By Loryn Stone
There’s a long-standing western belief that Christmas time is synonymous with magic. Ever since Christian Yule traditions were influenced by Pagan Solstice ones, the holiday season seems to be that singular time of year where reality is given the middle-finger. The time where other-worldly miracles are allowed to happen within our otherwise rigid and staunch family-friendly culture. This of course reflects primarily in our media, and has been engrained ever since Charles Dickins wrote about a greedy old curmudgeon fuck visited by three bored peekaboo ghosts. Soon after came movies, which segued into TV shows. And while something about the holidays allows liberties to be taken in that grounded existence we know as “real-life”, it’s still worth pointing out when the guise of Christmas allowed televised Holiday Specials to break the rules just a little too much.
Full House: “Our Very First Christmas Show”
The Premise: The Tanner Clan is en route to Colorado to visit “some relatives” when snow forces their plane to make an emergency landing at an airport, where the family is now snowed in inside a baggage claim. From here, the bulk of the episode consists of Stephanie Tanner whining about her suitcase of lost Christmas presents, and Danny complaining that he’s the worst father ever because Christmas in an airport. Joey dresses as Santa to try to cheer the kids up, but Stephanie pulls off his beard, angry that he’s not the real Santa. Frustrated by all the commercialistic kvetching around him, Uncle Jesse goes off in a “Meaning of Christmas” speech that puts Linus’ to shame.
Where it gets Weird: Near the end of the episode, the episode’s token cranky plane passenger disappears and a mysterious Santa Claus shows up out of nowhere. Stephanie tugs his beard, it doesn’t budge, and the family’s bag of Christmas presents appear on the conveyer belt with a terrible diiiing sound effect.
Then suddenly, Santa disappears. The three men and DJ find a message on the crabby stranger’s laptop screen (and for real, it’s a 500lbs 1988 IBM, this brick could murder people) that reads “Merry Christmas, Ho ho ho!” In awe, they look at each other and say “Nah!”
But then, Stephanie runs over to her Dad and the guys, stating:
“I just saw Santa Claus flying away!”
I just. Saw Santa Claus. FLYING AWAY.
Okay- think about the implications of that. You looked out the window and saw a man flying away! Full House never established itself as a show where magic exists. It didn’t get the Urkel treatment- it’s grounded in reality. And no one else on the show is any help. They look at each other in disbelief and say, “You think….?”, to which DJ replies, “I don’t know what to think. All I know is that this turned out to be a great Christmas. Let’s go open presents!”
You can argue “But it’s Christmas! Magic needs to exist on family shows for Christmas.” But again- Full House is not magical realism, like Family Matters. These mysterious “relatives” in Colorado are never brought up again. And Stephanie saw a man flying in the sky, and no one does anything about it- not even suggest that she’s just a dumb kid who is probably sleep deprived and hallucinating in their baggage claim purgatory.
ALF’s Christmas Special
The Premise: ALF and the Tanners (what was with the 80s and families named Tanner?) prepare to spend Christmas in a shit-shack mountain cabin where Willy can yell at the alien for not understanding Christmas. When the owner, Mr. Foley, comes to visit them (stating that he can’t stay for dinner because he’s delivering a car trunk full of toys to the hospital), ALF (enticed by the idea of free wares) jumps into his trunk and is taken to a hospital. Mr. Foley depressingly states that his wife died two weeks ago, and drives off. Now disguised as a toy, ALF finds himself given away as a Christmas gift to a dying little girl named Tiffany and ends up helping her.
Where it gets Weird: The whole thing, from the god damned start. The serious tone of this special is boggling. The family is so mean to ALF and the whole subplot of dying children and believing in Santa and Christian overtones is just so out of the realm for the show. This is fucking heartbreaking!
At least the little girl ALF is given to gets to die knowing aliens exist. This special takes the feels to the same place as the Very Special Drug episodes take it- like, they found a kid with pot and they act like he’s shooting up heroin. But this episode is the heroin. I thought I was just going to smoke some pot, but my insides are shattered. The two heart-wrecking stand out scenes come when ALF overhears a doctor and Mr. Foley as Santa discussing that there’s nothing more the hospital staff can do for little Tiffany, and what do you say to a little girl who will never see another Christmas? The second is for the books, when ALF is watching Tiffany drawing. She says the picture is of herself.
He asks “Why do you have wings? Are you an alien?”
Tiffany chokes up and doesn’t explain what the wings symbolize.
ALF looks at her and says “I think you’re beautiful.”
Oh yeah, and those jerk Tanners finally look for ALF, almost thirty minutes in. Give me back the weird alien puppet I know and love who yells out “Willy!” and eats cats.
Baywatch: “Silent Night, Baywatch Night”
The Premise: In this two-part episode (that’s a full hour of bouncing boobs and drowning), the basic plot line is:
Part 1 – As Christmas nears, Mitch and Tracy fall in love. Mitch and Hobie let a lost boy stay with them during the holidays, only to discover he’s a con artist. C.J. believes a priest has developed romantic feelings for her. Matt suspects that a group of vacationing little people are really Santa’s elves.
Part 2 – At Christmas, Mitch tries to reunite Joey with her mother, C.J. worries that a priest is leaving the church for her sweet cans, and Matt investigates whether Santa’s elves are really vacationing at Baywatch.
