Sunday List: Special T.V. Christmas episodes for my gift-wrapping this year.

Even though I’m not a Christian I still get together with the family for the day and exchange presents. I usually wrap them on Christmas Eve, and while I do I still want to get in the mood by putting on Christmas specials from specific television shows. I don’t bother with the traditional specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’m referring to Christmas specials of some of my favorite television shows. In other words, I stick to what I have on DVD because I like the rest of the shows, anyway. I figured that tonight I’ll post a list of the special episodes that I watched on Christmas Eve. Because, you know, it’s getting late in the day when I wrote this and it’s an easy list to make.

  1. XMas Marks the Spot from The Real Ghostbusters. I admit it, I’m not a big fan of the movies. I like everything there is to like about them (even the new one) but not as much as everybody else seems to. But I was always a big fan of the cartoon show when I was a kid, and that fandom partly carried over when I became an adult. In this episode the Ghostbusters inadvertently travel back in time and catch the spirits of Christmas as they were about to teach Scrooge his lesson, thereby killing Christmas. In present day Egon has to go into the containment unit and rescue the spirits within a time limit while the other three go back to Victorian England and try to pass themselves off as the spirits in order to help Scrooge. Other than being well-written by J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame, there isn’t anything particularly great about this episode more so than any others of the show. But it works.
  2. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire from The Simpsons. There were several Christmas episodes on The Simpsons over the years. I picked not only the first, but the first episode of the entire series. While I recognize that the show got technically better as it went on (although I dislike the look of the show when they went digital), for some reason I like the look and feel of the early days, when it felt more like a sitcom and was before it got crazy. Again, there’s nothing especially great about this episode over any other from season one.But it’s fun to go back and see what the show looked like while they were still developing it.
  3. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. In this standalone (not belonging to any season) episode of the British sitcom Blackadder, Ebenizer Blackadder is the nicest man in the whole of England. As a result, he gets taken advantage of by everybody else and as a result both he and his servant Baldrick are dirt poor. Blackadder gets a visit from a Christmas spirit and sees visions of his ancestors and far-future descendant, learning that by being mean they got whatever they wanted and lived in relative luxury. This episode is fun because not only to we get to see new scenes featuring Blackadders II and III, we get a twist on the traditional Christmas Carol parody: by being too nice one gets taken advantage of but by being mean one gets rewarded, at least in his family. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is one of the funniest episodes of the entire run of the show and is worth checking out.
  4. The Christmas Lunch Incident and Winter from The Vicar of Dibley. I love The Vicar of Dibley. Dawn French is awesome. And considering that the show is based around the lives of a vicar in a small village and its inhabitants, the Christmas episodes were bound to pull out all of the stops. In the first, the Vicar agrees to a series of separate lunches as a result of not wanting to hurt anybody’s feelings. In the second, the church council decides to put on a nativity play on a farm with a very pregnant Alice Tinker as Mary, who ends up giving birth for real during the performance. These two episodes are hilarious while delivering messages of warmth and kindness.
    I forgot that there was a third Christmas especial in the series. There’s always next year.
  5. Christmas Crackers and The Father Christmas Affair from Are You Being Served?. If you haven’t detected theme developing it’s that I’m a big fan of British sitcoms, at least older ones. Are You Being Served? was the first one I watched on a regular basis and I know every episode inside-out by this point. There were actually four Christmas specials; however, they weren’t so much as specials about Christmas as they were specials that were made at Christmas time. They usually involved more song and dance than the usual episodes of the show. Christmas Crackers went through a series of Christmas jokes and ended with the cast suddenly singing over a horn ensemble while in costume. The Father Christmas Affair (which is normally not shown on PBS because it includes a character in blackface) has a song-and-dance routine with only a few of the cast members singing to the song “Mammy” and ends with everybody entering a competition to become a Father Christmas for the department. There are better episodes in Are You Being Served? but these are still enjoyable. And I want that costume that Mr. Humphries wears in the first one.

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