TV's Gayest Holiday Specials
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Christmas time is here...
Happiness and cheer...
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year.
Thus goes the well-known lyrics to Vince Guaraldi's “Christmas Time Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas, one of the most popular holiday specials on TV. And while many a parent and child eagerly await watching this and similar programs as part of their yuletide traditions, there are other programs that we adore—specials that are are just a tad bit gayer than the norm. So sit back with a bowl of popcorn and a bottle of wine, because what follows are 12 of TV's Gayest Christmas Specials.
A special episode of The Judy Garland Show, the Christmas Show, features children Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft, and Joey Luft, as well as celebs like Mel Torme, Jack Jones and Tracy Everitt. Songs include everything from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” as well as the expected “Over the Rainbow.” So what’s so gay about it? Besides Judy and Liza being icons?
The poor dear was evidently coming off a major bender when they shot it. The account came from Torme’s book The Other Side of the Rainbow: Behind the Scenes on the Judy Garland Television Series, but you can kind of see it as well. At one point she mistakenly calls him “Mort” instead of Mel, and in this clip she flubs a line in their duet of “The Christmas Song.” When Torme points it out, Judy purposely (Who knows?) exchanges the word "reindeer" with "rainbow," perhaps alluding to her famous song. It really showcases the talent and tragedy, all in one program.
A reindeer bullied by his peers just because of the way he's born, and an island full of misfit toys, has made this 1964 holiday classic resonate with LGBT kids for decades. But it is Rudolph’s pal Hermey—an effete but sassy elf obsessed with oral hygiene (he wants to be a dentist)—that gives Rankin/Bass’ most famous stop-motion TV special it’s big gay heart. With a voice like a young Paul Lynde and gravity defying blond bangs that are a delicious mashup of Gwen Stefani and Jedward’s famous locks, Hermey has inspired dozens of video spoofs on YouTube asserting that this elf is indeed a friend of Dorothy. This montage clip of him singing with his red-nosed BFF leaves little doubt about which team he bats for.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids had a number of holiday specials over the years, but the Christmas one is a fave. Mean old junkyard owner Tyrone is fixin' to tear down the Cosby Kids’ clubhouse—right when they’re rehearsing for a Christmas pageant. To make matters worse, this kid Marshall shows up with his parents—including his pregnant mom. She’s about to have a baby and dad has no health insurance, so Fat Albert makes a deal: He’ll work for Tyrone as a sidewalk Santa if Tyrone lets the family stay in the hygienically sound junkyard clubhouse.
Seriously? They just don’t make cartoon specials like they used to.
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.
Believe it or not, Jar Jar Binks wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to Star Wars; that distinction belongs to the Holiday Special, which aired only once in 1978. This stain on the sci-fi genre gained a cult following of its own thanks to the many bootleg copies bought and traded at conventions around the world. Totally cheesy, completely campy, and so scratch-your-eyes-out bad it makes Showgirls look like an Academy Award winner. However, one of the gayest holiday moments in television history occurred during this special when the bartender of the Mos Eisley cantina, played by Golden Girl Bea Arthur, sang “Good Night, But Not Goodbye” as she ushered out a familiar group of aliens. This is one gem that has to been seen to be believed. (Sing along with Ms. Arthur here.)
Christmas Eve on Sesame Street makes our list thanks to this sweet re-telling of the classic Christmas story “The Gift of the Magi.” In this version, the show’s long rumored gay couple—Bert and Ernie—want to give Christmas presents to one another, but they don’t have any money. Bert decides to barter his prized paper clip collection in order to get a pink soap dish for Ernie’s rubber duckie, while Ernie trades in his rubber duckie to get an empty cigar box for Bert’s paper clip collection. Just as the two are about to reveal their sacrifices to each other, Mr. Hooper—the store owner—realizes what the two have done and shows up to give the guys back their prized possessions. (See the heartwarming clip here.)
