Final Thoughts: Worst Christmas Special

It’s time to talk about the worst of the worst. What special managed to do things even worse than the others? Which had the least Christmas spirit? Which would be the most unbearable to ever sit through again? I’ll even point out a few things that aren’t awful. It’s time for my Final Thoughts. Let’s start with…

BEST AND WORST SANTA CLAUS

Santa Claus make an appearance in almost all of these specials in one form or another. Most of them aren’t good, but I have to admit I enjoy the overly-jolly and somewhat amoral Santa in 1959’s Santa Claus, and honestly, the Santa in Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is far from the worst thing about that special. The best is Mickey Rooney from Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July though, mainly because he’s reprising his role from Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

As far as the worst go, we’ve got the incredibly dense Father Christmas from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the heretic-slapping St. Nick from Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, and the electrocuting Santa from The Christmas Tree. It’s gotta be Kirk on this one. He actually defends Santa for taking a stand against “political correctness” and striking someone he didn’t agree with. Merry Christmas.

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WORST ANIMATION

A lot of these specials display downright appalling animation…

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It’s Rapsittie Street Kids

Come on, there’s so little movement in The Christmas Tree, we all know Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer could have at least tried, and A Christmas Carol 1982 is desperately trying to save money at every turn.

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It’s Rapsittie Street Kids.

Yes okay, Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa has by far the worst animation I have ever seen. It is just plain ugly to look at.

BIGGEST WASTE OF TALENT

Nothing says Christmas like hiring a talented actor to come in and do absolutely nothing of note. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas gives us a doll played by Bernadette Peters who manages to sing one forgettable song and nothing else. Rapsittie Kids: Believe in Santa gives us the voice talents of Paige O’ Hara, Jodi Benson, Mark Hamill and more, but the animation is so bad it doesn’t matter. However, nothing compares to the four separate appearances by the otherwise funny Harvey Korman in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

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His bits aren’t funny and they just go on and on. I’m not sure what kind of dirt they had on him.

DUMBEST NAME

A recurring theme of bad Christmas specials seems to be characters with terrible names. There’s Lumpy and Itchy in the Star Wars Holiday Special, the not-so-subtly named Christian in Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, the piccolo named Fife in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, all of the Martians names in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Chochem?), and the last name Spankenheimer in Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. If you’ve been reading though, you’ll know that I think that the worst is the child named Pappy in The Christmas Tree.

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This is a name for a grandfather. If Pappy can be short for anything, I’m not aware of it. Naming the child Pappy was clearly an intentional choice.

BEST AND WORST SUPPORTING CHARACTER (NON VILLAINOUS)

Many of these specials feature characters that seem to add very little to the story, but there are a few that are actually decent. Bea Arthur’s cameo in the Star Wars Holiday Special is perhaps the only good thing about it, but it really has nothing to do with the actual “story,” and I also find some of the returning characters in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July enjoyable. I have to give the point to Santa Claus, though, for its completely random and hilarious appearance of Merlin the Magician.

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As for the worst, we’ve got Diondre the conspiracy theorist from Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, the Gomer Pyle-esque martian in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and the mayor with the strange voice from The Christmas Tree. For my money though,  I can’t think of one worse than the unintelligible grandmother from Rapsittie Kids: Believe in Santa.

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Didn’t they give this thing a test run and hear that her lines couldn’t be made out?

WORST NARRATOR

A surprising number of these Christmas specials have a narrator when one really isn’t needed. The narrator in The Christmas Tree seems downright bored with his job, Elmo Shropshire’s voice really starts to grate a few minutes into Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, and Kirk Cameron is ridiculously over-indulgent in Saving Christmas. It’s the over-invested narrator “Ken Smith” in Santa Claus that takes this one by a long shot, though. At one point, he even gets Lupita not to steal just by his narration. It’s odd.

WORST SCENE FOR CHILDREN

Sometimes in an attempt to appeal to older audiences, Christmas specials will throw in jokes that kids will never understand. This style of humor can work, but usually it’s just awkward. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer has references to Fargo and the O.J. Simpson trial, Santa Claus has a scene in Hell, The Christmas Tree has Santa electrocute its villain, and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas makes a Paul Reubens masturbation joke. These are all bad, but they’re trumped by the Wookiee porn tape in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

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Of all the strange occurrences in the Star Wars Holiday Special, this one is the strangest. How and why did this air on network television in the ’70s?

BEST AND WORST LINE OF DIALOGUE

“I must rid my north lands of this ho-ho-hoing creature and his flock of Christmas interlopers.” This line from Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July wins both best and worst.

WORST STORY

Look, a lot of these have ridiculous, illogical, and stupid stories. The Star Wars Holiday Special does not have a story.

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It’s just the Wookiee family watching various performances and waiting for Chewbacca to come home for Life Day. There is not even anything resembling character development.

BEST AND WORST VILLAIN

There are two villains throughout this series that I actually enjoy. I like Winterbolt from Christmas in July for how awkwardly over-the-top and stilted he is, but not because he’s technically an interesting character. His villainous plot ultimately makes no sense. That said, Forte the Organ (voiced by Tim Curry) in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas actually has a somewhat interesting motivation in not wanting to change back into a human.

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Some of these specials avoid outright villains altogether (often not a bad idea), but some go all out with their Christmas haters. The Frank Zappa-martian from Santa Claus Conquers the Martian is a really bad performance, Mrs. Mavilda in The Christmas Tree is so overblown that she feels like a parody, and we even get the Devil himself in Santa Claus. The most offensive villain, though, has to be everyone to doesn’t celebrate Christmas correctly in Saving Christmas. Oh, they aren’t really villains, but apparently Kirk has an issue with everyone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday just like he does.

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BEST AND WORST SONG

Even in this parade of terrible Christmas specials, one or two decent songs stand out. Bea Arthur’s cantina song in the Star Wars Holiday Special works surprisingly well, even though (or perhaps because) it uses the tune of the classic cantina song. That said, “Everything I’ve Always Wanted” from Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July is a really nice song that perhaps belongs in a better special.

And now for the worst. There are so many bad songs that I’m sure I’m going to miss a few here. Ethel Merman sings multiple pointless songs in Christmas in July, “Hooray for Santa Claus” from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is incredibly annoying, Kirk Cameron’s attempt at singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” has more wrong lyrics than correct ones, the “Believe in Santa” song from Rapsittie Street Kids has terrible rhyming, and Scrooge butchering “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in the 1982 A Christmas Carol is painful. The Life Day song from the Star Wars Holiday Special hurts to listen to, but it’s not as bad as “Grandma’s Killer Fruitcake” from Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

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It comes out of absolutely nowhere, has terrible lyrics and an inaccurate U.S. map, and then it just ends. It serves absolutely no purpose and is just a downright awful song.

WORST LEAD

Scrooge in A Christmas Carol 1982 is unbearable, Ethel Merman isn’t supposed to be the lead in Christmas in July, but ends up feeling like it anyway, and Judy from The Christmas Tree has a really bad voice actress. However, when Kirk Cameron can’t even give a convincing performance as himself, that has to take the point.

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WORST SCENE

ALL OF THEM.

Alright, seriously though, is it the random E.T. reference in Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer? The painful dance sequence in Saving Christmas? The polar bear attack in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians? The cannon from Santa Claus? Nah, it’s got to be the instructional video from the Star Wars Holiday Special. It just doesn’t end.

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And that puts the Star Wars Holiday Special over the edge to take the title of Worst Christmas Special.

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I recommend checking these out if you truly hate yourself or are curious. They are… interesting.

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Santa Claus (1959)

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  • Year: 1959
  • Director: Rene Cardona
  • Starring: Jose Elias Moreno, Jose Luis Aguirre, Lupita Quezadas

Here we are at the tenth and final Christmas special on the list, and I wanted to end with one I personally enjoy for its stupidity. While I had seen bits and pieces of some of these films before, and one or two in their entirety, this is one I’ve watched multiple times and always manage to get a kick out of. It’s the film simply titled Santa Claus.

