Overlooked Christmas Specials
December 9th, 2014
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. You know, I started to think about all the Christmas specials that don't get that much attention, and then I started to think about the ones that probably deserve not to get that much attention, but still have a few scenes that should be looked at anyway, and then I started to think about Texas Roadhouse.
(An image of a Texas Roadhouse is shown briefly)
NC: No... particular reason, I was just hungry. And then I realized, rather than do, like, a Top 11 list or just choose one special to talk about, I decided I'm gonna talk about the specials that deserve more attention and, even better, talk about the specials that maybe aren't great beginning to end, but still deserve to be looked at for one or two great scenes.
(Footage of various Christmas specials are shown)
NC (vo): Because so much can be done with Christmas that, even if the special isn't popular or even that good, there can still be great, wonderful stuff that's still worth mentioning. The only condition is, I'm gonna try and not talk about the ones I've already discussed in my two Best Christmas Specials lists, because, well, I've talked about them already, and you can go check out those videos for themselves. This is just a look at some Christmas specials and Christmas scenes that probably deserve more attention than they get.
NC: With that said, let's take a look at one of my favorite Christmas specials that always warms the heart with its kindness and humble nature. (beat) I'm, of course, talking about RiffTrax.
(Footage of the RiffTrax Christmas Show is shown)
Mike Nelson: (addressing the audience) Insincere kisses to you all! (blows a kiss)
Bill Corbett: Indeed!
NC (vo): In 2009, RiffTrax did an event riffing Christmas shorts in front of a live audience. They even got Weird Al Yankovic in on it. Aside from the comments being hilarious – hell, it is RiffTrax – the overall atmosphere is 100% Christmas, from the sweaters they wear to the shorts they watch and, of course, the hilarious commentary.
(A black and white cartoon is shown: toy Indians attacking a spider holding a doll in its arms)
Riffer: Before Dances With Wolves, this was the most dignified portrait of Native Americans ever filmed.
NC (vo): RiffTrax is usually funny enough on their own, but to have a live audience listen and laugh along with you just makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
(Footage of a black and white film is shown: a young girl is asleep in bed)
Bill Corbett: And that adorable girl grew up to be a beautiful woman... named Orlando Bloom.
NC (vo): There's even a scene where the audience laughs so hard that they dropped three jokes because of how long it dragged out.
(Cut to footage of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon: Santa is addressing Rudolph in the latter's bed)
Santa: I need you tonight...
Kevin Murphy: Whoa!
(The audience laughs, making the cartoon audio and the riffers' dialog barely audible)
Riffer: It was worth every moment!
NC (vo): If you feel bad for missing it, don't worry, (a shot of the RiffTrax Christmas Shorts-stravaganza DVD pops up) it's still available on DVD and streaming. It's definitely the perfect combination of joy and cynicism.
(A clip of a black-and-white film is shown: Santa spreads his arms toward a Christmas tree)
Riffer: (as Santa) You shall not pass! (audience laughs)
NC: Cynicism is often a big factor in a lot of Adult Swim shows, and nowhere is that more prominent than Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
(Footage of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Christmas episode is shown)
Master Shake: Is that the plague of snakes I asked for?
NC (vo): Yeah, this isn't as much a Christmas special from beginning to end, but that accidentally becomes a Christmas special simply through bad events. Meatwad gets a magic T-shirt that can grant him whatever he wants. He wishes for the Easter Bunny, the Easter Bunny's twin brother...
Easter Bunny's twin brother: Darrel!
NC (vo): ...and then finally, Santa. After accidentally burning his flesh off – don't ask – it out-of-nowhere ends with our trio trying to save Christmas. This is so funny, because it's not built up as a Christmas special, it just kind of happens out of nowhere. In a strange way, that makes it one of the funniest setups ever, one that didn't even know at the beginning it was going to be Christmas-related. The fact that it's so out of the blue just makes it all the more hilarious.
Santa: My skin... (groans; sobs) Oh, God!
Frylock: It's okay, it's okay, Santa, just take your time.
NC: Something similar can be said also about Bad Santa.
(Footage of Bad Santa is shown)
Willie: Are you saying there's something wrong with my gear?
