Author Joanna Wilson will sign copies of her new work, “The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide to Cult Classics, Strange Specials and Outrageous Oddities,” at Book People on Nov. 18 (more information at 422-8066). In honor of Wilson's fun reference book, here are five past Christmas specials that defy description and beg for revival:
1. “The Judy Garland Christmas Special” Wilson writes that Garland's 1963 Christmas variety special is filled with great performances, “but there's something off about it too. You can feel the tension in the air, which is very Christmas-y too.” Garland was, of course, fighting off addiction and other personal demons during this period. It shows.
2. “Silent Knight” The author says that the one holiday-themed episode of David Hasselhoff's '80s series, “Knight Rider,” is “so bad it's good.” It has gypsies, car wrecks and the amazing K.I.T.T. car buying Christmas gifts for needy kids. File under Ho-Ho-Hopeless.
3. Silent Night, Baywatch Night” More holiday Hasslehoff! This two-part, two-hour “Baywatch” Christmas special is every campy thing you'd expect from this series and more. “[It] includes Pamela Anderson in a macramAc bikini working with orphans,” Wilson writes on her blog. “Awwwwww. …”
4. “Christmas Cheers” Of all of the holiday-themed episodes of the NBC sitcom “Cheers,” this is the keeper, Wilson writes. It contains at least one classic moment. “The Cheers regulars are sick of seeing the film ‘It's a Wonderful Life' airing yet again on TV. … They complain about how saccharine this oft-repeated movie is. But during the scene in the 1946 movie where the Bedford Falls residents come together to support George Bailey and to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne,' there isn't a dry eye in Cheers.
5. “The Star Wars Holiday Special” George Lucas has tried hard to suppress this campy 1978 musical variety show — the first official “Star Wars” sequel — but it just won't stay buried. Here, viewers get to “enjoy” the singing of Princess Leia (an obviously inebriated Carrie Fisher), witness future Golden Girl Bea Arthur as a galactic barmaid, and (in the two-hour special's most incredible scene) watch an erotic dance number with Chewbacca's dad and actress Diahann Carroll (oh yeah, Art Carney and Jefferson Starship also make appearances). Little wonder that “Star Wars” creator Lucas, who had very little involvement with this bizarre mashup of TV variety showbiz and the “Star Wars” universe, has never allowed its release on DVD. “If I had the time and a sledgehammer,” he once told a group of fans, “I would track down every copy and smash it.” Despite Lucas' embargo, you can find internet downloads of this odd holiday artifact with very little effort.