Next Best Christmas Specials
December 16, 2009
NC: Hello, I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don’t have to. Well, it’s been over a year since I listed the Top 12 Greatest Christmas Specials…
(The title card for NC’s “The Top 12 Great Christmas Specials” appear onscreen, followed by clips from classic Christmas movies and specials)
NC (voiceover): …and though I still stand by the list—except maybe “Christmas Story” and “Christmas Carol” should have been a tie—but a lot of people said there were even more specials that I was missing, so much so that I pretty much had no choice but to do another one. There’s so many good specials out there, I’ll just keep them to one list.
NC: These are sort of the runners up, the next best after last year’s choices. So get ready, because this is “The Return of the Christmas Specials”!
(Cut to NC’s animation of a tombstone labeled “Christmas Specials,” a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the tombstone, and a zombie Santa Claus coming out of the grave laughing evilly before flying past the top of the screen and disappearing; the title “The Return of the Christmas Specials!” appears onscreen)
NC: (his eyes look camera right, and he is disturbed) Jesus. (speaks to the camera) So, let’s take a look at our next top 11. Why top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond. Let’s take a look.
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 11 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 11—The Star Wars Christmas Special. What?!
NC: That’s not a real special. It doesn’t even exist. No human can be idiotically cruel. (A sound that sounds like Yoda’s laughter is heard off-screen; he looks puzzled by this occurrence) Well, let’s move on to the REAL number 11 spot…
NC (voiceover): Elf. Now I have to admit, I don’t really see this as a good movie. While the premise is good, I feel the characters are boring, the jokes are kinda weak, and the story just gets a little too corny for me. So what propels it to being a Christmas classic? Will Ferrell. He is just hilarious. I love his energy, I love his innocence, and I just love his naivety.
(Buddy (Will Ferrell) enters a coffee shop in New York City)
Buddy: Congratulations! “World’s best cup of coffee.” Great job, everybody! (Looks at a customer) Hi.
NC (voiceover): How can you not like him? He’s just delightfully annoying.
Buddy: (to a raccoon in a wintry forest) Does someone need a hug? (the raccoon jumps up and attacks him) Aah, aah! That's not cool! I just wanted a hug!
NC (voiceover): This is Will Ferrell’s first starring role after he left SNL, and thankfully, he completely saves the film. I guess it’s just good luck that the first film you actually star in will be watched by millions every Christmas.
NC: Though let’s hope he doesn’t do any other Christmas movies. (He looks off-screen to imagine a screenshot of the Peanuts Christmas special with Will Ferrell’s head superimposed over Charlie Brown’s head) Yeah, that wouldn’t work.
NC (voiceover): What can I say except sometimes, one really funny man can, in fact, make a really funny Christmas special.
Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage): (chokes Buddy) Call me “elf” one more time! Call me “elf”!
Buddy: Y-You’re an elf. (He gets thrown over a long table by Miles)
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 10 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 10—The Garfield Christmas Special.
(Footage from the special plays)
NC (voiceover): This is another one that when you look at it, it isn’t really anything spectacular. It’s kind of cheesy, and the songs get really lame at times.
Background Singer: You can never find an elf when you need one.
NC (voiceover): In fact, I think it’s the first special to ever have yodeling in a Christmas song.
Background Singers: That’s a good old-fashioned Christmas! Yodel-ay-hee-hoo!
NC (voiceover): But unlike Elf, there are actually two things that keep people coming back. One is Garfield, of course. I mean, he’s such a loveable character; a pure cynic but still very funny and likeable. And the other is the family. I just love these guys. If you ever grew up on a farm or knew anybody who grew up on a farm, then you know these people. You got the homebody mother, the quiet no-nonsense father, the shy [and] sometimes very silly brother, and probably the coolest grandmother ever.
Grandma Arbuckle: (plays a swinging version of “O Christmas Tree” on the piano) Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree! How lovely are thy branches! Boop-boop-bee-doo-bee-doo-bee-doo!
NC (voiceover): I mean, this grandma kicks ass! She should be at every Christmas get-together.
Grandma Arbuckle: (lightly pokes Jon Arbuckle’s stomach) I see you’re putting on a little belly. (elbows him in the stomach and laughs heartily) You’re getting soft, boy! Come on! Hit me right here. Give me your best shot.