Bob Chipeska: I'm sorry, your gear?
Willie: My fuck stick!
NC (vo): Now, obviously, this is going to have something to do with Christmas, but the film itself is so mean, so depressing, and so not carrying traditional Christmas messages that it's hard not to be intrigued by how miserable it is.
Willie: Four kids beat me up one time, and I went crying home to my daddy, and you know what he did?
Kid: He made it all better?
Willie: No, he kicked my ass.
NC (vo): The lengths it'll go in its mean-spirited nature is the focus of where all the comedy comes from. It gets so mean-spirited that even when the main character does something that's still horribly bad, but for a good reason, we accept it as some sort of Christmas miracle. Still, if you're up for the height of unconventional, Bad Santa is definitely one to check out.
Willie: You know why?
Kid: Because you went to the bathroom on mommy's dishes?
Willie: What the fuck?
NC: But for every insanely depressing Christmas special, there's always gonna be an insanely positive Christmas special. And that's where Pee-wee Herman comes in.
(Footage of the Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas special is shown)
NC (vo): His Christmas special is another one that isn't groundbreaking or doing anything that new. Hell, if anything, it borrows and satirizes from a lot of other traditional specials, but it does it in such a crazy and bizarre way, it's hard not to enjoy it. It's like Pee-wee's putting all these things in his special because he hears this is what you're supposed to put in specials. The majority of celebrity appearances are almost completely pointless, yet there's just so many that keep popping up all over the place. Hi, Cher! Bye, Cher! Hi, Magic Johnson! Bye, Magic Johnson! How strange is that? It's so bizarre, but at the same time, it's so Christmas. Look at all the detail of these sets; they're obviously fake, but they're just so colorful and hammering in the holiday atmosphere. When I think an abundance of Christmas, this is the first special that pops into mind.
Pee-wee: (holding up the secret word of the day) Today's secret word is "year". (everybody screams at the secret word, much to Cher's embarrassment)
NC (vo): If you're into over-the-top stuff like me, this is definitely a classic to look at.
NC: (waving dismissively) But hell with the positive stuff! You want to see mean-spirited shit again. How about a giant robotic Santa killing people?
(A scene from the Futurama episode, "Xmas Story", is shown, with Robot Santa's face slowly turning from happy to angry)
Robot Santa: Ho... ho... ho!
(Footage from both Futurama Xmas episodes are shown)
NC (vo): Futurama definitely has a creative take on the future, and one of the funniest is how Christmas is actually a time to keep indoors and stay with your family, not because of love and goodwill, but because there's a psychotic Robot Santa who kills anyone that's outside on Christmas night... or, sorry, they pronounce it "Xmas night".
Robot Santa: I'm going to shove coal so far up your stocking, you'll be coughing up diamonds!
NC (vo): It's just funny to see a joyful holiday being spent running for your lives away from a blood-hungry mental case. Sharp teeth and gunfire? What's not to love? It's definitely a fun, psychotic little romp to look at.
Robot Santa: Look out, Earth. I'm dreaming of a red Xmas.
NC: But like I said before. There's good stuff to find in specials that even aren't that good.
(Footage from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is shown)
NC (vo): Home Alone, for example, is a holiday classic, but Home Alone 2? Even the people who made it admit it was a cash-in on the last movie. But even with that, there's still some really great scenes in it. Some of the acting is still funny, the shots of Christmas in New York is nicely done, and let's be honest, Tim Curry makes this movie.
Mr. Hector (Tim Curry): (various scenes) Housekeeping. / Piz-za. / Uh...? / Have a lovely day.
NC (vo): As far as I'm concerned, when his scenes are over, you can stop watching the film. He just owns every scene that he's in. I think that image of the Grinch transforming into his smug smile is ingrained in everybody's head now. How can you not think of him whenever you see that scene again?
Mr. Hector: I love you!
NC: Hell, I actually even enjoy watching the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas special.
(Footage of the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas special is shown, mostly the background)
NC (vo): Not for the story, which is cheesy but harmless, but simply for the backgrounds. Look at these! These are just so golden and warm! I could watch this special on mute and still be totally happy. Not to mention, animation legend Chuck Jones did the character designs.
