Christmas brings back many memories from childhood. Raised a Catholic, there was midnight mass, praying, singing and not getting what you asked Santa for (not exclusive to Catholics). Each year, Christmas comes around and people seem to forget how terrible it was twelve months ago. Making a massive fuss about doing it all again, then forcing you to relive the same horrific experience, like a Vietnam vet’s recurring nightmare.
Having cost you an arm and a leg, the kids scream, screech and generally act like ingrates on crack cocaine. And then there’s always an argument after Christmas dinner (don’t get me started on turkey – the driest, blandest of meats) when someone has had a little too much to drink… And don’t forget casually racist older relatives!
Nope, Christmas can do one.
There’s only one thing keeps me going during this period: film and TV. Films or TV shows that really capture the misery of Christmas or ignore it altogether. So this is my Christmas Bah humbug! list:
The League of Gentlemen: Christmas Special (S2, ep 7)
“I’ve been having these strange dreams, Vicar.”
“You’re too old for a sticky duvet now aren’t you?”
An hour-long Christmas episode of the multiple character comedy – played by just three men: Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steven Pemberton. The League left none of its usual dark humour behind when tackling the festivities. Santa, religion and snow feature, with its unique style applied accordingly.
The episode opens to someone urinating on snow, then throwing the yellow snowball at a Christmas parade, this person is revealed to be Royston Vasey’s vicar, Bernice Woodhall (Shearsmith). Bernice is bothered by parishioners, each of them with a dark story covering voodoo, vampires and curses. All Bernice wants to do is drink wine and watch the boxing. If you’ve not come across The League of Gentlemen before, I implore you to try it.
It’s all available on Netflix and BBC iPLAYER.
Bah Humbug! rating: Weird and gruesome, it scores a high 8/10.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas (S6, ep 13)
“Did you fuck my mom, Santa Claus?”
Not only one of the best episodes of Always Sunny, but the gang’s Christmas take is also one of the best seasonal specials of any show.
The narcissistic fivesome head off on their own journeys into what the Holy day means to them. Almost all of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is available on Netflix, including this episode, but excluding the only just aired 13th season.
Bah Humbug! rating: So cynical and depraved. A whopping 10/10.
Bottom: Holy (S2, ep 5)
“Will you stop whingeing Eddie, nobody likes sprouts.”
“Then why are we having them then?”
“Because. It. Is. Christmas.”
Eddie and Richie are two friends who share a dingy little flat in Hammersmith. And they’re not really friends.
It’s Christmas morning and Eddie (Ade Edmonson) just wants to drink, while Richie (the late Rik Mayall) tries to imbue some semblance of joy into the day. These, of course, include his yearly Christmas Cards from celebrities, which he wrote to himself and are the same ones he uses every year. They’re joined later in the day by associates (none of them really like each other) Spudgun and Hedgehog and an extraordinary Christmas miracle makes for one of the most brilliantly awful nativities ever.
All episodes of Bottom are available on Netflix.
Bah Humbug! rating: Weirdly, it’s probably less awful than their usual violence, but for wrapping brussels sprouts as presents alone, 6/10.
South Park: Woodland Critter Christmas (S8, ep 14)
Another Christmas favourite is South Park‘s violation of all that is holy.
With cheesy, satirical narration, a wonderful Christmas story unfolds as Stan is recruited by the cute Woodland Critters to help them build a manger for their saviour. Only there’s a dark twist. Huge levels of violence, sex and abortion unfold – all of which involves animals.
This can be found online, but obviously, I couldn’t condone that kind of behaviour.
Bah Humbug! rating: If Woodland Critter Christmas doesn’t sound hilariously offensive to you, then you’re a very disturbed little child and you’re definitely on the naughty list. 9/10.
Hancock’s Half Hour: Hancock’s Happy Christmas (S4, ep 11)
“Christmas will be like any other day in this house! Dead miserable.”
Tony Hancock’s been dead over fifty years, but he is a hero of mine and I honestly think you’ll enjoy this if you’re like me – a miserable bastard! Someone has to be…
Hancock’s Half Hour was a radio show, then later, a successful TV series and is often credited as the birth of the sitcom as we know it today. It plays like a particularly cynical, British Friends.
Written by the recently departed Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the Christmas episode of the radio incarnation is hilarious. Typically dour, Tony Hancock’s alter ego, a cantankerous miser, is bullied by his friends to get into the Christmas spirit.
Hancock was an incredible comedy actor, but the supporting cast of Bill Kerr, Hattie Jaques, Kenneth Williams and Sid James really made Hancock’s Half Hour something special.
Bah Humbug! rating: At one point Hancock tries to convince some orphans that Santa is a bit hard up and they’ll have to pay some money if they want presents. It’s pretty high for the time, but compared to the others on the list, it’s not shocking in any way, just marvellously grumpy. 7/10.
American Dad: The Most Adequate Christmas Ever (S3, ep 8)
“The three wise men look like transvestites! But then man-ish kind, not the attractive, Asian kind you always hope your friends will get you for your birthday.”
American Dad plays like a gentler Family Guy, both being created and voiced mainly by Seth MacFarlane. However, that’s not to say it isn’t funny, as the dysfunctional Smith family, the alien who lives in their attic and their talking goldfish who has the brain of a German skiing champion go out to find a tree. This leads to a falling out and a family death.
Bah Humbug! rating: It’s less, this one, because half of it is set in heaven and really the only grumpy character is the father, Stan. Does have a Holocaust joke, though. 5/10.