The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

By John Scalzi

An Algonquin Round Table Christmas (1927)

Alexander Woolcott, Franklin Pierce Adams, George Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker were the stars of this 1927 NBC Red radio network special, one of the earliest Christmas specials ever performed. Unfortunately the principals, lured to the table for an unusual evening gathering by the promise of free drinks and pirogies, appeared unaware they were live and on the air, avoiding witty seasonal banter to concentrate on trashing absent Round Tabler Edna Ferber’s latest novel, Mother Knows Best, and complaining, in progressively drunken fashion, about their lack of sex lives. Seasonal material of a sort finally appears in the 23rd minute when Dorothy Parker, already on her fifth drink, can be heard to remark, “one more of these and I’ll be sliding down Santa’s chimney.” The feed was cut shortly thereafter. NBC Red’s 1928 holiday special “Christmas with the Fitzgeralds” was similarly unsuccessful.

The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas (1939)

Listeners of radio’s Columbia Broadcasting System who tuned in to hear a Christmas Eve rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol were shocked when they heard what appeared to be a newscast from the north pole, reporting that Santa’s Workshop had been overrun in a blitzkrieg by Finnish proxies of the Nazi German government. The newscast, a hoax created by 20-something wunderkind Orson Wells as a seasonal allegory about the spread of Fascism in Europe, was so successful that few listeners stayed to listen until the end, when St. Nick emerged from the smoking ruins of his workshop to deliver a rousing call to action against the authoritarian tide and to urge peace on Earth, good will toward men and expound on the joys of a hot cup of Mercury Theater of Air’s sponsor Campbell’s soup. Instead, tens of thousands of New York City children mobbed the Macy’s Department Store on 34th, long presumed to be Santa’s New York embassy, and sang Christmas carols in wee, sobbing tones. Only a midnight appearance of New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in full Santa getup quelled the agitated tykes. Welles, now a hunted man on the Eastern seaboard, decamped for Hollywood shortly thereafter.

Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951)

In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike. The special ends with the entropic collapse of the civilization of takers and the spectacle of children trudging across the bitterly cold, dark tundra to offer Santa cash for his services, acknowledging at last that his genius makes the gifts — and therefore Christmas — possible. Prior to broadcast, Mutual Broadcast System executives raised objections to the radio play, noting that 56 minutes of the hour-long broadcast went to a philosophical manifesto by the elf and of the four remaining minutes, three went to a love scene between Santa and the cold, practical Mrs. Claus that was rendered into radio through the use of grunts and the shattering of several dozen whiskey tumblers. In later letters, Rand sneeringly described these executives as “anti-life.”

The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday” (1968)

Mr. Spock, with his pointy ears, is hailed as a messiah on a wintry world where elves toil for a mysterious master, revealed to be Santa just prior to the first commercial break. Santa, enraged, kills Ensign Jones and attacks the Enterprise in his sleigh. As Scotty works to keep the power flowing to the shields, Kirk and Bones infiltrate Santa’s headquarters. With the help of the comely and lonely Mrs. Claus, Kirk is led to the heart of the workshop, where he learns the truth: Santa is himself a pawn to a master computer, whose initial program is based on an ancient book of children’s Christmas tales. Kirk engages the master computer in a battle of wits, demanding the computer explain how it is physically possible for Santa to deliver gifts to all the children in the universe in a single night. The master computer, confronted with this computational anomaly, self-destructs; Santa, freed from mental enslavement, releases the elves and begins a new, democratic society. Back on the ship, Bones and Spock bicker about the meaning of Christmas, an argument which ends when Scotty appears on the bridge with egg nog made with Romulan Ale.

Filmed during the series’ run, this episode was never shown on network television and was offered in syndication only once, in 1975. Star Trek fans hint the episode was later personally destroyed by Gene Roddenberry. Rumor suggests Harlan Ellison may have written the original script; asked about the episode at 1978’s IgunaCon II science fiction convention, however, Ellison described the episode as “a quiescently glistening cherem of pus.”

Bob & Carol & Ted & Santa (1973)

This ABC Christmas special featured Santa as a happy-go-lucky swinger who comically wades into the marital bed of two neurotic 70s couples, and also the music of the Carpenters. It was screened for television critics but shelved by the network when the critics, assembled at ABC’s New York offices, rose as one to strangle the producers at the post-viewing interview. Joel Siegel would later write, “When Santa did his striptease for Carol while Karen Carpenter sang ‘Top of the World’ and peered through an open window, we all looked at each other and knew that we television critics, of all people, had been called upon to defend Western Civilization. We dared not fail.”