NC (voiceover): On top of that, it’s decent animation, the jokes are funny enough, it has a lot of that mushy stuff that seems lame at times, but at Christmas, you can let a little bit get by. Garfield Christmas Special: a merry pick for the number 10 spot.
Background Singers: Can’t wait ‘til Christmas!
Garfield: (sings) Wake me when it’s through.
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 9 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 9—The Polar Express.
NC (voiceover): But only in 3D. (Accompanying text is shown onscreen) I say this because the film on its own is just OK. And I know it sounds like I’m trashing somebody’s Christmas special, but really, the things that are good are unbelievably good, and that’s what makes it stand out. And this one is no different. When it’s good, it’s really good. But at times, it can feel a little manipulative, like they’re trying to make a Christmas classic instead of just telling a good story. It’s like they said, “We need a song here, because most children’s classics have a song here.”
Hero Girl: (sings) Putting up the Christmas tree / With friends who come around
NC (voiceover): “We need a scary moment here, because most children’s classics have a scary moment here.”
Ebenezer Scrooge Puppet: (Actually being manipulated by the Hobo) You’re a DOUBTER! A doubter! You don't believe!
NC (voiceover): “We need some speech with the word ‘heart’ in it, because…” well, you know the drill.
Santa Claus: (to Hero Boy) Just remember: The true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.
NC (voiceover): And the CG can be a little creepy at times, but like I said, when it works, it’s a very nice film. I love the atmosphere, the premise is unique, and I like how they turn the whole idea about believing in Santa Claus sort of like a challenge of faith, which I think a lot of people can relate to.
Hero Boy: I want to believe.
Hobo: You don’t want to be bamboozled. You don’t want to be caught.
Conductor: Sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.
NC (voiceover): But what really makes it stand out is the 3D. Only see this movie on IMAX and in 3D. You literally feel like you’ve been transported to the North Pole. That’s what propels it into an experience rather than just a movie. I know a lot of times people see 3D as a cheat, but with this, you really feel like you’re there, and the film is shot to make you feel that way as well. Though, I am getting a little tired of [Robert] Zemeckis making these damn films. Yes, we know animation can look realistic, but if you’re just gonna motion-capture them anyway, why not just go back to using real friggin’ actors? Eh, for whatever reason, he keeps doing it. “Polar Express” is a ton of fun to watch and leaves you feeling that good old-fashioned Christmas spirit. On its own, it’s OK, but in 3D, it’s really friggin’ cool. It definitely gets you in the mood for the Christmas season. But next time, can you leave out the Steven Tyler elf?
NC: Seriously. What the fuck?
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 8 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 8—The Star Wars Christmas Special—GODDAMN IT!
NC: Will you get that out of here?! I told you it doesn’t exist! (We hear the sound of Yoda laughing again, and he is speechless about it at first, but he resumes his countdown, anyway)
NC (voiceover): The Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. Now, granted, many of you might not even know what the show “Blackadder” is, but it’s not required to totally enjoy its special. It’s a British comedy starring Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie and many others, as they are reincarnated through different periods and times. The character of Blackadder is always the world’s biggest asshole. That’s part of what makes the show so funny, but in the Christmas special, he’s the nicest man in England.
English Boy: A penny for a Christmas tree, sucker—I mean, sir.
(The English Boy cries and runs away)
Blackadder: (tosses the penny to the boy) Well, certainly. Here.
NC (voiceover): But this all changes when the spirit of Christmas comes to show him flashbacks of his ancestors, which, of course, are from the other episodes he’s done. Ironically, Blackadder likes the way his ancestors act and decides he wants to be a jerk from now on.
Ralph: Oh, we’re in love! (He and his wife, Malicent laugh)
Blackadder: You’ll conceive love, I should warn you. It’s like a Christmas cracker: one massively disappointing bang and the novelty soon wears off. (Audience laughter)
NC (voiceover): It’s cynical, it’s cruel, and it’s all done in the name of goodwill towards men. Now, it does help to see the original shows before watching the Christmas show, but it’s not totally necessary. But the scenes of Blackadder acting nice are a million times funnier when you know the character he usually is. Every time he smiles or laughs, you know he’s repressing a ton of anger and wants to smack someone in the face.
