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Blog / The Island of Misfit Christmas Specials

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A piece of the index's backdrop, inspired by the "Grandpa's Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa" number from Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

"When Christmas Day is here, the most wonderful day of the year, these specials WON'T be eagerly devoured by yet another generation. If a Christmas special is never happy unless it is loved by a child, then these poor sick puppies must be in the bathroom cutting themselves. 99.9 percent of all new holiday specials fail—it's a cold fact. The reality is that in order to have staying power, a special has to hit exactly the right note of sentimentality and charm. No one can accomplish that by setting out to—it only happens through luck. Consequently, many of today's producers don't even try, figuring their work will be off the air in a couple years anyway and deciding they might as well write whatever they feel like writing. Many of the results from that train of thought (a train with square wheels) are littered throughout this page."
— Peter Paltridge's preface to the page prior to 2012.

The Island of Misfit Christmas Specials has been an annual feature at Platypus Comix since December 2006. Every year, Peter Paltridge reviews some Christmas Specials that don't receive much attention from the general public anymore. Some of these include gems that the major networks have stopped playing, but most of them simply don't measure up to the classics, to say the least. The majority of specials covered on this site are from the 70's through the 90's, though it has increasingly covered specials from the 2000's and even the 2010's; as of 2019 the oldest special covered is Cricket on the Hearth from 1967, and the newest is Anna and the Apocalypse from 2018. Among all the series of articles hosted at Platypus Comix, this probably has the most installments, even exceeding the comics themselves.


The Island of Misfit Christmas Specials provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • The review of For Better or for Worse: The Bestest Present dismisses most of the special as sappy and predictable, but praises some of Mike's snappy remarks.
    • Peter confesses when reviewing Lady Gaga & The Muppets' Holiday Spectacular that even though most people seem to hate the special, he ended up thinking it compared better to classic Muppet productions than most endeavors following Jim Henson's death do, with the caveat that viewers who dislike Lady Gaga probably won't enjoy it.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Peter accuses Ted E. Bear of this in the Christmas half of Ted E's Thanksgiving:
    Ted: I can't go down there....what can one bear do against all those monsters?
    Peter: They're "nothing," remember? I guess he doesn't remember.
  • Analogy Backfire: At the beginning of "Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration":
    To put the times in perspective, the late 80's were the peak of animator Will Vinton's career. Anything he made was instantly popular — the California Raisins, the Noid, a trippy movie about Mark Twain that didn't get a wide release -- well, almost everything.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Peter admits the following in his critique of a 1979 recording of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:
    I have yet to see an ad from the 1970's where anybody knew how to act.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A 2008 installment deems The Great Bear Scare "the King Moonraiser (sic) of the misfits" due to its very cheap animation and nonsensical story elements. Many of the networks that syndicated it didn't even air it during the proper holiday, as it was originally intended for Halloween:
    How do you do worse than broadcasting ON THE WRONG HOLIDAY?
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • Invoked in the review of the Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer special, when Peter displays the logo over a scene from the irrelevant "Grandma's Spending Christmas With the Superstars" number.
    • Invoked again in the review of John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together, in response to the scene in which Miss Piggy sings "Christmas is Coming" ad nauseum while other Muppets suddenly enter to join in.
      If this was 2010 I would call it a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, and....that's still the definition on TVTropes, so let's go with that.
  • Blah Blah Blah:
    • Peter summarizes the ending of The Wish That Changed Christmas like so:
      Ivy...gets her doll and her family and blah blah blah.
    • The review of The Cabbage Patch Kids' First Christmas replaces Xavier Roberts' speech about the Christmas Spirit with, "no, the Christmas Spirit is when you blah blah blah!"
  • Book-Ends: In a way. The first article related to Ted E. Bear is The Great Bear Scare. The third and final article is Ted E's Thanksgiving, which features a back-up Christmas story called Christmas Comes to Monster Mountain. Both of these specials feature Dracula as the Big Bad.
  • Buffy Speak: His take on the original songs in "A Walt Disney Christmas":
    "The holidaaaays are heeere, preseeeents and....sleigh riiiiides and....stuuuuuffffff...."