A Muppet Christmas with Zbigniew Brzezinski (1978)

A year before their rather more successful Christmas pairing with John Denver, the Muppets joined Carter Administration National Security Advisor Brezezinski for an evening of fun, song, and anticommunist rhetoric. While those who remember the show recall the pairing of Brzezinki and Miss Piggy for a duet of “Winter Wonderland” as winsomely enchanting, the scenes where the NSA head explains the true meaning of Christmas to an assemblage of Muppets dressed as Afghan mujahideen was incongruous and disturbing even then. Washington rumor, unsupported by any Carter administration member, suggests that President Carter had this Christmas special on a repeating loop while he drafted his infamous “Malaise” speech.

The Village People in Can’t Stop the Christmas Music — On Ice! (1980)

Undeterred by the miserable flop of the movie Can’t Stop the Music!, last place television network NBC aired this special, in which music group the Village People mobilize to save Christmas after Santa Claus (Paul Lynde) experiences a hernia. Thus follows several musical sequences — on ice! — where the Village People move Santa’s Workshop to Christopher Street, enlist their friends to become elves with an adapted version of their hit “In The Navy,” and draft film co-star Bruce Jenner to become the new Santa in a sequence which involves stripping the 1976 gold medal decathlon winner to his shorts, shaving and oiling his chest, and outfitting him in fur-trimmed red briefs and crimson leathers to a disco version of “Come O Ye Faithful.” Peggy Fleming, Shields and Yarnell and Lorna Luft co-star.

Interestingly, there is no reliable data regarding the ratings for this show, as the Nielsen diaries for this week were accidentally consumed by fire. Show producers estimate that one in ten Americans tuned in to at least part of the show, but more conservative estimates place the audience at no more than two or three percent, tops.

A Canadian Christmas with David Cronenberg (1986)

Faced with Canadian content requirements but no new programming, the Canadian Broadcasting Company turned to Canadian director David Cronenberg, hot off his success with Scanners and The Fly, to fill the seasonal gap. In this 90-minute event, Santa (Michael Ironside) makes an emergency landing in the Northwest Territories, where he is exposed to a previously unknown virus after being attacked by a violent moose. The virus causes Santa to develop both a large, tooth-bearing orifice in his belly and a lustful hunger for human flesh, which he sates by graphically devouring Canadian celebrities Bryan Adams, Dan Ackroyd and Gordie Howe on national television. Music by Neil Young.

Noam Chomsky: Deconstructing Christmas (1998)

This PBS/WGBH special featured linguist and social commentator Chomsky sitting at a desk, explaining how the development of the commercial Christmas season directly relates to the loss of individual freedoms in the United States and the subjugation of indigenous people in southeast Asia. Despite a rave review by Z magazine, musical guest Zach de la Rocha and the concession by Chomsky to wear a seasonal hat for a younger demographic appeal, this is known to be the least requested Christmas special ever made.

Christmas with the Nuge (2002)

Spurred by the success of The Osbournes on sister network MTV, cable network VH1 contracted zany hard rocker Ted Nugent to help create a “reality” Christmas special. Nugent responded with a special that features the Motor City Madman bowhunting, and then making jerky from, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree, all specially flown in to Nugent’s Michigan compound for the occasion. In the second half of the hour-long special, Nugent heckles vegetarian Night Ranger/Damn Yankees bassist Jack Blades into consuming three strips of dove jerky. Fearing the inevitable PETA protest, and boycotts from Moby and Pam Anderson, VH1 never aired the special, which is available solely by special order at the Nuge Store on TedNugent.com.

185 thoughts on “The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

  1. John:

    Kudos for your Ayn Rand satire. I read Atlas Shrugged many years ago, and your piece brought it all back. I think that even Ms. Rand would have (briefly) cracked a smile upon reading it.

  2. I’m sorry to say it took me a couple of articles to realize the episodes weren’t real. Great job!

    Do you know if anyone has ever asked Harlan Ellison if he wrote the Christmas episode of Star Trek? I’d love to see him at a con and ask him…

  3. …the Star Wars Holiday Special didn’t make the cut?

    If the SWHS didn’t count than I shudder to think how truly bad these items must be.

    Either that, or my friends weren’t lying when they claimed to have one of the few copies still in existence, right before I was tied down and gagged and forced to watch it.

  4. Sternel asks:

    “…the Star Wars Holiday Special didn’t make the cut?”

    Of course not. Life Day totally ROCKS.

  5. What a great piece. I actually laughed out loud several times, earning concerend looks from my office mate. Oh well, he already thinks I’m a little off.

    Glad to see you back.

  6. Your Village People parody stands as one of the most carefully constructed and artfully executed gay jokes I’ve seen.

    But honestly? I think that the Star Trek special is real. My old roommate had the transcript, yo.

  7. “Worst. Espisode. Ever.”