Blackadder: (comforts Mrs. Scratchit) Look, there must be something we can do.
Blackadder: A box of matches in your basket, just the thing I need. How much do they cost?
Mrs. Scratchit: A quid a match. (Audience laughter)
Blackadder: Mrs. Scratchit, I suspect that to be a lie of sorts.
NC (voiceover): And luckily by the end, he does!
Blackadder: I made you…a fist. (He lightly punches a man in the face) And what’s wonderful about it is that you can use it again! (He punches) And again! (He punches) And again!
Baldrick: Thank you, Mr. B. (He gets punched again by Blackadder)
NC (voiceover): It’s funny, it’s dark, it’s a perfect offset to all the yuletide cheer we’re so used to getting this time of year.
Baldrick: Mr. B., where’s the milk of human kindness?
Blackadder: It’s gone off, Baldrick. It stinks. (Audience laughter)
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 7 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 7—Gremlins.
(Footage from the movie plays)
NC (voiceover): Yeah, I know many of you wouldn’t consider this a Christmas movie, but I’m surprised to find just how many people whip this movie out this time of year. I guess who doesn’t want to see red-eyed demons attack innocent bystanders while singing holly jolly Christmas tunes? But the more I thought about it, yeah! I do surprisingly think of Christmas when I think of this movie. I remember Gizmo given as a present, I remember the gremlin in the tree, I remember the dog wrapped up in Christmas lights, I even remember that goddamn fucking weird speech about Santa Claus that just came out of nowhere.
Kate Beringer: Now I have another reason they hate Christmas. There was a Christmas Eve…I was nine years old…I went up to try and light up the fire, (NC looks a bit surprised) and that’s when I noticed a smell, and me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird, and instead, they pulled out my father. (NC looks puzzled) He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He slipped and broke his neck. That’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.
NC: (is speechless) Uhm…thanks.
NC (voiceover): Oddly enough, in some deranged sick way, this movie did manage to tie in a lot with Christmas. Weird, huh? I don’t even know what else to say about it! To be honest, I’m a little disturbed that I connect such a joyous time of year with such hell-raising little maniacs, and in fact, a lot of people do, too! But, hey, if everyone is watching it this time of year, at least I know I’m not the only one who is going crazy. And at least I can enjoy Christmas with all the other nutballs watching it with me.
(A woman attacks a gremlin and shoves it into a microwave, cooking it and making it explode inside; NC’s caption “Merry Christmas” appears after the gremlin explodes)
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 6 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 6—The Nativity [Story].
(Footage from the movie plays)
NC (voiceover): Well…yeah, sort of a no-brainer. The story of Christmas wouldn’t be here without…the story of Christmas. It’s pretty straightforward, though they do address some areas of the story that many have overlooked, like Joseph’s reaction that Mary apparently had a virgin birth. He’s about ready to stone her until the angel finally appears to set things right.
NC: (as Joseph, facing to camera right) Oh. Really? Made you go into conception, huh? (Pauses) Oh, the Son of God! Yeah, the Lord of all! No kidding. (laughs) Well, I’m gonna give the archangel two seconds before I POUND THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF—! (pretends to ready a stone to throw)
Angel: (speaks offscreen, but appears as a beam of light) Don’t, Joseph. It’s cool.
NC: (still as Joseph, he lets down his throwing arms) You got lucky.
NC (voiceover): I also really enjoy the three wise men in this movie. They’re actually really likeable and even a tad bit goofy, but not too much that’s over-the-top. The only problem I have is that the spiritual aspect almost seems rushed at times. Every time the angel appears, it’s like a drive-by prophesy.
NC (voiceover): (speaks like a gangster, dubbing over the angel) Bitch, you pregnant! Bye! (The angel takes off as a bird, and we hear the sound effect of a flying bullet)
NC (voiceover): (normal) But the rest of the film is good. It’s thoughtful, it’s heartwarming, and it’s very engaging to watch. For some reason, the film got really panned by critics, [and] I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because it was bowing on the heels of “The Passion [of the Christ]” and everyone thought we were gonna see more religious sadist porn after that. I don’t know, but the film is good and seriously overlooked.
NC: In fact, I’m curious to see what else the director of this movie has directed recently.
