My Christmas Special Fives

Welcome to a very special post featuring My Five Favorite Christmas Specials! You can't see it, but the word “special” is totally spinning around in my brain the way it did in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Some of you know what I'm talking about; others are just nodding in fearful agreement. In any case, these are somewhat in order, counting down to my absolute favorite, and there probably won't be too many surprises here::

5) Christmas with the Joker:
You know, when it first aired, this was probably my least favorite episode of the otherwise dark and brilliant Batman: The Animated Series. If I wanted a Christmas special, I could look elsewhere, and the fact that it first aired more than a month and a half prior to the holiday didn't help put me in a festive mood. While other episodes stand out as the best in the series overall, this one has since grown on me and earned a place in my heart as a classic. I can't overlook one of the earliest examples of Mark Hamill establishing himself as a talented voice actor and the definitive voice for the animated Joker, especially in an episode in which he gets to sing this classic:

4) The Tick Loves Santa!:
Yes, I'm listing another animated series from the ‘90s, because I miss the hilarious brilliance that was The Tick, a witty and well-written satire of the superhero genre that would later be marred by an extremely short-lived live series. I think the animated version could have worked in primetime, but alas I'll have to be content with the 36 existing episodes, including a Christmas one that, as I recall, aired once or twice in primetime after the Saturday morning series was canceled. In it, The Tick has the moral dilemma of dealing with Multiple Santa, a villain dressed as his favorite holiday icon. What's a superstrong hero with a childlike demeanor and intellect to do?

3) Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire:
This special has the double distinction of not only being a Christmas episode, but the first episode of The Simpsons as a full-length series! They've done several Christmas episodes in the 20(!) years since, some better than others, and with improved animation. Though crudely drawn and faded with time, this is an old friend that has a lot of heart behind a more realistic slightly dysfunctional family. What happens when a father doesn't have money to buy presents? Will Christmas be ruined? Or will a family find a new friend? It's hard to believe the answers to those questions and more have lasted for over two decades.

2) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:
As we get into specials that first aired well before I was born, this one by ten years, you'll notice an increase in quality and less hyperbole in my use of the word “classic”. Indeed, there's not a child or adult in America that hasn't been exposed to this Rankin/Bass stop-animation classic. It's a heartwarming tale of outcasts finding kinship and purpose, all wrapped together with the lyrical and narrative stylings of one Burl Ives. Bumbles bounce and misfit toys find their fit, and though I might die a little when I see the concept commercialized, all it takes is the warmth and beauty of the original to wash away the feeling.

1) A Charlie Brown Christmas:
I go back and forth between this one and Rudolph being my favorite, but ultimately this is the one tradition that I gravitate to the most. I even included the definitive clip in yesterday's post. Every time things seem too commercialized, or I see a small tree with a lot of potential, I think about this half hour of miracles, and the wisdom out of the mouths of babes, and smile.



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