It’s Christmas, that very special time of year when you can turn on the television on almost any night and catch any of your favorite Christmas specials and see them the way they were meant to be seen: With a lot of commercials. The Christmas spirit is about Amazon Wishlists, crowding malls, and spending extra to cut down your own Christmas tree. Capitalism! But as Charlie Brown teaches us, underneath all the Christmas commerce, the heart of Christmas is still beating and these ten Christmas specials and movies should help it to grow three sizes larger. The following slideshow is a rundown of the Ten Best Christmas Specials airing for the rest of the month (plus the network and airtime).
10. Elf: (December 8th, 9 EST, SyFy: It’s kind of appropriate that Elf would be playing on the SyFy channel. Think about it: A man with a bushy beard and thousands of little people who build his toys rides around the planet on a sleigh flown by reindeer and climbs down 5 billion chimneys to deliver kids presents based on a naughty or nice list that he’s kept for the entire year. That’s more sci-fi than Aliens. Oh, and Zooey Deschanel is super hot in this movie.
9. I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown: (December 12th, 8 EST, ABC): Not nearly as good as the original Charlie Brown special, this one Cousin Olivers in a new character, ReRun, the younger brother of Linus and Lucy. Spike, Snoopy’s canine brother, also gets involved, and then everything goes to hell. NEEDS MORE PIG PEN.
8. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year: The best thing about the original 1964 Christmas classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is when the Abominable Snowman shows up and your kid pisses himself and has nightmares for weeks. No longer will you have to discipline your kid by threatening that Santa Claus is keeping a watchful eye over him, just tell him that the Abominable Snowman will show up outside his window on Christmas Eve and knock on it three times if he’s not a good little boy. Unfortunately, you’ve already missed the original (it aired last week), but the Bass and Rankin 1976 flick is nearly as terrifying.
7. Frosty the Snowman: (December 9th, 8 EST, CBS) Some of these Christmas Classics can feel a little too thematically heavy for certain kids: In Frosty the Snowman, for instance, Frosty has to get back to the North Pole before melts or before Professor Hinckle steals his magic hat that gives him life. Watching a snowman melt in March is never quite the same afterwards. “DADDY, IS HE DYING? WHERE DO WE GO WHEN WE DIE?”
6. Prep and Landing 2: Naughty vs. Nice: (December 5th, 8:30 EST, ABC) For serious, if you missed the original Prep and Landing in 2009, it’s probably the best new Christmas special to come out in over a decade. Word is that the sequel is just as good.
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (December 7th, 9 EST, ABC Family): Look, there are two kinds of families in the world: Those that watch It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas, and those that watch Christmas Vacation every Christmas. The families that watch Christmas Vacation usually have a screw loose somewhere, which makes them the family you most want to share a quart of egg nog with on Christmas Eve.
4. A Christmas Story: (TBS, All Day Christmas): Fun Fact: Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in the movie, is grown up now and best friends with Vince Vaughn. Seriously, look him up: He produced Iron Man and several more of Vaughn and Jon Favreau’s movies. As for the movie? If you haven’t seen it yet, and if you’re over the age of 12, I don’t think we can be friends.
3. A Charlie Brown’s Christmas (Monday December 5th, 8:00 on ABC): I love this Christmas special, but it has to be the darkest, most depressing Christmas special of all time. Basically, it involves Charlie Brown’s existential crisis as he bemoans the crass commercialization of Christmas, something that’s gotten even more crass since it originally aired. The beautiful Vince Giraldi music only underscores how melancholy the show is, and you may end up feeling worse about the holiday than before you watched it. But don’t let that dissuade you: It’s an amazing special. Just keep the handguns and pills out of reach.
2. It’s a Wonderful Life: (Christmas Eve, 9 EST, NBC): Here’s the thing about It’s a Wonderful Life: It’s really dark, and it’s really long, which you often don’t remember until you watch it the day after Thanksgiving or the night before Christmas with commercials. But before you realize you’re in for a three and a half hour experience, the movie takes hold and the magic overwhelms you until the amazing, rousing finale that will leave you misty-eyed and yelling, “My lips bleedin’ burt. My lips bleedin’!”
1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (December 7th, 7:30, Cartoon Network): I think I’ve probably seen an airing of the Grinch at least once a year since I was five or six. This special is Christmas. One day, some dim bulb at the networks is going to yank it off the air in favor of The Kardashian Kristmas Special XXII and as we’re all at our deepest and darkest, the Grinch will magically come to life (and not that creepy Jim Carrey version) and the world will hold hands and sing songs and bells will ring out until the Kardashians are exorcised from existence. BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.
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