(The movie poster for Twilight is shown before we cut to NC grimacing)
NC: (grimaces) Ehh….
NC (voiceover): Well, trust me when I say this film is good, and if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out this Christmas. I mean, it’s Jesus’ birthday, for crying out loud. You all know that.
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 5 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 5—The Pinky and the Brain Christmas Special.
(Footage from the special plays)
NC (voiceover): How can you go wrong with Pinky and the Brain? Our favorite mouse duo bent on world domination have a wild time trying to insert a hypnotizing doll into Santa’s sleigh.
Brain: (is tied onto Santa’s sleigh with the other reindeer, suspended in mid-air) Just act natural, Pinky.
NC (voiceover): The jokes are always so great and the characters work off each other wonderfully, but what sets it apart from other episodes is the ending. I won’t give too much away, but it’s so beautifully cheesy and surprisingly touching that it creates a wonderful piece of Christmas epic-ness. In fact, I’m actually a little shocked to hear that some people actually get teary-eyed at this ending. Who would have thought Pinky and the Brain could make anyone teary-eyed? And on top of that, it’s just funny. You can always tell the writers were working hard on this show, and the laughs always come true.
Elf: (to both Pinky and Brain) Who are you workin’ for? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Herschel the Hanukkah Goblin?
NC (voiceover): The animation is great, the story’s hilarious, the good spirit of Christmas is always shining through. It’s Christmas gold from beginning to end.
(The ending to the intro for A Pinky and the Brain Christmas plays out)
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 4 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 4—All in the Family: '"The Draft Dodger".
NC: Often considered one of the great—(We hear Yoda laughing again) OK, what is that? C-Can you tell me what that is? (Silence passes a bit before NC sighs and resumes speaking)
NC (voiceover): Often considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, “All in the Family” created a brilliantly uncomfortable scenario for almost every episode. They also did a ton of Christmas shows as well, but probably the most poignant was “The Draft Dodger.” It’s Christmas Eve at the Bunkers house, and the always conservative, bigoted Archie is eating with his family, but he’s greeted by one of Mike’s friends from Canada who’s breaking the law by being there because he moved there to avoid the draft. On top of that, one of Archie’s friends is invited, too, who recently lost a son in Vietnam.
NC: (messes with a small box-shaped machine) My God! The Awkward Machine is about to blow!
NC (voiceover): Again, I don’t really want to give anything away, so I won’t say much more. But let’s just say it’s (sings) uncomfortable!
David Brewster: [I] wrote to the President about him, Mr. Bunker. He just couldn’t come up with as many reasons for killing people as I could for not killing them. (Awkward silence from Archie)
NC (voiceover): I will also say that you can see why this show is often considered one of the best shows ever. Its writing is so direct and so uncompromising that you have no choice but to confront the issues they’re talking about. As always, though, they mix in just the right amount of comedy as well.
Archie Bunker: Well, you think that all people in this country can say whether or not they want to go to war? You couldn’t get a decent war off the ground that way! (Audience laughter)
NC (voiceover): It’s funny, powerful, it leaves quite an impact. But, hey, that’s the show in a nutshell, and on Christmas, you can always expect something strong and meaningful every time.
Archie and Edith Bunker: (singing) Those were the days! (Audience applauding)
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 3 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 3—Joyeux Noel.
(Footage from the movie plays)
NC (voiceover): This film is starting to grow in popularity, but it’s still not a household name. It truly is fantastic, though, and deserves more recognition. It’s based on an incredible true story set in the first World War. Scottish, German and French soldiers are head to head in the trenches ready to kill one another. But on the night of Christmas, they all amazingly agree to a cease-fire because of the holiday.
Scottish Officer: We were talking about a cease-fire. For Christmas Eve.
NC (voiceover): They come out of their bunkers, they talk to each other, exchange pictures and even hold a mass. It’s friggin’ unbelievable. When you watch it, you really can’t believe people can be this good. They form strong and powerful friendships that they don’t want to destroy if they go back to war. Because of this, things get very complicated the day after, and the day after that, and even the day after that. Trying to kill a man you just called your friend a few days ago is near impossible. And this film shows the sacrifice that these men went through so they didn’t have to do it. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but the focus is on the night the troops stop firing. They decide to show their fellow man the peace and love that Christmas is all about. It’s an unbelievable story and it’s captured very well in this film. Trust me when I say if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for something special.
