In years gone by, television networks would routinely trot out Christmas episodes and holiday specials to capitalize on the spirit of the season. And while they delivered sugarplum-sweet tales like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, they also birthed some bizarre camp classics.
We’ve trained our hyper-developed senses on some of the kitschiest holiday specials of all time. If they don’t make you jolly like Old St. Nick, turn your gay card in to the Grinch!
Check out Queerty’s roundup of campy TV specials from Christmases past!
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special
Seeing how they grew up in Eternia and Etheria, how the hell do He-Man and She-Ra even know what Christmas is? Their mom is how! Turns out Queen Marlena is actually from Earth—though for some reason she never shared her holiday memories with the heroic twins until they were fully grown. Oh, and bonus hero points: He-Man and She-Ra were apparently born on Christmas Day. It’s a sexy-blond Second Coming!
X-Men Season 4: “A Morlock Little Christmas”
One thing we can say for The X-Men’s Christmas episode: At least the characters know what the holiday is—even if they don’t get the true meaning of it.
Jubilee is super psyched for her very first yuletide with the mutant superheroes. Wolverine, on the other claw, is predictably grumpy, gazing wistfully into the fire as they decorate the tree. (He’s so very complicated!) But there’s nothing like a crisis involving sewer-dwelling mutants to melt that adamantium heart.
Doctor Who: “The Christmas Invasion”
“The Christmas Invasion” was the first-ever Doctor Who Christmas special. It introduces David Tennant as the tenth Doctor—though he spends the bulk of the episode regenerating in some kind of coma. There is, however, an honest-to-goodness alien invasion, the tart from Secret Diary of a Call Girl, three exceptionally creepy Father Christmases, and cousin Isabel from Downton Abbey as the Prime Minister. Plus, it contains the seeds of queercentric Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.
How’s that for a sack full of Christmas surprises?
Tales From the Crypt: “And All Through the House”
Even Tales From the Crypt got all holly jolly back in the 1990s. This Robert Zemekis-directed episode finds an embittered trophy wife murdering her husband with a fire poker. On Christmas Eve. With her five-year-old daughter in the house. And a psychotic serial killer on the loose. It all adds up to one very magical night.
Ren & Stimpy: “Son of Stimpy”
This Christmas episode is perhaps the most controversial in our roundup, even though technically it’s the most traditional—well, in the sense that it’s about a virgin birth. No, not Christ our Lord—Stimpy’s ass baby. Yes, Stimpy goes on a quest for a lost fart. Did we mention that Nickelodeon fired series creator John K. after Ren & Stimpy‘s first season?
G.I. Joe: “Cobra C.L.A.W.S. Are Coming to Town”
There’s something so satisfyingly meta about this G.I. Joe holiday cartoon. Cobra’s ruthless terrorists shrink themselves and their vehicles down to the size of toys to infiltrate the Joes’ headquarters in a truckload of Toys for Tots. Toy-sized Cobra agents and cars and helicopters! Just like the ones the kids at home want in their stockings this Christmas!
The Star Wars Holiday Special
The most infamously bonkers X-Mas episode of all time, The Star Wars Holiday Special attempts (not very successfully) to adapt the goliath sci-fi franchise to fit the yuletide model. Since they haven’t heard of Jesus, the Maccabees or Kwanza in a galaxy far, far away, this 1978 special finds Han Solo trying to get Chewbacca back to the Wookie homeworld in time for “Life Day.”
The producers somehow got the core Star Wars cast to make appearances—even Carrie Fisher pulled out of her cocaine hangover to rock the Leia buns—along with a guest stars like Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship. Jefferson Starship! We’re totally on board, except for the extended scenes of Chewbacca’s creepy Wookie family braying and bleating. That shit is what Christmas nightmares are made of.