    Great to see you back John! Good luck with getting over the sickness.

  8. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    Includes: – Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951) – The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday” (1968) – Bob & Carol & Ted & Santa (1973) – A Muppet Christmas with Zbigniew Brzezinski (1978) – The Village…

  9. C’mon now, folks.

    The “Star Wars Christmas Special” is an URBAN MYTH.

    It never really existed.

    Yes, you may “remember” seeing a two-hour special with wookies walking in space and Bea Arthur singing in a space bar, but c’mon, like that *really happened!*

    Yes, there was the sketch on Saturday Night Live back in December ’77, but that’s it, nothing more. On such acorns mighty balls of twine are wound.

    Really.

    Don’t press the issue. Don’t go looking for the video tapes. They don’t exist. They *can’t* exist. A loving God and a rational universe would not *let* such a thing exist.

    Leave it be.

  10. Lawrence Person writes:

    “I know it’s parody, but no one would have used the word ‘mujahideen’ in 1978, as the Soviet Union didn’t invade Afghanistan until December 1979.”

    This is incorrect. The movement known as the Afghan mujahideen began in June of 1978 as a result of the communist coup in Afghanistan in April of that year. It certainly became more well-known after the Soviet invasion; however, as a group they predate the invasion. Brezezinski himself notes this in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur (see at http://www.counterpunch.org/brzezinski.html) when he mentions the decision of the Carter Administration to secretly furnish intelligence aid to the mujahideen six months *before* the Soviet invasion.

    In short, the use of the word (and of the Muppets dressed up as the fighters the word represents) in 1978 is not anachronistic, merely slightly ahead of the curve of media perception. And we all know how hip the Muppets were to cool new trends, particularly in anti-communist insurgencies.

  11. Actually, I’m pretty sure Rand wouldn’t chuckle. That would require her to be human, and we all know she was a robot.

    Still, good article. I’d love to see David Cronenberg do a Christmas special!

  12. Certainly there was widespread (if local and unfocused) resistance to the Khalq regime in 1978, especially after the arrest of Abdul Qadir. However, I do not believe that any of the numerous resistance groups were known as “mujahideen” in the West until 1980 or later. I would be most interested in hearing a contemporary source for term being used earlier than that in reference to the Afghan resistance. Anyone have access to an OED? (I’m relying on Newell’s The Struggle for Aghanistan, Arnold’s The Faithful Pebble and his earlier Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Perspective, Borovik’s The Hidden War and Shams’ In Cold Blood: The Communist Conquest of Afghanistan (alas, no index either of those), and Bradsher’s Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. (I used to have a copy of Klass’ Afghanistan: The Great Game Revisited, but it was a loaner and I had to give it back.))

    Still spoilingthe parody through analysis…

  13. I’d never read any Rand until a girl I liked told me that Atlas Shrugged was her favorite book and that I should read it.

    It didn’t work out. B) But your parody was a nice tonic.

  14. “I would be most interested in hearing a contemporary source for term being used earlier than that in reference to the Afghan resistance.”

    From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

    “The roots of the war lay in the overthrow of the centrist government of President Mohammad Daud Khan in April 1978 by left-wing military officers led by Nur Mohammad Taraki. Power was thereafter shared by two Marxist-Leninist political groups, the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party, which had earlier emerged from a single organization, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, and had reunited in an uneasy coalition shortly before the coup. The new government, which had little popular support, forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anticommunist population. Insurgencies arose against the government among both tribal and urban groups, and all of these—known collectively as the mujahideen (Arabic: mujahidun, “those who engage in jihad”)—were Islamic in orientation. These uprisings, along with internal fighting and coups within the government between the People’s and Banner factions, prompted the Soviets to invade the country in December 1979, sending in some 30,000 troops and toppling the short-lived presidency of People’s leader Hafizullah Amin.”

    “Afghan War.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
    30 Nov. 2004 .

    It’s also worth noting that according to Britannica’s dictionary, the word “mujuhideen” itself dates back to 1922, so it had a general usage in the Arabic language before being used specifically to refer to the Afghan resistance.

  15. Regarding Stefan Jones thoughts on the mythical Star Wars Christmas episode:

    I can’t vouch for a television special, but there was indeed an album (I believe titled “A Star Wars Christmas.”) It’s signature song had to be “What do you get a Wookie for Christmas (when he already has a comb)?”

    Good times.

  16. The Orson Welles parody is reminiscent of the “The Night the Reindeer Died!”, the beginning shot in the movie “Scrooged!”. And that was a premonition of terrorism to come! (Allalu Akbar! and a Happy New Year , too!)
    Still, great fun. I laughed out loud several times.
    Dorothy Parker, Santa’s chimney. Rich.

