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The Worst Ever Holiday TV Specials, Ranked, And How To Watch Them

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Everyone knows that Star Wars Holiday Special is a very, very terrible Christmas show. But what other incredibly bad ideas were made into holiday specials? And are they equally as bad as the Star Wars Holiday Special? We watched about 20 hours of truly awful holiday programming to determine which TV Christmas specials are truly the worst ever made.

Of course, some of these Christmas specials are so bad they’re good. As such, we have added a “good/bad” metric to these descriptions, as some of the shows feature unintentionally brilliant moments of holiday horribleness. 

RUDOLPH AND FROSTY’S CHRISTMAS IN JULY (1979)

If it’s July, then Frosty would be dead, and so would the extended snowperson family they created for him, the first of many insane logic problems in this inexplicable Christmas-4th of July crossover special. (And honestly, are there two more incompatible holidays?) This was the end of the line for Rankin-Bass, who had a brilliant run of holiday specials that created a cinematic universe wherein Santa, Baby Jesus, the Easter Bunny, Little Drummer Boy, and Baby New Year were all contemporaries who would regularly interact. But this overly long, convoluted origin story of Rudolph’s shiny-nose capabilities is their most implausible and boring one of the bunch.

Is it Good/Bad? Any Rankin-Bass special has technically well-produced stop-motion animation. This one has some kick-ass dragons, and does reprise Mickey Rooney as Santa, with cameo voice appearances by Red Buttons and Ethel Merman.

How to Watch: Warner Bros. is shockingly protective of this copyright, so you have to rent it on Youtube for $2.99

MR. T AND EMMANUEL LEWIS IN ‘A CHRISTMAS DREAM’

I pity the fool that has to watch this Mr. T Christmas special! I kid, I kid. The plot of this program is incredibly stupid and tiresome, with Emmanuel Lewis as a kid who’s not fuckin’ feeling Christmas this year so Mr. T cheers him up with a stream of underwhelming celebrity cameos. But the show is brimming with glorious 80s badness. It features a potpourri of stars who do not logically fit the story arc, like David Copperfield, the Rockettes, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, and New York mayor Ed Koch, who as sitting mayor should have had better things to do than Mr. T Christmas specials. It is also features Mr. T having a conversation with a ventriloquist dummy version of himself, which magnificently goes like this: 

Ventriloquist Dummy Mr T: Oh yeah? I only got one thing to say to you, fool.

Mr. T: And what’s that?

Ventriloquist Dummy Mr T: Merry Christmas.

 

Is it Good/Bad? The 80s commercials in the Youtube rip we embedded here (Hungry Jack Biscuits, Cuisinart food processor, Casio digital synthesizer) have sensational nostalgia value. All of the musical numbers blow ass, but Mr. T is occasionally funny, though he sure seems to wish he was doing something else.

How to Watch: Free on Youtube

HE-MAN AND SHE-RA: A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (1985)

Mattel action figure franchise He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was at the height of its 1980s popularity, so they figured ‘Fuck it, Christmas special, why not?.’ The premise here is that incompetent empty-robe sidekick Orko has fucked up and accidentally transported two English-speaking white Earth children to the He-Planet of Eternia, and all manner of dimensional travel and interplanetary magic are required o get the little yousgters home. Skeletor does a very uplifting hero turn near the end, so that’s unique. 

Is it Good/Bad? It is a standard episode of He-Man, just with 15 minutes of unrelated Christmas subplot added to the mix. It is watchable to He-Man and She-Ra fans.

How to Watch: Free on Youtube

GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER (2000)

Sure, the image above is funny, but this show is not. That song you loved in third grade was turned into an animated special roughly 20 years after its popularity, so it’s puzzling what demographic this program is aimed at. Despite being based on a novelty song, there are no real attempts at humor in this special, though the use of the pun “sleighicular negligence” late in the show is mildly amusing.

Is it Good/Bad? It is simply terrible and without redeeming  ironic qualities. Being a children’s cartoon, it sidesteps grandma’s death and instead pushes that alternate narrative that she was merely missing for several months, which undermines the gallows humor of the source material. 

How to Watch: Free on CWtv

STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL

The Star Wars Holiday Special richly deserves its reputation as the absolute worst of them all, mostly because the expectations were so high for it. The entire A-list cast of Star Wars is in the show, and it was our first look at Boba Fett — a development which I can personally assure you very much excited the action figure collecting community of the day. But Bea Arthur and Art Carney are hopelessly misused, though Harvey Korman at least attempts to be funny, and the high-profile addition of Jefferson Starship is ruined because Grace Slick had just quit the band. The badness of this show forever influenced how Star Wars would be tightly franchised for the remainder of its existence.

Is it Good/Bad? Oh, it is BAD/BAD! But the animated Boba Fett segment does deliver on its promise, and the Diahann Carroll number above is notable because it wildly inappropriately depicts wookie grandfather looking at porn in a children’s show.  

How to Watch: Free on Youtube

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Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura- Millionaire in Training

Joe Kukura is a two-bit marketing writer who excels at the homoerotic double-entendre. He is training to run a full marathon completely drunk and high, and his work has appeared in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal on days when their editors made particularly curious decisions.

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