“Specials”

A few years ago, I wrote a short Christmas story in which (nutshell version) fifteen-year-old Al Fischer spends the holiday enthusiastically telling his family everything he loves about the Christmas season.

By purist coincidence (or not…), Al and his author have similar ideas about Christmas. And he’ll be pleased to know that I’ve decided to commemorate our mutual obsession here on Ever On Word by dedicating a series of blog posts to The Top 10 Reasons Christmas Rocks My World.

* * *

#9: Specials

            Child Danielle watched a lot of television (often while engaged in creative pursuits like making ventriloquist dummies out of paper and scotch tape, so don’t hate.) She found plenty to entertain her on the public access channels available in her home, but in her deepest heart of hearts, she longed for cable. Happily, her maternal grandparents had more cable channels than Child Danielle knew what to do with. Trips to Nana and Papa’s house for Christmas, then, were thrice wonderful: One for the family, two for the cable, and three for a little something known as “a single television production that features a specific work, a given topic, or a particular performer” thereon – better known, perhaps, as a “special”.

            Christmas specials on the Cartoon Network made the Saturday morning fare of my mother’s generation good as new, in my eyes. Every year, I watched the Flintstones put on pageants, and Yogi Bear throw a party with various other Hanna-Barbera characters I only recognized because they kept showing up for Christmas, and there were Smurfs, and random trolls, and… well, my brain’s done me a favor by chucking most of those memories to make room for more worthwhile things. But a lot of it, I do recall, had to do with helping Santa Claus and saving Christmas.

            Kinda hilarious, really, how many of these Christmas specials revolve around saving Christmas. ‘Twould seem that three-hundred-ninety-four days a year just isn’t enough time to take precautions against every conceivable trip-up. Inclement weather could call for a mutant reindeer to step in and lead the gift-transport team; Santa could break his neck falling from a rooftop and need an emergency replacement, or – perhaps less dire, if no less inconvenient – find himself entangled in a lawsuit involving a hit-and-run with someone’s grandmother. You can’t make this stuff up, people. (Scarier still, you don’t have to: Somebody already established these outrageous plotlines in movies and/or songs.)

            Not all Christmas crises have such global ramifications, however. Sometimes it’s as personal as concern that a beloved family member may not be present for the holiday’s special plans; or that an old Englishman may die alone and hated because three spirits weren’t enough to brighten his (spirit, that is); or that a young girl may not be able to see a production of the “Nutcracker” ballet because her teacher’s magic school bus accidentally un-recycled itself. Smaller dramas, perhaps, but every bit as important to the people involved.

            Generally predictable. Usually corny. Often as implausible as it gets (as a fellow blogger recently noted, “Life Isn’t a Hallmark Movie“). But always special.

            Do share, readers: Which are your favorite Christmas season-centric television specials?

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2 thoughts on ““Specials”

  1. My favorites, as a kid, were “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and “Yogi Bear’s First Christmas”. (Mr. Magoo was at the time only vaguely familiar to me outside his Christmas special, but Yogi and his Jellystone-based picnic-basket-related antics I was well acquainted with.) I also enjoyed the old stop-motion Rudolph and the animted Frosty. But probably my most favorite (and the hardest to find, these days) is a Frosty-like animated tale called simply “The Snowman” which had no dialog at all, and was accompanied solely by beautiful, haunting music. (I’ve since found cover versions of the signature musical piece from the special, called “Walking in the Air”.)

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate other Christmas specials (and new ones continue to be made each year, some of which are very good and warrant yearly re-watching). Beside’s Mr. Magoo’s turn as Scrooge, for instance, there’s, well, Scrooge’s turn (i.e. he of the McDuck fortune), and there’s the Muppets, and there’s a good number of others. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is now a favorite of mine. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed “The Santa Clause” (although the third film in that franchise was fairly execrable) and both the old animated and new live-action “Grinch” renditions. A good number of all these are on my viewing list for this yar.

    I’ve never been a fan of the “Halmark” or “Lifetime Special” style movies, and that includes the Christmas versions.

    • *ga-a-asp* “The Snowman”! We owned (maybe still own?…) the VHS! Beautiful and haunting indeed!
      The Rudolph and Frosty videos got watched a lot, too, way back when. And these days, Christmas Eve wouldn’t seem quite complete for my sisters and me without watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” late into the night. (:

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