  17. Fahrenheit Ho Ho Ho, a Michael Moore Christmas.

    A John Kerry White House Christmas. (Cancelled before release)

  18. Not So Special

    Bad Christmas Specials, via Instapundit. I’m especially partial to the Rand special, as a friend of mine is very objectivist in his thinking. In fact, this post is really just so I have the link on my site, so that…

  19. John Benne:

    “Fahrenheit Ho Ho Ho, a Michael Moore Christmas.”

    Given Santa’s set-up at the North Pole — lots of labor issues with the elves, one would imagine — “Santa & Me” would be the more likely Moore Christmas Special, I would think.

  20. Bad Christmas Specials

    This is pretty funny. If this was a real list they’d have to put that 1978 Star Wars X-Mas special with the Ewoks at the top of the list. I’m surpised Lucas still has a career after that stinker….

  21. Bad Christmas Specials

    This is pretty funny. If this was a real list they’d have to put that 1978 Star Wars X-Mas special with the Ewoks at the top of the list. I’m surpised Lucas still has a career after that stinker….

  22. Holiday Specials You Won’t See Again

    Ladies and Gents, I give you: The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. Featuring Dorothy Parker, Orson Welles, Ayn Rand, Mr.Spock and Captain Kirk, Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Village People, Noam Chomsky, and Ted Nugent. If those names don’t…

  23. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    Scalzi has a quite amusing writeup on the the biggest Christmas special flops of all time. The entry, entitled The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time is both witty and amusing, with lots of backstory information and photos.

    If you’r…

  24. This is just screaming hilarious. Best. Parody. Ever.

    I wrote something similar a while back, “Perry Como’s Hunchbacked Christmas Special with Quasimodo,” which is far too long to post here. I would be glad to send it to you, John, as a small token of appreciation if you could provide me an e-mail address.

  25. Ho!….Ho, Ho!

    How could this masterpiece of science fiction be considered one of the least successful Christmas specials of all time? (lvi) As Scotty works to keep the power flowing to the shields, Kirk and Bones infiltrate Santa’s headquarters. With the help…

  26. The parody is fantastic as is, and the discussion of muppets and mujahideen in the comments thread makes it EVEN BETTER!

  27. Sweet Lou: Well, glad you liked the muppet/mujhideen connection. I think it assures one and all that I actually research my nonsense.

    Mike: Feel free to post it here if you like!

  28. re Star Trek Christmas: The expendable crewman even dies in a Christmas episode?! Even the demented minds behind South Park allow Kenny to live through Christmas.

  29. Xmas specials

    Via About Last Night , SF author John Scalzi presents us with the ten worst Christmas specials ever. Starting with Dorothy Parker and gang. An Algonquin Round Table Christmas (1927) Alexander Woolcott, Franklin Pierce Adams, George Kaufman, Robert Benc…

  30. Dagny: “Even the demented minds behind South Park allow Kenny to live through Christmas.”

    Yes, but that was the most uncomforable South Park episode ever. Seriously, just let the poor kid die. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

    K

  31. Since we’re being picky, I guess I can point out that the Finns didn’t ally themselves with the Germans until the Continuation War which started in 1941. In 1939 they were still fighting the Soviets with the (moral) support of the Allied forces. So, as great as the Assassination of Saint Nicholas special sounds, you can’t really blame the Finns!

    Now I have to confess that, even though I knew there was a problem with the assassination special, I didn’t realize that this was a parody until I got to the Cronenberg one! Still laughed my head off though.

  32. How could you leave out this non-classic:

    A Very Morse Christmas

    Inspector Morse refuses to give Sargeant Lewis a day off for Christmas, and retires to his study to attack the Guardian crossword and fall asleep to Ride of Valkyries.

    He is awakened by the ghost of his boss, the now-appropriately named Strange. The spectral superintendent warns him that he is to be visited by three other ghosts that evening, and that he needs to cut back on the Laphroig, stop dating frumpy women with suicidal tendencies, and for God’s sake, Morse, it wouldn’t kill you to smile once in your life!

    By the end, Morse has donned a Santa hat, is blowing through paper party favors, and is handing out jars of treacle to school children.

    This is the episode that convinced Colin Dexter to kill off Morse and end the series.

  33. I loved the AR parody! And several others. :-)

    Just for anyone who’s interested – Rand actually loved Christmas. As an atheist, she didn’t like the religious part. But she loved the idea of people celebrating their friendships (and of course themselves) by giving gifts from their 20th-century material abundance. I guess you could say she loved the commercialization! (that some religious people deplore)

  34. The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas? I downloaded the airchecks three years ago, when The Man allowed that sort of thing openly.

