Quick Question: What's Your Favorite "Guilty Pleasure" Holiday Special?

We touched on this in our “Get Blitzen’d” drinking game, but the holiday specials that have temporarily taken over our TVs tend to run the gamut from beloved to delightfully cheesy (and beloved) to just plain bad... but that doesn’t mean that we don’t love the bad ones too. For every A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life—the latter of which actually flopped in theaters when it was released, btw—there are at least three A Boyfriend for Christmas-es eating up the airwaves. But sometimes, sometimes, we can’t help but enjoy those wannabe classics just as much as their more prestigious counterparts.

For your reference and ridicule, here are some of my beloved-for-all-the-wrong-reasons holiday guilty pleasures; let's hear yours in the comments!



To Grandmother’s House We Go (1992)


Who didn’t love the Olsen twins during the height of their Full House reign? They were all cute and little and they had that adorable detective video series and they occasionally even demonstrated the ability to emote like real human beings.

To Grandmother’s House We Go was the first of many, MANY cheesy '90s Olsen twin movies (that I totally rocked on VHS), featuring the naughty—but ultimately nice—kiddos deciding to give their overworked mom a vacation for Christmas by running away to Grandma’s via bicycle. Along the way they meet a nice truck driver who buys them a lottery ticket and accidentally get kidnapped before finally ending up at Grandma’s house... at which point they win the lottery with the formerly curmudgeonly truck driver who is clearly slated to be their new daddy by the time credits roll.

The Full House cast cameos alone are worth at least a watch.



The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)


The Star Wars Holiday Special is so infamously bad that even George Lucas is ashamed of it—and he’s the man who reduced the magic of the Force to a glorified bacterial infection. It was only broadcast once, but that has hardly stopped legions of masochistic geeks from finding other ways to appreciate it’s beautiful awfulness.

There is no Christmas in a galaxy far far away, but that’s okay because the Wookie holiday “Life Day” makes a pretty good substitute (or, you know, blatant rip-off). The Empire tries its very best to thwart Han Solo and Chewbacca’s attempts to bring holiday cheer to Chewie’s fuzzy family back on Kashyyyk, but not even Boba Fett (in his first official/not-official appearance) and Darth Vader can defeat the power of Christmas—I mean Life Day—magic.

The shiny stars of A New Hope all reprise their roles—yes, even Harrison Ford—and Carrie Fisher sings the program's theme song to the tune of the iconic Star Wars theme. Musical guests include Jefferson Starship and Bea Arthur. It’s a masterful display of TV holiday magic, I tell you, masterful.



A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)


For all my whining and complaining about the poor oppressed country singers on The Voice, I grew up in a house that used to watch Grand Ole Opry reruns semi-religiously and when I was but a wee one, Dolly Parton was totally my buxom blonde hero... which is the only explanation I can think of for this mind-boggling addition to my personal list of Bizzaro Christmas Traditions.

Directed by The Fonz and co-starring John Ritter, A Smoky Mountain Christmas features Parton as a successful country star who's overwhelmed by her career, which drives her to take up with seven runaway orphans in a cabin in Tennessee. Its basically Snow White + rhinestones + Christmas + Dolly Parton’s rack, with the result being cheesy, twangy '80s goodness. So many holiday specials restrict themselves to ripping off holiday classics; I applaud A Smoky Mountain Christmas for broadening the horizon a bit.



Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus (1959/1993)


MST3K itself is not a guilty pleasure—it’s a sign from the TV gods that they love us and want us to be happy. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the holiday standard from the Satellite of Love, but Santa Claus gets a special place on this list because the source film is just so bizarre and sucky that I’d probably watch it even without Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo’s always-appropriate commentary.

The reason for the utterly cracked-out take on Ol’ Saint Nick is actually completely understandable; in the '50s, the concept of Santa Claus as American kids know him was still pretty much just an American thing and hadn’t yet taken over the world. When a Mexican film studio decided to introduce Santa to the Spanish-speaking world, well, they took some artistic liberties... or just didn’t know any better.

Thus, in his giant space castle, Santa exploits child labor to fill his sleigh, tracks his naughty and nice candidates via high-tech spy-cams, and battles Satan with a little help from Merlin. Yes, that Merlin.



Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage (2008)


Ok, so I originally watched this purely for the Jared Padalecki dimple-action, fully expecting (and accepting) that it would burn out my retinas... and then I was surprised by how much I didn’t hate it. For being a barely factual biopic about one of America’s most resented and successful contemporary artists, Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage actually features a rather impressive cast: Marcia Gay Harden, Aaron Ashmore, Edward Asner, and Lawrence of Arabia himself: Peter O’Freaking Toole.

It hits all the staples—a prodigal son returns to his small hometown for Christmas, a botched nativity ruins everyone’s day, and saintly Momma Kinkade is down on her luck, but a Christmas Miracle saves everything and reminds us all what Christmas is really about.

