10 Holiday-Themed TV Episodes and Specials Featuring Greats We Lost This Year

by | December 22, 2016 | Comments

For celebrity deaths, 2016 was brutal – whether you’re a fan of classic TV, pop music, movies, or Broadway, the losses this year were substantial. Pay homage to some of those legends with their work on these memorable Christmas specials and episodes.

David Bowie – Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas (1977)


The legendary clip of the Thin White Duke and Der Bingle dueting on “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” always had a certain poignancy, since it was from the last of Crosby’s many classic Christmas specials, but now that we’ve lost both singers, this once unthinkably incongruous duet takes its place among the indelible holiday moments.

Garry Shandling – It’s Garry Shandling’s Show


Before The Larry Sanders Show, Shandling played “himself” in a revolutionary sitcom that constantly broke the fourth wall and acknowledged that it was, in fact, a sitcom. So of course they eventually had to do a Christmas special (season 2, episode 8 – “It’s Garry Shandling’s Christmas Show”), where Garry attempts to get Tom Petty to come perform on Garry’s Christmas special.

Florence Henderson – The Brady Bunch


The multi-talented Henderson has a richly diverse career, but nothing immortalized her in the pop culture pantheon as much as her role as perfect mom Carol Brady, first on The Brady Bunch and then on later iterations, including the family’s beautifully bizarre variety show. In the sitcom’s first season (season 1, episode 12 – “The Voice of Christmas”), Carol gets laryngitis right before she’s supposed to sing at church for Christmas. Will the holiday be saved? (Spoiler: Yes.)

Patty Duke – A Christmas Memory (1997)


Duke was a legendary child star, winning an Oscar at 16 for her turn as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and then headlining her own hit sitcom as a teenager, but she remained active in film and TV throughout the rest of her life. (She was also one of the first celebrities to openly discuss her battles with bipolar disorder, in her must-read memoir Call Me Anna.) One of her more notable adult roles was the lead in this sweetly nostalgic adaptation of the Truman Capote story, which has become an annual holiday staple on cable TV.

William Schallert – The Patty Duke Show


In a strange twist, veteran character actor Schallert, who played Patty Duke’s father on her eponymous sitcom, also passed away this year. (There are a lot of TV dads on his long-as-your-arm IMDB page, but I always think of him as the kindly science professor in the Kurt Russell “Dexter Riley” movies at Disney.) It’s in the season-one holiday episode of The Patty Duke Show (season 1, episode 15 – “The Christmas Present”) that we learn that Schallert’s character is himself a twin, giving him his own opportunity to act opposite himself.

Ken Howard – The White Shadow


Another performer with a long and varied résumé – he played Thomas Jefferson in the original Broadway cast and movie adaptation of 1776, and recently had memorable roles in movies like Michael Clayton and TV hits like 30 Rock – Howard is best remembered for his long-running role on the CBS drama The White Shadow, where he played a retired NBA player who became coach for an inner-city team. In this episode (season 3, episode 5 – “Christmas Story”), his players learn that other kids have it even tougher than they do.

Doris Roberts – Mrs. Miracle (2009)


Whether Everybody Loves Raymond or Remington Steele was the first long-running series to pop into your head when you saw Roberts’ name, she too enjoyed a lengthy and eclectic career that encompassed stage and screen, although she definitely made her mark on TV via shows like the aforementioned, as well as Angie and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. She remained busy as ever well into her 80s and 90s, even creating a franchise of Hallmark Christmas movies as the titular busybody of Debbie Macomber’s heartwarming holiday tale.

Ron Glass and Abe Vigoda – Barney Miller


Two talented members of the Barney Miller ensemble left us this year – accomplished actor Glass, who played the dapper Det. Harris, and Vigoda (after years of internet rumors, he actually did die in 2016) as the rumpled Det. Fish, a character who eventually earned his own spin-off show. In this holiday entry (season 3, episode 10 – “Christmas Story”), Fish must go undercover as Santa Claus to find a mugger who’s targeting Saint Nicks.

Janet Waldo – The Jetsons


Waldo’s voice work made her an animation legend; as part of the Hanna-Barbera ensemble, she popped up in classic show after classic show, including The Flintstones (as Fred’s mother-in-law Mrs. Slaghoople), The Wacky Racers (she was Penelope Pitstop), and Josie and the Pussycats (as lead singer Josie). But her most iconic character was unquestionably Judy Jetson, swingin’ teen of the future. In this holiday episode (season 2, episode 45 – “A Jetson Christmas Carol”), mean boss Mr. Spaceley gets the Scrooge treatment after forcing poor George to work on Christmas Eve.

