20 Notoriously Terrible Christmas TV Episodes And Specials - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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20 Notoriously Terrible Christmas TV Episodes And Specials

Television has given us many gifts. Memorable moments, iconic characters, and episodes that stick with us for life. But sometimes, even the brightest of stars shine a little less brightly. Christmas, a time for joy and togetherness, has unfortunately been the backdrop for some infamous TV flops. Here’s a look back at some of the most notorious of them.

The Star Wars Holiday Special (17 November 1978)
Less a festive joy and more a wookiee mistake. This special centred around Chewbacca's family awaiting his return for the "Life Day" celebrations. The Huffington Post described it as "a two-hour descent into the very depths of holiday hell."

“KISS Saves Santa” - Family Guy (21 December 2001)
In a mock advertisement, Peter lists “KISS Saves Santa” as his favourite Christmas special, where the famous band KISS supposedly saves Santa from pterodactyls. While meant to be a humorous fictitious reference by Family Guy, it captures the ridiculousness of some of the specials we've seen over the years. Rolling Stone humorously pointed out, “If only this were real. Maybe Christmas TV would've been a tad more interesting.”

“A Very Brady Christmas” (18 December 1988)
Bringing back the iconic Brady family for a Christmas reunion was a good idea in theory, but the execution left fans of the original series disappointed. The lack of original Jan (due to a salary dispute) and a host of melodramatic subplots felt out of place. Entertainment Weekly noted that “it felt like they were checking off every possible holiday trope.”

“Christmas Comes to PacLand” (16 December 1982)
Who thought Pac-Man needed a Christmas special? Apparently, someone did. It was a bizarre blend of 80’s video game culture and Christmas traditions, with Santa Claus crash-landing in PacLand. IGN mused, “Maybe some things, like pellets and ghosts, should just stay in the arcade.”

“Deck the Malls” - Power Rangers Turbo (24 November 1997)
The Power Rangers have faced many foes, but holiday shopping? In this episode, T.J. and Cassie are entrapped in a Christmas war over dolls in a shopping mall. The AV Club's review quipped, “Perhaps Rita Repulsa or Lord Zedd would have been a better fit for a Christmas special villain.”

“I'll Be Homeless for Christmas” - Blossom (19 December 1994)
Tackling heavy subjects was a Blossom hallmark, but this episode, which centred around a homeless man dying in Joey's car on Christmas, was heavy-handed even for them. TV Line remarked, “It’s a Christmas downer that’s hard to watch without cringing.”

EastEnders - "2007 Christmas Special" (25 December 2007)
This dark episode, which highlighted the dramatic revelation of Max and Stacey's affair, left fans more depressed than festive. As the Daily Mirror put it: "It was more noel no-no than ho-ho-ho."

Doctor Who - "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe" (25 December 2011)
The Doctor tries to give a war widow and her kids a magical Christmas. While the intention was pure, fans found it lacking the gravitas of other specials. Radio Times commented, "It was all tinsel, with little starlight."

Little Britain - "Little Britain Abroad" (25 December 2006)
While the series had its gems, this wasn't one of them. A mishmash of unfunny stereotypes, the Telegraph mentioned, "It felt like an ill-conceived beach trip during a storm."

Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics - South Park (1 December 1999)
Tasteless parodies of classic Christmas songs left many feeling less than jolly. While some loved its irreverence, Entertainment Weekly called it "A Yule log of gross-outs."

He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
A mishmash of Eternian celebrations and Earth’s festive spirit, it was a confounding mix. The director once shared in an MTV interview, “We really tried to mesh two worlds, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea."

Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa (2002)
Terrible animation and a jarring story made this hard to watch. The Guardian review said, “Believing in Santa is easier than believing someone aired this.”

“Love Actually” - The Comic Strip Presents... (20 April 2004)
This episode of the British television comedy series The Comic Strip Presents... satirises the hit film “Love Actually”. Not an actual Christmas episode per se, its inclusion in many holiday watch lists and its garbled plotlines make it an odd and occasionally cringe-worthy viewing experience. The Guardian commented, “It's bizarre to see such a blatant and convoluted parody so long after the film’s release.”

“EastEnders” (25 December 2006)
The Beales and the Brannings come together for a catastrophic Christmas day reveal. While “EastEnders” is known for its gritty and dark storylines, this Christmas episode, with its revelations and emotional breakdowns, was particularly bleak. The Mirror quipped, “Forget festive cheer; it’s all gloom and doom in Albert Square.”

The Christmas Tree (1991)
This animated film was infamous for its lacklustre storytelling and animation. CinemaBlend described it as "the lump of coal in the stocking of animation."

The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold (1981)
Intended to be a quirky twist, it was simply weird. Leprechauns and banshees missed the festive mark. TV Guide quipped, “Gold? More like a rusty coin.”

Love Island - Christmas Reunion (17 December 2018)
Attempting to add Christmas cheer to summer love, this felt forced. Mirror Online noted, “It was more frosty encounters than festive fun.”

“Last Christmas” - Doctor Who (25 December 2014)
Santa Claus meets the Doctor in this divisive Christmas special. While the idea sounds charming, many fans found it hard to reconcile the jolly Santa with the usually serious and intricate plots of Doctor Who. Digital Spy noted, “The episode is as erratic and bumpy as the sleigh ride featured in its opening minutes.”

“Mr. Bean's Christmas” - Mr. Bean (29 December 1992)
While many cherish the quirky antics of Mr. Bean, his Christmas escapades, which included pilfering a tree from the local park and conducting a one-man nativity scene, was too over-the-top for some. The Telegraph remarked, “Rowan Atkinson is undoubtedly a comic genius, but perhaps Mr. Bean's Christmas tipped too far into the ridiculous.”

“The Father Christmas Suit” - Only Fools and Horses (25 December 1981)
Del Boy's attempt to play Santa for the kids ends in disaster in this Only Fools and Horses episode. The hapless misadventures, combined with the seedy setting of the Christmas Club, left many viewers feeling more 'bah humbug' than festive. The Independent commented, “It's hard to find much holiday cheer in this one.”

Like a batch of burnt mince pies, these episodes and specials missed the mark. But in the spirit of Christmas, we can find it in our hearts to remember them, not with bitterness but with a sense of nostalgia. Because, as we know, even the most lacklustre of specials can bring families together in front of the TV, united in their mutual confusion or dismay. That’s the magic of Christmas TV - even when it’s bad, it’s memorable.

View all our Christmas articles and retrospectives here.

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