‘Tis the TV season

Chris Kallio

A guide of which Christmas specials are on Santa’s naughty and nice lists

Christmas in the media has found many faces, some in the form of critiquing hyper commercialization of the holiday, others to retell the famous stories that have defined the season and still some to offer a sense of hope and family unity. Some have puzzled and some have amused, and yet, the majority strive to provide a sense of secure and escapist, anxiety-free relaxation. Here’s a look at some more memorable (for better or worse) examples:

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

A group of talented artists – animator Chuck Jones, acting legend Boris Karloff and singer Thurl Ravenscroft (a.k.a the voice of Tony the Tiger) – came together to produce possibly television’s greatest Christmas special. In his incarnation of a grouchy, anti-Christmas miser, Dr. Seuss created a spirit of redemption and Christmas harmony, brilliantly animated for the small screen in 1966.

While Ron Howard’s 2000 interpretation with Jim Carrey as the title character is ambitious and perhaps even visually stunning, it fails miserably to capture the spirit of its predecessor.

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★★

“Star Wars: Holiday Special”

In 1978, riding the coattails of his enormous, unpredictable hit, George Lucas was convinced by CBS to do a holiday special. Lucas liked the idea and helped create a plot about Chewbacca racing home for Life Day (a Star Wars spin on Christmas).

But in typical producer fashion, Lucas’s selected director was fired and replaced with one who was unfamiliar with “Star Wars.” Lucas, busy making “The Empire Strikes Back,” was unaware of what would become of “Star Wars: Holiday Special.”

Within the first few minutes of seeing re-used footage from the first film, and even woodier dialogue from Harrison Ford, we find out that our stars will be sharing the screen with actors such as Art Carney, Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman – none of whom should be in a “Star Wars” movie.

What starts as a bit of nostalgia with Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher playing their original characters one more time soon becomes an insult to those who adore the movies.

And did I mention it’s a musical? For some odd reason, it was only shown once.

Stater rating (out of five): ★

Stephen Colbert’s Christmas Special

The recently-aired Christmas special from Stephen Colbert allows the comedian to take his talents of satire and apply them to spoofing the happy yet trite era of Andy Williams’ Christmas specials. In a quest to put on the best Christmas special ever while finding the true meaning of Christmas, Colbert is trapped in his home by a hungry bear and joined by friends Willie Nelson (as a fourth shepherd with an unusual choice of gift for the baby Jesus), Feist, Jon Stewart, Elvis Costello, Toby Keith and John Legend.

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★ and a half

“Home Alone”

Certainly a nostalgic choice, and yet the film is an unusual story about a boy left home alone against two genuine boogeymen – all during Christmastime.

Director Chris Columbus provides a genuinely frightening complexion of everything that is frightening to a child who is alone: the sudden independence, the creepy basement and unexpectedly defending one’s home. While this seemingly horror story possesses its more sinister moments, it still has a very Christmas spirit, specifically in its unconventional way of delivery a message of being with family during the holidays.

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★★

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

Every holiday special guide should include 1946 Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

While not entirely (contrary to popular belief) a “Christmas movie,” but instead a retelling of an average working American’s life climaxing with a crisis during Christmas, this film not only is the best to watch during the year, but in my opinion, one of the ten best films in movie history.

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★★★

“The Muppet Christmas Carol”

Most likely not the best version of Dickens’ tale for most, but a memorable one, nonetheless. Michael Caine stars as Ebenezer Scrooge and does a remarkably fine job in the role along with a cast of Muppets, including Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit and other unforgettable characters.

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

This film is known as the zenith of all Christmas television specials. While its stop-motion animation was not revolutionary by any means, the use of such filmmaking has helped the movie reached its pinnacle of greatness as a Christmas television special.

The characters – among them the famous deer, his demanding father, an elf who wants to be a dentist and an abominable snowman – help create an unusual but brilliant visual for the movie.

Stater rating (out of five): ★★★★

Contact all reporter Chris Kallio at [email protected].