Alternate Holiday Media: A Break From Christmas Movies

Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday has passed, and the calendar has rolled over to December: it’s officially the holiday season. Chances are your next few weeks will be filled with gift shopping, travel plans, eggnog recipes, and, of course, Christmas movies. Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks Christmas music is overplayed, and I won’t extend that sentiment to the movies either. However, you probably already have your set favorites that you plan to watch every year, and television networks make that incredibly easy. TBS always has a 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon, Freeform always has its “25 Days of Christmas,” and I haven’t checked, but Hallmark may just be year-round Christmas movies now. You don’t need anyone to tell you how to find your Rudolphs, your Charlie Browns, or your (now three) Grinches.

But what if you want to spice it up? What if you want to add some holiday television into your mix? What if you branched out even further, with comics, video games, or podcasts? After all, if it’s the season of giving, why not give yourself a variety of entertainment to enjoy? Here are some suggestions to broaden your horizons this wintry, holiday season.

Brooklyn 99, Season 3, Episode 10: “Yippee Kayak”

My one Christmas movie judgment for this piece is this: Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. However, that doesn’t stop Brooklyn 99’s send-up “Yippie Kayak” from being a great Christmas episode, even for those uninitiated with the series. It starts with a classic trope as Jake realizes he’s forgotten to buy Charles a Christmas gift. He ropes in Gina to help, Charles ropes in himself, and the three end up in a department store being robbed by not-German-but-Canadian bad guys. Terry is forced to leave his family Christmas dinner and contend with Nine-Nine nemesis The Vulture, who is in charge of the hostage rescue team. Meanwhile, Amy tries to impress Rosa and Captain Diaz by participating in a Polar Swim, even though they know she hates the cold.

It’s got some great laughs, from Gina’s continuing desire to use a homemade flame thrower to Amy’s reaction as she steps foot in the icy New York water. There are also sincere moments, with Captain Holt supporting Terry and encouraging him to take the lieutenant exam, and Jake and Charles having a real moment of friendship as Jake is truly apologetic for forgetting Charles’s gift. Plus, while the Die Hard references are fun, the episode also subverts expectations as Charles, not Jake, gets to have the John McClane tank-top moment.

Super Mario Odyssey: Snow Kingdom

For everyone not expecting a White Christmas this year, or even a White December, why not hop back into the world of Super Mario Odyssey and visit the Snow Kingdom? First things first: head to a Crazy Cap store and spend 1500 coins on the recently released Santa outfit; you’ll match the Ty-foos and Goombas already there. From the snowy, icy exterior to the warm, wooden interiors of Shiveria, the Snow Kingdom is a great place to take a winter vacation. Finish up collecting any moons or purple coins you still have hanging around. Or, if you’ve already completed both collections, spend some time finding balloons in a blizzard in Luigi’s Balloon World, or race with the Shiverians in the Bound Bowl Grand Prix, which is surely the closest thing we have to “reindeer games.” You’ll be needing a cup of hot chocolate in no time.

Justice League, Season 2, Episode 23: “Comfort and Joy”

“Comfort and Joy” is a charming episode of Justice League, focused on great character interactions and what the holidays mean to each League member. Green Lantern stays behind on a snowy planet to snowboard. Hawkgirl, being an alien from another planet, doesn’t understand the fuss over Christmas-time, so GL takes it upon himself to explain the fun by showing her how to build a snowman and have a snowball fight. She returns the favor by showing him how she likes to celebrate battle victories—barfighting. We see the people’s hero Flash go to a children’s home, which we can infer is at least a yearly tradition. It’s sweet to see the big-hearted Scarlet Speedster care for the children and run all the way to Japan to get them an exciting new toy. It’s so sweet he’s even able to convince Ultra-Humanite to put down his weapons and call a truce. The villain repairs the broken toy and upgrades it to tell the story of The Nutcracker, and Flash leaves him a metallic Christmas tree for his jail cell. Martian Manhunter, being another alien from another planet, also misses the point of the holidays, so Earth-adoptee Superman takes him home to Ma and Pa Kent to celebrate. The Kents are an adorable family (Clark always tries to use x-ray vision on his presents! Ma Kent knitted a giant sweater for MM!), but we also see J’onn take a trip around town in human form to clear his head. In doing so, he observes humans celebrating with kindness and singing. This is enough to make him understand and end the episode singing a Martian song of his own. This episode should definitely be a treat for fans of the show or other DC media, but it’s self-contained, character-driven story should also be enjoyable for newcomers.

