Special Feature: Holiday episodes where you least expect them (part one)
Do you recognize that placard up there? That's the CBS Special Presentation title card used in the 1980s before each and every Holiday special they aired. If you do recognize it, it likely conjures up memories of seeing our favourite characters sipping cocoa around a fire, wearing red furry hats, and wishing peace on Earth and goodwill to all.
But not every series fits the Holiday theme so naturally. Some television shows and specials are so abnormal that their holiday episodes come out of the blue... and some end up producing some classic moments because of that juxtaposition!
...Others end up stinking like mouldy cheese.
Here are five such Holiday themed special episodes that came from unexpected places. Enjoy!
1) 'Supernatural' 3x08: "A Very Supernatural Christmas"
A Christmas special... with Sam and Dean Winchester? The surly brothers of cynicism had themselves a holiday special episode amidst their third season, when events of the ongoing plotline brought the urgency of togetherness to the fore: you see, older brother Dean had less than a year to live, before a deal with a demon would send his soul to Hell. You see why a Christmas episode was unexpected?
Side note: If you are not watching 'Supernatural,' you are seriously missing out. I would hold the Pilot episode of the first season as one of the more perfect first episodes of any series over the past decade (along with the "Fire in the Hole," the first episode of 'Justified') and I could teach a class on serial storytelling based on 'Supernatural's first five seasons. The DVDs are usually around $20 a season--go out and try season one. Tell em Baddie sent ya... and they're stare at you, quizzically.
"A Very Supernatural Christmas" aired in 2007 as a monster-of-the-week episode, where the brothers investigate a pair of pagan gods who indulge in human sacrifices every holiday season. Given the pagan beginnings of nearly every Christian Christmas tradition (wreaths, the tree, the stockings, candles, etc), the episode depicts the pagan gods as an apple-cheeked couple of holiday-lovers, having decorated their home to the nines.
Throughout the search, Sam and Dean reminisce about holidays past, featuring flashbacks to the pair as children. In the present, Sam wants to try to celebrate the holiday, fearing that it will be their last they ever spend together. Dean balks at the suggestion but eventually acquiesces, leading to a funny scene where the pair exchange gifts purchased at the nearby gas station.
Overall, it's a very fun little episode that offers some initial glimpses of Sam and Dean's childhood. A memorable and sentimental holiday special, from a very peculiar source.
Well, if you've seen "Woodland Critter Christmas" from 'South Park's eighth season (2004) I imagine it is a little difficult to enjoy the furry little woodland critters as much as you could initially. Could be something to do with their penchant for blood orgies...
Yes, you read that correctly. 'South Park's eighth season delivered a Holiday episode directly from the mind of foul-mouthed, racist, disgusting Eric Cartman. The episode is part of a story that Cartman wrote for Mr. Garrison's class, complete with anapestic rhyme and adorable furry little Christmas critters. Of course, this is Cartman we're talking about, so the critters are worshippers of Satan trying to bring about the birth of the Antichrist... so they can implant it in Cartman's "friend" Kyle in yet another way for the horrid Cartman to mock Kyle's religion.
The episode features Santa Claus himself arriving to save the day... in a very disgusting fashion. Overall, it is possibly the strangest, most grotesque Christmas special episode of anything ever aired: how could I leave it off this list?
Here's Trey Parker and Matt Stone discussing the making of "Woodland Critter Christmas" (NSFW, obviously):
Inspired by 'Event Horizon?' Welp...
3) 'He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special' (1985)
If you are old enough to recall the 'He-Man & She-Ra' Holiday special episode... then I am sorry. It means you're at least as old as me and that you've seen the insane jumble of crossover Christmas cheer that I'm talking about.
A crossover special between 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe' and its spinoff series 'She-Ra: Princess of Power,' the special features He-Man's buddy Orko, the lovable legless troublemaker, crash-landing on Earth. The special marks the only time that the characters from the realms of Eternia and Etheria found themselves in our world, conveniently long enough for Orko to learn what Christmas is and bring its trappings back home.
As He-Man and his sister She-Ra strive to find a way to bring Orko back from his fantastic voyage, ol' Skeletor and Hordak are ready to wreak havoc on our heroes. Luckily those two dastardly villains can never get along, and the heroes thwart their plan and Orko is able to bring Christmas to Eternia for the first time.
Complete with Prince Adam dressing up as Santa Claus.
The episode is one of only two feature-length crossovers between the two hit cartoon series and despite its absurdity it has developed a cult fandom. Having been released on DVD in 2005, the Christmas Special has sold far better than anticipated and has even spawned merchandise. The release was so successful that it was rereleased five years later, in 2010.
Twenty-seven year old spoiler alert: Skeletor saves the day, in an act attributed to the Christmas spirit.
Well how about that? Can the list get even weirder? Find out in the second part of Holiday Episodes where you Least Expect Them!