Christmas cheer when holiday-themed TV comes to town

By Brianne Johnson, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 27, 2011

’Twas the night of Black Friday and all through the store, chimes of sweet carols and 3 a.m. snores erupt from the speakers and stream from zipped tents, as flocks of cold shoppers grow in swelling suspense. The reason I'm snatching a plasma this year? Well, the holiday specials on TV are finally here!

As eager students deck the dorm halls in colorful paper and string their windows in a green and red glow, I’ve found my own way to commemorate the holidays: watching TV.

That’s right. Call me Scrooge, but I’m not one to get wasted on that holiday spirit. I think egg nog is strange, ice is the bane of my clumsy existence and I often mistake innocent carolers for Peeping Toms who undoubtedly intend to violate my doorbell until I show my cowardly face. Yet nothing warms my heart more than watching re-runs of my favorite TV families fumble their way through endearingly awkward and often poorly cooked dinners, as I cuddle into the corner of my futon with a bag of popcorn that may or may not result in buttery strings of garland by the end of the night.

Television’s holiday specials have become an expected delight, a tradition as familiar and comforting as sprawling on the living room floor knowing that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will scoot its way across the screen. Embedded in my list of holiday to-dos — right after roast chestnuts over an open fire — is an indulgent cluster of classic (and some not-so-classic) Christmas gems. I will follow Michael Scott to a drunken Benihana feast. I will convince my family that Mr. Hanky of “South Park” is indeed the wholesome embodiment of the holiday spirit. And with zero shame, I will be glued to the apple of my adolescent eye, Aaron Carter, as he charms Lizzie McGuire into a mistletoe smooch.

Though often gifted in true moral-of-the-story fashion (almost always an embrace of family values or the peaceful union of opposing forces), the “holiday special” is a welcomed break from the constricting storylines of most programs. It allows characters to veer from predictable scripts and formats, sometimes producing entirely new realities and, in the case of “Community” ’s second season stop-motion episode, some realities even better than the show’s weekly plots. The episode’s fantastical setting is “Planet Abed,” the atmosphere of which is “seven-percent cinnamon.” If that’s not a Christmas to covet — what is?

No channel is more dedicated to spreading the Christmas cheer than ABC Family, whose “25 Days of Christmas” marathon allows greedy viewers (like me) to indulge in the made-for-TV movies that put the “guilty” in guilty pleasure. These nightly forays into fictional — and often admittedly cheesy — worlds amplify the excitement of the holidays and provide even the most anti-winter college students (again, like myself) with the eager feeling forgotten from childhood.

All I want for Christmas is two things: an A in my Communications 101 course and the comfort of knowing my nights will soon be filled with Ross and Rachel in red and green. While the former is a wish not even the magic of St. Nicholas can fulfill, 25 days of televised cheer is the gift that keeps on giving.