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Posted at 10:49 AM ET, 12/10/2010

Friday list: Most random retro holiday specials

By Jen Chaney

Grandma ... look out! (Time Warner via Christmas Specials Wiki)

In last week's Friday List, Liz asked readers to rank their favorite holiday fare from most favorite to least, touching on all the usual sugarplum-related suspects. (For the record, the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" are currently leading the pack.)

Today's Friday List will take us in a different yuletide direction. Instead of examining the classics, this rundown pays tribute to the holiday specials so random that time has (nearly) forgotten them.

So join me on this magical journey through the craptastic Christmas fare of yesteryear, proof that for every "Grinch," there is a "Claymation Christmas Celebration" and for every "Charlie Brown Christmas" there is a "Christmas Comes to Pac-Land." (And don't forget to chime in with your own random holiday favorites by posting a comment.)

10. "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer"

You know what's more ridiculous than a novelty song about an old woman who gets turned into roadkill by Santa's sleigh? An animated children's special based on said novelty song.

9. "The Glo Friends Save Christmas"

Remember Glo Friends, those illuminating, plush offshoots of the Glo Worms that were semi-popular during the '80s? Well, neither do most people. Which is why very few of us remember the holiday special based on them.

8. "Alf's Special Christmas"

This isn't technically a holiday special since it aired as part of "Alf's" second season. But it was an hour-long episode, it has the word special in the title and it's available for viewing in its entirety on Hulu. Therefore, it made the list. Plus, every Christmas special is better with some anti-cat jokes.

7. "A Very Brady Christmas"

This 1988 Brady Bunch reunion movie has all kinds of things wrong with it, including the fact that Susan Olsen doesn't even play the role of Cindy, Sam the Butcher cheats on Alice and Mike gets trapped in a collapsing building. While watching the following tribute-montage, add an extra layer of fun by playing the always enjoyable game of Count the Bad '80s Perms.

6. "A Claymation Christmas Celebration"

No holiday special is complete unless it features some California raisins wearing berets and ear muffs and singing a soulful version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." At least that's my policy.

5. "The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus"

Rankin-Bass has given us some delightful, enduring animated holiday specials. This is not one of them. Unless you find a program that's based on an L. Frank Baum book and lets us know that Santa Claus was raised from infancy by lionesses and wood nymphs enduring or delightful. But honestly, that doesn't seem possible.

4. "A Solid Gold Christmas"

Each year, the Solid Gold crew paid tribute to the holidays with a yuletide-carol-filled episode. The 1983 edition strikes me as particularly stellar. Or, to put it another way, I have just three words and an ampersand for you: Wayland Flowers & Madame. Oh, and one more thing: Make sure you check out the Solid Gold dancers' interpretation of "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" at the 6:25 mark in the video below. I'm no expert on Herald Angels, but I'm pretty sure they don't wear saucy leotards.

3. "Christmas Comes to Pac-Land"

Once upon a time, there was a Saturday morning cartoon based on Pac-Man. It, in turn, spawned a holiday special that stars (among others) Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Clyde, Santa Claus and reindeer who enjoy chomping on power pellets.

2. "He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special"

Sometimes there just aren't words. This is one of those times.

1. "The Star Wars Holiday Special"

It goes without saying that this is the Queen Mother of Random Christmas Specials, a holiday misfire so freaky that it's somehow managed to transform from mess of weirdness into poorly executed treasure. Focused on Chewbacca, his relatives and their celebration of an annual Christmas-esque occasion called Life Day -- and also featuring extended periods in which no one speaks anything but Wookie -- it's so atrocious that Carrie Fisher once told the New York Times's David Carr that she shows it at parties ... when she wants people to leave. That, my friends, is the mark of true, random-holiday-special quality.

By Jen Chaney  | December 10, 2010; 10:49 AM ET
Categories:  Friday Lists, Pop Culture, TV  
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That Star Wars special is almost 2 hours long!!

Looks like it's gonna be a long lunch today!

I don't know why Lucas won't release that thing. He gave the world Jar Jar & those new movies which are mostly craptastic in many ways, yet he won't release the equally craptastic Star Wars Christmas Special.

There's plenty of us GenXers that would buy that thing right up! I'm not even a Star Wars fan & I'd love to own that thing!

Posted by: wadejg | December 10, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

The Life and times of the Santa Claus is the only Rannkin:Bass special I will not watch. I even watched Jack Frost (not the one with whathisname, the stop motion one where Jack becomes mortal), the First Christmas Snow with Angela Landsbury and The Little Drummer Boy Part II.

The Life and Times of SC just freaks me OUT.

Posted by: epjd | December 10, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

IIRC, Fisher was tweaked out of her mind on coke during that.

Posted by: wiredog | December 10, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree ep, I do NOT dig that Santa Claus one either.

My Santa Claus was a foundling Kris Kringle, raised by elves, voiced by Mickey Rooney & lives in sin with Jessica & has a friend in the Winter Warlock.

I don't know WHO that Santa is in the Life & Times of Santa Claus.

Posted by: wadejg | December 10, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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