Just when you thought an animated series about a beefcake in a fuzzy speedo and metal harness couldn’t get any gayer, along came a spinoff show about his unicorn-riding twin sister and her friends with drag-tastic names like, Perfuma, Mermista, Castaspella, and Peeekablue. However, the magical realm of Eternia flew into the homoverse in He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special. The camp factor is cranked way up in this holiday goodie with new characters like the man-chines being introduced for the first time. Also, Skeletor discovers he has a soft spot for puppies and Orko busts out in a waltz with Kowl during a musical number. As if that wasn’t enough, when Hordak isn’t bickering with his skull-faced former student like an old married couple, the leader of the Horde is flying around in a penis-shaped helicopter.
The only thing missing is a circuit party in Castle Grayskull! (See the full special here.)
At the height of his success, and before that infamous trip to a Florida movie theater, Paul Rubens’ alter ego, Pee-wee Herman, celebrated Christmas with his very own TV special. Already a camp-tastic and slightly subversive treat, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse upped the queer factor for it’s X-mas celebration with gay icons, including The Del Rubio Triplets, Grace Jones, Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Little Richard, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dinah Shore, Cher and many more.
Still, the special’s most sublime moment is Charo’s acoustic rendition of “Feliz Navidad.”
Mike and Carol Brady reunite the kids for the holidays, but Greg's wife Nora is spending Christmas with her family, Peter is sleeping with his boss, Marcia's husband Wally was fired from his job at a toy company, Jan is separating from her husband Phillip, and Cindy is being played by another actress. Oh, and remember former housekeeper Alice? She married Sam the Butcher, but he’s recently left her for another woman.
The bad drama and even worse jokes were gay enough, but daddy Mike (played by still-handsome closeted-gay Robert Reed) learns that a ruthless businessman is up to no good. Mike designed a building for this guy, and now the businessman has cut corners, which results in the building's collapse and trapping of two security guards. Gay dad Mike saves them, but then gets trapped in the wreckage himself. How does he get out? Carol leads the entire family in a rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful" and we have a Christmas miracle. (Watch the clip here.)
WHAT? How is that even possible? Well, it's no joke, and it's why we always tune in for this one.
South Park, the legendary series starring four foul-mouthed elementary school students from Colorado, owes its success to a couple of animated short films made by the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Titled The Spirit of Christmas, the shorts include "Jesus vs. Frosty" and "Jesus vs. Santa," but "Jesus vs. Santa" is also one of the gayest holiday specials out there. A fight between St. Nick and the Son of God quickly turns into a homoerotic wrestling match, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to make this list. The special hits a homo-home-run when the South Park boys try to figure out how to help by asking, “What would Brian Boitano do?”—a scene that only gets gayer when the ice skater miraculously appears and reminds us all that Christmas is about being good to one another.
Watch the whole thing here.
It’s hard to believe that RuPaul scored a Christmas special based on the success of her “Supermodel (You Better Work)” single—especially in the early '90s. But the divine drag diva did indeed, and she welcomed an incredible lineup of guest stars including Elton John, Eartha Kitt, Nirvana, Boy George, and La Toya Jackson.
You can watch the entire special on YouTube. Be sure to look for a very young Sherry Vine in the opening segment.
This remake of the Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol stars Vanessa Williams as Ebony Scrooge (no joke), who started out in a Supremes-style band, screwed over her fellow performers and has since become one of the world's most successful pop singers. Now she’s a cold-hearted snake, treating everyone like hell, even during the holidays. With Williams dishing out delicious pre-Wilhelmina Slater behavior, Kathy Griffin and John Taylor as the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present (respectively), and rockin’ 1980s tracks from Ebony Scrooge’s old band, and you've got an absolute joy. We love their rendition of "Sleigh Ride" but this clip of the band doing "Heart Quake" is genius.
Season 5 of Absolutely Fabulous included this holiday special that aired on Christmas Eve, 2003. In “Cold Turkey,” Edina decides to stay home and celebrate Christmas with her baby granddaughter (Lola) rather than jetting off for a tropical holiday with Patsy, much to the latter’s brutal dismay. In a dark but hilarious childhood flashback scene, we learn why Ms. Stone hates this particular day so much. Then a visit by Patsy’s older sister Jackie (“Pats, I’m 72”) results in a mishap that leads Edina to believe her BFF has died. But in the end, Patsy learns the true meaning of Christmas and even sits down to eat one of those “food things” with the rest of Edina’s family.
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.