV shows have holiday-themed episodes, and fans of Garfield are encouraged to watch the orange cartoon cat’s Christmas special from 1987. Filled with his unique brand of feline cynicism, the special is also filled with a lot of heart and is considered one of the best episodes of the animated series. Those who plan to see the new Yogi Bear movie opening on Friday should first seek out the amusing original Hanna-Barbara TV special, Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper.
Based on a story by Raymond Briggs, the beautifully animated 1982 British short film, The Snowman, is one of the quietest specials to be watched around Christmas. Dialogue-free, music tells this meditative and magical story of a snowman coming to life. Although a change of pace, the 1991 sequel of sorts, Father Christmas, makes for a nice companion piece.
I know few people who don’t love Rowan Atkinson’s character of Mr. Bean. The Christmas episode is perhaps his most beloved outing as the character, and features so many memorably funny moments that it never gets old from year to year. Whether you’re young or old, put the turkey on and find the time to watch this seasonal classic.
Although hardest to believe at this time of year is that the producers of A Charlie Brown Christmas initially feared that the special episode would be a flop. The fact that it was “too religous” was just one of the reasons. Just goes to show that sometimes you truly don’t know how great something is until other people have seen it. After first airing in 1965, the show went on to win awards, and is now recognized as perhaps the greatest TV special ever to be centred around the holidays. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Charlie Brown.
Your favourite wasn’t on the list? Leave a comment below. Come back next week when I’ll be taking a look back on the classic movies that simply have to be watched this time of year.