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No not that one.

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Go back another 26 years.

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There he is in all his terrifying, Zero Mostel-esque glory.

Santa Claus was originally released in Mexico, so yes, it’s a hilariously-dubbed movie. It was brought to America by K. Gordon Murray.

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Murray also provides the voice of the narrator, although the credits list him as “Ken Smith.”

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For some reason, this is the only picture I could find.

In the first line of the film, we learn that Santa Claus doesn’t live at the North Pole, you silly children. Santa obviously lives in a floating castle in outer space situated above the North Pole. (It’s in the Bible, look harder) Santa says he’s got to finish making toys for all the good kids, but then he goes and plays the organ for seven minutes.

Cultural stereotypes from many countries step up and sing, including Spain, the U.S.A., Mexico, Africa, and The Orient. Alright Ken Smith, if that really is your name, I feel like even though this was originally a Mexican film, this is somehow your fault. You already had China and then you’re like “Oh what about the Orient? While we’re at it, don’t forget that big country of Africa.”

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Some artists make weird faces while playing the guitar, but this should not be a thing.

A child comes up to Santa and asks if he likes the toy devil he has made.

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Yes that little LaVey lad will love this.

Santa lights the toy devil, it spins around a bit, and suddenly we’re in Hell. I don’t mean the hell that was watching Santa play the organ for a seemingly endless period of time. I mean actual fire and brimstone Hell.

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Remember in my review of Scrooge 1970 where I said the scene in Hell was bad, but thankfully we were spared of a musical number? Well here they give us the musical number. There’s no singing, but the terrible dancing is enough. No explanation is given, and this isn’t a musical! There isn’t one song sequence in the entire film, but oh sure, Sondheim-style dancing in Hell.

Satan himself commands it to stop, because he may be the Devil but even he knows this is sinful. We only hear the Devil’s voice, but he’s voiced by the same actor who voices Santa Claus! I’d say they’re going for some weird symbolism…

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Oh come on, am I repeating jokes already?

Except that only the dubbed voices are the same. It’s more likely that they only had so many English voice actors on hand (They’re never credited, so I can’t list them) and just went with it.

Satan commands his chief demon Pitch to go on the earth and stop “that bearded old goat Santa Claus.”

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Who are you calling bearded old goat?

If Pitch fails in making all the children of the world do wrong, he will be punished by being forced to eat chocolate ice cream. Apparently Hell is comfortable for the demons and it’s only cooling down that tortures them.

Pitch is sent to Earth and tempts some boys outside a department store to throw rocks at the most terrifying Santa in existence.

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What is that thing? I think it it’s some sort of animatronic, but it’s wrapped in clear plastic. Did someone go all Black Christmas on Santa Claus?

The narrator also manages to tell us everything we are viewing on the screen. As the boys pick up the rocks to throw at the department store Santa, “Ken Smith” cries out “This is bad.” Thanks, I assumed the Devil had a change of heart and was making boys do random acts of kindness.

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The three boys throw rocks at the department store Santa Claus, and I cannot make this up, the rock hits the real Santa Claus.

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This will never not be funny.

When I think of the greatest match cuts in cinema history, it’s

  1. The bone into the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. The opera in Amadeus
  3. The rock in Santa Claus

The movie gives absolutely no explanation as to why this happens. Does everything that happens to a department store Santa happen to this one? If so, he would be very drunk by this point.

Santa also spies on two little children in Mexico with his terrifying stalker equipment, which for some reason has an ear that hears the children and lips that relay their audio. WHY?

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Santa spies on a rich boy (He’s never given a name) who only wants to spend more time with his parents, and a poor girl named Lupita who wants a doll. Pitch tempts Lupita to steal, but thanks to the intervention of the narrator, she puts it back, causing Pitch to mumble like the grandma from Rapsittie Street Kids.

The night as Lupita is sleeping, her mother tells her father about the sweet dreams she used to have and what Christmas meant to her… and how she also dreamed of the Devil. This randomly makes the Devil appear again, because we’re using that “Speak of the devil” thing way too literally.

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You’re making Pacino look positively subtle.

In another extended dance-ish sequence, Lupita is tempted by life-sized dolls to steal. We then see kids writing letters to Santa (including one who wants a cannon and a machine gun) and Santa preparing for his flight. Of course, Santa can’t take off without the help of his best assistant, Merlin the Magician.

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Surely you remember Merlin the Magician from the Santa Claus mythos. He helped Santa pull the candy cane from the ice block, making him the king of this floating space castle… WHY IS MERLIN IN THIS? We’ve got Santa Claus, Satan, and Merlin the Magician. This is the strangest Christmas special of all time.

Merlin gives him some magical stuff for his trip, like the “flower to disappear” (a flower that makes him disappear). Apparently in Spanish, this was a pun on a certain kind of flower, but the pun was lost in translation and Ken Smith just figured no one would notice.

Alright, well we need one more random character in this thing, so let’s spin the wheel and see who it’s going to be.

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I was hoping for Winterbolt.

Well the wheel has spoken. Santa goes to his key maker, the Roman god Vulcan, who has made him “the golden key that opens all doors” (a golden key that opens all doors). Santa tries this out on a thousand doors just to be sure (thankfully we don’t see all of them.).

How else can we crap on the spirit of Christmas? How about the reindeer? Yeah, apparently Santa’s reindeer aren’t actually reindeer, but wind-up toy reindeer that turn to dust if he’s not back to the North Pole before sunrise. Who put that design flaw in them? Did the Empire from Star Wars design his reindeer?

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Santa flies off into the night, but not before making a quick shout-out to Jesus. This is really strange, as it seemed to be playing up Santa as the God figure in this thing, but apparently he isn’t. Why is Satan using all his energy to fight Santa? Is Kirk Cameron aware of this?

Alright, here we go. It’s time for the funniest line of the whole movie. Santa is flying to earth, and the narrator, genuinely worried, says, “That was close, he almost ran into the moon!”

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This is the closest he comes.

Why is this in the thing? What is the point of having him not fly close to the moon but having the narrator saying “He almost ran into the moon?” It’s not conflict, because it’s not more than one line. I bet this narration wasn’t even in the original. I’m starting to think “Ken Smith” was just K. Gordon Murray recording his reactions the first time he watched this with this three-year-old. However, the awful lines like this are exactly why I enjoy this movie.

So what is Pitch’s big plan to stop that old bearded goat Santa Claus? Slapstick comedy. Yep, Pitch just keeps doing these little Wile E. Coyote antics to stop Santa. First, he moves a chimney so Santa won’t be able to go down it.

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No worries though, because Santa uses his magic parasol to float down and goes to the front door (I’m assuming he got this from Mary Poppins in a deleted scene.)

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It’s a jolly holiday with Satan.

Before Santa gets there though, Pitch goes all Kevin McAllister and makes the door scalding hot. However, Santa looks through a window and sees it, so he decides to go all Clarence Carter and be a Back Door Santa (Who knew? That’s what the song was about this whole time.)

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Oh a fanny pack, how hellish.

This is apparently the house that wanted the cannon though, because Santa pulls it out (It’s a toy, thankfully) and shoots an arrow into the Devil’s anus. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

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The narrator informs us that the Devil is almost green with anger, and like the moon thing, we’ll just take his word for it. He also apparently isn’t aware that green is envy and red is anger, but I’m not sure why I expect Ken Smith to understand the proper correlation between colors and emotions.

Santa goes to the rich boy’s house and tells him that he loves him just as much as his parents do… which has been shown to be not much at all. Seriously, they ditched their own son on Christmas Eve to go to a dinner party. Santa also calls him the insincere name “Sonny,” proving that he does clearly love him as much as his parents do. Santa then goes to the restaurant where the boy’s parents are and makes them drink from the Milk of Human Kindness or something like that… They eventually go home to their son.