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 2 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Number 2—The Snowman.
(Footage from the animated short plays)
NC (voiceover): Yeah, I heard a lot of you complaining on the last list I forgot to put this in. Well, here it is in all its animated glory, and it truly is wonderful. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes it so good. I think it’s just the fact that it’s a relatively simple story that somehow really seems to teleport you to another world. There’s no sound and no dialogue, but that just makes it stand out even more. The look is very unique, and it really offers a warm, imaginative look at winter. A story you’ve heard before, it’s pretty much the tale of Frosty the Snowman. The boy makes a snowman, he comes to life, he FLIES?! Well, that’s fucking cool. And he takes him to a rocking party where there’s, like, a bajillion other snowmen?
NC: Dude, I wanna go to a snowman party!
(The movie poster for Jack Frost (starring Michael Keaton) appears)
NC (voiceover): NOT HIS!
(Footage from The Snowman continues)
NC (voiceover): The only downside I have to admit is the ending. It’s not really bad or anything, but it’s just so damn depressing, and there’s not one happy thing about it. Most children’s classics have something uplifting at the end, but this snowman’s like, “Nope! Life sucks. Merry Christmas.” It pisses me off every time!
NC: How dare they show me the truth!!
NC (voiceover): But then again, maybe that’s the strength of the piece. You like it so much that you never want to see it end. “The Snowman” is simply a classic, no matter how you look at it.
Singer: The villages go by like dreams.
(Cut to NC’s animation of a lightning bolt striking the ground in front of the “Christmas Specials” tombstone, forming a hole; the number 1 appears onscreen)
NC (voiceover): And the number 1 Next Best Christmas Special is…Die Hard!
(Footage from the movie plays)
NC (voiceover): It counts, it counts! It takes place at Christmas; therefore, it’s a Christmas movie! One of the best action movies of all time, how can you go wrong? It just kicks ass! Now, for all of you saying, “Oh, it has nothing to do with the Christmas spirit!”
NC: Fuck you, it’s Die Hard!
NC (voiceover): “Oh, this doesn’t talk about Santa, Jesus or the joy of the holidays!”
NC: Fuck you, it’s Die Hard!
NC (voiceover): “But this doesn’t even have a moral! What can you possibly learn from Christmas by watching this?”
NC: Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you! It’s Die Hard!
NC (voiceover): This is THE action movie, and every Christmas, I find more and more people watching it around the holidays.
John McClane (Bruce Willis): Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker.
NC (voiceover): It’s action-packed, it’s a great story, I mean…IT’S DIE HARD! What more can you say about it? The title itself is practically an explanation about why it’s so great! The movie even ends with the song “Let it Snow”! How many action movies end with “Let it Snow”? Aside from Die Hard 2, but Die Hard is better. This movie kicks ass, but it kicks even more ass at Christmas. The story is great, the action is great, the acting is great, it’s just great. Die Hard: the merriest explosions of yuletide cheer.
Argyle: If this is their idea of Christmas, I gotta be here for New Year’s.
NC: And that’s my top ele—(Yoda’s laughter is heard once more) OK, what are you laughing at? What’s so funny? What, is it the Star Wars Christmas Special thing? Is that it? It’s not that funny, OK? It doesn’t exist, anyway! You hear me? It doesn’t exi—(He is interrupted by the doorbell ringing) Excuse me one moment. (He walks off camera) Hello? A package for me? Well, OK. Thanks. (The sound of a Wookiee roaring is heard. NC walks back on camera and sits) What a weird looking mailman. Well, apparently, I got a package in the mail. Let’s see what it is. (He opens it to find a DVD case marked The Star Wars Holiday Christmas Special! and drops it, yelping in shock; The Darth Vader Theme plays as he looks again and picks up) No, that’s not true. That’s impossible!
Darth Vader: Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Emperor Palpatine: You have paid the price for your lack of vision.
NC: Please! Anything but this! I can’t do it, I CAN’T do it! (clips of various Star Wars characters begin laughing; he clutches his head and yells in a deep voice) NOOOOOO!!
(Cut to black)
Darth Vader: (audio) We would be honored if you would join us.