Under-Appreciated Christmas Specials
Under Appreciated Christmas Specials
There is no shortage of Christmas specials on television during the Christmas season. So many new ones are made each year that it is inevitable that some great ones get lost in the archives over perennially popular Christmas specials such as "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer". With the sheer number of television channels on cable, it is easy to lose track of Christmas specials you do love.
Here are my favorite under-appreciated Christmas specials. The majority of them are cartoon Christmas specials, but there are a few that are not. Many of these titles can be seen annually during the Christmas season as Christmas television programming, but some haven't aired in years.
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" debuted in 1962 and was considered to be the first Christmas cartoon special on television. The cartoon character of Mr. Magoo dated back to 1949, and was voiced by Jim Backus, best known as Mr. Howell on "Gilligan's Island". Mr. Magoo was known for his nearsightedness, which was fodder for the cartoon's comedy. Due largely to the character's lack of political correctness, "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" was not shown on television for years.
"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" unfolds as an actual stage performance of "A Christmas Carol" starring Mr. Magoo.
Here are my two favorite songs from "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" - "The Lord's Bright Blessing" and "All Alone In The World".
Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey - Ears, Nestor!
"Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey" is a Rankin/Bass Christmas special from 1977. It is very similar in storyline to "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" in that both are animals with unfortunate body parts that subject them to ridicule, but in the end said parts are meaningful to saving Christmas. While "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" involved Santa, "Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey" involved Jesus.
It is currently shown annually as part of ABC Family's 25 Days Of Christmas programming.
A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story - Bloom County, Anyone?
Berkeley Breathed wrote the children's book "A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story" in 1991, centered around his Bloom County/Outland comic-strip character Opus the Penguin. An animated special was released that same year. I have not seen this special anywhere on television in years, and it was only released on DVD in 2007.
This is a great scene where Opus finds a support group for fellow flightless creatures with wings who also have a wish for wings that work.
A Pinky & The Brain Christmas - After Christmas Eve, The World Will Believe In Pinky & The Brain
"Pinky & The Brain" was one of the early shows in the WB Network's primetime lineup. The cartoon was a spinoff from the series "Animaniacs" and centered around a lab mouse, the Brain, bent on global domination and his sidekick, Pinky. Narf! The episode centers around Brain's plan to create a Christmas toy craze involving a doll that he can use to hypnotize its owners en masse. Their trip to the North Pole excites Pinky, since he can deliver his very important letter to Santa in person.
It was in its first season in 1995 that "A Pinky & The Brain Christmas" aired. The episode was rewarded with a Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Program".
Because the only thing better than a television theme song is an episode-specific one, I have the "Pinky & The Brain" theme song from "A Pinky & The Brain" Christmas here. I also have the ending of the episode, which will MAKE YOU CRY.
The Happy Elf
Do I love this mainly because "The Happy Elf" is voiced by Rob Paulsen, the voice of Pinky of "Pinky & The Brain" fame? Possibly. Because they knew that Mickey Rooney should always voice Santa Claus? Possibly. Because the idea of Eubie the Happy Elf bringing Christmas joy to a sad town is reminiscent of Kris Kringle's effort to cheer up Sombertown in the Rankin/Bass Christmas cartoon "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town"? Definitely!
The Christmas cartoon "The Happy Elf" is based on the Harry Connick, Jr. song of the same name. Harry Connick, Jr also provides the voice for the story's narrator.
Olive, The Other Reindeer
"Olive, the Other Reindeer" first aired in 1999 on Fox. The Christmas cartoon is a Matt Groening production is based on the book by Vivian Walsh. Olive is a dog, voiced by Drew Barrymore, who mistakenly believes she is being called upon to assist Santa Claus when Santa reports that despite an injury to Blitzen that he can successfully deliver the presents with "all of the other reindeer".
Besides all of the name jokes like Martini, the Penguin, I love the fact that Michael Stipe of R.E.M. fame voiced a mean reindeer and then sang a song for the cartoon, "We're Not So Bad" to apologize for his bad reindeer behavior.
In recent years, I have seen this on the CBC (lucky Canucks) and sometimes on Cartoon Network.
Olive, The Other Reindeer!
Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas
Jim Henson's special, "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas" aired on HBO in 1977, based on the 1971 book by Russell Hoban. It first aired on broadcast television in 1980 on ABC. Originally, Kermit the Frog hosted "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas", but he has subsequently been edited out because the Jim Henson Company owns the rights to the characters in "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas" but sold the rights to The Muppets to Walt Disney. The music was written by Paul Williams in his second outing with a Jim Henson project following his work on the Muppet Show.
The story is inspired by the classic O. Henry story "The Gift Of The Magi", and has Emmet Otter and his Ma separately entering a nearby talent contest to win money to buy the other a present.
"Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas" was nominated for four Emmy awards, including Outstanding Children's Program.
A Muppet Family Christmas - They're Weirdoes, But They're Nice Weirdoes
Poor Emily Bear. She was all set to take off to the shore for Christmas. Unfortunately, her son Fozzie Bear thought it was okay to head home unannounced to visit along with his Muppet Show friends. This ABC Christmas Special first aired in 1987. It featured Jim Henson's creations from Sesame Street, the Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and even the Muppet Babies. If it is possible to overdose on the Muppets, "A Muppet Family Christmas" would've been when that Muppet overdose took place.
Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special - The secret word is "year"
Pee-Wee Herman's 1988 Christmas offering, "Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" is campy beyond campy. Just watch the opening footage below and look at who his guest stars are! So many of the bits in this Christmas special still make me laugh. The fruitcakes. Dinah Shore singing "12 Days Of Christmas" forever and ever. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello as Pee-Wee's Christmas card making slaves.
It still amazes me Reba the Mail Lady and Cowboy Curtis both ended up starring on police procedurals. I still get bothered about Cowboy Curtis as Ike Turner.
I am pretty sure this is the only time I've seen Charo guest star on anything that wasn't "The Love Boat". That being said, most of us forget that Charo was better known as a flamenco guitarist before being the "cuchi-cuchi" girl. I've added her performance from "Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" of "Feliz Navidad" because it is beautiful. Bonus points for her focus with Pee-Wee Herman running around armed and dangerous.
Song Begins about :40 in
A Christmas Carol: The Musical
The NBC film "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" aired in 2004 and is based on a musical that debuted a decade earlier. There have been dozens of adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the screen, but this one doesn't get the love many of the other versions do. It did, however, get Jennifer Love Hewitt, who sings in the role of Belle. "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" starred Kelsey Grammer, Jesse L. Martin, Jane Krakowski, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Geraldine Chaplin & Jason Alexander.
BONUS: A Muppet Christmas: Letters From Santa
This is a bonus because while I love the Muppets, this did not make my cut for under-appreciated Christmas specials. I do, however, greatly appreciate the fact a musical number from a Christmas special featuring Jesse L. Martin and Jane Krakowski can be vastly improved with the addition of Muppets.
I, along with the Muppets, appreciate the hard work done by the members of the U.S. Postal Service.