There's a lot of Christmas TV. Enough that ABC Family can fill up 25 Days of it in the month of December, stack up specials one after the other in prime time, and never have to repeat a thing. That's a lot of holiday spirit. It only stands to reason, then, that some of it would be pretty hollow.
Bad Christmas specials fail for any number of reasons. Some are just cynical money-making ventures by producers out to make a buck on the back of a classic. Sequels pretty much rule this category, the most egregious of which must be Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. Don't let the title fool you—this nearly 90-minute Abominable of a movie isn't even about the Island of Misfit Toys, really. The plot is a rip-off of Toy Story 2. And gone is the charming claymation; this is done with incredibly bad CGI animation that looks more like a screen saver than a commercial film from 2001. It's insulting to the good memory of the Rankin/Bass original.
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It's just terrible—and if you ever saw it, you could even say it blows.
And then there are films that just use Christmas for their own ends. I'm talking about emotionally manipulative dreck like 1998's Jack Frost, in which Michael Keaton dies in a car accident on Christmas Eve, only to be reincarnated as a snowman the next year. Wow. Merry Christmas. Sorry about the sun, and all. And then there's the king of all Christmas-abuse movies: 1984's Silent Night, Deadly Night, in which a serial killer dresses as Santa, comes down your chimney, and kills you. Festive!
And then, in the grand (if hoary) tradition of the Christmas variety shows of old—Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, etc.—comes another entry: Kathie Lee Gifford. Her 1996 special, Just In Time For Christmas, makes pretty much everyone watching wish that it wasn't. Honestly, the old variety specials died for a reason: audiences just didn’t want to see them anymore. So take one failing TV format, add the ever-annoying Kathie Lee Gifford, and stir for an hour—yes, kids, that's the recipe for disaster.
There are more Christmas specials that deserve mention—the video-game cartoon Santa in Pac-Land, former Playboy bunny Jenny McCarthy's Santa Baby, the peculiar and tepid Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (starring Pia Zadora!)—but this is one very long Naughty List. Better watch out. -- Teague Bohlen