  • Call-Back:
  • Celebrity Endorsement: The review of A Mouse, a Mystery, and Me begins with a Drugs Are Bad PSA, in which gymnast Mary Lou Retton bowls with kids who sing about how she likes bowling, but doesn't like smoking. Peter then explains that each future review will end with the special in question facing similar approval or disapproval from her, and enthuses that "You won't find a system this reliable anywhere else." The first time Peter showed Mary Lou Retton enjoying a Misfit special occurred in the review of Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration, though he wasn't sure if that was actually the case. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street Broke the Rating Scale, as the first misfit that Mary Lou Retton gave her outright approval of ("It's SUPERcharged!", to borrow a quote from a 1984 Energizer commercial). After that, Peter reduced her appearances to occur on a more sporadic basis, until Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa killed her off. Since then, he has went to a variety of random things such as "Grave Twerker", Sugar Puffs' Honey Monster mascot, and Zombie Mary Lou Retton for their two cents on whatever special he just reviewed.
  • Christmas Creep: Mentioned in Snowden's Christmas. When Peter explains that Snowden the Snowman was once Target's traditional Christmas character whose presence officially means it's Christmas, Peter asides in parentheses, "So ideally, Snowden would start appearing in September, right?"
  • Clueless Aesop: Peter questions The Cabbage Patch Kids' First Christmas having a scene where the Kids sing that children shouldn't worry about their a girl who wears a leg brace, and presumably has mobility concerns that people shouldn't ignore.
  • Continuity Nod: A 2011 update to the menu (pictured above) added references to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Up on the Housetopnote , Robbie the Reindeer, The Great Bear Scarenote , and A Wish for Wings That Worknote .
  • Contrived Coincidences: Peter writes that he thought The Wish That Changed Christmas had too many of these.
    Hiro Nakamura teleports in from the future and remarks, "It is interesting how all our destinies are intertwining so perfectly, isn't it?" Sylar comes up from behind and eats Ivy's brain.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy:
    • invoked Peter presumes this as the reason Cricket on the Hearth fell into deeper obscurity than other Rankin/Bass Productions specials from The '60s. However, he sees potential for it to become a Cult Classic, considering how many other Christmas stories and movies gained fame by taking their heroes through despair, then triumph. Peter later brings the cartoon up again to contrast with ALF's Special Christmas, saying that the latter special's problem is that although it depicts a successful suicide prevention, its other tragic element — a Littlest Cancer Patient — is impossible to overcome. The best the show could end on is an Esoteric Happy Ending.
    • Peter cites this as the reason why Anne and the Apocalypse doesn't work. The attempts at Christmas-y antics (despite the zombie apocalypse going on around everyone) are severely undercut by the fact that it's still a typical zombie movie with all that genre entails, and it ends on a very uncertain note wherein most of the likable characters are dead and the surviving characters are not even sure what to do next.
      It's too early to tell if Anna and the Apocalypse will become a cult classic, but it's going to be difficult for it to find that cult. Because of how sad things unexpectedly get in its final act — which is NOT what you sign up for when you sit down to a zombie-themed Christmas musical from Scotland — it's not the kind of movie you can play at parties. Unless you just stopped the DVD when they reached the Christmas tree warehouse. Do that.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The review of the Magic Adventures of Mumfie Christmas episode closes on a short Filk Song that starts this way:
    Youare the Tangled-Antlered Reindeer
    Had Some Very Tangled Antlers
    And if you ever saw them
    You would say "Boy, those are some tangled antlers"
  • Designated Hero: invoked Peter labels Laura from The Twelve Wishes of Christmas as being one of these. He calls her out for using the wishes to fulfill her selfish desires and for being an unsympathetic person in general.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: In his review of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, he admits that the villain's lawyer bringing up the question of why Santa would commit a hit-and-run is a valid point that he did not expect the special, which he found otherwise execrable, to address.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Four of the first five reviews have incomplete plot summaries. (The first apparently used to have it since so little information existed about it at the time, but Peter rewrote the whole thing after coming into contact with the special's creator, who filled in a bit of Word of God.) Jingle Bell Rock and The Story of Santa Claus are justified, since Peter did not have either of these specials when he made their articles (all he had for Jingle Bell Rock was an advertisement for it) and was going from memory, admitting he didn't know how the reindeer were involved in The Story of Santa Claus.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: In Why the Bears Dance On Christmas Eve, Peter transcribes part of the bears' rallying song as, "Get it together, (unintelligible)!" (Justified since the only known copy of that special has slightly muffled audio so he had to work with what he could.)
  • Exact Words: How Peter describes seeing a A Merry Mirthworm Christmas at Blockbuster.
    By "seeing it" I mean I saw the cover. It was always there, resting on the Kids shelf, gathering dust.
