10 Seriously Messed up Christmas Specials to Stream Right Now

From the site that brought you out-of-the-box Thanksgiving specials, you're in for a real treat with these seriously messed-up Christmas specials.

10 Seriously Messed up Christmas Specials to Stream Right Now

Rattlestar Ricklactica

Christmas is a time for celebration. A time for whimsy and cheer. A time to settle around your tree with your family, sipping eggnog/hot cocoa, and enjoying the time spent with those you love the most.

It's also a time for holiday specials galore, with virtually every TV program in existence offering a Christmas-themed episode for everyone in the family to enjoy. While we always advocate spending time with those closest to you watching family-friendly TV shows, there's no denying that watching so much holiday cheer on TV can get somewhat old.

Luckily, there are plenty of TV shows that offer fresh, alternative takes on the holiday, portraying it in a less-than-wholesome manner compared to seasonal specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

With Christmas only a few short weeks away, we thought we'd take a look at some of the darker Christmas-themed episodes out there, all of which make for a great viewing experience for those looking for something a little outside the box when it comes to their holiday watchlist.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

Family Guy—“Road to the North Pole” (Season 9, Episode 7)

Road to the North Pole

The first of many animated TV series on this list (we don’t know why, but adult animated shows always go for a ridiculously dark approach to the holidays), Family Guy’s entry here serves as the sixth episode within the show’s fan-favorite “Road to…” subseries of episodes.

These episodes are one-off specials Brian and Stewie venturing outside their hometown of Quahog, visiting places like India, 1940s Germany, or even the Multiverse, directly parodying the Road to… comedies of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

With how popular the “Road to…” subseries has gotten over the years, it was only a matter of time before Family Guy gave it a holiday-themed flair, which finally came with the 2010s' supremely entertaining, incredibly dark “Road to the North Pole.”

The episode begins with Stewie—upset that he could not sit on Santa’s lap at the mall—planning to venture north with Brian to kill St. Nick as revenge for this perceived injustice. However, when the two finally arrive at the North Pole, they discover an overworked, physically ill Santa unable to deliver presents around the world, with Brian and Stewie opting to fill in for him on Christmas Day.

Critically praised upon its release (earning Emmy nominations for Outstanding Music Composition and Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics), “Road to the North Pole” offered a distinctly different take on Christmas, serving as both a fun (if often grim) adventure for Brian and Stewie, and a sharp critique of how commercial Christmas has become in recent years.

It’s funny, poignant, and ultimately sends an intelligent message urging viewers to reconsider their own needs when it comes to Christmas, rather than engaging in the selfish “I want this, I want that” mentality so many people have adopted over the years.

Streaming on Hulu

Image Credit: 20th Television Animation.

American Dad—“for Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” (Season 6, Episode 8)

American Dad

The other Seth MacFarlane series on this list, American Dad, may not measure up to the same popularity as Family Guy. Still, episodes like “For Whom for the Sleigh Bell Tolls” set it apart as one of the most underrated, side-splittingly funny series still in syndication today.

After Stan gifts Steve a gun for Christmas, they end up in hot water when they seemingly kill a mall Santa.

Covering up the whole affair, the Smiths soon learn that in actuality, they killed the real Santa, who has since been revived by his elves and is now out for revenge against the family.

The only entry on this list to feature a full-on battle between a family and an army of elves atop a snowy mountain as heavy metal plays in the background, “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” is American Dad at its best.

Virtually every joke lands, the characters’ personalities are all on point. Even if the jokes don’t do it for you, the over-the-top action and parodic horror movie references (complete with Santa sending threatening notes to the Smiths in a direct spoof of I Know What You Did Last Summer) make it a brutal, entertaining episode perfect for almost everyone—as long as they’re not too squeamish when it comes to elf cartoon violence, that is.

Streaming on Hulu (premium subscription required)

Image Credit: Fox Broadcasting Company. 

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia—“a Very Sunny Christmas” (Season 6, Episode 13)

A Very Sunny Christmas

There are two kinds of Christmas specials in the world. The first portrays the sometimes turbulent holiday seasons and the ensuing arguments between family members and shows the eventual resolution between them, with everyone settling down on Christmas Day, having moved past their temporary disagreements, and celebrating the holiday as a group.

The other is the complete opposite, portraying the holiday as chaotic and the characters as irredeemably selfish and bitter, ruining Christmas for everyone around them (including themselves). It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia falls into this latter category.

As Christmas Day approaches, the gang prepare to celebrate the holiday in their own way, including sharing stories of their own childhood Christmas traditions (Dennis and his family breaking into people’s houses and stealing their presents, Charlie being visited by multiple Santas who spend a suspicious amount of time with his mom, and so on).

As you might’ve expected, there’s a ton of twisted holiday hijinks in It’s Always Sunny’s version of a Christmas special, full of repressed childhood memories, stolen gifts, a bloody fight with a mall Santa, and even a stop-motion sequence parodying the animated holiday movies of Rankin/Bass (Rudolph, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town).

