Following our recent foray into the world of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, which crosses the powerful streams of L. Frank Baum’s patented bizzaro-vision with unsettling Rankin and Bass puppets, I’ve received some requests for further freaky gems from my random stash of holiday oddities. Just in case the usual holiday fare is starting to wear a little thin this season, please consider the following alternatives to whatever terrible things the networks are attempting to inflict on us this year:
• The Year Without A Santa Claus: While there’s nothing else quite as patently strange as The Life & Adventures in the Rankin/Bass holiday canon, this little doozy certainly has its moments. You have to love any premise kicked off by a whiny, chronically depressed Santa who just doesn’t give a damn about Christmas anymore. Plus, the Heat Miser and Snow Miser are the catchiest duo to ever hit holiday animation, mommy-issues and all; if you need a quick fix, you can catch their campy little number right here.
• In terms of campy nonsense, the notoriously awful Star Wars Holiday Special is a perennial contender for the What. The Hell. Were They Thinking? Award. From the Boba Fett cartoon to the sight of an elderly Wookiee visibly aroused by the disco stylings of Diahann Carroll to Bea Arthur serenading the Mos Eisley cantina, the Special is a tragic experiment in kitsch which continues to wreak havoc in the back alleys of our pop culture consciousness. While it has never been released—in fact, George Lucas has reportedly stated, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it”—the SWHS is surprisingly easy to hunt down if you use The Force. And know how to perform a Google search. I may have heard somewhere that Antimatter Multiverse puts out a pretty nice bootleg edition with lots of fun extras. Also, the gang from RiffTrax, whose patented snarky commentary may provide the only way to make it through all two hours with your sanity intact, suggests a copy “you can Get frOm yOur friend Greg, in LakE VIDEO, Illinois.” However you want to go about it, if it’s weirdness you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. Scarred, possibly. Deeply traumatized? Most definitely. But not disappointed.
• In 1986’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas (directed by former Fonzie/future Barry Zuckercorn Henry Winkler), Dolly Parton and Lee Majors hide out in the Smoky Mountains with a bunch of annoying orphans, and fight a witch. Pretty much explains itself, doesn’t it? And you know Dolly’s gonna sing. Just try and stop her.
• There’s Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Celebration, featuring the California Raisins and some oddly bitchy comic-relief dinosaurs; it’s kind of trippy, in that Very Special 80s way. If you’ve ever sat around thinking, “Remember the California Raisins? What was that all about?” here’s the intro. What a weird, weird decade.
Finally, for those looking to update their holiday TV traditions with some slightly more recent hilarity, I’d heartily recommend the following:
• The Venture Bros. episode “A Very Venture Christmas” starts off with a brilliant pastiche of every Christmas special cliché ever and ends with a visit from the Krampus. I don’t even want to say anything more. It’s just amazing.
• Aqua Teen Hunger Force introduced the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future in the first season, although he (it?) has shown up several times since then. Like much of ATHF, the character makes no sense, but something about a time-traveling cyborg turkey is just plain funny. Also, Glenn Danzig cameos in that first episode…which is also funny.
• Futurama fans will already be familiar with the psychotic Robot Santa that terrorizes the Planet Express gang every Xmas (in the future, of course, the holiday is pronounced “eks-mas”). The character is introduced in the first season’s “Xmas Story” (which ends with a rousing rendition of “Santa Claus Is Gunning You Down” ), and returns in the third season episode “A Tale of Two Santas,” which also features Kwanzaabot and Dr. Zoidberg pretending to be Jesus. So good.
• Last but not least, Jonathan Coulton shines through like the true champion he is, serving up not one, not two, but THREE different reasons to drink too much eggnog, get loud, and rock out with garland wrapped around your head: “Christmas is Interesting” (the greatest holiday song ever written, in my opinion), “Podsafe Christmas Song” (fun, geeky, comes with adorable Spiff video; batteries not included), and “Chiron Beta Prime,” which has been echoing up and down the not-so-decked-out halls of Tor.com for days and days. If the video below doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, I don’t know what will…try having another drink and watch Dolly Parton fighting that backwoods hillbilly witch again, I guess. Best of luck!