  • Face Palm/Lame Pun Reaction: In reaction to a particularly shitty pun in The Great Bear Scare, Peter posts an image collage of various characters facepalming.
    *image stolen''
  • Franchise Original Sin: invoked The Cricket on the Hearth review takes time to note that a contrivance in the final scene, the miserly Tackleton undergoing a change of heart after receiving a compliment from the blind Bertha, came from original author Charles Dickens, and not from Rankin/Bass Productions.
  • Fridge Horror: invoked Peter finds some regarding the ending of The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas, in which Ted E. Bear gets adopted by a human girl who experienced Chuck Cunningham Syndrome in the sequels:
    ...uh, she must've died in between this special and Bear Scare. Or been kidnapped. Or maybe she grew up and left Ted E. behind in a box at Tri-County Charities.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: invoked When Peter comes across an ad for a Bill Cosby stand-up video on his copy of Siskel & Ebert Holiday Video Gift Guide, he sarcastically agrees that the video would make a good Christmas present. (In fact, the review was published not long after the allegations against Cosby came to light.)
    I hate knowing what I know now.
  • Glurge: invoked The site's general opinion of ALF's Special Christmas, with it subplot about a dying girl. No matter how happy they try to make the ending, that girl is still going to be dead not long after the show plays out. The fact that said girl was based on a real fan who died doesn't help.
  • Guilty Pleasures: Peter admits that Lady Gaga's music and videos are this in his review of hers and The Muppets' "Holiday Spectacular". He calls her music "snappy", comments on how she doesn't need/use Autotune to make her singing sound nice, and admires how daring she seems whenever she puts on weird costumes.
  • He Really Can Act: invoked
    • In the Hooves of Fire review, Peter praises Britney Spears' performance as Donner, despite normally disliking anything she's in.
    • He also has this to say about Don Knotts' turn as Professor Nidaros in The Little Troll Prince:
    In every other part I've seen Knotts play, he's a wide-eyed man with a shaky, yokely voice. He's making a completely different type of voice this time and it works; who knew the old coot had such range?
  • Hypothetical Casting: Peter recalls in his review of A Wish For Wings That Work that Bloom County creator Berke Breathed designated the late Sterling Holloway as his #1 choice to voice Opus. Peter admits personally finding that an inappropriate choice, but adds that he could relate to Breathed because of his unfulfilled desire for Brittany Murphy to voice Electric Wonderland's Aerynn Arlia.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: The review of the Bump in the Night episode "Twas the Night Before Bumpy" ends with the return of Mary Lou Retton, who Peter says loves the episode so much, her eyes bugged out like Bumpy's. Underneath the picture, Peter advises readers, "If you have no idea what this is about, go back a few pages."
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: In 2007, Peter consecutively reviewed two specials that copied It's a Wonderful Life: It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (reviewed here), and It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special (reviewed here).
  • It's Been Done: The "review" of The Star Wars Holiday Special only has two sentences (one if you don't count the header of the "Why was it such a misfit?" section) because negative reviews of the special had already become numerous by that time. It doesn't even get a "Why didn't it fit in?" section like the other specials. He did, however, do a write-up of the commercials that aired during it elsewhere on the Platypus Comix site.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: invoked Ever since its rediscovery, Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa was the most requested Misfit special for a few years. Peter noted that it's becoming more and more popular each year, and so he figured he'd hit the nail on the head before this trope began to set in. (Which became Hilarious in Hindsight anyway since the review was posted the same day The Nostalgia Critic and Phelous posted theirsnote .)
  • Mondegreen: Peter was hardly paying attention to Why the Bears Dance On Christmas Eve leading him to mishear "the evil Snurfs" as "the evil Smurfs".
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The Cricket on the Hearth review follows up an unexpectedly dark scene of the Big Bad shooting two of his Mooks with the words, "A Rankin-Bass Production". The gag is repeated in Mr. T and Emmanuel Lewis in A Christmas Dream when Billy shoots a group of toy soldiers (played by the Rockettes) with a cannon during a Dream Sequence.
    • The A Tom and Jerry Christmas review mostly involves reviews of various Christmas-themed MGM shorts (only one of which, "Night Before Christmas", actually involves Tom & Jerry) and poking fun at the hilariously cheesy framing sequences featuring two inexperienced kid actors who would clearly rather be anywhere else. It's after all of this lighthearted Christmas cheer that the special makes the rather odd choice to end on the very dark and kid-unfriendly Harman & Ising short Peace on Earth, a choice that leaves Peter himself floored.