    I am weeping at my desk, dammit — I’d pay cash money at the MT&R to watch these. I’d pay cash money just to see Mrs. Claus in her William Ware Theiss bodysuit (with fur collar and strategic torso cutouts, of course)and her gray, high, hairpiece, but then again, I’m sick, too….

  35. Hmm, I thought inspector Morse was killed in an auto accident when his Jag saloon was t-boned by a Trabant driven by Inspector Frost…

  36. Living so close to the Canadian border, John, I’m surprised that you didn’t know that David Cronenberg directs ALL of the CBC’s Christmas specials. Of course, they’re blocked from American viewers by order of the CRTC, though I hear you can get them on grey-market satellite dishes.

    I’ll never forget the one where Santa’s sleigh crashes into an Air Canada Airbus over Regina – Santa survives, but he develops an obsession with mid-air crashes, and spends his time in junkyards running his hands erotically over crumpled ailerons and fuselage pieces. That year, all the children receive charred chunks of bent aluminum and hydraulic tubing personally “christened” by Santa with samples of his own DNA material. Holly Hunter played Mrs. Clause in a red velvet corset with strategically exposed areas. It was well reviewed by Sight & Sound, I believe.

    I have a tape if you want one, eh?

  37. I’m sorry to say that The Star Wars holiday special does exist. I have it burned on a DVD. It’s sooo terrible (shudder).

  38. Must…. Breathe…. Dammit, Scalzi, if I rupture something, I’m sending YOU the hospital bill!
    “Seasonal material of a sort finally appears in the 23rd minute when Dorothy Parker, already on her fifth drink, can be heard to remark, “one more of these and I’ll be sliding down Santa’s chimney.”” BAHAAHAHAHA*GASP* Oww….. my…. lungs and….. peritoneum….!

  39. What’s so disturbing is how PLAUSIBLE they all are as actual Christmas specials. The only one that gives the game away slightly is Noam Chomsky (who isn’t any species of deconstructionist); otherwise it’s pitch-perfect…

  40. Mega Linky Link

    There’s just so much going on today. Here’s a feast of stuff to gorge your mind on:I heard about this one, but Michelle does it up in her usual style which I adore so much. Not to mention her Listmania…

  41. The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time With details on such exciting shows as The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas (1939), A Canadian Christmas with David Cronenberg (1986), and Noam Chomsky: Decons…

  42. Hilarious. The scary thing is how plausible some of these seem. I remember watching the Family Guy episode that involved a special called “Kiss Saves Santa” and thinking, “you know, that’s not all that far fetched.”

  43. I just came across this one today:

    Nanny Christmas Special: Oy to the World

    It’s animated, folks. And just so you know, there’s going to be a Nanny Reunion Special Monday night!

  44. Yeah, I’ve read The Fountainhead and most of Rand’s philosophical works, and I’m about 1/2 the way through Atlas Shrugged. Laughed my ass off at the parody. Her philosophy is sound, but the way she presents it is rather garrish, and at times, her personal flaws kept her from living up to it. Still, you’re talking about someone who wrote several great American novels only a few years after learning the English language (even though she never got the hang of Anglo-American names: eg. Dagny, Ellsworth, Gail (as a man’s name)).

    God has yet to put two things on Earth: A Jew who everyone agrees with, and a Russian who can write a short, mellow novel. Ayn Rand was no exception.

  45. I actually received a Christmas card from an Objectivist “friend” once.

    In stark black and white, it read:

    “Deck the halls with thought and reason.
    Joy and happiness have no season”

    I am not making this up, and it was not tongue-in-cheek.

  46. There is little that Scalzi could have done to make the Star Wars Holiday Special more unbelievable than it was.

  47. Christmas Spirit

    All the cool kids are no doubt linking to John Scalzi’s description of the ten worst Xmas specials ever, but that doesn’t mean I can’t too. via Henry Farrell….

  48. >Hmm, I thought inspector Morse was killed in an auto accident when his Jag saloon was t-boned by a Trabant driven by Inspector Frost…

    They both took their eyes off the road when they saw James Bond driving a — gulp! — German car!

  49. John:

    ‘Preciate the offer, but “Perry Como’s Hunchbacked Christmas Special” is a 15-page Word document. A bit long for here, I should think.