Next, Pitch wakes up a family so they will shoot Santa Claus, and Santa gets attacked by their dog Dante (Normally I would assume the name is a coincidence, but it’s Christmas so I’ll be nice.) We get a Deus ex Merlina where Santa Claus is spared and the Devil gets doused with water by the very fire department he got the homeowners to call (The narrator even mocks that he’ll probably get sick.), and Santa gives Lupita her doll. THE END.

So, Ken Smith, what do you have to say about this special?

“THIS IS BAD.”

Yes, yes it is. It’s also one of the most hysterically funny Christmas movies ever made, if you enjoy that kind of thing. It’s never anti-Christmas or pro-commercialism (looking at you Kirk) so it’s perfectly harmless, and if you know what you’re getting into, it’s a good time.

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Make sure to stay tuned for my final thoughts.

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Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa

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  • Year: 2002
  • Director: Colin Slater
  • Starring: Walter Emmanuel Jones, Paige O’Hara, Jodi Benson

Today I’m looking at a special that for a time was thought to not exist, which is strange because it only aired in 2002. I guess it’s hard to believe that a special with animation this bad could air on network television. Well, in 2015 someone finally uploaded a copy of the thing to the internet, and now everyone can watch the infamous atrocity that is Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa.

Surely, the animation can’t be as bad as The Christmas Tree, right?

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What am I watching?

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You’ve got to be kidding me.

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This is without a doubt the absolute ugliest animation I have ever seen. This is the first time that I’m positive I could make better animation with a computer program and a few hours’ time. I already need a palate cleanser, and we’ve just started.

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Alright, I’ll be okay for a little while longer now.

So you know the Rapsittie Street Kids right, that beloved franchise? Remember that time they… um yeah, no one has ever heard of them before. Why does this have a title like it’s based on an existing franchise? It’s not Believe in Santa with the credits saying “Introducing the Rapsittie Street Kids.” They just assume you’ll be like “Oh I’ve never heard of them, but they must be famous.”

Sure, you remember all the Rapsittie Street Kids, why there’s Ricky…

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His crush Nicole who’s in the same grade but looks twice his age.

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Although I’m not sure how age works with these humanoid abominations.

His best friend Scarf-face.

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Alright, they call him Smithy, but this scarf never leaves his face. Seriously. They are so cheap that they keep this scarf in front of his face for almost the whole special so they don’t have to animate his mouth moving.

Nicole’s friend, Phoebe from Hey Arnold (called Lenee here.)

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Of course there’s three threatening bullies.

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Nothing scarier than blue hair and a vest.

The kids all attend Rapsittie St. Elementary, where they strive for “excelence.”

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Yeah, keep striving.

How did no one catch the irony in this? So we know the animation is downright awful, but how’s the story? Well after a short opening credits sequence written in Comic Sans…

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It’s like the special is daring us to hate it more. Comic Sans is an intentional choice, people. Stop making it. The opening theme also is eerily similar to Danny Elfman’s Scrooged theme, and I can only assume he didn’t sue because it would require acknowledging this special’s existence. There’s also a theme that runs through the film that resembles John Carpenter’s Halloween, because why not ruin all the holidays while we’re at it.

Ricky is a wannabe rapper who speaks in rhyme, and he has a crush on Nicole, the popular girl. In what looks like some weird techno music video, Ricky dreams of giving Nicole a teddy bear his dead mother gave him (before she died).

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Of course, Nicole doesn’t care about it, because she only likes things that are bought at malls (a fact she re-iterates many times over) and throws it away. However, when she later learns what it means to him, she travels to the dump with Lenee and Scaf-face to get it back.

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Hey I found the original animation stills for this special.

Meanwhile, Ricky goes to his great-grandmother (Honestly, the dialogue is so awkward that I can’t tell if it’s actually his mother’s grandmother or his grandmother who he thinks is great.) and has a conversation with her about Santa… I think. It’s impossible to tell, because she only speaks one coherent word every three sentences. I’m not kidding.

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She just rolls her head and mumbles and ends it all with the word “Christmas.” She’s taking that old singing tip of the audience only remembering the beginning and ending of your performance way too far.

There’s a subplot (sort of, it takes up a lot of time) about Lenee losing her belief in Santa. Her dad tells her all she has to do is believe and Santa will never die. It’s kind of weird that this special clearly wants this to be a subplot when even the title is about believing in Santa. This also leads Lenee and family to sing one of the worst songs I have ever heard.

Daddy will you try and help me understand/Daddy are you sure that he’s a special man

And there will always be a Santa/If I believe in Santa

Daddy tell me you believe in Santa too

And if we all believed in Santa/There will always be a Santa

Santa alive inside of me and you

Because we all believe in Santa/There will always be a Santa

Santa alive inside of me and you

“Santa” rhyming with “Santa,” how clever. The song is a duet between the father and daughter, but the father is constantly half a note behind the daughter. It’s like she is making it up as she goes along and tries to get him to follow along. It’s painful.

For a special I was hoping to be downright terrible, it has a plot that is surprisingly pedestrian. It’s just about friends going through a slice of life and a girl believing in Santa. Riveting. It could have been any Christmas episode of any Nickelodeon cartoon from the ’90s. Why can’t someone get electrocuted? Why can’t there be a trial with forced references to movies kids have never seen? Make me care about how bad it is!

For a special with such horrendous animation, you may notice that some of the voices actually sound familiar. That’s because, unlike The Christmas TreeRapsittie Street Kids actually features some real voice actors. Nicole is voiced by Paige O’ Hara, who voiced Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and Lenee is voiced by Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. That means this is the worst animated crossover between two beloved characters since…

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Oh yeah.

We’ve also got Luke Skywalker himself Mark Hamill as Nicole’s father. Seriously? Is Mark Hamill the key to a bad Christmas special?

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Realizing the thing needs to end, the kids get what they want for Christmas, including Ricky’s generic unbranded video game system.

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Hey it comes with no controllers and no games, so have fun Ricky. Who knows? It could be a DVD player.

I want to be angrier at this thing, but it’s all just kind of meh. The animation is absolutely atrocious, but the story is just plain white bread. I wanted it to do something really truly stupid, and aside from the great-grandmother’s mumbled lines (and Ricky’s response that she always knows what to say), almost every issue is with the animation. Is that one aspect alone enough to make it the worst special I’ve seen?

No. These other specials have so many aspects that are wrong, while this one has a run-of-the-mill cliched story, hit-and-miss voice acting, and just happens to feature the worst animation in the history of mankind. I can’t put it in the worst slot for that alone. If you do, I get it. It’s just far less offensive than Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas and far more watchable than The Star Wars Holiday Special.

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Oh you’ve got to me kidding me. This thing ends with a James Bond-style sequel hook. Thankfully, this sequel never got made, but oh that’s so pretentious. Where does it fall?

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I’d much rather watch The Christmas Tree again first. We’ve got just one to go before my final thoughts, and it’s a classic… sort of.

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Worst Christmas Song: FINALS

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We’ve come a long way, but now it’s time for the final showdown. It’s finally time to answer the question I’ve been asking this whole tournament: What is truly the worst Christmas song of all time? We’ve got two #1 seeds that wholly deserve to be here, and It’s time to see which is truly the worst.

(1) The Christmas Shoes by Newsong vs. (1) Santa Claus Has Got The AIDS This Year by Tiny Tim

What does Twitter have to say about “The Christmas Shoes?

If you can, make sure to listen to it one last time before voting.

And what about Tiny Tim’s song?

See how much of it you can get through before voting. You may be screaming out “No no no no.”

So I ask you for the final time: WHICH SONG IS WORSE?

https://twitter.com/matchupmovies/status/812167898252869632

You have 36 hours to vote.