Robert Vaughn – The Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Even the Cold War’s hottest spy show wasn’t immune to the pull of a holiday episode (season 3, episode 15 – “The Jingle Bells Affair”), so remember the suave and distinguished Robert Vaughn – between this show and The Magnificent Seven, his film and TV work has been subject to quite a few remakes of late – with this action tale of attempted assassination and international skullduggery. For Christmas!

Tag Cloud

Pirates Adult Swim science fiction space TV Cannes Pride Month Apple VICE Awards Tour Animation crossover joker Hallmark Comics on TV HBO docudrama talk show miniseries Dark Horse Comics anime CNN Apple TV+ CBS All Access X-Men Pet Sematary Nat Geo PaleyFest slashers Women's History Month Countdown Paramount spider-man Opinion Amazon Prime Video zombie robots screenings cooking APB 2020 elevated horror stand-up comedy television The CW Toys Fall TV cancelled TV series Holidays The Witch Trivia Red Carpet streaming crime thriller Amazon Masterpiece San Diego Comic-Con RT21 Super Bowl USA Network 2016 Podcast Kids & Family Anna Paquin American Society of Cinematographers movies versus Comic Book MCU Box Office doctor who green book Oscars Sony Pictures based on movie Lifetime Logo LGBTQ series See It Skip It Columbia Pictures cars Syfy Election Disney 21st Century Fox Schedule sitcom Thanksgiving christmas movies ghosts blockbuster Chernobyl First Look Freeform Mystery children's TV unscripted Marvel Marvel Television YouTube Red Grammys Musical Star Trek anthology Polls and Games Trophy Talk romance Hulu TV renewals Mary Poppins Returns cancelled TV shows WGN Nickelodeon game show natural history 2015 war tv talk Amazon Prime Lifetime Christmas movies Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Rocketman witnail Brie Larson History El Rey Awards cartoon Shondaland 2017 Mindy Kaling historical drama rotten movies we love strong female leads ABC Family USA Rock Photos 2018 zombies Esquire FX Song of Ice and Fire TNT renewed TV shows Christmas spain period drama Certified Fresh Premiere Dates discovery Disney streaming service FXX DirecTV spinoff TV Land A24 Captain marvel crime drama Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt medical drama spanish language MTV OWN Rocky dragons canceled technology spy thriller cancelled television Spring TV teaser Vudu comics ESPN Writers Guild of America free movies PBS 45 BET werewolf First Reviews IFC Reality Fox News Apple TV Plus thriller mutant National Geographic festivals Rom-Com sequel Teen Superheroe 20th Century Fox Year in Review dceu Fantasy true crime VH1 Netflix hispanic mockumentary Disney+ Disney Plus Hallmark Christmas movies BBC America YouTube justice league travel NBC Spectrum Originals Cosplay halloween political drama Mary poppins ITV Binge Guide composers 2019 Marathons Peacock Calendar Family Interview Crackle SundanceTV Stephen King Food Network Sci-Fi crime Film Pop Acorn TV Sundance Now GoT Drama DGA Ovation Cartoon Network IFC Films Summer Action President toy story richard e. Grant canceled TV shows dramedy what to watch TLC comiccon supernatural Turner Classic Movies Comedy Central HBO Max zero dark thirty Black Mirror Music TCA 2017 indie nature CMT Shudder WarnerMedia cops Sundance Pixar Country psychological thriller adaptation Nominations Video Games CBS animated New York Comic Con SXSW Set visit Superheroes game of thrones FOX YouTube Premium Winners CW Seed south america Crunchyroll latino biography jamie lee curtis 71st Emmy Awards Ellie Kemper cancelled Marvel Studios theme song Tarantino Film Festival Holiday Musicals Quiz Heroines Television Academy transformers Lucasfilm cats breaking bad cinemax Universal DC Comics Watching Series Paramount Network Tomatazos Elton John Epix Star Wars The Arrangement revenge Winter TV Disney Channel Ghostbusters finale Turner Trailer Arrowverse casting batman Britbox independent Biopics Classic Film DC Universe disaster Valentine's Day Bravo SDCC Lionsgate AMC Horror facebook Walt Disney Pictures Showtime diversity aliens Disney Plus adventure ratings sports binge Reality Competition NYCC kids TBS romantic comedy YA Emmy Nominations boxoffice 007 Tumblr police drama RT History Emmys MSNBC TruTV BBC politics singing competition award winner Mary Tyler Moore psycho Creative Arts Emmys harry potter The Purge Spike GIFs GLAAD Mudbound serial killer cults Western Best and Worst book golden globes Extras Comedy E! Character Guide Netflix Christmas movies foreign dc social media ABC Sneak Peek 24 frames comic quibi video TCM vampires Warner Bros. Starz DC streaming service E3 LGBT The Walking Dead A&E TCA TIFF Infographic blaxploitation Martial Arts hist