Honestly, if you ignore the fact that it’s a movie about the guy who got drunk at Disneyland and peed on the Winnie the Pooh statue, it’s really quite enjoyable.


What are YOUR holiday TV guilty pleasures? You know, the ones that you know you shouldn’t like, but can’t help but enjoy anyway.

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I just noticed this and I hate to correct one of the mods, but as the editor of MST3K, I must offer a correction. You mentioned Joel, Crow and Tom Servo on commentary but it was Mike, not Joel, who did this episode. Joel did do Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, but he left the show a few episodes before Santa Claus.
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You hit on my favorite in your intro...A Boyfriend for Christmas. Despite lots of close cheesy copies, this is the one I have to see. The likeable actors like Martin Mull and Patrick Muldoon and the sweetness of the overall feel are two of the reasons I favor this movie. The date is not paid or kidnapped. They are genuinely attracted right from the start. And Charles Durning as Santa is just the best!
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Bad Santa, South Park - Mr Hankey's christmas classics, whatever Dr Who is on. The Star Wars Holiday Special is f***ing awful, the films are slightly overrated but classic but that is just utter toilet.
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Nightmare before Christmas and South Park (BLU)... it's a xmas movie... and of course Schweaty Balls SNL
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A Christmas Story and the cartoon original version of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas
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and home alone
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The Snowman, Muppets Christmas Carol, and Home Alone. Its not Christmas without them.
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Bea Arthur? She was in Star Wars special? Really? I didn't know that...or I didn't notice..
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Die Hard!!!
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Miracle on 34th street & Home Alone
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I must watch Ebbie starring Susan Lucci at least once a year or I turn into Rain Man!
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I agree. This is a well done movie without a mean or vengeful tone.
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ANYONE who loves MST is my BFF. Best show ever!
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If anyone has a link to the full Star Wars Holiday Special please post (or point it out). Seems the Lucas thugs have deleted the one I had a link to on YouTube.
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It is on the latest Star Wars 6movie set release. At least it was with the blu-ray set.
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Hard to believe, given Lucas' own aversion to it, but I guess now Disney owns it so perhaps it's true. In any case, thanks. I'll keep my eyes out for it.
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REAL favourites are A Christmas Story and Elf, as well as Die Hard, but the cheesy favourites are the MST3K movie and the B-horror flick Jack Frost (1996), which you guys forgot, by the way.

I tried to watch the Star Wars Christmas special last year but I honestly couldn't make it past the first 20 minutes -- it's THAT terrible.
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My favorites are A Christmas Story, Home Alone I & II, The Santa Clause (the first one) and Ebby haha
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Oops forgot Polar Express, after I read the story to the kids, we then watch it :)
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Frosty the Snowman, Are We There Yet, and The Gathering.
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Die Hard every Christmas!!!!!
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Our favorite, although it isn't a bad movie, is Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine - or as we like to pronounce it "Mi-kohhw Caine." Dare you not to cry like a baby when Scrooge is duetting behind the love he let go as a young man. Dare you. (It's a Wonderful Life is saved for New Year's Eve.)
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Honestly, M.C`s performance of Scrooge is one of the best I have seen. George C Scott is the best I think, but Caines was really good.
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I watch Love Actually and The Santa Claus every year
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The Star Wars Holiday Special is the weirdest thing ever from tv. I was 10 when it aired but had no clue about it then and just discovered it 2 years ago. Very strange flow to it and bizarre. But it has the first appearance of Boba Fett in a cartoon so us Star Wars dorks can't resist it. :D And to see Chewbacca's family is a trip, haha.
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Bad Santa. :)
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My husband and I make it a point to watch "Die Hard", "Lethal Weapon" and "Invasion USA" every Christmas. Hey, if people can call "Home Alone" a Christmas movie, these are even more so. However, my actual, #1 favorite Christmas movie is an old 1977 TV movie titled "The Gathering" starring Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton. I never miss it, and my husband made sure that I had both the VHS AND the DVD. There's also the Monkees Christmas episode with Butch Patrick, and Christmas episodes of "Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye", "7th Heaven" (10th season) and...wait for it..."Walker, Texas Ranger"! We recorded those 3, transferred to DVD, and watch them every year as well.
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Listening to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" at least 3 or 4 times. I know it's not TV, but it's still a classic!
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Last night I watched The Christmas Shoes and started Christmas with a good cry. Now I just have to get through the holidays in one piece. Merry Christmas to all!
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Elf
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Grinch, the old cartoon version.
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Should not be a guilty pleasure at all. Be proud you're watching it. SHout it from the rooftops, in fact.
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I still like the original Miracle on 34th Street movie. The remake just didn't cut it because they couldn't use the mail as proof. Of course today they'd be making Santa out to be just an e-mail bot.
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The Ref starring Dennis Leary
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None of the above. Corny or not ...I love "Home Alone" 1 & 2, when it comes to Xmas movies.
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MST3K, without a doubt. Even better watching the Star Wars Holiday Special with Rifftrax, that always guarantees a good laugh.
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I've never heard of these 'things' listed in the article, lol, and that can't be a bad thing! Christmas tv sucks sooooooooo bad :-(
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The newest Doctor Who christmas.
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For me I watch The Long Kiss Goodnight with Sam Jackson and Geena Davis every Christmas.
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I'd usually say Rudolph and Frosty are my favorites that I'll be watching Christmas Eve, and I'm also a sucker for the Muppets Christmas Carol, but really this year I haven't been watching much Christmas films, I have been marathoning The Walking Dead, which has been great.
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Polar Express and the First Spongebob Christmas Special. I look forward to it every year.
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I'll Be Home for Christmas with Johnathon Taylor Thomas. If I'm being honest with myself it's not a very good movie but I watch it almost every Christmas.
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I have to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. All time favorite Christmas movie!
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It Happened One Christmas with Marlo Thomas and Cloris Leachman. A carbon copy of It's a Wonderful Life with role reversal, but I love it.
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"We wish you a Turtle Christmas"