(Footage of The Grinch is briefly shown)
NC (vo): And speaking of which, did you know that outside of The Grinch, Chuck Jones did another Christmas special?
(A poster of Raggedy Ann & Andy: The Great Santa Claus Caper is shown)
NC (vo): Well, okay, two, but... yeah, what the fuck was that?
(Footage of A Very Merry Cricket is shown)
NC (vo): I'm talking specifically about A Very Merry Cricket. Yeah, cheesy title, I know, and technically a sequel to A Cricket In Times Square, and yes, even suffering from the Home Alone 2 syndrome of rehashing the same plot. Despite all that, it still ends on a very strong and uplifting finale. Again, maybe too similar to the first one, but the artwork to the tie into Christmas still makes it totally worth the search. I can look at the drawing style in both of these endings all day; they're just so nicely done.
NC: Another city-based comedy I'm surprised isn't getting any more attention around Christmas is Tokyo Godfathers.
(Footage of Tokyo Godfathers is shown)
NC (vo): Directed by another late animation legend, Satoshi Kon, three homeless people – a transgender woman, a runaway teenager, and an out-of-work alcoholic – try to confront their past that have been haunting them while also trying to figure out the location of a baby's parents who was left in a dumpster. It's a weird setup, to say the least, and I'm sure a lot of people are thinking it's another Three Men and a Baby scenario. But it's actually a very dark, very surreal, yet still surprisingly uplifting film that's totally crazy, but so embraces the crazy. It's one of those films that never goes quite too corny, but also never goes quite too mean, either. It's the perfect balance of dark reality mixed with hopeful enlightenment. Very similar to A Christmas Carol in that way.
NC: (looking up in thought briefly) In fact, that's another one that deserves more attention. (Posters of various Christmas Carol adaptations are shown with the caption "Really????") Okay, okay, maybe not Christmas Carol in general, but the first one I ever saw, which, strangely enough, starred Mickey Mouse.
(Footage of Mickey's Christmas Carol is shown)
NC (vo): Yeah, that's right, Mickey friggin' Mouse! You'd think this be doomed to be some sort of bland commercial tie-in, but, especially for its short running time, it's a damn impressive telling of the Dickens classic. I mean, come on, Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge? How much more fitting can you get?
Scrooge: Any jackanapes who thinks else should be... boiled in his own pudding!
NC (vo): But it isn't just squeezing Disney characters into famous roles, it actually captures the essence of the story in a short amount of time and has you legitimately care about what's going on. The sad scenes, though quick, are really, really sad. Have you ever seen Mickey Mouse cry before? It's pretty fucked up! Trust me when I say, it might be short, but they take advantage of every moment they got, just like the Disney spirit should.
NC: Finally, I'm going to discuss a new Christmas classic that I may have discussed before, but nevertheless, everyone deserves to see– (a caption is shown in yellow, saying "It's Arthur Christmas, isn't it?") Yes, it's Arthur Christmas! (audience boos; NC points at camera) Fuck you! It's amazing!
(Footage of Arthur Christmas is shown)
NC (vo): I've already done a whole editorial around it, so if you want more details, you can always check that out, but for a quick sum-up, it has some of the most fastly-paced and inventive comedy ever associated with the Santa mythos. But not only is it funny as hell and throws a ton of jokes at you, but it also has the same wonderful spirit and character, story and its visual style that any great Christmas classic should have. I've gone on and on about before, but if you haven't seen it yet, definitely do yourself a favor and check it out this year.
NC: So even if a Christmas special isn't fantastic from beginning to end, it's still worth checking out for some of its moments because... they're just such great moments.
(Cut to more footage of the Christmas specials featured in this video)
NC (vo): And I'm sure these aren't it for the unknown Christmas classics that need more attention. So much material is made year after year that I'm sure I've overlooked a ton. Go ahead and leave in the comments below which Christmas specials you think got overlooked, which moments you think are some of the best, and keep drawing attention to those heartwarming classics that make us appreciate this heartwarming holiday.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it BECAUSE IT'S CHRISTMAS!!! (dances out of his chair to a heavy metal version of "The First Noel", which plays over the credits)