7 “Very Special” Holiday TV Episodes That Actually Are
This article is from our friends at Trunkworthy
Our Trunk runneth over with Yuletide television!
For lovers of bad TV, Christmas episodes routinely provide a stuffed stocking of merry masochism. Rarer and rosier, of course, are holiday-themed TV installments that actually work: Yule-infused productions that amuse, entertain, and even enlighten by showcasing the very best of a program’s creative talents emboldened by the very best ideals and aspirations of the season.
The following seven TV episodes are true gifts of the medium’s Magi.
The Twilight Zone—“The Night of the Meek” (1960)
Written by Twilight Zone overlord Rod Serling himself, “The Night of the Meek” is one of the sci-fi institution’s most suspenseful and unexpectedly moving triumphs. Art Carney stars as Henry Corwin, a beat-down street Santa whose gift sack suddenly produces presents for the needy. After a cop accuses Corwin of stealing the goods, our hero finally makes a single wish for himself, and the result is an unforeseeable, irresistibly uplifting conclusion. Host Serling sums it up beautifully: “There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show—“Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II” (1970)
Transplanted TV news writer Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) is forced to spend her first Christmas Eve in Minneapolis at the station, working all night, alone. With phone calls to friends only making her lonelier, Mary takes to panicking over the idea that the office is being robbed. The revelation of the actual invaders is a heartfelt and hilarious evocation for anyone who ever fallen into a chosen family dictated by outside circumstances—and come to love them as one’s own.
The Odd Couple—“Scrooge Gets an Oscar” (1970)
Of the many sitcom re-doings of A Christmas Carol, The Odd Couple’s take is the classiest and, more importantly, the funniest. Grumpy slob Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) greets the holidays by declaring, “I’d like to get a giant candy cane and beat the wings off a Sugar Plum Fairy!” He then dreams of himself as Ebeneezer Scrooge, with neatnik Felix as Jacob Marley’s ghost and their poker playing pals in the story’s other well-known roles. Particularly uproarious is Murray the Cop (Al Marinaro) as history’s least-tiny Tiny Tim.
All in the Family—“Edith’s Christmas Story” (1973)
Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) frantically attempts to remain festive on Christmas Eve, even though, that very morning, doctors detected a lump in her breast. Relief comes when neighbor Irene (Betty Garrett) shares her own health history and, finally, when Edith reveals her fears to Archie (Carol O’Connor). The loving words TV’s most notorious loudmouthed hothead then shares at his wife’s hospital bedside create the sweetest moment between the couple in the entire series.
SCTV—“SCTV Staff Christmas Party” (1981)
At the height of its multilayered, interwoven narrative sketch comedy brilliance, SCTV parades out its entire roster of characters for variously insane takes on the holiday. That means Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as cigarette-gifting Bob and Doug McKenzie, Catherine O’Hara slurring away as song-and-dance drunk Lola Heatheron, and John Candy amazingly embodying both sad-sack sleaze Johnny LaRue and the dim-bulb mayor of Melonville, Tommy Shanks. And that’s just for starters.
Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse (1988)
Every moment of Pee-wee’s Playhouse packs the excitement a kid feels on Christmas morning. When the show did a primetime holiday edition in 1988, then, Paul Reubens and company loaded up the ultimate campy guest list as a gift that keeps on giving. Christmas visitors to the Playhouse include Cher, Charo, Little Richard, Joan Rivers, Grace Jones, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Magic Johnson, and Dinah Shore. How John Waters didn’t get invited remains a great Yuletide mystery . . . Buy Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (2008)
While traveling though “bear country,” Stephen Colbert gets trapped in a cabin. As he waits for the coast to clear, holiday visitors drop by to sing Christmas music. Among them are Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson, Feist, Toby Keith, John Legend, Jon Stewart and, as Santa Claus, George Wendt. As star-studded as that roster is, A Colbert’s Christmas true contribution to all-time holiday TV greatness are the eight original songs composed for the special, as well as a supergroup cover of “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?” When Stephen Colbert is involved, the answer to that question is, of course, everything.