He knows if you've been bad or good — and you really don't want to see what he does to the bad kids.
A mostly American subgenre — special television shows, often one-shots, created with a winter or holiday theme for broadcast during the month of December. Most prominently feature Santa Claus
and his associated mythology, as they try to preserve political correctness. Some try to elucidate us on the True Meaning Of Christmas
. Their plots often involve the characters Saving Christmas
Perhaps the best-known Christmas Specials are the animated ones (including the stop-motion animations produced primarily by Rankin/Bass
) from the 1960s through the 1970s that rerun annually. Far more numerous, though, are the various celebrity specials, which usually take the form of a low-key holiday-themed Variety Show
. Usually the latter are rather forgettable by virtue of their one-off nature, but sometimes they can generate moments that survive decades. A case in point would be the Bing Crosby-David Bowie
duet of "The Little Drummer Boy", which has taken on a life of its own above and beyond the 1970s-vintage Crosby special from which it sprang.
Compare Christmas Episode
(generally known as Christmas Specials in the UK
) and Halloween Special
. If the holiday celebrated in the special only looks like Christmas but is renamed to match the setting, it's a You Mean Xmas
- Disney put out From All of Us to All of You on its weekly show Walt Disney Presents in 1958. It featured new cartoon footage of Jiminy Cricket linking winter and celebration-themed excerpts from the Disney Animated Canon and Classic Disney Shorts. This special has received periodic updates and retitlings over the decades. While its last exposure in the U.S. was in The Eighties (as 1983's A Disney Channel Christmas, retitled Jiminy Cricket's Christmas for a video release in '86), it continues to be a very big draw in the UK and Scandinavia, especially in Sweden.
- Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962) was the first animated one of these to be produced expressly for television.
- Dinner for One (1963, usually associated with New Year's Eve)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965; directly references the religious basis of Christmas when Linus, in a spotlight no less, quotes the Christmas story from one of the gospels)
- There are three more Peanuts Christmas specials, made from The Nineties onward, that the original easily overshadows: It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992), Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (2002), and I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003). Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales was created specifically to pad out an hour timeslot for A Charlie Brown Christmas so that it wouldn't have to be Edited for Syndication.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
- The Little Drummer Boy (1968; one of the rare specials which focused on the Nativity)
- Frosty The Snowman (1969)
- The Night The Animals Talked (1970; another rare Nativity-themed show)
- Santa Claus Is Comin To Town (1970)
- The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974, animated; 2006, live action)
- Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974)
- A Cosmic Christmas (1977) (Canadian-produced and featuring aliens searching for the meaning of Christmas)
- Nestor The Long Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
- Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
- The oh-so-infamous The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
- Several Sesame Street examples:
- Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)
- A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978)
- Elmo Saves Christmas (1996)
- A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006)
- Elmo's Christmas Countdown (2007)
- John Denver And The Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) *
- Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)
- The Snowman (1982) (notable as one of the first British examples)
- In France, Le Père Noël est une ordure (1982) is broadcast virtually every single year on one of the six main channels around Christmas. It's actually a very dark comedy one of whose characters works as a Mall Santa.
- Two Smurfs Christmas specials, plus a video feature called The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol in 2011 which was part of The Smurfs three-disc Blu-Ray bundle.
- He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special. Features some hilarious scenes in which Skeletor becomes infused with the Christmas spirit, much to his befuddlement. (1985)
- The Christmas Toy (Jim Henson) (1986)
- A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
- Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988)
- The Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)
- The Barney franchise has four Christmas specials: Waiting for Santa (1990), Barney's Night Before Christmas (1999), Barney's Christmas Star (2002), and A Very Merry Christmas (2011).
- Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas (1991)
- Father Christmas (1991)
- A Wish For Wings That Work (1991)
- Timmy's Gift: A Precious Moments Christmas (1991)
- Nick & Noel (1993)
- The Town Santa Forgot (1993)
- The Twelve Days of Christmas (1993): Promoted as "the true story of the Twelve Days of Christmas". Featured the voices of Larry Kenney and Phil Hartman.
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company Christmas (radio, 1995)
- Spot's Magical Christmas (1995)
- Bear In The Big Blue House: A Berry Bear Christmas (1999)
- Olive The Other Reindeer (1999)
- Robbie The Reindeer in Hooves of Fire (1999)
- Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (2000)
- South Park started out as one of those, Christmas In South Park. (2000)
- Arthur's Perfect Christmas (2000)
- Christmas Who? from SpongeBob SquarePants. (2000)
- Franklin: Franklin's Magic Christmas (2001).
- The True Meaning of Christmas Specials (2002) with Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall (and NewsRadio) fame.
- Its A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
- Caillou's Holiday Movie (2003)
- The Powerpuff Girls: 'Twas The Fight Before Christmas (2003)
- The newest incarnation of Doctor Who has a Christmas special every year, starting with the second season. The Ninth Doctor story "The Unquiet Dead" is a Christmas special within the regular series.
- Moral Orel's first season finale (aired as the first episode) was one with a Downer Ending. Its series finale, which had some parallels was a lot more positive.
- The TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather (2006)
- Doctor Steel's Dr. Steel Christmas Special (2007) and A Dr. Steel Christmas (2009).
- Leap Frog's A Tad Of Christmas Cheer (2007)
- Christmas Is Here Again (2007)
- Shrek The Halls (2007)
- A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All. Contains both actual religious issues, and killer bears. (2008)
- A Muppets Christmas Letters To Santa (2008)
- Phineas And Ferb Christmas Vacation! (2009)
- Prep And Landing (2009)
- There are two specials based on the "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" letter. The first one dates to around 1975, and was directed by Bill Melendez of Peanuts fame (the special has a Charlie Brown-esque look to it). The second, more recent one, was made in 2009, and featured Alfred Molina as the editor of The New York Sun.
- Red vs. Blue often does holiday specials; in 2009, they made a 3-part special for Christmas.
- Strawberry Shortcake has two: Berry Merry Christmas (2003 continuity) and The Glimmerberry Ball Movie (2009 continuity).
- Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special (2010). Given the setting is ancient China, the producers use the Winter Festival instead for the occasion, which also makes the special applicable from American Thanksgiving to New Years in the future.
- Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas (2011)
- An Elf's Story (2011), adapted from the "Elf on the Shelf" book and doll (2011)
- Bitchin Kitchen (2011)
- Charlie And Lola had an episode with the siblings visiting the elves and saving Christmas.
- The Venture Brothers Christmas episode "A Very Venture Christmas" introduced the Krampus to much of America.
- The Adventures Of The League of S.T.E.A.M. had "The Fright Before Christmas".
- Ice Age gave us "A Mammoth Christmas"...with no explanation on how talking animals can celebrate a holiday honoring someone who wouldn't be born until long after the animals are dead.
- Explain the "Flintstones" multiple Christmas episodes and specials and you get the reason.
- Scooby Doo Haunted Holidays (2012)
- Winx Club has "A Magix Christmas", where Bloom teaches the other characters, who aren't from Earth, about Christmas.
- Abominable Christmas (2012)
- The Christmas Tree
- Bluetoes The Christmas Elf
- Holly Hobbie And Friends: Christmas Wishes: A rather more unusually traditional one for today's time, in a series that otherwise isn't overtly Christian. While it doesn't overtly pedal Christian religious themes, it does include a fully traditional Christian pageant, with an original manager song called "There's No Room at the Inn," and both Christian and non-Christian Christmas songs, such as "Jingle Bells" and "Oh Holy Night."