Christmas is that special time of year when films get irritating, but then, so do a lot of TV shows.
We’ve all sat through them, the series Christmas Special. Some of them just make you seethe, especially the sickly sweet sentimental ones. But not every Christmas special is unbearable, so here, in no particular order, are ten of the better ones, all from American television shows.
Tru Calling, a series about a girl - Tru (Eliza Dushku) - who the dead ask for help, and then the clock rewinds so she can attempt to save the corpses life. The show got more interesting when Jason Priestley turned up as Jack Harper, her equal and opposite. There’s plenty of rivalry and tension, and the Christmas episode “’Twas the Night Before Christmas… Again” brings the storylines together, which is kind of just as well as it turned out to be the last episode ever.
It is however a good one that is well worth the view. The only thing I don’t get is that Tru says she believes that “No one should be alone on Christmas Eve.” Now surely that should be no one should be alone on Christmas Day? But I guess that wouldn’t really work for this show.
Since we’re already in the supernatural realm, let’s visit the boys from Kansas for “A Very Supernatural Christmas” - from Supernatural season three. The episode starts with a ‘Santa’ being dragged up a chimney. Other people start disappearing, so it's not long until Dean and Sam ride into town, following the Meadow Sweet trail all the way to some Pagen Gods who would set your teeth on edge with their all-American sweet-as-apple-pie exterior.
The boys visit the shop selling the wreaths in which the Meadow Sweet is set, and the shop keeper has one of the best lines ever. Although he was given the wreaths for free he sold them at a high price because, ‘It’s Christmas, people pay a butt load for this crap.’ So true.
This episode also contains the worst caroling ever (from the Winchesters), a glimpse into the boys lives as children, the neglect, the love, and the origin of the Samulet.
My daughter introduced me to Community by showing me three Christmas episodes. Now I admit by this point in that particular evening, I had had a glass or two of wine, but I re-watched stone cold sober and I still think this series is some seriously weird stuff.
The first Christmas special from 2009 was “Comparative Religion”. In it Shirley, the groups resident homemaker, throws a Christmas party, but the various backgrounds and religious views of her classmates throw a spanner in her works. When finally things come to a head, she comes out with the most wonderful line as she hefts a giant candy cane and shouts the line ‘It’s December tenth!’ before she hits the episodes bad guy.
In 2010 came “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” - fun in claymation. Chevy Chase never looked cuter than as a teddy bear. Anyway, here the gang tries to teach Abed the true meaning of Christmas.
Then in 2011 they gave us “Regional Holiday Music” a shameless parody of Glee. Now I will admit that I was into my cups as it were, but what on Earth were the writers injecting to get this stuff? Whatever it was, it lead to the worse take on Doctor Who since Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure - Inspector Space Time. I’m not going to explain this, it has to be seen to be believed...
If you like that then the episode with Matt Lucas when they go to the “Conventions of Space and Time” is well worth checking out.
Next show on the list is Warehouse 13, and an episode called “Secret Santa”, featuring a new twist on the whole Christmas Carol story in this ‘Artifactmas’. This is also a tale of family, the first Christmas Claudia has spent ‘with people’, so she tries to mend a certain family relationship, having to tell each of the warring factions that the other is dying. Of course they find out she’s lied, but it’s still worth a watch.
That was from 2010, then the following year Warehouse 13 gave us “The Greatest Gift”. Those with a real literary knowledge might even know that this is the story on which It’s a Wonderful Life was based. Well here Pete Lattimer goes all George Bailey when hit on the head by an artifact which makes it seem he was never born. Seeing where the other characters ended up without him is amusing. Artie gets is own back with quiet aplomb to snip a branch off a bonsai.
Since we’ve strayed into the weird let’s make a stop at A Town Called Eureka for their Christmas special, “Do You See What I See?” A wave of color changes the town to animation of multiple styles and cartoonish effects, including Jack's jeep coming alive, with the voice of Jim Parsons.
The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory has had several Christmas (or Saturnalia) specials. But I have two particular favourites. “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis” (2008), in which Sheldon’s many and various objections to the seasons are extolled, until Penny gives him something money can’t buy, a napkin not only signed by Leonard Nimoy, but also with his DNA on where he wiped his mouth - yeah okay, you have to know Sheldon to understand why that’s important...
But also check out the 2013 episode “The Cooper Extraction”, it's such fun when Sheldon goes home for the holidays (while his twin sister gives birth) and the rest of the gang sit around and talk about how their lives would be if Sheldon wasn’t in them.
Here's a quick bonus Christmas special, and an example of one to avoid if you have any issues over motherhood. The X-Files “Christmas Carol” and “Emily” two parter - I think even I cried the first time I watched that.
Now I wouldn’t say that none of the above were sickly or sentimental, because many of them are, but they are all watchable and if they do make you sick it won’t be from the the clogging sugary sweetness, rather from laughter or horror.
That’s how the American’s do it, tomorrow it's the British take on Christmas Specials.
Gail lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!