When I was a kid, the CBS TV network had an intro for it's special presentations that would make me thrill whenever I saw it. It usually introduced a show that I could only see once a year since vcr's were not a household appliance at the time. That intro guaranteed that I would be captivated for the next 30 or 60 minutes. The drum beat, the graphics, the short musical riff got any kid of the 70's excited for what was about to happen.
In this season of giving, I wanted to "give" you my opinion on what I believe are the best Christmas specials ever produced. Christmas movies are not included. That's a list for another time. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to agree or disagree.
#5 Frosty the Snowman (1969)
This one is almost as old as I am, but has always been a part of my Christmas experience for as long as I can remember. Every kid wants a best friend, and who better than a magical snowman who can give the best belly flop rides around? Even though I knew how it ended, watching Karen cry over Frosty's demise in the greenhouse always tugged at my heartstrings. A timeless classic that my own kids now enjoy.
#4 How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
The narration, the animation (classic Chuck Jones), the song!... all so very memorable. One aspect that makes this special so intriguing is the fact that the mean old Grinch has a pet dog. I guess everyone needs someone to pontificate to. Which brings us to Max the dog. His expressions are priceless making him a very memorable character in the Christmas special genre. Favorite line in the song: "You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch." And recording artists everywhere, quit trying to cover this tune. No one can touch the original with a... "39 and a half foot pole!"
#3 A Muppet Family Christmas (1988)
I recorded this charming TV special when it first aired and still have the vhs tape, complete with commercials from the 80's for Osh Kosh B'Gosh, Doublemint Gum with the Doublemint twins, and MnM's holiday candies. The commercials only add to the experience at this stage in the game. Four Muppet franchises are brought under one roof from The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street. The result is pure Muppet bliss. There are laugh-out-loud moments, plenty of Christmas songs, and this is one of the last Muppet productions that included Jim Henson before his untimely death in 1990. The home video release has been painfully edited down because of copyright issues, so I cherish my vhs copy.
#2 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This holiday gem could be considered the one that started it all, and the one that almost didn't happen. The network was concerned about the "religious" aspect of the program, but Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts gang, insisted Linus' now infamous speech about the true meaning of Christmas stay in. The dance sequences, the brilliant jazz score that accompanies the animation, and Snoopy's ability to convey a complete personality without speaking a word all add up to make a classic that is practically on everyone's "favorite" list.
#1 A Pinky and the Brain Christmas (1996)
Among other things, the chuckle factor of this cartoon lands it at number one on my list. The concept of two lab mice trying to take over the world always struck me as genius, so the concept alone is already funny. The plot involves Pinky and the Brain applying to be elves at the North Pole so Brain can slip in his blueprints for a doll that will obtain mind control after Santa delivers it to every home in the world, allowing the Brain to command the whole earth's population to obey his every command. The climax of the story is very touching which balances all the silliness of the show. The spirit of Christmas and friendship truly culminates in this underrated classic.
Epilogue: So where's Rudolph? Though I did enjoy the red-nosed reindeer growing up, I've lost interest, therefore can't put a special on my list that I feel I don't need to watch to make my holiday season complete. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town?" Never really liked that one. Even as a kid, felt the back story of Santa was kind of contrived, even though I didn't know the meaning of the word. "Year without a Santa Claus?" The Heat/Snow Miser anthem is the best part of that one. The rest is so-so. And I have absolutely no use for "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" or "Frosty Returns."
So there you have it. May all your Christmases be "special."