On the occasion of it being that time of year, and everyone else is publishing similar lists, so here’s mine:

simpsons-roasting-on-an-open-fire12. “The Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” Dec. 17, 1989. I include this on the list merely to make a point: Contrary to some TV historians, this was not the premiere episode of “The Simpsons.” It was a stand alone TV special that preceded the animated sitcom’s debut four weeks. The thing I remember most about it was, although “The Simpsons” had been featured in animated shorts on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in the 1980s, “Open Fire” marked the first time we saw other residents of Springfield. The first non-Simpson to appear was Ned Flanders, and I remember thinking he looked really weird.

11. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Like Clark Griswold, I spend my holiday bonus each year before receiving it. It’s a dangerous habit.

10. The Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas specials, 1995 to 2000. I never watched these but I feel I know them well, thanks to Tom Shales’ wickedly funny reviews in the Washington Post. His 1998 column opened with what may be my favorite newspaper lede of all time: “What’s the difference between the 24-hour flu and a Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special? Twenty-three hours.”

9. “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” Nov. 14, 1964. When I was a kid, Channel 20, one of the independent TV stations in the Washington, D.C., area, used to air this wonderfully low-budget sci fi film every year at Christmastime, and I thought it was amazingly good. In the movie, Martians kidnap Santa and take him to their planet so he can deliver holiday cheer to their little green children. Brilliant. Why don’t I own this on DVD?

8. “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” Nov. 17, 1978. This special is practically an urban legend, but I actually remember watching it as a kid. I saw “Star Wars” in the theater during its original run in 1977 (falling asleep soon after the opening scroll), so in the days before cable television and home video players, this was a rare opportunity to see the “Star Wars” characters in action.

cookie-monster7. “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” Dec. 3, 1978. I remember watching this on the night it debuted, too. I haven’t seen it in ages, but Erin watched it recently and tells me it’s adorable. If you ask me, public television should air this every year, the way the commercial networks do with their annual specials.

6. “Frosty the Snowman,” Dec. 14, 1969. I seem to recall this being my sister’s favorite Christmas special. I remember liking it a lot as a kid, even though it didn’t have the visual flair of the Rankin/Bass specials or the appealing message of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

5. “Yogi’s First Christmas,” Nov. 22, 1980. I loved this one as a kid. Don’t ask me why. In retrospect, it wasn’t that interesting. It was a syndicated special, and Channel 20 used to air it twice each season. Also, it was presented as a two-hour special, although IMDB reports it lasts just 98 minutes. So this means I was subjected to 22 minutes of commercials? No wonder I grew up to be so materialistic.

4. “A Very Brady Christmas,” Dec. 18, 1988. At one point, I watched this so often I could virtually recite the script, word for word. I’ve forgotten most of it by now, but I can still recall the first line: “Pedal faster, Mike!”

3. “Miracle on 34th Street,” December 14, 1973. Yeah, I know. Everyone loves the 1947 original with Natalie Wood. But give this remake its due: It has a cast of 1970s all stars, including “Good Morning America” anchor (!) David Hartman in the lead role (!), plus Bosley, Mr. Cunningham, Mindy’s dad, and Thurston Freakin’ Howell III. This was originally way down the list, but once I reflected on the caliber of its cast, it zoomed near the top.

2. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” Dec. 6, 1964. The Rankin/Bass animation is as charming now as the first time I saw it, and I love the music, with “A Holly Jolly Christmas” ranking as one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. And what gay person doesn’t identify with the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys?

charlie-brown-christmas1. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Dec. 9, 1965. Still the best, even if it’s overtly religious. Even though I’m pretty Grinchy, I can’t help but smile when I see those Peanuts kids dance. (Personal favorites: the twin girls in the purple dress, the boy in the orange shirt. Wish I could move like that.)

Advertisements