Another change of plans! Yup, originally, I had planned to discuss how and why I thought holiday specials became a ‘thing’. Then, I was going to talk about some of my favorites, make some recommendations, etc. However, this didn’t sit right with me. And after letting the thought marinate for a few days, I decided to table the first part of the discussion for another time.
Now, as for recommendations, there are a number of television specials I could recommend. From Disney Channel Original Films to a number of other programs that have consistently produced holiday specials. Now, there are some programs that might do a Christmas Special here or a Halloween Special there, but then there are programs that put out consistent specials year after year, and those that cover even the less commercialized holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the latter that most impress me.
Friends (1994-2004) was known for always having Thanksgiving Specials, but more recently there has been another NBC-produced sitcom that has aired specials for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas for the five seasons that have aired thus far: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-present).
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has aired for the last five seasons on Fox, but was recently picked up by NBC when Fox gave it the ax, however, it has always been an NBC-produced property. Now, Nine-Nine has produced some solid Thanksgiving and Christmas Specials. That’s what I should be focusing on, considering what time of year it is, but the real gems are the Halloween Specials.
In the first Halloween Special, the no-nonsense Captain Holt and man-child Det. Peralta make a bet. Peralta has until midnight to steal Holt’s medal of valor. Shenanigans ensue, and each year a similar bet is made with more outrageous stunts and winners each year (including a marriage proposal one year).
Nine-Nine has mastered a balance between light-hearted flippancy, characters you care about, and serious moments. It’s a truly clever program, and Halloween has become an opportunity for the writers to demonstrate their creativity. Any time of year, these specials are a treat.
Next is a cartoon that never hesitates to celebrate a holiday. From the traditional Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas to Easter and Labor Day, this show captures it. No, it’s not Rugrats (1991-2004), whose dual-faith families gave us some classic spins on the holidays. It’s the more recent Teen Titans Go! (2013-present). Go! is a hugely polarizing program for millennials. We had the classic Teen Titans (2003-2006), which Go! takes a lot of its characterization from. The concept is what superheroes do when they aren’t our superheroing. It’s slice of life when your life is extraordinary and you are a brightly colored cartoon.
Go! uses the voice actors from the first show, including Hynden Walch, who later found success as Princess Bubblegum (Adventure Time, 2010-2018), and Tara Strong, a prolific voice actor whose credits include Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, 2010- present), Bubbles (The Powerpuff Girls, 1998-2005), and Rikku (Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2).
Because a lot of Teen Titans Go! is just shenanigans, the show does not hesitate to go all out on holidays. If you don’t like frenetic, bright cartoons where nothing of consequence happens, this show is not for you. However, if you have 11 minutes and want to watch something dumb during the holidays, Go! has specials for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
Now, I can’t talk about holiday specials and not talk about my favorite, Doctor Who (1963-1989, 1996, 2005-present). In addition to a yearly Christmas Special since the show was revived in 2005, Who one year had a year of special after special. From 2008-2010, David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, produced a series of specials that covered Christmas, Easter, and New Years. Yes, it’s not the most diverse, but the show traditionally produces a special that reflects the significance of Christmas in the UK. This year, Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s special will not air on Christmas Day, but New Year’s Day, January 1st. And, considering the “simulcast” of the Series 11 premiere, I’m glad we still get January 1st off in just about every profession.
Now, of course, there are the classics, of both Halloween and Christmas, as well as Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. (I like to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Batman Returns before Christmas.) Above are just some highlights. Holiday specials aren’t new and they aren’t going anywhere. (There’s a whole new batch that’s already begun airing.) They have become a part of our culture and are something I look forward to exploring in further depth in a future post.
For now, this post is published on time. And I love celebrating things and what could be better than a commercial holiday?