Humbug: 8 Weird TV Christmas Specials from the Past

RealClear Staff


Sometimes Christmas "Specials" get a little weird...

1. Christmas in Vietnam? The 1967 Bob Hope Christmas Special

Comedian Bob Hope's annual USO tour of Southeast Asian military bases during the Vietnam War was made into a two-hour Christmas special that featured actress Raquel Welch, among others.

2. M*A*S*H: Death Takes a Holiday

Here' a real downer from season 9 (episode 5) of the long-running TV show about Army surgeons in Korea during the Korean War: The surgical team can't go to the company Christmas party because they're trying to keep alive a soldier with fatal wounds -- hoping to keep him alive long enough so that his family won't think of Christmas as the day that their father died. 

"M*A*S*H" was a great show, for those who haven't seen it. You can watch this episode on Netflix.

3. Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)

Pee Wee Herman was in his full glory in this odd, over-the-top and star-studded Christmas special. Guests include  Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Cher, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Charo, Grace Jones, Little Richard, Whoopi Goldberg, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Joan Rivers, Dinah Shore and k.d. lang.

You can watch it on Netflix.


4. A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (2008)

This delirious special features a few cast members who might have had too much egg nog. Toby Keith, Elvis Costello, John Legend, Feist, Willie Nelson, and Jon Stewart stop by in this weirdo special that has Colbert stranded in a cabin, only to get visited by several celebrity freinds (all the while trapped by a bear). 

You can buy the special on Amazon streaming, or order it on DVD.

5. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Broadcast on November 17, 1978 on CBS -- while the first film was still in many theaters (in the days before home video, a popular film could play for up to two years in theaters) -- this holiday special has Chewbacca and Han Solo (yep, Harrison Ford) visiting Chewbacca's home world to celebrate Life Day -- and eventually we meet Chewbacca's father, wife and his son. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) sings the show's theme song, guest stars include Bea Arthur, Art Carney,  Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman and Jefferson Starship.

This show was so universally reviled -- even by "Star Wars" fans -- it was never shown again on TV and has never been on home video. "Star Wars" creator George Lucas hated it, and is on record as saying, "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it." Carrie Fisher told the New York Times that she made George Lucas give her a copy of the special in exchange for recording DVD commentary for the Star Wars films. She added that she shows it at parties, "mainly at the end of the night when I want people to leave."

Well, fortunately, someone uploaded it on YouTube, and you can watch the awfulness here.

6. The Judy Garland Christmas Show (1963)

This might have seemed normal at the time, but in retrospect it's a little sad. The premise here is that Garland welcomes her three children (including a teen-aged Liza Minnelli) home for Christmas (actually a studio set) and guest stars such as Jack Jones and Mel Torme stop by to sing songs. Garland, 24 years after playing Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," looks light years away from her teenage self; she's a rough-looking 41 and less than six years from her death of an overdose. 

It's actually not bad; you can watch it on YouTube.

7. Andy Williams Christmas Specials (1962-71)

Andy Williams, a popular singer who had a long-running variety series on NBC in the 1960s, hosted a Christmas special for 12 straight years. They were notable in that they often focused on family rather than celebrity guest stars. They've dated rather badly, though. Seen today, they have an artificial Lawrence Welk-ian feel, with ultra-fake-looking sets and songs often shot in close-up, Andy's face filling the screen. An HD compilation from those shows is on YouTube.

8. The X-Files: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (1998)

On Christmas Eve, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) stakeout a haunted house and in true Dickens "A Christmas Carol" style find apparitions who give Mulder and Scully a tour of their inner selves.

You can watch it on Netflix.



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