Where it gets Weird: Matt goes full dumb-dumb in his quest to discover whether or not this group of little people are elves. Top it off with the goony clown music suitable for a bootleg NES game that plays when they’re on screen and you have a Christmas Special for the ages. In one part, the supposed elves decorate Matt’s guard tower with holiday decorations and then mysteriously disappear…. the plot most certainly thickens. The fact that this grown man is even entertaining this thought shaking around in his skull is boggling. Spoiler: They’re not elves, but Matt was totally ready for them to be. This guy is ready to dive into the ocean to save you. Maybe some extra oxygen would be helpful?
I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to Baywatch, but I don’t remember any of the characters being quite so braindead. So to turn a character on his head for the sake of a cheap “do elves exist?” Christmas mystery is just a little looser in the liberties than any show should allow itself to be.
The Nanny: “Oy to the World”
The Premise: Back in the 90s, us poor Jewish kids were starved for representation that some of us, namely me, was stupid enough to cling onto this shit heap show. It starred Fran Drescher as a sexy broad from Queens, NY who gets hired to nanny for a rich Englishman’s three blonde kids. She’s loud and her skirt is short, therefore insanity ensues. The Christmas special continues this theme, except that it’s, for some unexplained reason, animated in a style so hideous it makes the Star Wars Holiday Special Boba Fett cartoon look like a damn Disney feature.
Where it gets Weird: The entire premise of this hot trash is the Christmas weirdness. Their previous Christmas specials were typical, like “hey, let’s mix some dreidel spinning Chanukah people with some Christmas people and see what happens.” But this piece of shit took it to a place no one could get behind. Fran, her boss’ son Brighton, and a dog are whisked away to the North Pole by a gust of wind. Someone needs to tell the writers (which I can say with confidence was Fran) that simply animating something doesn’t give you permission to break the rules of the world you established.
Cartoon holiday specials like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Metalocalypse, Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hills are all allowed to have strange animated specials because their over-the-top weirdness or mundane non-reactiveness is suiting to the cartoon’s overall decorum. But with The Nanny, that just can never work. You can’t go cartoon a million seasons in and expect the viewer to find charm in what they’re seeing. It’s all just so absurd and out of the realm of the show’s regularly scheduled agenda.
The animation has no charm, the voice acting is repulsive, and this isn’t geared for children or adults. Luckily toward the middle, the viewer (if anyone was stupid enough to stay that long) is treated to Fran howling a piece called “Oy to the World”, which she ends with the word “mensche”. Maybe it’s aimed for us Jewish kids after all…I’m so embarrassed. The special commences with sexy Fran saving Christmas from a grinchy-Jack Frost-Ice Queen- version of CC Babcock, because apparently having one person on the show who can act is a problem.
Spoiler: The special ends with Fran waking up from a near-coma, thinking it was a dream, but her dog is still talking. So…yeah…no to that, thanks.
Step by Step: “Christmas Story”
The Premise: After his recent construction job at a toy store, Frank and Carol realize they’d forgotten to buy a trainset for the youngest son on the show that no one cares about. They go to the store after hours to get their discount on toys. They’re caught inside the store by a know-it-all deputy sheriff, played by Don Knotts (which is less of a nod to Andy Griffith and more to Three’s Company because old shows).
Frank and Carol wind up in jail on Christmas Eve when Knotts thinks their discount is a five-fingered one. Meanwhile, the kids don’t know what happened to their parents, and rip through all of their presents. Cody sets them straight, Linus-style, and when they learn that Frank and Carol are in jail, they all go down there to celebrate Christmas with them.
Where it gets Weird: Look, I’ve never been a cop or a lawyer or anything productive to society. Fun Fact, I used to earn money by taking houses away from people during the sweet Foreclosure Crisis. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the way going to jail works. Not only are people not detained that fast, but a husband and wife team, seemingly sober without meth, crack, or pills on them likely wouldn’t be locked up. Especially not together. And their hoard of blended children wouldn’t be welcome to see their parents caged up like a zoo exhibit. I get it, it’s a shitty comedy- but if a show is grounded in reality without ridiculous scenarios diddling it on the regular, legal liberties are just too far a stretch for me.
Beverly Hills 90210: “A Walsh Family Christmas”
The Premise: This episode has a long, drawn out plotline about rich kid Steve traveling to New Mexico to meet his biological grandfather (because he was adopted, but then later in the show it’s revealed SURPRISE, YOU WEREN’T BUT YOUR DAD IS A LYING SCUM BAG WHO LET YOU THINK YOU WERE FOR 20 YEARS!) Plotline B involves a crazy man dressed as Santa popping up everywhere. Like a stalker, he appears as the pilot flying Steve’s rich ass home, to the prison where Dylan visits his dad, and finally, to the boutique where Brenda works (where she feels sorry for him and asks him to come to dinner.)
Where it gets Weird: 90210 established itself as a show where if someone is creeping around you, there’s a problem. We’ve seen this with all the girls that Brandon dates, the rapey creep following Donna, and the little cokehead that latches onto Kelly. But for the sake of Christmas, this lonely weirdo doling out gifts to the crew is cool by everyone. Plus, when the episode ends the man mysteriously disappears…but footsteps are heard on the roof.
Okay…let me just say thing. I’ve never been rich or anything, but I can only imagine that if you live in a mansion in Beverly Hills and there are footsteps on your roof, there’s a problem. Magic’s never been established so the show breaks its own rules when an old man disappearing on your property with footsteps overhead isn’t a big deal. It is.
Call your private security.
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