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Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July

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  • Year: 1979
  • Director: Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass
  • Starring: Billie May Richards, Jackie Vernon, Paul Frees

In 1964, Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass created one of the most famous holiday specials of all time—Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Made on a very low budget with stop-motion animation and only one famous celebrity voice (Burl Ives), it became a classic nonetheless. Rudolph‘s success led to a string of other Christmas specials from Rankin/Bass, including Santa Claus is Coming to TownThe Little Drummer Boy, and of course Frosty the Snowman. Both Rudolph and Frosty had their own individual sequels, but in 1979, they decided it was time to finally have the two beloved characters crossover with Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.

If you never intend for two specials to crossover, there are some obvious issues with canon you’re going to have to deal with. Let’s start with the obvious. The animation in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer looked like this.

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The animation in Frosty the Snowman looked like this.

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Rankin and Bass decided to make Frosty in Claymation, and I have to admit that 15 years after Rudolph, the stop motion animation has gotten a lot better.

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Then there’s the issue of Santa Claus. In Rudolph, Santa was a downright jerk to everyone, only stopping his mockery of Rudolph when he needed to use his nose. Santa in Frosty the Snowman was voiced by Paul Frees, who voices the villain in this special, so they decided to make this a three-way crossover and throw in Mickey Rooney from Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Frosty (Jackie Vernon) has moved permanently to the North Pole with his wife Crystal (Shelley Winters, clearly chosen for the name), who he married in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (For the ’90s kids wondering, Frosty Returns actually came years later and is not from Rankin/Bass). He also now has two children Milly and Chilly, who thankfully were not created in any special.

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Thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump, don’t ask how Frosty mates.

After seeing Rudolph and Frosty being friends for a few minutes and a very nice opening credits sequence, we get the reason why this special is 90 minutes long—lots and lots of exposition. Santa tells us that long before he came to the North Pole, it used to be ruled by an evil sorcerer named Winterbolt (Paul Frees)

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Winterbolt lives in a cavernous lair, with dragons, a crystal ball, and a Magic Mirror-esque genie who answers all his questions. Again, the stop motion animation has come a long way, because I have to admit, the design of it all is pretty great. Also, Winterbolt is just so over-the-top in his mannerisms and evil voice that it’s at least interesting every time he’s on screen.

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I’ll attempt to give you the somewhat quick version of this ten minutes of exposition. Winterbolt used his scepter made of pure ice to ward off everyone good who crossed his path and ruled for a long time. One day the Aurora Borealis took human form (Lady Boreal) and used her magic to put Winterbolt to sleep for a thousand years. In that time, Santa Claus came to the North Pole and happiness was restored. When the thousand years were over, the ring came to the creature Gollum…

Sorry, I already need a drink. This is freaking long. Let’s play the Voice Actor Drinking Game and we can get back to the exposition. Alright, there are four definitive voice actors in 60’s and 70’s animated specials. A special with all four is almost a thing of legend, but let’s see how many we can find. We already have Paul Frees. How about Thurl Ravenscroft, that famous bass who voiced Tony the Tiger and sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”?

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DRINK!

Sure enough, he voices the moving mouth that Winterbolt uses every time he has a question. Alright, we’re two for two. How about Don Messick, the voice of Scooby-Doo?

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DRINK!

Messick voices Sam Spangles, the character on the far left there whose design is clearly based on the evil magician from Frosty the Snowman. Alright, let’s see if we can get a perfect score. Tell me, is Hans Conried, the voice of Captain Hook, in this special?

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Seriously? No Hans Conried? Alright, well the search for the perfect four-for-four continues, but now surely we’ve all had enough alcohol to get back to this ridiculous special.

When the thousand years were over, Winterbolt awoke from his sleep and the Lady Boreal’s human form was waning. She left her last bit of power in a young reindeer, telling him his nose would only remain lit if he only used it for good. Winterbolt, jealous of Santa’s power, conspired to stop him by causing the worst storm the world had ever seen. However, as we all know, Rudolph’s nose shone brightly through the storm, causing Santa to make his flight anyway. Now it’s July, and Winterbolt doesn’t want to wait to Christmas to try to defeat Santa again.

Do you see the problem here? This is a special for children. Why do we get this epic backstory for a special involving Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Was Rankin/Bass jealous they never got to make a full-fledged Lord of the Rings? Hey kids, the story of Rudolph is a great tale about overcoming insecurities, but more importantly, it’s about a war between two gods.

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Rudolph only pawn in game of life.

Also, the Lady Boreal gives Rudolph this gift at birth! How is he supposed to remember the words he was told when he was just seconds old? Even worse, she tells him that the nose will go out if he is even tempted just once. He doesn’t even have to do anything wrong, just be tempted. Look Rankin/Bass, you already did The Little Drummer Boy. Why does Rudolph have to be the Messiah in this thing? I guess that means since Santa came to the North Pole before Rudolph’s birth, that makes him John the Baptist and Frosty’s multiple resurrections make him Lazarus.

So now our story finally gets going. Rudolph and Frosty meet up with the recycled Fred Astaire puppet from Santa Claus is Coming to Town, who comes to tell them MORE EXPOSITION.

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They’re calling the character Milton this time around, and he’s voiced by Red Buttons. Milton is an ice cream man who keeps his stash up at the North Pole to keep it cold all year long (just go with it), and he’s in love with a circus performer whose show is going broke. If their big July 4th show is a flop, they’re going to sell to Sam Spangles. Since Rudolph is apparently a worldwide celebrity, he agrees to go with Milton and help get the circus back on its feet. Frosty and family want to go as well, but it takes them way longer than it should to realize they’re snow-people and they would melt. Frosty says he feels like a misfit, leading Crystal to sing “Everything I’ve Always Wanted,” the one good song in the whole thing. It doesn’t need to be there (Okay, none of the songs save “Rudolph” and “Frosty” need to be here), but it’s got a really pleasant tune and it doesn’t go on too long. It’s also the first thing in about twenty minutes that isn’t just plot exposition, so maybe it’s just placed nicely, but it works.

Since the biblical metaphors weren’t heavy enough already, it’s time for Frosty the Snowman to make a deal with the Devil. (Who knew? I could have put this on my Faustian Tales Match-Up.)

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Winterbolt comes and gives the Frosty family amulets that will keep them frozen until the final firework on the 4th of July. No one finds it suspicious that this obviously evil sorcerer who no one has ever heard of has given them temporary life that will end at a bizarrely specific time, so they just go with it.

They go to Santa, and via Winterbolt’s mind control, he says he will come down to pick them up right as the fireworks end. This is of course so Winterbolt can cause a storm that will stop Santa in his tracks, but if you have the power of mind control, why don’t you just have Santa move? I suppose he has that very common plot-relevant mind control. We also get a scene where Santa and Mrs. Claus discuss their marriage, and they both admit Santa is sometimes a bit too focused on work this time of year, because they’ve got Mickey Rooney back and he’s getting his minimum screen time.

Finally we get to the circus where we meet the special’s second most important character, Ethel Merman.

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She has a character name, but it’s just Ethel Merman. Ethel runs the circus, and is also the mother of Milton’s girlfriend. She seems to have mixed feelings about Milton, as she makes fun of his job in one scene but calls him “yummy” in another. We get plenty of scenes of the circus performers preparing the tent, parading around town, and performing their acts, because it’s Ethel Merman and we need to make her sing… FOUR FREAKING SONGS. That’s right, Ethel Merman has four musical numbers in this thing. Enough of these boring characters, what’s Winterbolt up to?

He’s going to the Cave of Lost Rejections, sort of the Mos Eisley Cantina of the Rankin/Bass Universe, to find the most evil reindeer in existence. We also get to see how awkward Winterbolt’s ridiculously hammy antics would be in a normal conversation.

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I would like a Bud Light.
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We only have Miller.
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I would like to speak to a manager.