  50. How about Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 Christmas? Who chose this damn Santa, anyway? At the Council of Nicaea in 325, the vote for Archbishop of the Arctic was close and bitter. Pope Sylvester I ultimately installed his candidate (Nicholas bishop of Myra, later St. Nick), but we all “know” that the candidate of the missionaries to Germany (one Kris Kringle) really won, right? If only Kris had been the Santa during the disastrous barbarian invasions!! Because St. Nick’s evil agenda knew no bounds, including as it did the ENSLAVEMENT of the Arctic Elf nations and worldwide domination of all Christmas toy-giving. Who asked Nick to start giving anything to kids outside of the old Roman borders? And check out the way Clement Moore picked his nose while he wrote that poem of shameless propaganda, and how Mrs. Claus claimed there was a connection between the barbarian invasions and the fall of Rome when we all know there couldn’t have been!! But later, Internet bloggers pointed out how Moore had manipulated Mrs. Claus’ quote to falsify her intent and slam her unfairly.

  51. Least Successful Holiday Specials of all time

    Whatever: The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time Author John Scalzi lists the least successful Christmas Holiday specials of all time. The scary thing is, compared to this fictional list, the actually-aired animated Star Wars Christmas Sp…

  52. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials Of All Time

    And A Lump Of Coal To You, Too! The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials Of All Time. Hilarious. Here’s my favorite: Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951) In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing…

  53. Shotgun – Touch the Monkey

    Matricide (Disturbing News) “Rachelle Waterman, (aka Rachelle Ann Monica Waterman and “smchyrocky”), a 16-year-old girl from Craig, Alaska, USA, has been charged with the first degree murder of her own mother.” This story was a…

  54. Incredibly funny!!!

    When I read the Ayn Rand special, I laughed a bit to long and loud at the office, which got me some stares…

  55. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    I don’t know which is my least favorite, but there are several hilarious choices to pick from. Listeners of radio’s Columbia Broadcasting System who tuned in to hear a Christmas Eve rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol were shocked…

  56. Unfortunate Holiday Specials

    John Scalzi brings us The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. Everybody and their dog has linked it, but for good reason. My favorite? I’m torn between Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas and The Lost Star Trek Christmas…

  57. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    This is very funny. My favorite was A Canadian Christmas with David Cronenberg (1986) Faced with Canadian content requirements but no new programming, the Canadian Broadcasting Company turned to Canadian director David Cronenberg, hot off his success w…

  58. The scary thing is that there really was a Ted Nugent reality show on VH1. We sort of stumbled across it. Don’t know if there was any promotion for it. Basically Ted putting a group of rather silly young people through “survival” tests while he and his lovely wife sat in their house, ate, drank and gossiped about the participants.

    Review: Sucked.

  59. This is the funniest and best-executed satirical pieces I’ve ever seen, easily on par with mid-70s NatLamp satires. You the man.

    Note to “Howard Roark”: you’re a bit hasty on the Rand-names issue. Recall Bears football player Gayle Sayers, and who could forget Entertainment Tonight “correspondent” Dagny Hultgren! But seriously, “never getting the hang of it” overstates the case, no? There are tons of “normal” anglophone names in her books. Like yours.

  60. Mary R wrote:

    “The scary thing is that there really was a Ted Nugent reality show on VH1.”

    Yeah, I saw that (which is to say, I heard about it, not watched it). It happened after I wrote the piece, so I had a nice moment of “ahead of the curve”-ness, after which I promptly forgot about it.

  61. #11: Richard Simmons Presents “Sweatin’ to the Carols”

    Emily pointed me to this John Scalzi piece summarizing the 10 worst holiday specials of all time. Even better is the fact that commenter Sternel seems not to have figured out the joke….

  62. The World’s Best Xmas Specials

    While checking out the list of the 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time (of which a couple are quite humorous), one in particular jumped out at me: A Canadian Christmas with David Cronenberg (1986). Now I dunno about…

  63. worst holiday specials

    john scalzi compiled a fictional list of the 10 least successful holiday specials of all time. adding to his list, i will add the genuinely horrendous: nick and jessica’s family Christmas a clay aiken christmas…

  64. The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday” (1968)

    Mr. Spock, with his pointy ears, is hailed as a messiah on a wintry world where elves toil for a mysterious master, revealed to be Santa just prior to the first commercial break. Santa, enraged, kills Ensign Jones and attacks…

  65. As to the comments about the Ayn Rand parody, I always find taking the mickey out of people with fundamentalist philosophies amusing. But as to the possibility of her being amused, well, Do Androids Grin At Electric Japes?

    …Brock.

  66. And they all sound better than

    Sci-Fi writer John Scalzi offers up a little pre-Christmas cheer with The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time, including the CBC’s fogotten “A Canadian Christmas with David Chronenberg”.”

  67. What, no mention of “Olivia Newton John’s Xanadu Christmas”, “Rudolph: Fearless Leader of the Red-Hearted Reindeer Proletariat”(children’s animated feature with songs/narration by Burl Ives) or “Holiday Crime Stories Re-enacted by Robert Stack”? Your list, while certainly a terrific sampling of our vast and indomitable media culture, is by no means exhaustive. More. Please.

