This weekend brings us Stephen Colbert’s A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, so let’s take a look at some of the celebrity Christmas specials that this special will be parodying.
The most famous of all these specials is probably Bing Crosby’s last Christmas special (taped not long before his death in 1977), “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.” It’s most famous for the scene where Bing gets a knock on the door of the old English house he’s staying in, and admits his special guest… David Bowie. Leading to one of the most famous duets in TV history.
The other crooner who’s famous for his Christmas specials is Perry Como, but he doesn’t have Crosby’s cool cred (yes, Bing Crosby was and is cool. Deal with it), and his specials were famously weird because no matter what then-current acts they incorporated, he showed an apparent lack of awareness of whatever was going on around him. (SCTV parodied that in their “Perry Como: Still Alive,” where Eugene Levy’s Como does his mellow thing while a disco backup group tries to liven things up.) Here he is in 1974, doing a sketch with Rich Little pretending to be Jack Benny (can Jack sue Perry for pretending that he’s a guest on the show?), followed by the Carpenters singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”
Of course you can’t have ’70s Variety, at any time of the year, without Donny, Marie, and assorted other Osmonds. (Mad Magazine once suggested that a future spinoff would be called Still More Osmonds Yet, featuring every Osmond relative who hadn’t been on TV yet.) Here they are in 1976, doing a sketch with Lord of All Pop Culture Paul Lynde, followed by their signature “A Little Bit Country” duet, and a Christmas medley.
Crosby’s frequent co-star and comedy sparring partner Bob Hope was also a king of the Christmas special. I forgive Bob a lot because I liked his specials as a child (then again I also liked Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling and The Snorks) and because some of his ’40s and early ’50s movies are still hilarious — but I can’t forgive him for this Star Wars segment with Mark Hamill and Olivia Newton-John. It may edge out Star Wars Holiday Special as the worst Star Wars Christmas bit of the era.