  • Moral Event Horizon: invoked The review of Christopher the Christmas Tree has Peter reacting with horror when a fox and a weasel set Christopher on fire.
    [...] They bring out a cigarette lighter and SET HIM ON FIRE — HOLY COW. Making fun of Chris is one thing; trying to kill him is on another level.
  • Narm: invoked The review of Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July lampshades this by pointing out some "Golden Lines" that Peter found " bad [he] can't help but love."
  • Nausea Fuel: invoked Not any literal examples, but in the review of Lady Gaga and & The Muppets' Holiday Spectacular, Peter cites a need to avoid this as the reason he couldn't take a side in the debate over whether or not she deserved her Golden Globe for American Horror Story: Hotel, "since I have no plans of ever watching that, for reasons that I prefer shows that don't cause me to vomit."
  • Needs More Love: invoked Peter believes this of A Pinky and the Brain Christmas:
    [Why was it such a misfit?] Because there's no justice, that's why. If the world were fair, A Pinky and the Brain Christmas would be sitting on the same pedestal as Rudolph and the Grinch, forever beloved by children and adults alike. Yes. It's that good.
  • Nonindicative Name:
    • He accuses Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Party (aka Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree) of having one, since Mr. Willoughby/Willowby doesn't appear often, and only the last scene takes place during his Christmas party.
    • The review of A Merry Mirthworm Christmas makes it seem too depressing to have the word "mirth" in its title.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Peter uses this exact phrase, and a link to its TV Tropes page, in the Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July review, when explaining that the demise of King Winterbolt undoes all the effects of his magic.
  • Not Hyperbole: In his review of Chuck E. Cheese in The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, after describing how Nolan Bushnell's habit of starting new business and letting them run themselves screwed him over, Peter presents "a moving GIF that depicts the lovely animation in this cartoon with 100% accuracy". The GIF consists of an image of Chuck E. with two robots, and another image of Jasper T. Jowls with two robots. None of them are actually moving at all — not even dissolving from one pose to another a la The Great Bear Scare. As it turns out, the cartoon suffered a Troubled Production when Bushnell's Kadabrascope production company (which was supposed to animate the cartoon with motion tweens, a la Adobe Flash) went under, resulting in not only the animation sinking to the lowest end of the Sliding Scale of Animation Elaborateness, but also setting back computer animation for two decades.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer:
    • In his review of 12 Wishes of Christmas, Peter describes a scene where Noel reminds Laura of a bizarre dream she once had featuring people with forks for hands trying to eat food. He proceeds to provide a video of the scene "Just in case you think I'm making this up". He also says this when saying Laura and Eddie bond by sharing jokes, with Eddie having to explain his to Laura.
    • Also done in his review of The Great Bear Scare where Peter explains why some syndication markets aired the special on Christmas instead of Halloween and provides a TV schedule for proof.
  • Oh, Crap!: In Mr. T and Emmanuel Lewis in A Christmas Dream, Mr. T's character Benny calls in a friend named "Maureen", at one point. Peter initially fears an appearance by obscure Archie Comics character Marvelous Maureen, whose series Peter had panned earlier that same year. Instead, the special brings in Maureen McGovern (whom Peter refers to as simply "a middle aged woman", because his copy was missing the opening credits).
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Peter jokes about pondering if Kristen Bell agreed to do Lady Gaga & The Muppets' Holiday Spectacular under the promise of sloths, then wonders "if she's tired of 'sloth' remarks yet. (Too bad, Bell; this is the rest of your life.)" (The joke here is that Bell has a huge Cuteness Proximity to sloths, to the point where she was cast as one in a cameo in Zootopia.)
  • Panty Shot: During David Copperfield's cameo in Mr. T and Emmanuel Lewis in A Christmas Dream, in which he does magic tricks for a little girl, he asks her if she has a boyfriend, and Peter chimes in to comment, "At this point she lifts up her skirt completely. Wasn't cut out."
  • Person as Verb: From the Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer review:
    "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Jake Darth Vaders.
  • The Power of Love: Decried by Peter as "THE MOST FOREHEAD-SLAPPING, BRAIN-BASHING, DUMBEST SOLUTION EVER" in Raggedy Ann and Andy in The Great Santa Claus Caper.
  • Product Placement: Peter's copy of Shrek the Halls is a first-run airing that includes a tie in commercial for Energizer featuring the Shrek cast. He initially mistook it for an actual scene in the special.
