The holidays are a time of anxiety for many of us, particularly TV executives. After all, how do you show your network has that festive spirit? The result is some of the oddest programming ever to hit the airwaves, as celebrities, space creatures and everyone else make merry in the strangest ways possible…
Christmas with The Martins and The Sinatras (1967)
Frank and Dino demonstrate what the holidays are all about: using your show biz clout to get your kids on TV. If you ever wanted to hear the Sinatra and Martin clans ham their way through a tune from The Sound of Music, merry Christmas!
The Johnny Cash Christmas Special (1976-79)
The Man in Black’s specials boast everything from summoning seemingly every iconic southern singer alive to perform “Silent Night” to comic sketches with Johnny, June Carter and Andy Kaufman doing his “Foreign Man” character doing Santa Claus.
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
A Wookie watches a cooking show. Future Golden Girl Bea Arthur shows up and sticks around much longer than expected. Princess Leia sings. Somehow it lasts 97 minutes. Happy Life Day, everyone.
John Denver and the Muppets: Christmas Together (1979)
While downright sane compared to the madness of the Star Wars Holiday Special, it’s still odd to realize that Miss Piggy is apparently trying to fuck the “Country Roads” singer.
Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1979)
Most productions of the Dickens classic use more than one actor, because they lack impressionist Rich Little. First Little pretends to be a celebrity, then he has that celebrity play a character. This results in W.C. Fields’ Scrooge facing off with Richard Nixon’s Jacob Marley, except it’s all one guy. Lesson: HBO was different before The Sopranos.
A Christmas Dream (1984)
Mr. T teaches TV’s Webster to believe in Christmas. We pity the fool who doesn’t take the time to watch its Flemish TV promo.
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
Yep, a cartoon based on a line of toys pays tribute to the holiday when parents buy their kids stuff. And the Mattel executives rejoiced.
My Two Dads: “Tis the Season” (1987)
This sitcom with a slightly implausible premise—a judge sentences two men who might be an orphan’s father to raise her together—and a cast including Paul Reiser and NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus outdid itself in this special episode, setting a standard for unconvincing Christmas carol lip-syncing that may never be matched.
Kathie Lee’s Rock N’ Tots Cafe: Christmas “Giff”(1995)
In 1997, we lost Biggie. In 1996, we lost Tupac. In 1995, we may have lost rap itself when Kathie Lee announced, “Come on, let’s hip-hop!” before launching into a b-girl version of “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: “I’m Dreaming of a White Ranger” (1995)
At the risk of being harsh, their take on “Silent Night” is slightly less good than the Johnny Cash one.