Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Slate’s Tribute to the Worst Christmas Television Specials

posted by Nell Minow

Han Solo hugs Chewbacca? Fat Albert meets a baby in a sort of urban manger? He-Man learns about Christmas from two annoying little kids?


But bad Christmas specials can inspire good responses. This is a classic from Tom Shales of the Washington Post about a Kathie Lee Gifford special he did not find so special.

What’s the difference between the 24-hour flu and a Kathie Lee Gifford Christmas special? Twenty-three hours. The actual title for this year’s exercise in false piety, faked sentiment and aerobic grinning was “Kathie Lee Gifford: Christmas Every Day,” an appalling prospect any way you look at it. This is the kind of television to be watched not from the couch, as it were, but while peering out from behind it and using it as a shield, as if perhaps an air raid or some other sort of massive bombing were in progress.


“Kathie Lee: Home for Christmas,” Kathie Lee Gifford’s second annual CBS Christmas special, is perhaps even worse than her first — a sickeningly saccharine vanity production that should really have been titled “O Come, Let Us Adore Me.” That ghastly Gifford grin, ear to ear and back again, seems steeped in self-esteem and almost blinding in its show biz phoniness.

Kathie Lee Gifford sings songs like she’s mad at them. What did they ever do to her? Maybe she was frightened by a song as a child. And by Christmas, too, because each year on television she wreaks a bit more revenge.

  • Toby Clark

    The most entertainingly bad Christmas episode I’ve seen was from the Aussie soap opera Neighbours in 1986. It involves a guy accidentally getting knocked into a coma while refereeing a boxing match, and having a dream depicting him as Santa Claus, with the rest of the street as panto characters. I doubt that it’s any match for the Star Wars Holiday Special.
    There’s a summary of the episode here, with the dream here Look out for Guy Pearce as one of the boxers, among others.

  • Dave

    You know, as much of a Star Wars fanatic as I was when I was a kid, I was somehow spared that heinous Christmas special. I’m sure Carrie, Mark and Harrison must look back at that thing and shudder violently.
    But I actually still have memories of having seen that Fat Albert special. Sometimes, a good memory isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks so much for sharing this one, Toby! It sounds deliciously atrocious!
    And Dave, I sort of wish I had seen that legendary “Star Wars” special, too. What were they thinking!

  • Toby Clark

    In fairness, it’s a lot better when watched with the full episode. Geoff Paine’s performance as Clive is good up until the dream starts, and the dream itself does a decent job of summarising symbolically the various storylines ongoing at the time. Even so, compared to their more recent season finals, (2004 in particular, also available on Youtube) this one was pretty cringeworthy.

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