  68. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    Don’t ask how I found this, or even why I’m posting it, but you have to admit it is funny. The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas (1939) Listeners of radio’s Columbia Broadcasting System who

  69. The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    Including such notables as The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday” (1968), Noam Chomsky: Deconstructing Christmas (1998), and A Canadian Christmas with David Cronenberg (1986). Hysterical. Link….

  70. And who could forget John Edward’s (the TV host not the candidate) “Christmas Wishes from the Other Side”? “You’re thinking of a holiday….I’m getting a ‘C’….is anyone thinking of a holiday that begins with ‘C’?”

  71. The Ten Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    Read it Here My running favorite – Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas (1951) Can’t stand that woman……..

  72. The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time

    The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. I wish some of these were for real: I’d pay good money for a copy of The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas.Listeners of radio’s Columbia Broadcasting System who…

  73. Some Holiday Tips For You

    Unless you live in a cave I assume everyone is cognizant of the upcoming Christmas season and besides that Jesus fellow the most well-known figure of the Christmas season is Santa Claus. Many myths surround the origin of Santa and…

  74. Damn Funny….

    The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time I count at least two of these tweaking Ralphie’s interest… the rest are such dreck that only the other three of this posse could possibly withstand watching them….

  75. Don’t forget The Right Before Christmas with Rush Limbaugh as “Saint Nicholas”; if I’m not mistaken, some of his helpers, The Gnomes of the Gnorth Pole, included Sean, Drudge, OReilly, Condi and Chalabi. Can’t remember all the reindeers’ names but some of them were Oxy, Cotin, Shock and Awe. Kind of creepy how Saint Nick would visit the houses of the good boys and girls to steal the presents of 90% of the children and redistribute them to the children of the richest 10%

  76. Because The Manson Family Christmas is too fuckin’ jolly for my tastes

    Every year I make it a point to avoid all the disaster-based holiday specials—y’know, shows like The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t and How Good Urban Planning Saved Christmas, which suggest that every year the white heterosexual Christians barely get …

  77. I Vote for Rand

    For some reason, I received this announcement in my inbox. I was about to delete as spam, but something made me check it out. From Whatever comes “The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time.” Rachel, I know you’ll…

  78. I may have said this before, but I think I *heart* you, John Scalzi.

    Scary thing is, I can actually see Ted Nugent taping something like that.

    Egg nog with Romulan Ale, mmmm…

  79. #11: Richard Simmons Presents “Sweatin’ to the Carols”

    Emily pointed me to this John Scalzi piece summarizing the 10 worst holiday specials of all time. Even better is the fact that commenter Sternel seems not to have figured out the joke….

  80. Someday maybe some cable network will have the cojones to show Christmas with The Nuge.

    Old Kill’em and Grill’em Himself.A great American, just misunderstood.

    LMFAO.

    An incredible piece.Thanks for re-posting for those of us who missed it.

    My wife Anne is a big fan of Ayn Rand and StarTrek. She just about blew coffee out of her nose laughing.

  81. >Joe
    >Receiving scant attention, almost no viewership at all, was the CBS Forged Document Christmas with Dan Rather and the staff of 60 Minutes II.

    See, comedy is hard.

  82. Hey John Scalzi,

    Thanks so much for reposting your terrific Top Least Successful Holiday Specials of All Time. I had the Chomsky section of it cut out and posted on my studio wall for a year and yesterday when I went to look for it, it had fallen off was no longer to be found. It is one of the funnier items I’ve ever seen and I wanted to pass it along to a friend.

    Have a great Chomsky (or otherwise) Christmas !

    Peg M

  83. Alas, of what use is parody when history records such gems as the Star Wars Christmas Special? No matter how clever, fiction could never compete with the likes of such realities.

  84. How about “Richard Nixon’s Hello Hanoi Xmas Special” from ’69 or ’70.He dropped many presents on the people of North Vietnam in the form of 500 pound bombs.

  85. @ Sternal and Scalzi in #5 and #6:

    I actually watched the SWHS this weekend. And lived to tell about it. Though I think I had a stroke during Bea Arthur’s singing number.

    Man, that was painful.

  86. Wow. I remember seeing this soon after it came out and laughing my ass off at it, especially at “Ayn Rand’s Selfish Christmas”. Thank God that my father headed off my teenage Randroid tendencies by introducing me to the work of Hunter S. Thompson.

  87. I have a niggling feeling that I was the only one who didn’t realize this was a parody until the “Bob & Carol” story, during which I simultaneously choked on my spit from laughter and slapped myself on the forehead. Man, the holidays make me stupid.