My sister and I, both huge TMNT fans, finally watched the whole thing. Hahaha. Brilliantly awful.
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I've never seen any of those and I think that's probably a good thing!
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Wow, some real winners (in quotation marks) there, MA.

"Christmas in the Stars", the R2-D2/C-3PO Star Wars holiday album produced by Jon Bon Jovi's uncle and featuring cameos by the future star, would be my guilty holiday pleasure, should it qualify despite being music only.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is torturous to watch, I've only sat through it once and even that was mostly pain, culminating in Carrie Fisher's tone-deaf singing at the end, a song set to the Star Wars theme (oddly, she's sung in later projects and isn't bad, it's just here while wearing a stupid blanket as a robe). Mark Hamill's just-repaired face covered in doll makeup, Harrison Ford's surprisingly over-the-top acting, the cool Boba Fett cartoon, Bea Arthur singing torch songs in the cantina, none of it means anything compared to Chewbacca's hideous and horrible family antics in their treehouse which fills the majority of that turd.

I saw "A Christmas Story" in theaters with my mom, there were I think a total of 8 people in that theater. Apparently it got popular a couple months after it came out, but would have been a box office flop too had word of mouth not carried it.
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It's not exactly a guilty pleasure, but to me it isn't Christmas without the Peanuts Christmas special. I also love the BtVS episode, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, and the Supernatural Christmas episode. The Haven Christmas special last year was cheesy/good, too.
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I stated to mention Peanuts, but that is genuinely a classic, and the only Christmas special left that actually tells the story of our Lord's birth. It's my true favorite.
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I hate "it's a wonderful life" but I love the original "Miracle on 34th St." But my embarrassing guilty Christmas pleasure is "He Man and She Ra's Christmas Special" I have it on DVD.
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I have that DVD as well. Masters of the Universe for life!
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I hate It's A Wonderful Life more than any other two hours of holiday schmaltz committed to film in the history of the universe. I was forced to watch it against my will every damn year as a kid.

So as a result I usually prefer more R rated Christmas fare, like Bad Santa or Love Actually or It's Always Sunny's and Supernatural's Christmas specials. Or else my brothers and I just marathon The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad to get into the Christmas spirit. But I did not know there was a Star Wars Christmas Special, so maybe we'll check that out!
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The original "Lethal Weapon" is my favorite Christmas movie (Gotta love the 80's). The Jingle Bell Rock at the opening is enough for me to get into Christmas spirit. "Die Hard" is also great.
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Gremlins!

I also love watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles every holiday season (even though it's more about Thanksgiving than Christmas).
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Thanks for the tips, now I've something to watch as there's NOTHING on tv.
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The Santa Claus with Tim Allen, all 3 of them. I just can't get through Christmas without at least one viewing!
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I know. Me too.
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Oh man, we have seen To Grandmother's House We Go so many times. It's hilarious. And really, the part where they go for the lotto win...Spin and Win! Spin and Win! Cameos galore. Good times.
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I don't remember the episode name but when Christmas comes, I love to watch the episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in which "Angel didn't get burned by the sun because for a long time in Sunnydale's history, sun doesn't come up on Christmas"
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I am a big Buffy fan, and so I am ashamed to admit that I cannot place the episode of which you speak. Little help?
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Season 3 Amends
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A favourite holiday film classic of mine is "The Family Man" starring Nicolas Cage. It is always on television this time of year. And my mother and I watch it every year.
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