  • Sequel Hook: The review of Robbie the Reindeer in Legend of the Lost Tribe, closes with mention of a third Robbie special.
    Did it keep up the streak? …You'll find out someday…
  • Sequelitis: invoked
  • Shout-Out: See ShoutOut.Platypus Comix
  • Smurfing: This bit from A Merry Mirthworm Christmas:
    "Wormaline is chairworm of worm festivals in Wormingham, and every time Bert Worm worms things up, Wormaline gets wormier and wormier, until worm worm wormy worm-worm WORM!"
  • So Bad, It's Good:invoked According to him, A Mouse, a Mystery, and Me is this because of the ludicrous plot twists and silly elements (teenage girl who's a famous author, talking cartoon mouse) that are just there without explanation.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • In 2010, Peter announced that he would take a break from reviewing rare specials by writing an article about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the most rerun Christmas special of all time. Instead of giving an actual review of Rudolph, the article shares and critiques some commercials found on his recording of a 1979 telecast, as well as the edits that CBS made to the special.
    • The reviews for The Twelve Wishes of Christmas, Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, Yogi's First Christmas, Anna and the Apocalypse', and Twice Upon a Christmas'' bear the header, "The Island of Misfit Christmas MOVIES", because, to quote the first review, "It takes four times as much commitment to sit through a bad Christmas movie as it does to sit through a bad Christmas special."
    • Anna and the Apocalypse itself is the first-ever theatrical film covered under the Misfit Specials banner.
    • Peter's coverage of The Flight Before Christmas notes that most of the Christmas Specials he reviews are in two extremes, saccharineinvoked and stupid, or "edgy" and un-cuddly. The Flight Before Christmas is different as it's actually an Epic Movie.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Peter sums up the Green Aesop of Why the Bears Dance on Christmas Eve as "When you throw that wrapper on the ground, YOU'RE KILLING CHRISTMAS."
  • Take That!:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: invoked Peter admits that when he first heard that Twice Upon a Christmas (and its preceding movie, Once Upon a Christmas) involved Santa Claus having an evil daughter, Rudolfa, who wanted to destroy Christmas, he thought it would be a refreshing change of pace from the many other Christmas movies involving Santa having a child or relative who is largely a good egg and helps Santa save Christmas. Alas, Once/Twice Upon a Christmas still has a good daughter, Rudolfa's foil Kristin, who fills in the usual cliche "Santa's relative" role.
  • Trade Snark: The review of Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen does this to lampoon the frequent and obvious Product Placements seen in the special. The review for An Elf's Story also does this to a lesser extent since it's an obvious tie-in to the Elf on the Shelf toy.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:invoked After showing a still of a Jane Fonda workout tape commercial from his copy of Siskel & Ebert Holiday Video Gift Guide, which states that the video is available at Erol's Video, Musicland, Tower Records, and Waldenbooksnote , Peter quips: "Notice how nothing in this screenshot applies to modern life."
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:invoked Peter feels this way about Youare from Mumfie's White Christmas, one of Santa's reindeer that gets passed over year after year. As Peter points out, stealing Santa's sleigh and hitting a bird with it doesn't make him any more likeable.
  • The Un-Twist: invoked
    • Regarding the mysterious old man from Cricket on the Hearth:
      ...everyone watching can guess easily that it's gotta be [Bertha's lost boyfriend] Edward Belton in costume. These plot elements were fresher a century and a half ago. I think.
    • Also in the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas special, an old woman shows up in the special's Darkest Hour to solve its primary conflict (i.e. buying Alvin a harmonica he can't afford so he can play a concert... It's a Long Story), at precisely the exact moment Santa would have arrived to fix everything. So the woman must be Mrs. Claus... and indeed, she turns out to be that. Peter insists that it's not hard to figure that out.
  • Values Resonance: invoked In the Ted E's Thanksgiving review, Peter considers the plot, where Ted wants to make a float for the town Thanksgiving parade but has his plans shot down as floats have to be sponsored by a major corporation to be in said parade, as fitting of this trope.
    If this was a subtle commentary on the business-driven modern Macy's Parade, it's even more true today.
  • Wangstinvoked:
  • Waxing Lyrical:
  • The Woobie: invoked Peter calls Fozzie this in his review of John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together, since the special Played for Laughs his inability to remember the lyrics of "The Twelve Days of Christmas".
  • Written Sound Effect:
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Peter's reaction when 12 Wishes of Christmas features a Yoda quote that was explained is, "Are they joking?"


How well does it match the trope?

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