It’s that time a year where families gather around the TV to watch their favorite holiday specials. From “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to “Frosty the Snowman” to “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” they’re hard to avoid — not that you would want to. That’s the whole reason December exists, right?
What about the specials from years past though? There’s so many that are still just as good — or sometimes terrible yet entertaining — that don’t get their annual TV airing. Those specials deserve recognition too, and that’s why Screener is here. Below you’ll find a guide to where online you can watch 12 different holiday specials that you definitely will not find on TV this year.
1. ‘A Muppet Family Christmas’ (1987)
This might be the most epic holiday special of all time, combining the Muppets, “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” into one big song-filled extravaganza. There’s also a little “Muppet Babies” mixed in, since they were all the rage in the ’80s. Jim Henson even makes a cameo as himself, in addition to the 11 Muppets he controlled.
2. ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Alpha’s Magical Christmas’ (1994)
With the popularity of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” soaring in the early ’90s, FOX decided to make a Christmas special that featured very little of the Power Rangers. Instead it focuses on their robot friend Alpha and a bunch of kids singing songs and decorating the command center for Christmas. Once the Power Rangers — or three of them, at least — do show up, the continuity errors begin. Tommy, the white ranger, is wearing his old green ranger costume, which no longer existed at that point. There’s also a cameo by character who didn’t join the show until after the green ranger was long gone. Oh well.
3. ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ (1978)
The “Star Wars Holiday Special” is the rarest of the rare. It aired once in 1978 and was then hidden away forever, never to be released on video or DVD. Luckily, there were “Star Wars” fans recording the bizarre special that combined space adventures and a variety show and was filled with juggling, dancing and singing.
4. ‘The Smurfs Christmas Special’ (1986)
We had to reach deep into the ’80s for this one, but the Smurfs Christmas Special is an oldie but a goodie. Even if it only seemed to air at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning, it still managed to include all the things you love about Christmas: sleigh bells, Santa, a Christmas miracle and smurfs singing super high pitched versions of Christmas carols.
5. ‘The Radio City Christmas Spectacular’ (2007)
What’s Christmas without the Radio City Rockettes kicking along to your favorite holiday songs? This recording of the annual “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” variety show is filled with dancing, singing and Santa Claus.
6. ‘He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special’ (1985)
Is there anything more ’80s than “He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas special,” a holiday special for a cartoon series based on a toy line? Christmas also happens to be He-Man and She-Ra’s birthday — they’re twins, in case you forgot — and Skeletor wants to mess it all up. No one messed with the holidays on their watch, though.
7. ‘I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown’ (2003)
Everyone points to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as a required viewing during the holidays, but there’s not enough love for “I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown.” It’s much newer — released in 2003 — but just as good. This one focuses on Lucy’s little brother Rerun in his quest to have a dog as cool as Snoopy. Is there a dog that great, though?
8. ‘Johnny Cash Christmas Special’ (1976)
Thanks to artists like Michael Buble, the musical Christmas special is still alive and well. Who knows if they’ll ever live up to what Johnny Cash was able to do in the ’70s, though. Calling on his famous friends for a night of singing and stories, the “Johnny Cash Christmas Special” was a great reason to gather around the TV.
9. ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ (1977)
The Jim Henson special “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” manages to work in a riff on “The Gift of the Magi”; a lesson that good people don’t always win (at least not right away) — but that doing good is its own reward; and a tremendous earwig of a song by the Riverbottom Nightmare Band. HBO aired it first in 1978, and ABC in 1980, but it somehow missed becoming a perennial.
10. ‘Ziggy’s Gift’ (1982)
“Ziggy’s Gift” is a simple enough premise: The beloved comic strip character gets a job as a Santa collecting money for charity. Then things get weird. He’s surrounded by thieves and crooks, stealing the charity money for their own selfish needs. Even the cops are evil in the special. In this world, Ziggy really would be the only person to get a gift from Santa.
11. ‘We Wish You a Turtle Christmas’ (1994)
Let’s be honest. this is not a good special. In fact, it’s kind of a mind-boggling affair. With the surprise of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoons and movies, this Christmas special was inevitable. Of course, this isn’t a cartoon and the costumes used are of a much lower quality than the movies. Even with all of that, this is still worthy of your time. From the silly songs to the weird accents to an appearance by Santa Claus — and the Splinter costume from the equally bizarre “TMNT” concert tour — do yourself a favor and watch this one.
12. ‘A Garfield Christmas’ (1987)
A song-filled romp that finds Garfield and Odie visiting Jon’s family for the holidays.The titular feline eats lasagna, pulls pranks and generally makes life miserable for everyone but him — per usual. But, of course, there’s a lesson to be learned in “A Garfield Christmas” and familial vibes aplenty.