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5 Essential TV Christmas Specials That Shouldn't Be Missed

December 13th, 2011 11:00am EST

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer One of the best parts of the holiday season is Christmas TV specials. No matter what your background, it’s easy to enjoy the uplifting stories that go along with the Christmas season. Here are our top 5.

5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)

This may be the most popular Christmas special of all time, who cares if some crackpot thinks it promotes bullying... only FOX news would give someone like this airtime. Rudolph has aired on various networks every year since it debuted on December 6, 1964 on NBC, making it the longest running special to date. Anyone can identify with the ugly duckling story of Rudolph, a reindeer who was picked on because he was different. Of course, in the end, Rudolph saves the day when he is able to help guide Santa through the fog and deliver presents to the world. In an age of computer graphics, it is really refreshing and kind of magical to see the stop motion animation that brings Rudolph to life. The legendary Burl Ives providing the soundtrack as the narrating snowman is just icing on the cake to this classic special. Rudolph aired last week on CBS, I hope you didn’t miss it.

4. A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

Jason Segel’s new movie The Muppets has really put Kermit and the gang back on the map, and it reminded me of this great holiday special that first aired in 1987. Much like the Muppets in Segel’s movie, this special has largely been forgotten, and has not aired in the U.S. since 2001. The plot involves a man named Doc and his dog sprocket going to stay at a bed and breakfast run by Fozzie bear’s mom. When Fozzie comes home for Christmas, he unexpectedly brings the whole Muppet gang with him, and hilarity ensues. The special was made three years before the untimely death of Muppet creator Jim Henson, and features voice work by Henson for Kermit and eight other Muppets and a short cameo by Henson himself. The special is available on a two disc dvd.

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

This special is such a big part of Christmas that it is hard to believe that the run time is only 25 minutes long. The animated special is of course based on Dr. Seuss’s children’s book of the same name. It first aired in 1966 and is the third longest running special, behind two others on this list. The story of how Christmas still came to Whoville even without the presents is especially heart-warming, and reminds us all of what the holiday season is really all about. How the Grinch Stole Christmas can be seen on ABC Family Fri Dec 23 at 8/7c, and on ABC on Christmas day Dec 25 at 8/7c.

2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

This has always been one of my favorite Christmas specials, but I feel it has kind of been lost in the shuffle. It has only aired on cable in the last eight years, last being seen on network tv on ABC in 2003. The story is of course based on the 1843 short story by Charles Dickens, and stars all our favorite Disney characters. Scrooge McDuck takes on the fitting role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Mickey as Bob Cratchit, his loyal assistant. The special features the late Wayne Allwine, a voice actor who was the voice of Mickey Mouse for over 32 years. There are many movie and tv versions of Dickens’ classic tale, but this is by far my favorite. It can be seen on ABC Family as part of their “25 days of Christmas” Tue Dec 20 at 6/5c.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

This is probably the best known of Charles Schulz’s specials. It was the first animated version of Schulz’s popular Peanuts comics, and aired Dec 9 1965 on CBS. The special follows Charlie Brown in his quest to find out what Christmas is all about. Christians have always praised Schulz for reminding people the real reason for the holiday. In an era where Christmas continually becomes over-commercialized, the message of A Charlie Brown Christmas still remains very relevant. A Charlie Brown Christmas can be seen this Thursday Dec 15 at 8/7c on ABC.

There are so many great specials that air this time of year, and of course it was tough to narrow it down to just five. Did your favorite make the list? I’d love to discuss, and I think it would make for a great conversation. Please feel free to comment down below!

Related: Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mickey's Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Starpulse Exclusives, Television, Family, TV Networks, ABC, CBS

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Photo Credits: Classic Media; Disney; United Feature Syndicate

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