Bonus: The Batman: The Animated Series episode “Holiday Knights” would also be a good double feature. It’s more plot-driven than “Comfort and Joy,” but there are fun stories spanning the holiday season featuring Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy spending Bruce Wayne’s money, Batgirl pushing Clayface out of a department store window, and a sweet moment with Batman and Commissioner Gordon at New Years Eve.

Wonderful!, Episode 15: “Big Dog Don’t Fall Over” and Episode 16: “Greg Clause”

Quick facts: Wonderful! is a podcast hosted by Griffin and Rachel McElroy. They are married; it’s delightful. Each episode they enthusiastically discuss anything they are enthusiastic about; it’s delightful. “Greg Clause” is included because it’s their first “official” Christmas episode, and you can listen as they discuss Christmas music, Arthur Christmas, and the Nintendo 64. But I also included the previous episode because, while Griffin discusses travel activities and sharp kitchen knives (not explicitly holiday-connected but you can tie it in), Rachel uses all of her time to discuss Hanukkah. If you, like me, were born in the ‘90s and are not Jewish, your biggest exposure to Hanukkah was likely through that one Rugrats episode. Through this episode, Rachel not only gives us research about what Hanukkah is, we also get to hear about her first-hand experience celebrating Hanukkah, what she enjoys about it, and how she continues celebrating today with Griffin and their child. There’s also real discussion and insight about Hanukkah “competing” with Christmas, and the lack of media representation of the holiday. Well, now you also have this podcast episode!

Hawkeye Issue #17 (Vol. 4) by Matt Fraction, Chris Eliopoulos, and David Aja

Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series already has plenty of critical acclaim, if you’re looking to read the whole thing. But issue #17 serves as a mostly self-contained issue, featuring a fake holiday special Clint watches with his neighbors. The “special” features an Avengers-esque group the “Winter Friends,” including Santalope, Kwanzaagator, and Menorable (a Hanukkah-themed cat). As the Winter Friends are captured by the Sun, they can only hope to be rescued by “Steve, the dog with no powers that [they] let hang out with [them] for some reason.” This is Hawkeye, but a dog. The rest of the story is filled with Hawkeye’s friends that have appeared in the series like Kate Bishop, also as dogs. As they journey to rescue the Winter Friends, the fake special deals with some of Clint’s psyche, such as how he feels inadequate compared to the super-powered Avengers, and how he stubbornly believes he can solve problems all on his own. The resolution, of course, asserts that “Steve”/Hawkeye can still be a hero without powers, especially because he stands up for what’s right; also, it’s important for him to ask for help while he does all this day-saving. It’s a fun parody of a holiday special with morals and feelings!

Nailed It! Holiday!

Nailed It! takes that impulse you have while watching Food Network or Great British Baking Show to say “hey! I could try that!” to its worst logical extreme. Hosted by comedian Nicole Byer and French chef Jacques Torres, the show features bakers try to recreate desserts, sometimes simple, sometimes spectacular, now holiday themed! This edition of the show includes desserts representing Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, and general winter. The contestants fail in ways I couldn’t even imagine, and it’s always funny to both react and see the reactions to a bad reveal. Guests this season include comedians Lauren Lapkus and Jason Mantzoukas, as well as the welcome return of the delightful and Edna Mode-esque Sylvia Weinstock. For a funnier twist on baking competition shows, Nailed It! can provide a respite from perfect desserts.

Whatever Christmas movies you plan to enjoy this year, remember to make room for all of the themed television episodes, and know that even podcasts, comics, and video games are out there to get you in the spirit. Whether you’re wrapping presents or snuggled up with hot chocolate, the entertainment we consume can boost our holiday cheer. Use this list as a jumping off point and add some new traditions to your holiday fun.