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A Look Back at 11 Crazy-Great Holiday TV Moments

The Star Wars Holiday Special
The Star Wars Holiday Special

T'was the night(s) before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring 'cept you and your mouse. Click, click, click to these 11 merry moments of TV Christmas specials past -- some classic, some bizarre -- preserved online and ready to be rediscovered on YouTube and Hulu.

Presenting ...

1. Dragnet , 1967. Detectives Friday and Gannon are on the case of a missing Baby Jesus stolen from a church crèche. The altar boys, including one played by a pre- Brady Bunch Barry Williams, have solid alibis. Pawn shops are notified. "We had a man to find," says the always terse Joe Friday (Jack Webb, who also produced and directed the show). "Our only clue: He'd been to church."

2. In a 1964 Christmas season installment of ABC's Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet , a young, Bieber-esque (but way better) Ricky Nelson ends the episode singing Mel Torme's "Christmas Song" as his then real-life wife Kristin and baby daughter Tracy look on from the sofa. Hard to believe Ricky would've been 71 this year. He died New Year's Eve, 1985, in a plane crash on his way to a show in Dallas. Wow, was he ever a beautiful kid.

3. It is unusual to find Tom Jones singing an admirably un-cheesy "Good King Wenceslas" in this early 1980s TV special.

4. Bet you've never seen or don't remember the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special starring the whole cast, including the 'bots. Here, Carrie Fisher, in full Princess Leia drag, sings "Happy Life Day," a song that suggests that in the galaxy far, far away, there is no Christmas but only a generic, Scientology-like celebration of light and dark.

5. The 1964 CBS special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is still shown on TV every year. In case you've forgotten, that's folksinger and actor Burl Ives as the Claymation snowman. Here he sings "Silver and Gold" by the show's composer, Johnny Marks. Note that the snowman strums a banjo, though not a twang of banjo playing is heard in the music.

 

6. Just barely SFW viewing, this performance by Ann-Margret, singing "Hold Me, Squeeze Me" on a 1981 George Burns Christmas spectacular, could melt polar ice caps. Leggy, braless in a Bob Mackie frock and shimmying like jelly on a plate, A-M boogies all over the floor to Lester Wilson's hot choreography.

7. Back in the G-rated zone, Vince Guaraldi's mellow jazz score made A Charlie Brown Christmas the best Yuletide cartoon of all. The sweetness of the chirpy children's voices on "Christmas Time Is Here" is a guaranteed heart melter.

8. "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch." His brain is full of spiders. He's got garlic in his soul. And the song is a Seuss masterpiece in the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas .

9. The Dick Van Dyke Show became "Alan Brady Presents" for its 1963 Christmas special that had the whole cast performing on the show-within-the-show. Dick and TV-wife Mary Tyler Moore play a couple of street corner Santas in the cutest musical number in the episode. Look closely at the kid in the background behind Carl Reiner as Alan Brady. That's a very young Rob Reiner.

10. Just for fun, Jim Carrey's perfectly off-key "White Christmas" on a 2004 Tonight Show with Jay Leno .

11. Skinny white lady Sandra Lee, the "Semi-Homemade Chef" of cable TV, is famous for two things. She lives in sin with New York governor Andrew M. Cuomo. And on one of her shows she took a store-bought angel food cake, slathered it with caramel icing, canned pie filling, corn nuts (which she calls "acorns") and fat, ugly candles and turned it into a Kwanzaa nightmare. (She and the recipe writer later apologized.)

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