Ho Ho HO-eeello, dearest Filthy Dreams readers!! And a hap-hap-happy holidays to you! Come in and grab yourself a glass of nog. What’s that? You don’t like a drink that tastes like alcoholic pancake batter? Well, shoot it down anyway–Christmas isn’t about taste.
Naturally–being Christmas, I thought I’d herald in the birth of Santa with a celebration in honor of the timeless holiday classic–the TV Christmas special. Christmas specials represent everything we hold dear, here at Filthy Dreams–tackiness, cheesiness, excess, an ever-rotating list of poorly cast guest stars and a desperate plea for ratings and attention.
Related: Why don’t video artists or filmmakers do Christmas specials? Are they too good? Imagine an extra-trying Ryan Trecartin Christmas special. My ears are bleeding with glee at just the thought.
As, you’ve probably noticed, faithful Filthy Dreams followers, they don’t make Christmas specials like they used to. You can’t just plop a lighted tree in a show and expect me to be overcome with Christmas cheer. NO! I need at least an hour of over-the-top, faulty choices and bad executive decisions. So you’ll see that this year’s choices have a certain…well…vintage quality.
And you know, as I’m thinking about it, I’m surprised they’re not making a propaganda-filled, Donald Trump Christmas special. Imagine Melania, Ivanka and the Donald gathered around their gold-plated Christmas tree draped with a giant American flag. Oh sure, good progressives like me aren’t supposed to joke about this kind of thing, but I’d watch every second of it. Why fight it!
Anyway, in order to give you some recommendations of videos to send you into Christmas mania (and your family into Xmas burnout), I picked five Christmas specials for you to screen this holiday. So watch and get inspired: Maybe you should rearrange your house or small apartment as a set to an imagined special. Who cares if no one is watching. Sing Xmas carols until your family doses your drink. Dance until Aunt Cindy begs for mercy. Dress in fur-lined outfits and make dramatic entrances. Christmas is about pushing the ones you love until their limits, so have at it!
1. Judy Garland Christmas Special (1963)
Of course, we couldn’t start off this list without the patron saint of gays everywhere: Judy Garland. Judy, in her Christmas Special, has that far-off, dazed, dead-eyed look of someone who took one too many Quaaludes to cope with the holiday festivities. Judy doesn’t know where she is or how she got there, but she sure has the Christmas spirit! We know the feeling Judes! Even though Judy doesn’t seem like she’s a part of this dimension, she’s joined by her kids including a young Liza. My personal favorite part clocks at about 50 minutes in when Judy, after her family leaves, endures a break-in by a bunch of Santas who force her to stumble through a high-kicking dance with them. Then, they leave as soon as they arrived. Was it real? Was it a hallucination? Who knows! The line between reality and psychosis does seem to blur in the holiday season.
2. The Carpenters At Christmas (1977)
Just the beginning of The Carpenters At Christmas is enough to send me into a yuletide reverie. Karen Carpenter appearing in a giant furry white coat looking like an angel singing a Valium-slow version of “Sleigh Ride” is so perfect that I feel like I’m being raptured. Is this what heaven is like? I sure hope so because Karen has converted me. The rest doesn’t exactly live up to the beginning, but I mean, how could it? The one bonus of The Carpenters At Christmas is it includes some of the ugliest puppets I’ve ever seen. Why? Who knows! I guess you never need a reason for puppets, because there definitely isn’t here.
3. Johnny Cash & Family Christmas Show (1977)
Nothing screams Christmas quite like Johnny Cash. Songs about prison and murder just get me in that good ole Christmas-y mood. On Christmas, my family and I like to gather around the fire and sing “Folsom Prison Blues.” In the 1970s, Johnny Cash decided to capitalize on his seasonal appeal for a series of Christmas specials during his stint as a TV show host. Does Johnny ease right into a family-friendly TV personality? No. Frankly, it’s really awkward, which makes it even better. In his 1977 version, he spends most of it in military fatigues because…USA USA USA! Actually, I’m not sure–I guess, Johnny liked to play dress-up. In addition to June Carter, the special also has appearances Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison who sings “Pretty Woman”-another classic Christmas carol.
4. Christmas At Pee Wee’s Playhouse (1988)
Do I even need to explain why this made the list? Two words: Grace Jones.
5. RuPaul’s Christmas Ball (1993)
Ru, however, wins the Christmas special contest. This special, aired before Ru hit the big time with Drag Race, features guest stars as varied as LaToya Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Boy George, Elton John and randomly, Nirvana. But the real stars of this show are the Downtown Drag Time Players, an assortment of queens who are legendary to the East Village drag scene including Tabboo!, Sherry Vine, Flloyd and Linda Simpson. I mean, even Santa can tell you that you can’t have Christmas without drag! If you didn’t get a time machine in your stocking to take yourself back to the height of 1990s drag, this is a good replacement.