I get they’re trying to make this look like a seedy bar, but one of the patrons is a bird with an afro and sunglasses (I’d show him but it’s just a split second and too darkly lit). Did you just throw all the leftover pieces onto one puppet?

Winterbolt finally tracks down the reindeer he’s looking for.

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This is Scratcher, voiced by Laugh-In‘s Alan Sues. He’s not evil, but rather just lazy and self-serving. He’s also a campy gay stereotype right out of the ’40s… and that’s the whole joke. Scratcher claims he was going to be one of Santa’s reindeer until Rudolph came along (although he’s never been mentioned before), leading to Scratcher’s downward spiral. Is it strange that I’d much rather watch a Lost Weekend style special about his descent into reindeer alcoholism way more than I would this film? Seriously, though, how many characters need to be in this thing?

Winterbolt’s extremely convoluted plan surprisingly goes off without a real hitch. Scratcher gets a job with the circus and goes into the trailer with Rudoph and (unbeknownst to Rudolph) gives him the money to hand to a police officer, who is actually Sam Spangles undercover.

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Oh great, a hat. That will hide the enormous chin and handlebar mustache.

Even though he didn’t willingly do anything wrong, the temptation causes Rudolph’s nose to go out. Santa gets caught in the storm and Frosty realizes he and his family are about to die. He tries to get Ethel Merman to stop the fireworks, but they’ve already begun and it’s too late. Winterbolt comes back and says he can make Frosty’s amulets last longer if Rudolph agrees to let his nose stay dim and never tell anyone what actually happened (Yeah the thing contradicts itself, but that’s what happens when your Christmas special has more plot points than The Big Sleep.)

Winterbolt flies back to the North Pole and Frosty tries to find a way to help Rudolph, who has now wandered off alone. Winterbolt asks his magic ice mirror if Frosty does have anything he’d want, so he gets shown the Reader’s Digest condensed version of the Frosty the Snowman special (just now with claymation) and learns of Frosty’s life-giving hat. I have to admit, I love how this special interrupts its darkest moments to sing an upbeat rendition of “Frosty the Snowman.” It really shouldn’t work, but for some reason, it does. The genie tells him that if he found a way to harness the hat’s powers, he could create an army of killer snowmen.

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An ancient villain who creates a clone army to defeat the forces of good, who use light as a weapon? Has George Lucas been watching this?

For being an eons-old villain, he really is kind of riding by the seat of his pants with this evil plan.

Since there are still twenty minutes left in this thing, Winterbolt goes back to the circus and says if Frosty gives him his hat, he’ll turn Rudolph’s nose back on (Something he can’t do, but Frosty doesn’t have to know.) Frosty gives him the hat back and freezes, but for some reason the amulet stays on so he doesn’t melt.

Meanwhile, Rudolph has gone off to the beach and heard the Aurora Borealis vaguely telling him to “Be brave.” He also runs into his old buddy Big Ben, the Clockwork Whale, from Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. It’s a pretty shoehorned cameo, but Ben is voiced by the hilarious radio star Harold Peary (famous for playing The Great Gildersleeve), so he at least brings some lightness to this surprisingly dark Christmas special.

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Ben gets an idea and swims off to South America, while Rudolph goes back to the circus and finds Frosty dead and Winterbolt maniacally laughing. The two of them fight for the hat, and this brave act of violence causes Rudolph’s nose to come back. Rudolph puts the hat back on Frosty, thankfully never telling him his sacrifice was in vain, and explains the whole story to Ethel Merman. The real policeman (an Irish stereotype, of course) comes and arrests Sam Spangles and gives the money back to Ethel. Frosty and Rudolph sing “We’re a Couple of Misfits” from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and just as the special seems to be over, Winterbolt comes back. Ethel Merman pulls out her guns to shoot him, but she is informed that the circus guns only have blanks. Instead, she chucks the guns at him, breaking his staff. Winterbolt cries out “If the scepter dies, I go too” and turns into a tree. Yay, violence saves the day twice in the third act, kids.

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However, since Winterbolt is dead, his amulets are no good anymore and the Frosty family melts. HOW ARE WE NOT DONE YET? Big Ben swims back with Jack Frost (he was in one of the specials at some point), who was in South America for their winter. Jack blows a chilly winter breeze and brings the snowmen back to life.

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Santa finally comes to town and takes the Frosties back to the North Pole as Jack Frost spends all his breath keeping them alive. Everyone at the circus eats some of Santa’s reindeer feed (for reindeer, not made of reindeer), causing it to become a flying circus. THE END.

What a mess this thing is. The plot is ridiculously convoluted, and it feels like each scene introduces (or re-introduces) a new character. We get seemingly pointless scenes of characters talking about their marriages, moping because their powers have gone out, Viagra-esque amulets that give Frosty power… Hold on. Is this whole thing about impotence?

Maybe I’ve just watched one too many bad Christmas specials, but hear me out. All three male heroes (Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa) feel indebted to a woman in their lives—Frosty with Crystal, Santa with Mrs. Claus, and Rudolph with the Lady Boreal. They all take considerable amounts of time wondering if they are good enough to please these women. Both Frosty and Rudolph have magical powers that give them life, and Frosty is given amulets that extended his potency for a few hours. One of the first things we see happen in the circus grounds is the workers literally pitching a tent.

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Rudolph’s nose only goes out when he is alone with the ambiguously gay reindeer in the dark trailer. The villain is indebted to no one and derives all of his power from his large phallic scepter. When he ultimately dies, he turns into a limp tree. And what ultimately saves the day at the end? A sperm whale.

So is this thing secretly brilliant? Probably not, but it’s still a fun theory. As silly as this whole thing is, I can’t hate it. It’s clear Rankin/Bass just decided to go all out with this one, and while the final product is insane, it’s enjoyably insane. Winterbolt is hysterically over-the-top, even going as far as to pronounce “evil” with emphasis on the second syllable. He also delivers perhaps my favorite line in the history of Christmas cinema: “I must rid my north lands of this ho-ho-hoing creature and his flock of Christmas interlopers.” Surely voice actor Paul Frees knew this was a dumb line and just went for it.

Also, basically every returning character is voiced by their original actor. Rankin/Bass managed to get more and more stars with each special, so there are a lot of them in this one. Jackie Vernon’s voice works really well for Frosty the Snowman, even though Vernon’s own comedy was usually very dry and sarcastic. Thankfully, Frosty has also gotten progressively smarter with each special, making him much more enjoyable to watch than scene after scene of Rudolph moping around. There is, however, far too much Ethel Merman. FOUR SONGS? FOUR?

The pointless songs aside, it’s by far the most enjoyable special I’ve watched so far. It’s just such a big dumb fun mess… that may or may not be about impotence.

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Worst Christmas Song: Consolation Match

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CONSOLATION MATCH

Before we get to the final showdown and declare the Worst Christmas Song Ever, let’s see who will take third place.

John Denver had a long career with more than a few classic songs. This is not one of them.

Elves have become a classic part of Christmas, but gnomes have sort of fallen by the wayside. Maybe Mr. Schlosser can change that. Let’s see who takes the bronze.

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Worst Christmas Song: Fearful Four

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We are down to just four songs, and one of them will soon be declared the worst Christmas song of all time.

MATCH 2

(1) Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas by John Denver vs. (1) The Christmas Shoes by Newsong.

We’ve got a #1 seed vs. a #1 seed, and it’s now clear the final match will have the same.

These are two truly awful songs, but I still think this one is worse. Either one’s spot in the finals would be worthy placement, though.

MATCH 1

(1) Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year by Tiny Tim vs. (5) I’ll Be a Gnome for Christmas by Art Paul Schlosser

Tiny Tim is down to just one song in the tournament, but oh my does this deserve to be here. It is truly terrible. The spoken word portion alone is worse than most songs in this thing.