    But yes, I can believe that of Orson Welles. *coughI’mgullible*

  88. “Despite a rave review by Z magazine…”

    hehe. :)

    Is it wrong to want to see Noam Chomsky’s ‘Deconstructing Christmas’?

  89. This continues to be a perennial favorite of mine. I Google this piece every year when the leaves crumble. Very well done; thanks for writing it.

  90. Dang. I was so excited to go searching for a recording of the Algonquin Round Table Christmas special. What a letdown when I read the next one and realized Mr. Scalzi was having us on.

    I don’t suppose someone could invent a device to sneak over to the alternate universe where that Algonquin Round Table special really did occur and bring me back an mp3 of it? Please?

  91. I would pay actual, serious money to hear that Orson Welles holiday special. Someone had better get to building me a time machine so I can make this happen. (And wasn’t Orson Welles adorable in his early 20s?)

    To be annoying for a moment, the Mercury Theater on the Air was retitled The Campbell Playhouse when they got Campbell’s sponsorship in ’39, but then I suppose in a universe where this broadcast happened, they might not have changed the name.

    Regardless, I love this. So much.

  92. I’m surprised you failed to include “The Patsy Ramsey Kid’smas Special with special guest Roman Polanski.” It was short-lived.

  93. Loved it! Thanks for today’s big laugh. Having read about those guys for years, and having seen the actual table in person, I really wish the Algonquin one was real.

  94. Seriously? Ayn Rand’s special was only one hour? Not four, or six, or perhaps even more? Did you even TRY to make it believable?

  95. OK I actually wish they had made the Star Trek episode (and I actually would mind seeing the Village People one which both amuses and disturbs me at the same time).

    Bravo!

  96. One small correction: NSA is the National Security Agency (or No Such Agency as it was previously unknown). Zbigniew Brzezinski was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, which is usually abbreviated as APNSA or ANSA to avoid confusion with the spook shop.

  97. @ #38 Korla Pundit:

    I don’t think Colin Dexter actually “killed off” Morse. Kevin Whateley (Lewis) effectively had to take over John Thaw’s role on the BBC series at the last minute when Thaw (Morse) died of cancer.

    Other than that, though, I loved your parody idea!

    :-)

  98. These are all so awesome.

    The Canadian one should have included Tommy Hunter and Anne Murray in the singing portion.

    I can’t stop laughing about the Ayn Rand “Selfish Christmas.”

  99. @145 The Morse episode in which the character died ran in the U.K.. in 2000 and John Thaw died in 2002. By 2000 both Colin Dexter and John Thaw were thoroughly sick of the character.
    Thaw, as I understand it, had to be coaxed back to do that final episode.
    On another technicality, I don’t think John has proved his case on the word “mujahideen”. Lawrence Person’s references are much better and in any case, the technicality amounts to when the word was first known in the west, not when it was invented from the Arabic or even used by the people to describe themselves. To “win” this discussion, John needs to show an use in the west that predates the time of his paraody and a reference written years later doesn’t do that unless it itself includes such a reference. Of course, one can correctly argue tht since WE know the word NOW, none of this really matters.

    I hadn’t seen this before and really thank John for reposting it. Some of the comments are hilarious also.
    I happen to have a friend who named her daughter Dagny, and I don’t think she enjoyed John’s recent post on Rand NEARLY as much as I did…..

  100. Does anyone know how I could find The Village People in ‘Can’t Stop the Christmas Music — On Ice!’ (1980). I really really want to see it.

    Also wasn’t there a Brady Christmas Specia?. I remember that Donnie and Marie guest starred. There was an ice skating number where they showed Marie being helped on the ice to walk a couple steps, terrified for about 2 socods, then turned the camera I thought it was a brady thing.
    BUT Most importantly is The Village People in ‘Can’t Stop the Christmas Music — On Ice!’ (1980). Thak you!

  101. Hello! Do you use Twitter? I would like to follow you if that could be ok. I am going to definitely taking pleasure in your blog post and expect new blogposts.

  102. And, new for 2011:

    The Twilight Christmas Eve.

    Bella and Edward are escaping their enemies by hiding in the freezer of a 7/11 where she gives birth to…

    Coming, in 2012:

    The Twilight Christmas

  103. John, you missed the one that is really the worst Xmas special of all times & the only one of these you can still find online despite Mr. Lucas’ attempt to eradicate it. The Star War Holiday Special would make some of these look Emmy worthy.

  104. Pingback: A Christmas List
  105. How about “Christmas Nigtmares”, where Freddy Kruege possess Santa, and kills all the naughty children who stay awake for Santa? The sequel could be “Eater on Elm Street”. LOL

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  108. Thanks so much for the therapeutic belly laughs! Favorite: The Muppets – exceeded the limits of funny. Clever, cerebral, fabulous humor!

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