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Film & TV
‹‹ V.15 No.51 | December 21 - 27, 2006

Idiot Box

Christmas With the California Raisins

The 10 Weirdest Christmas Specials

By Devin D. O’Leary

Santa, this Christmas, I’d really like a torso.
Santa, this Christmas, I’d really like a torso.

10. “The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood” (1965) Liza Minnelli starred in this lousy, long-lost musical which told the classic fairy tale from the point of view of the Big Bad Wolf. Vic Damone is the woodsman. Weirdest of all, Eric Burdon (from English band The Animals) is “Head of the Animal Pack.”

9. “Lamb Chop’s Special Chanukah” (1995) You gotta feel bad for Jewish kids. They don’t get 1/100th the number of holiday specials the Christian kids do. And when they do get tossed a bone, they’re stuck with the likes of Shari Lewis, Alan Thicke and Pat Morita.

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8. “The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold” (1981) Rankin/Bass, the stop-motion puppet animators of such Christmas classics as “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” basically ran out of ideas with 1976’s “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year,” 1979’s “Frosty’s Christmas in July” and this inexplicable St. Patrick’s Day/Christmas crossover narrated by Art Carney.

7. “Nick & Jessica’s Family Christmas” (2004) Yup, the bloom was pretty much off the rose by the time ABC aired this cabaret showcasing the not-so-newlyweds’ “singing and comedic talents.” (The duo divorced in 2006.) Saddest of all, poor dead Bing Crosby was forced to sing a “White Christmas” duet with Jessica.

6. “A Claymation Christmas Celebration” (1987) Yes, America was obsessed with Will Vinton’s claymation characters in the mid-’80s. That more or less died out about the time this special aired, featuring his most enduring and least explicable creations, The California Raisins, singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

5. “Kathie Lee Gifford: Christmas Every Day” (1998) Confirmation of Hubby Frank Gifford’s philandering ways had already filtered into the public by the time this syrupy special aired, making the typical “gather round the Christmas tree” moment particularly uncomfortable.

4. “A Kid Rock Christmas” (2003) Kid sang “Frosty the Blowman,” hung out with Carmen Electra, performed with the Pussycat Dolls and made a “Detroit-style” Christmas dinner for guests Hank Williams Jr., LeAnn Rimes, Jesse James, Drea DeMatteo and Shooter Jennings. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like malt liquor.

3. “Max Headroom Christmas Special” (1986) It doesn’t get much more dated than this totally tubular special, taken from the digital talking head’s original British chatshow (later imported to Showtime). Guests for this holiday episode include Bob Geldof, Tina Turner and Robin Williams. If you’ve still got a 7” of Max’s song “Merry Christmas, Santa Claus,” you’re too cool for school.

2. “Christmas Comes to PacLand” (1982) It’s strange enough someone made a cartoon out of a videogame character who looks like a yellow pizza. Even stranger was this half-hour toon in which Santa crashes his sleigh in PacLand and must rely on the Pac family for help.

1. “The Star Wars Holiday Special” (1978) How bad was this melange of songs, cartoons and cheapjack “Star Wars” action? George Lucas has continually denied its existence. It happened though, and you can find plenty of mind-bending proof on YouTube. (I suggest checking out Carrie Fisher’s drugged-out Life Day song!)