Art Paul Schlosser remains the only artist in this tournament to reach out to me, and seeing as how Tiny Tim and John Denver are dead, that leaves just Newsong. “I’ll be a Gnome” is cring-ey to listen to, but hey, at least it’s mercifully short.

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Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

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  • Year: 2000
  • Director: Phil Roman
  • Starring: Elmo Shropshire, Michele Lee, Alex Doduk

Alright who in their right mind thought that a three minute Christmas song warranted a full-length TV special?

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OK just because it worked once doesn’t mean…

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Alright, alright I get the point. Plenty of…

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While you can argue whether these specials are all that good, there’s no doubt they’ve gone down as staples of the holiday season. It’s not like Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is the first time someone milked a silly Christmas song for all it’s worth by making a TV special out of it.

First recorded in 1979 by Elmo & Patsy, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” was a parody of the country death ballads that polluted the radio in the ’60s and ’70s. The hitch was it was Christmastime, so they were all upbeat about her dying. Hilarious right?

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Pictured here: Elmo and/or Patsy.

It’s one of those songs that’s funny enough the first time but it gets old fast. It definitely doesn’t deserve to get played as often as it does. Alright, enough about the song. What kind of story did they make out of this?

The special is narrated by Elmo Shropshire, the Elmo of Elmo & Patsy and definitely not the one who saved Christmas. Elmo voices Jake Spankenheimer. How are we supposed to take this thing seriously? What kind of a name is Spankenheimer? Maybe he was named by the same person who named a kid PAPPY in The Christmas Tree. (If you stick around for my final thoughts at the end of this series, I’m sure WORST NAME is going to be a category now.)

Jake tells the story of the time when he was a boy and his grandmother (what else?) got run over by a reindeer. He even describes the event as “incredible,” but is bummed out that it almost ruined Christmas. How is it incredible that your grandma was involved in a hit-and-run?

In the story’s main timeline, Shropshire voices Grandpa (no really, he and his wife are only ever called Grandma and Grandpa, even by non-relatives) and Jake is voiced by Alex Doduk. To be fair, both of these voice actors are perfectly fine. There are so many issues with this special, but these guys could be worse.

The Spankenheimers live in Cityville long before it was a Facebook game, and apparently this special depleted all of its creative naming energy on Spankenheimer. The family runs a store where Grandma reads to the kids while their parents shop.

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Grandma got bled right into the background.

The whole family is fine with Grandma’s lax and friendly business practices, except for totally-not-going-to-be-the-villain Cousin Mel (GET IT? GET IT? THERE WAS A COUSIN MEL IN THE SONG).

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Mel believes in absurd fantasies, like making customers pay for their merchandise and actually trying to get rich from owning a business.

Grandma reads to the kids in an elf costume, which would make sense if it was like an elf hat and pointed shoes, but how much time is she spending on this thing. She even has green elf-leggings. Do you really spend that much of your precious business day putting on an elf costume for the three kids you read to?

At home, Jake’s parents have bought the new Cityville inflatable Christmas…

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Sure, that’s a tree. Let’s call it a tree and move on… although this does sound like something I’d expect to see in the home of someone named Spankenheimer. However, they seem to have no family pictures on the wall.

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Is it weird that the animation in this bothers me more than in The Christmas Tree? Don’t get me wrong, that was technically worse, but they weren’t even trying one iota. Here, it’s like they decided to make it look like they were trying just enough to make kids watch… but oh my it’s so lazy. The colors are just terrible, and there is as little movement as possible. They obviously had a budget larger than The Christmas Tree did, because while Elmo Shropshire is not really a celebrity, at least people are familiar with his song.

A man named Austin Bucks stops by the store in hopes of franchising it, because kids love business dealings in their Christmas specials. He dons an elf costume to appeal to Grandma, but it doesn’t work.

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But that may be because he looks like Pinocchio cosplaying as Peter Pan.

Grandma even asks Jake if he thinks she should sell the store, because asking children business advice could never go wrong. Cousin Mel is understandably upset and slips back and forth between a Southern accent to show her retaliation… or something like that.

Back at home, Grandma is making fruitcake and apparently that warrants a freaking song. You know what? I’m far more interested in this minute-long musical number than I am in the rest of this special… not because it’s good, but because it raises way too many questions. A little research shows that Shropshire wrote this song long before the special, so they were basically just looking for a way to shoehorn it in, but this is just so awkward.

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Did Al Roker win a contest to get an animated cameo in this thing?

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So this special exists in some alternate universe in which Louisiana ate up Arkansas? Iowa and Missouri just decided to become one state? Minnesota and Wisconsin I kind of get, but why did you animate each individual state (except Rhode Island) and then skimp out on the middle? I want to know the history of this alternate reality and how Grandma’s accident led to the unification of multiple Midwestern states.

On Christmas Eve, Grandma finally gets hit by that reindeer. Jake and Grandpa both see it, but no one else believes them. The family sits down and discusses what to do as Grandma is freezing outside, because Grandma will understand that being right is the most important thing. They eventually go out into the snow and find Grandma missing… So we’re not even following the song now? You base a whole special off a three minute song and just decide not to follow the song? Remember these lyrics:

When we found her Christmas morning at the scene of the attack

She had hoof prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus-marks on her back

Yeah we’re just not going with that. First of all, let’s have Grandma get hit right outside their house so they know about it right away. Second, let’s make sure she doesn’t actually die, because we’d hate to traumatize kids in this special based on a murderous Christmas ballad. Third, just forget the entire story of the song except when it’s convenient to our special. It’s like if Rankin-Bass just skipped the part about Frosty having to leave before he melted, because that would scare kids. Grandma getting run over by a reindeer is like the twelfth most important thing that happens in this special, making me wonder why they even bothered to do it. It’s still a more accurate title than Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, though.

The cops come the next morning, and for some reason, one of them is a parody of Marge Gunderson from Fargo. I guess that was really popular with the kids when this came out.

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She just moved there from Minnesconsin.

However, the parody seems to come from someone who has never actually seen Fargo and only heard people impersonating the accents. Parody Marge is rude, dumb, and even refers to Grandma as “the old broad.” This is absolutely nothing like the Marge Gunderson of the film, but this special can’t even be accurate to the song it’s based on, so why am I expecting it to be accurate to a film it’s trying to parody?

Nine months later, the family is dressed in black, because we apparently care about the song now. Everyone except Jake has given up on the whole Grandma thing, and Grandpa’s Alzheimer’s is played for comedy as Cousin Mel gets him to sign away the rights to the store. In an even more awkward song transition than before, Grandpa says “Sign? I thought you said sing,” and proceeds to sing about the people Grandma’s chilling with in Heaven before signing over the rights. Wait, wasn’t Grandpa the only one besides Jake who saw Grandma’s accident? Wouldn’t he believe she’s still alive?

Jake decides to write an email to Santa Claus, even though he hadn’t thought of it for the last nine months. Also, if Jake is writing an email in the story, narrator Jake is obviously telling the story from the distant future… or this special just forgot what time period it’s taking place in. The e-mail is read by Santa’s elf Quincy (literally the only competent character in this entire thing) and delivered to him.

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For some reason, Santa speaks with a Yiddish accent. It’s not as thick as the ax in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, but it’s close. Upon seeing that Jake wants his Grandma back, Santa says that solves the mystery and he goes to get Grandma. He had her that whole time? Now, Cousin Mel was shown swiping Santa’s hit-and-run note earlier, but don’t you think Santa would check back? He knows where the old lady lives, and while she has amnesia, she’s in fine physical health. Do more, Santa!

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And that’s why you always do more than just leave a note.

Santa goes to get her from her bedroom…

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Wait, there are more people in there? How many times has this happened? Do they ever get returned to their families? Do they also have an evil cousin plotting against them? Also, this special makes clear that Santa knows who everyone is just by looking at them. Why does he still have them here? Is he using their bodies for weird elf science?

