For the next two weeks, we’ll be talking about the wonderful world of Christmas TV specials. From the tried and true classics to some lesser known treasures to the truly oddball offerings, I will bring you gifts of glad tidings and good news that can only come from a mix of Santa’s workshop, a lowly manger, and Madison Avenue.
This week, well, it’s just a hodge-podge of stuff. Read on and join me in the merriment! Is that a word? Merriment? Pretty sure it is. Anyway, let’s kick this edition off with…
The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show (2019)
This show is a salute to the Christmas specials of years gone by, while still managing to actually be one. Back in the day all the big stars had Christmas specials. You name the star, they either hosted their own special or were guests on someone else’s. Some of the more well remembered shows starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Andy Williams but even “newcomers” like The Carpenters and even Donny and Marie got in on the action. These shows became staples of the season and were watched by pretty much everyone.
One of the tropes used in these specials was that of the family Christmas party. The show’s star would be throwing a shindig and their famous friends would show up for a little bit of inoffensive comedy and some songs around the conveniently placed piano in the living room. The Hollywood Christmas magic was always in full swing.
This is the premise of Kacey’s show as well, but it takes the extra steps to show the “studio” and live audiences, as well as a few well staged behind the scenes moments. It’s mostly a nostalgic send up, but there are a few nice moments to be found. My recommendation would be to start here, then go to YouTube and look up some of the old specials this was based on to get the full effect.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special (2022)
One for the Marvel fans among us. If you have followed the Guardians movies, you have an idea of what to expect. There are lots of laughs, and a little bit of action (as well as some cool Christmas tunes) as Drax and Mantis go to Earth in order to pick up the ultimate birthday present for Peter Quill, who is a melancholy sort around the holidays since, according to a story told to us by Kraglin, Yondu ruined Christmas for Peter when he was a boy. I just realized that people who have never seen these movies are probably totally confused by now. Sorry, but it’s not getting better.
When the pair get to Earth they do what any right thinking friend would do and kidnap Peter’s childhood hero, Kevin Bacon. Will Peter enjoy his gift? Will Kevin Bacon bring the Christmas Spirit to the citizens of Knowhere (where the Guardians are currently stationed) and correct their incorrect interpretation of the holiday? Can anybody save Christmas for Peter? Do you really wonder about how any of this stuff will turn out?
The only real question in all of this is how much of this stuff ties in to Volume 3 of the Guardians movies coming next year. We do get to meet at least one (semi) new character here, and this show does seem like a good jumping off point. Also, one of my favorite bands, the Old 97’s, are in it as a band of aliens trying to write a Christmas song in one of the funniest scenes. Fans of the series should check it out, then check out the Old 97’s. Merry Christmas!
Olive The Other Reindeer (1999)
So, you get the joke name, right? That’s kind of all you need to know. This is a family friendly cartoon (based on a children’s book) with a silly sense of humor, a nice little message, and plenty of heart.
The story follows a sweet little dog named Olive who discovers that Santa may have to cancel his annual run since one of his reindeer is down with an injury. The local news reports that he may be willing to try the run with all of the other reindeer. Well, the doggie mishears this as “Olive, the other reindeer” and figures it’s up to her to save Christmas. Along the way she crosses paths with a two bit con artist penguin named Martini (what else?), and a disgruntled postman who is out to make sure Christmas doesn’t happen.
Okay, so the jokes are mostly groan inducing, but it’s a cute show and I like it. Is it a must see every year? Probably not but it’s certainly worth a viewing as you’re getting ready for the big day.
The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas (1973)
I remember this one from its many airings when I was a kid. After rewatching it this week I have a new take on it. Can’t talk about this one without spoiling the story, so if you are so inclined go stream it now. I’ll wait. Okay, you good? Let’s talk about it.
The titular bear is Ted E. Bear who lives in Bear City and works at the Honey factory. It is almost time for the annual hibernation, but Ted has heard stories of something called Christmas and is obsessed with trying to find it. He has tried to stay awake and look for it in the past but failed. This year he is determined to stay up and find Christmas, no matter what. His friends all think he’s nuts and are worried for his safety, if not his sanity. They all try to talk him out of it, but a bear’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.
So Ted leaves Bear City, mistakenly thinking Christmas is a place, and goes through the forest until he arrives in what I can only assume is supposed to be New York. He sees glimpses of lights and songs, and toys in the display window of a department store. He is so infatuated he goes inside said store, where a little girl and her sister see him through the window and wave at the cute little bear. Oh yeah, he’s super short for a bear too.
Anyway, once the store closes, he wanders the streets looking for Christmas, and bumps into Santa Claus, who tries to explain that Christmas is a feeling not a place. Yet Ted is fairly dim, so Santa gives him an address where he can find Christmas. At first Ted thinks it’s the wrong address, and decides to just rest his eyes for a moment under the sparsely decorated tree in the room. When he wakes up the next morning, Ted finds himself in the apartment of the previously mentioned little girl. She is overjoyed, stating that she knew Santa would bring the little bear she saw in the window. She gives Ted a big hug, and he finally understands the love that makes Christmas what it is. That night he goes to sleep, feeling loved, next to the girl, and the show ends on a sweet, wholesome scene.
Or does it?
I mean, that’s the end, but what happens next? Does Ted just live there now? Does he become an actual teddy bear and lose his entire life and identity? And what of Bear City? Do they never get to experience the joy of Christmas? Do his friends just think he left one night and died horribly out in the wilderness? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
This is either a classic tale of the love and joy of Christmas, or a harrowing “Twilight Zone” wake up in Hell/be careful what you wish for type morality play. I will leave it to you to decide.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Here’s a short but sweet retelling of the Dickens classic, starring Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, Goofy as Jacob Marley, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost OF Christmas Past, and Scrooge McDuck as himself. No, sorry, he stars as Ebeneezer Scrooge, because of course he does.
With a running time of 26 minutes, this adaption breezes through the story a little too quickly but gets away with it because any adult viewers will be familiar with the story, and youngsters won’t have time for their attention to wane. While Scrooge McDuck makes a mighty fine Scrooge (as he should) and the main characters are all fun to watch, the real fun is spotting all the background characters in the crowd scenes and figuring out which movies they were from.
This is standard Disney fare for the time, and succeeds in telling the story in a way that can appeal to young and old alike. Die hard Disney fans should love this one, but there’s plenty here to like for the rest of us too.
Alright, thanks for reading this stuff. As mentioned last week, I’d love for you to track down these shows and give them a view. Hopefully it will add to your enjoyment of the Holiday. Come back next week when I’ll talk about some stone cold classics-including my favorite Christmas special ever made. See you then!