Yuletide Traditions: Christmas Specials

Because, one, we can’t get away from them this time of year. And two, in my house growing up, we also had a parent who was a compulsive recorder and mix tape artist who made VHS collections of his favorite Christmas episodes/specials. When we finally sorted through the enormous collection, there were nine of ten tapes in hard brown and blue cases with “X-Mas” marked on the front in faded pen.

My own Xmas/Yule/Saturnalia favorites are scattered between a couple DVDs, data disks, and digital files on my external hard drives. Here are some of my favorites from yuletides present, recent, and long since past.

The Avengers, “Too Many Christmas Trees,” The Avengers in my house meant Steed and Peel, as opposed to Captain America and Iron Man. The hour-long spy drama played with comedic, surreal, and even horrific elements throughout its six-series run, perhaps none more successful than its only Christmas episode from series 4. “Too Many Christmas Trees” introduces the idea that Steed’s psychic landscape is being manipulated by a cabal in search of state secrets, with the impending winter holiday (and his newly murdered colleague) taking center stage.

The Addams Family, “Christmas with the Addams Family,” The most macabre family on the block has the holiday spirit and it comes out in full force when a nasty neighbor tells Wednesday and Puglsey that Santa Claus isn’t real. Cue Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, and Cousin It, all dressed in red and white, bearing gifts for their increasingly suspicious kids.

Community, “Comparative Religion” and “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” Having spent three years in community college as a student and one semester as a teacher, I have a special appreciation for Community and I adore the myriad strange and creative ways they find to celebrate yuletide each year. Particularly the first two seasons — with their religious debate and stop-motion Rankin/Bass homage.

The Big Bang Theory, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis,” When I moved into my first apartment on my own, my friend Bobbie introduced me to the first two seasons of The Big Bang Theory, which (before Leonard became an entitled dick, before the narrative became determined to unmake and/or ridicule Sheldon’s Asperger’s tendencies and implied asexuality) made the newfound solitude and uncertainty a little less lonely.

Cabin Pressure, “Molokai,” England and the BBC have given a lot to world media culture through its programming. One of their more overlooked avenues of cultural exchange is BBC Radio 4, a radio channel that still produces audio dramas and sitcoms as well as news coverage and music broadcasting (like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Thank Radio 4 — they ordered the scripts that eventually produced the book series). The buzz surrounding Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch caused widespread retrospective coverage of the first two series of Radio 4’s Cabin Pressure, a sitcom set in the hectic world of MJN Air, a private charter airline service run by elderly divorcee, Carolyn, her son, Arthur, and pilots Douglas and Martin (Cumberbatch, playing against type as a slightly loopy captain). More than a year after series 2 concluded, Radio 4 produced the program’s heretofore only Christmas special, which sees our happy crew manning a flight to Hawaii on Christmas Eve, while trying to keep the holiday spirit alive for a homesick Arthur.

And last, but not least…

A Charlie Brown Christmas, One of the first television episodes/specials that my younger brother learned by rote and could repeat the dialogue from memory. On long car rides shared with contentious adults, the three of us would repeat the exchange between Snoopy and Lucy and fall down laughing. Amusing outselves and ensuring that everyone else was amused in a stressful environment. I think we can all use a good dose of that during the holidays.

~ by blackmoodcraft on December 23, 2013.

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