Quincy goes to Cityville to grab Jake, so he can help break Grandma’s amnesia spell. In the film’s most bizarre scene (And trust me, there’s some serious competition), Jake and Quincy touch fingers like in E.T.

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However, this sends a minor electric shock to both of them, causing Quincy to scream out in a voice very similar to Pee-Wee Herman. OK, I give up. This thing makes no sense. Why do we have homages to Fargo, E.T. and Pee Wee’s Playhouse in a special called Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, but we can’t even follow the plot of the title song?

With Grandma back in the picture, Cousin Mel and her lawyer I.M. Slime (Yay, another unfunny name) get Santa arrested after he admits to running over Grandma. That’s just what this Christmas movie needs—a trial.

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Okay, okay, so it worked once.

Well what other shout-outs should we throw in? How about the OJ Trial? We all know the kids love that. The lawyer actually says of Santa “If the beard fits, you must convict.” This doesn’t even make sense in context! They’ve already established his beard is real, and the beard has nothing to do with the crime. What else can we make an awkward shout-out to? Oh the kids love Poltergeist right? Let’s just have Santa say “We’re here” and make it sound just like that little girl. Oh, how about after the trial, Grandma wonders if it was all a dream and quotes almost verbatim from The Wizard of Oz. Well at least the kids have seen that one.

The judge finds Santa Claus innocent, because this movie has no understanding of how the legal system works, and Cousin Mel admits to framing Grandma with Reindeer nip so she would get hit. Then, outside of the courtroom, Grandma gets hit again and they all laugh about it. Why is this funny?

Going into this match-up, I knew some of these were going to be unbearably bad, but I honestly didn’t expect this one to be one of the worst. I expected a stupid but predictable and forgettable special, but this one is far worse than I could have ever imagined. The pop culture references are horrendous (Fargo?! The OJ Trial?!), the characters stupid or hilariously evil, and the animation surprisingly lazy. The music numbers come so far out of nowhere it makes Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas look well thought out.

The original song is terrible, don’t get me wrong, but at least it goes all out in its dark comedy. This skimps out and refuses to even kill the character or even make a single dark joke. Why did they bother to base this on the song to begin with? Why not just drop the reindeer thing and make it something else?

This is worse than The Christmas Tree, and…  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s worse than Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas. It’s not Star Wars Holiday Special bad, but it’s close. The pop culture references are so awkward, and I just can’t believe what this special thinks kids like. Half of it involves business dealings, and the last ten minutes are a trial! Even Santa Claus is pushed to the side.

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Worst Christmas Song: Egregious Eight

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It’s been a long road, but we are down to just eight songs in the search for the Worst Christmas Song. There are some I knew would still be here (“The Christmas Shoes”) and some that really surprised me (“Marshmallow World”), but now it’s crunch time. It’s time to find out which is truly the worst.

MATCH 4

(6) Dominick the Donkey by Lou Monte vs. (1) The Christmas Shoes by NewSong

This won the Ad Nauseam division, but is it worse than “The Christmas Shoes?” No, no it isn’t.

The winner of the over-indulgent division has won each round handily, and I don’t see it stopping. Parents dying is the true meaning of Christmas, kids.

MATCH 3

(7) Marshmallow World vs. (5) I’ll Be a Gnome for Christmas by Art Paul Schlosser

Apparently this is the worst Christmas standard of the tournament. I’m a little surprised. I mean, yeah it’s annoying, but I can’t imagine it’s going to be the worst Christmas song of all time.

Art Paul Schlosser beat out Justin Bieber and New Kids on the Block to be here. That is pretty impressive. Let’s see if he can make the Fearful Four.

MATCH 2

(1) O Holy Night by Tiny Tim vs. (1) Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas by John Denver

One Tiny Tim song has moved into the Fearful Four, but will he have two there? You’ve called his version of “O Holy Night” the worst Christmas cover, but will its run continue?

Do you prefer a bad version of a good song or a song so dumb that absolutely no one could redeem it?

MATCH 1

(1) Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year by Tiny Tim vs. (8) I’m Gonna Put Some Glue ‘Round the Christmas Tree (So Santa Claus Can Stick Around All Year)

This one beat out some stiff competition in the Not for Kids division, and it is perhaps the most tasteless song in the whole tournament… but is it the worst?

This beat out chipmunks, Wookiees, monsters, and barking dogs, so at this point it could go all the way.

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Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas

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  • Year: 2014
  • Director: Darren Doane
  • Starring: Kirk Cameron, Darren Doane, Bridget Ridenour

Today’s special has the tagline “Put Christ back in Christmas.” Yeah, didn’t you know it’s just been Mas the last 200 years? Who knew? Apparently Kirk Cameron, former child star and current somehow-still-kind-of-a-thing, knew and he’s going to tell you about it whether you like it or not. If you take a look at the characters who have saved Christmas in the past, you will sense a common theme.

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They are all smarter than Kirk Cameron. Saving Christmas was something of an internet phenomenon when it came out in 2014, due to Kirk Cameron’s attempt at salvaging it backfiring. When the initial reviews were bad, Cameron told people to get on Rotten Tomatoes and give the film a positive audience score, showing those critics who the real critics are. Let’s see how that turned out.

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It’s like Kirk Cameron doesn’t even know how the internet works. When you ask for a favor, of course you’re going to get trolled.

Even though this film is directed by Darren Doane, Kirk’s so vain he thinks it’s about him. In fact, the movie just starts with Kirk telling us everything the movie aims to do.

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PULL ZE STRING, PULL ZE STRING!

He criticizes both the people who don’t care for Christmas because they don’t care for religion and the people who don’t care for Christmas because it goes against the religion they care about. Got that? He also presents this as if it’s some big fight going on that really needs a conclusion now. Kirk suggests we need a “voice from the outside” to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas, and apparently Kirk, the man whose name appears above the title and who alone addresses the audience to start the movie, implies he is that outside voice. A little prideful for a Christian movie, no? Just for fun, let’s see how many of the seven deadly sins Kirk breaks over the course of the film.

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After Kirk’s fireside chat, we get an opening title followed by Kirk complaining about how stories have become less violent over the years, and then we get some more opening titles. Over these opening titles, we get a samba version of “Silent Night,” because no one understands irony, and then our movie actually starts… almost 9 minutes into a movie shorter than 90 minutes.

Kirk then freezes on a shot of himself, just in case we forgot which one he was. Can I mark that pride box twice?

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We also meet his sister (Bridgette Ridenour, not the one from Full House) and her husband Christian (Darren Doane), because we haven’t been subtle so far so why start now. Christian doesn’t pour hot chocolate on top of his sacrifices like his brother-in-law Kirk, and Kirk is determined to change that. Kirk explains to the audience (STILL? We get the point of the movie.) that where some see all the good things about Christmas, others see commercialism, paganism, and elf worship. What religion has Mr. Cameron come across where they worship elves?

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Their most revered figurehead, Saint Bernard

The final nail in Christian’s Christmas coffin is his conversation with Diondre (David Shannon). I really honestly have no idea what this character is supposed to be, but he feels like someone doing a parody of a Tyler Perry character. Seeing how Perry’s characters are already caricatures, this comes off as painfully racist. He even complains about “the man” keeping him down by banning Crazy Shirt Fridays at the office, and how he’s going to march for Straight Power. I cannot tell if this a parody of a parody of a parody, what Kirk Cameron thinks black people are actually like, or some third option so far out of my range I haven’t grasped it yet. Regardless, it is painfully awkward. (It’s even worse in the extended scene in the credits where he talks about singing “We Shall Overcome.”)

Christian goes out to his car for a little peace and quiet, but Kirk, unable to leave him alone, meets him out there. Christian explains his issues with the huge Christmas party being thrown and brings up the actually good question of how much good could be done for the needy with the money spent on the party. He goes on take issue with how minimally the snow globe with the Nativity scene is featured in comparison to the rest of the decorations.

