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.
A lot of these specials display downright appalling animation…
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.
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.
His bits aren’t funny and they just go on and on. I’m not sure what kind of dirt they had on him.
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.
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.
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.
Didn’t they give this thing a test run and hear that her lines couldn’t be made out?
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.
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.
Look, a lot of these have ridiculous, illogical, and stupid stories. The Star Wars Holiday Special does not have a story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And that puts the Star Wars Holiday Special over the edge to take the title of Worst Christmas Special.
I recommend checking these out if you truly hate yourself or are curious. They are… interesting.