With just a few more days to go till the season hits peak holly, jolly, it’s the perfect time to think about sitting on the couch and dosing yourself with cheer with a geeky holiday marathon. But, what to watch?!
Everyone’s childhood holiday experience varies in those particular pop-culture touchstones that make us so giddy and full of happy memories. For me, a lot of them are the ultra-dated 1970s variety specials that merged music with merriment. (And usually a lot of sequins.) But your mileage may vary; there are almost invariably going to be other cartoons, kids’ shows and variety specials that could be swapped into this list, but here’s a 4-hour or so happy train of childhood favorites that would make a terrific night in. (Preferably with cocoa – or eggnog – and fleece pajamas…)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
There’s probably nothing more upsetting to me than the knowledge that a whole generation (one that’s probably hitting high school right about now) is going to think of Jim Carrey in latex when they think of The Grinch. When I was a kid, the animated holiday special was (and still is) tops. (Though, fun fact, there was a record version narrated by Zero Mostel that is just as dandy.) You can’t beat Boris Karloff’s droll, miserable Grinchy tones, nor Thurl Ravenscroft’s big and burly rendition of the mean one’s theme tune.
The Year Without Santa Claus
To be fair, there are at least half a dozen Rankin/Bass produced holiday specials that could have filled this slot. The classic original stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as well as the 2D ‘toon Frosty the Snowman are among the best-known and most loved, but I’ve always been incredibly partial to this 1974 yuletide treat. Santa’s worried no one cares anymore so he’s taking a holiday; meanwhile, the Elves are caught in a brotherly weather spat between Snow Miser and Heat Miser. Honestly, those two hams (both frozen and roasted) are the best part…
Christmas At Pee Wee’s Playhouse
I nearly went full animation for this marathon, but damned if this epic mid-1980s gem was impossible to pass up. It delivers everything you loved about Pee Wee’s Playhouse – the puppets, the secret word game, Laurence Fishburne’s delightful Cowboy Curtis mullet – plus a whole host of incredible ultra-80s cameos and a running gag about everyone giving Pee-Wee fruitcake that really out to outstay it’s welcome and never does. Magical! (Real talk, though: Grace Jones’ “Little Drummer Boy” is the stuff of legends.)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Here’s one that will throw the young’uns for a loop: Did you know that Scrooge McDuck is actually much, much older than his role in DuckTales?! How about at least 50 years older? Truth, ya wee moppets: He made his debut in Disney comics as early as the 1940’s, and by the mid-1970’s he’d taken up a starring role in an adaptation of the Dickens classic that inspired the miserly old feather-ruffler’s existence. Of course, that first version was an audio recording; by 1983, Mickey’s Christmas Carol had made the jump to a terrific animated adaptation that fits one of the great holiday tales into this nostalgic marathon just perfectly.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
And some classics are just so classic they can’t ever be topped. It’s hard to put one’s finger on what makes the 1964 debut of the Peanuts crew on television (yep, this was the very first of many) such a triumph, but it has a lot to do with the pitch-perfect kids’ vocal deliveries (Sally and Linus in particular are impossibly adorable), the simple lesson in remembering what’s most important during the holidays, and of course Vince Guaraldi’s indelible songs with their jazzy joy, sometimes warm, sometimes melancholic. “Christmastime Is Here” has become a bona-fide holiday staple. Go on now, do the dance.
The He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special
This is it, 80’s babies – it doesn’t get any more nostalgic than this! In the middle of an espionage plan against Skeletor, Orko crash-lands in a shuttle on Earth and meets two kids who explain Christmas to him. Then the three end up zapped back to Eternia and you know Orko’s about to make damn sure the rest of them know about Christmas too. And it happens to be Adam and Adora’s birthday (how conveeeenient!). It’s all completely ridiculous in the very best way so it’s the best way to end this marathon – none more ridic-awesome than Skeletor taking the kids (and an alien puppy) hostage and somehow, for some reason, being compelled to keep them warm and safe. He’s not nice, guys…. HE’S NOT NICE, OKAY?!
These are our recommendations for the bestest memory-lane holiday binge; got any more up your sleeve? Let us know on social with the hashtag #HolidayTVLoot!