Kirk tells Christian that he’s wrong about everything, because why would you worry about the poor at Christmas?

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If you’re sick of me talking about A Christmas Carol by this point, just skip ahead because I’m going to do it again. Charles Dickens presented Ebenezer Scrooge as a man who needed to learn a lesson about Christmas, and this was shown by his refusal to give the poor. Kirk Cameron is presenting Christian as a man who needs to learn a lesson about Christmas because he wants to give to the poor. In the beginning, he even talked about how great it was that donations go up this time of year, but now he’s like “Nah, you’re all wrong.”

He also explains to Christian how important the nativity scene is and how the rest of the decorations tie into it. Kirk wants to deconstruct our typical view of the manger scene, forgetting the “white skin and clean clothes,” which is just fine if he hadn’t cast white actors as Mary and Joseph!

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And those nutcrackers that make the holiday more festive? They aren’t nutcrackers at all. They’re Herod’s soldiers coming to kill the newborn king. Merry Christmas, everybody. Also, while we’re at it, screw Tchaikovsky.

So do Kirk and Christian have a back-and-forth debate about the issues presented? Nope! Christian just tells Kirk that he was right about everything and that he never looked at it that way. So it’s that kind of movie. One character has all the questions, the other has all the answers, and that’s it.

Meanwhile, Diondre has a conversation with a conspiracy theorist at the party in what can only be described as padding. They talk about things like the 9/11 conspiracy documentary Loose Change, “Area 52,” and the “Picasso Code,” and again I am not sure if this is parody. Much of this scene is shot with coffee cups in front of the characters’ faces so they can just add the dialogue in post. That is the textbook definition of laziness, so there’s sloth for you.

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Alright, so what is Strawman… I mean Christian’s next issue that Kirk gets to knock down? Christmas trees. Why? Because they come from Pagan traditions where they worshiped trees. Are you really so worried that if you put a tree up in your house it’s just going to command you to worship it?

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree/I’ll sacrifice a virgin.

So does Kirk tell him to calm down because it’s just a tree? Of course not. We have Christmas trees, not because of pagan cultures, but because of Jesus. There was a tree in the Garden of Eden and the cross Jesus died on was made of wood, so of course that led directly to Christmas trees.

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Christmas trees are made of wood, which is also what the cross was made of, a cross is what Jesus died on, Jesus was played by Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ, Willem Dafoe was in Born on the Fourth of July with Tom Cruise, who was in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon.

But of course this also blows Christian’s mind, because he never looked at it that way before. Isn’t this marvelous character development? Alright, what’s next on Christian’s airing of grievances? Could it be… Satan?

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I am not joking. Christian actually uses the Church Lady argument of how Santa and Satan have the same letters, therefore making Santa evil. Kirk even breaks into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to stall for time I suppose. He manages to sing only a small portion of the song but still gets multiple lyrics incorrect:

You better watch out, you better not pout

You better not cry, I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town

He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you are awake

He knows if you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake.

Look, it’s a Kirk Cameron film, so I expect him to play fast and loose with Scripture, but how does he manage to mess up this many lyrics to a Christmas standard? Why is he singing it anyway? OK maybe I’m stalling for time, because I know I have to talk about Kirk’s interpretation of Santa Claus.

Of course, Kirk tells Christian he’s all wrong about Santa as well. He begins by saying “The real Santa Claus was a real bad, bad dude, and when I say bad I mean bad in the good way,” not bad like the Santa they hired for the party.

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Nothing like a fake beard over a real beard.

Kirk tells us to imagine Santa Claus as “a little more Lord of the Rings-y.” Ah, so like L. Frank Baum did with The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus?

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No? Oh, are we going to talk about the Norse god Odin who was both an inspiration for Gandalf and our common perception of Santa Claus?

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Nope, Kirk wants to talk about the real St. Nicholas, a man he claims was famous for his kindness. Hey, if you’re going to talk about how kind someone was, it doesn’t help to visually depict them like this.

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Hey kids, go sit on this guy’s lap. He’s probably had a few ales and gotten in a bar fight, but he’s really kind and giving. So which of his stories is Kirk going tell? How about the one where he hurt those who didn’t agree with him?

Yes, that’s right, of all the stories attributed to St. Nicholas, we get to hear the one where he struck Arius in the face at the Council of Nicaea simply for not agreeing with him. Now of course, this story is apocryphal, because history shows that Arius was not at the council of Nicaea (again, it’s called the internet, Kirk), but why stop a heroic story of violence? Kirk makes this whole thing an argument against political correctness and praises Nicholas for not “going soft on truth.” Violence is the answer. Merry Christmas.

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This final argument blows Christian’s mind yet again, and now he is a changed man. Roll credits… oh wait there’s still HALF AN HOUR OF THIS MOVIE LEFT.

Christian re-enters the party, now completely careless about the poor and fully in the Christmas spirit, because those things now go hand in hand. Now, like Kirk, he sees the presents piled high by the tree as the city skyline of Bethlehem (a serious argument made, not kidding). He apologizes to his wife for not seeing the true meaning of Christmas sooner. It’s like Kirk Cameron’s sick, twisted version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

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Maybe Christmas, he guessed, just came from a mall

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means nothing at all

What do these classic Christmas specials that criticize commercialism know? Jesus wants his Christmas to be about materialism. You’re a bad man, Charlie Brown, for not getting the biggest tree. How dare you think Christmas was about anything else?

Out of nowhere, we break into a five-minute dance to “Angels We Have Heard on High,” because this movie wasn’t padded enough already.

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I’ve criticized Adam Sandler movies in the past for just being excuses for the actors to record their parties, but this is literally just a recording of a party… but we’re STILL not done. Kirk has to tell us about Christmas dinner, and why we should spend as much as possible on food and stuff our faces.

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It’s only appropriate we celebrate with material things, Kirk says, because Jesus came in a material body. Yeah sure, those two words mean the same things. Did you know Halloween is actually a celebration of Jack Nicholson because we light Jack-O-Lanterns? The light that glows from the lit pumpkins greatly displays a Shining. See how easy this is?

Look, I’ve watched a lot of bad Christmas specials for this series. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas was painful…

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No you’re wrong… about everything.

What?

You’re missing the whole meaning. Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas perfectly shows us the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas has been made far too beautiful in comparison to its rough, beastly roots. We’ve toned down the stories where Santa hits people and have beautified them. Note how the organ in the film, an instrument often found in a church, is the one trying to keep Christmas tough.

You know that’s not at all the point, but whatever. That was far from the worst one I’ve watched. A Christmas Carol 1982 was downright awful.

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You just don’t get it. They recycled animation to show the way God makes old things new. The person on the cover who was nowhere in the movie? Sometimes when God changes us, it’s like we’re an entirely different person. Think of all the money they saved by skimping on animation. Think of all the Christmas parties they could fund with that.

Well you’re not giving up at this point, so what about Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?

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You see, the Martians represent the people of earth who knew they needed a savior. Santa came to them..

He was kidnapped.

Just like Jesus was tied up to a cross. 

You’re mixing your metaphors again.

You just don’t get it.

Well I already know your opinion on Christmas trees, so we can skip The Christmas Tree. Please explain the hidden religious context in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

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Yeah I don’t have a damn clue.

It’s misguided, offensive, and ridiculously padded, but is Saving Christmas the worst special yet? Is a Christian film where the “hero” manages to break five of the seven deadly sins worse than the Star Wars Holiday Special? At least that had a simple message of coming home for the holidays. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself that which I would watch again if I had to watch one. While Saving Christmas is awful, it’s hilariously awful. It will make you want to yell at the screen for how wrong it is about everything. The Star Wars Holiday Special is painfully boring, and the first twenty minutes especially are almost impossible to sit through. It holds the title by a hair.

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