It’s funny, immensely screwed up, and presents a far different kind of Christmas celebration than the type seen on Friends, Modern Family, or even The Simpsons. If you’re looking for dark comedy, it doesn’t get any darker than this (except perhaps for the next entry on this list).

Streaming on Hulu

Image Credit: FX.

South Park—\\”Woodland Critter Christmas\\” (Season 8, Episode 14)

South Park

Easily the darkest, most unforgettably messed up special on this list, “Woodland Critter Christmas” may also be one of the strangest 30 minutes you’ll ever spend watching a TV show. Even by South Park standards, it’s screwed up, which—given some of the episodes the award-winning series has won in the past—is definitely saying something.

A parody of seasonal specials featuring whimsical animal characters, “Woodland Critter Christmas” begins with a seemingly jolly, cute bunch of anthropomorphic woodland animals preparing for what seems like an ideal Christmas celebration, along with the birth of their “savior” through a pregnant porcupine.

Things soon take a rapid turn from the idyllic and cute fairy tale presentation to complete off-the-wall chaos, though, when it’s revealed that the animals’ are actually a cult of Satanists and that their “savior” is really the biblical Antichrist whose birth promises to bring about the apocalypse.

“Woodland Critter Christmas” may be the most intense, fever-dream episode of South Park there is, full of cannibalism, human sacrifices, and blood orgies that’ll have your stomach in a knot and leave you wondering, “How the hell did this get by the censors?”

It’s dark, brutal, and unequivocally one of the more envelope-pushing South Park episodes, making pretty much every other special on this list seem as light in tone and subject matter as The Santa Clause by comparison.

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: MTV Entertainment Studios. 

Rick and Morty—“Rattlestar Ricklactica” (Season 4, Episode 5)

Rick and Morty

No disrespect to “Anatomy Park,” the other, similarly entertaining Rick and Morty Christmas episode that debuted early on in the series’ run, but “Rattlestar Ricklactica” remains arguably one of the most enjoyable episodes the entire animated series has produced so far.

In the episode’s main plot, Rick and Morty become embroiled in the happenings of a world made of hyper-intelligent snakes after a snake astronaut bites Morty.

Meanwhile, Jerry tries to prove he can do something right for a change by hanging Christmas lights, with Rick helping him out by giving him a pair of anti-gravity shoes to ensure he doesn’t end up hurting or killing himself.

The premise may sound weak, but Rick and Morty has always thrived on taking what might otherwise be a simple, uneventful plot and developing the crap out of it to nearly ridiculous lengths (such as the inclusion of “snake jazz” in this episode).

This cartoon zaniness gives Rick and Morty its comedic edge and makes it so ceaselessly easy to watch, full of sci-fi adventure and a hilarious sequence that sees opposing snake armies using time-travel to assassinate the snake’s planet version of Hitler.

Admittedly, Christmas itself may not factor into this episode as much as most other specials on this list. Still, “Rattlestar Ricklactica” serves as an incredibly entertaining, action-packed Rick and Morty, a stand-out episode among an already impressive season.

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

Tales From the Crypt—“and All Through the House” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Tales from the Crypt

If you’re looking for a darker Christmas episode, horror series are the number one place to look.

All sorts of horror TV shows offer some goosebump-inducing spin on the holiday, with one of the most memorable coming from the cult-favorite HBO series, Tales from the Crypt.

Directed by notable Hollywood heavyweight filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, “And All Through the House” begins with a greedy wife murdering her husband as he sits reading in their living room.

Trying to make the murder look like an accident, the woman remains unaware that an ax-wielding escaped mental patient dressed as Santa on the loose, who soon happens on the woman, putting her plans in jeopardy and endangering her and her young daughter’s life.

An early episode in Tales from the Crypt’s run, “And All Through the House,” remains a classic story based on an original comic the show was inspired by (it was also adapted into the earlier 1972 film adaption of the same name).

It’s relatively simple in its plot—a woman is trying to get away with murder, a man is trying to break into her house—but this simplicity makes it all the more suspenseful, distinguishing it as a fantastic horror story to watch during the holiday season.

Streaming on Tubi

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

The Twilight Zone—“the Night of the Meek” (Season 2, Episode 11)

The Twilight Zone

One of the more upbeat Twilight Zone episodes there is (which, given the show’s penchant for depressing storylines, is certainly saying something), “The Night of the Meek” is essentially Miracle on 34th Street and Disney’s The Santa Clause set within the series’ fabled “fifth dimension.”

Written by the show’s creator and narrator Rod Serling, “The Night of the Meek” follows alcoholic, down-and-out, recently fired mall Santa Henry Corwin, who wishes that—for just one day—“the meek inherit the earth.”

Stumbling out of the bar he’s been kicked out of, Henry is surprised to find a burlap sack with a bottomless supply of Christmas presents, which he begins distributing out to everyone in his impoverished neighborhood.

In a few ways, it’s hard to see “The Night of the Meek” in the same framework or even possessing the same tone as other Twilight Zone episodes. There’s no dark irony, no twist ending that turns an otherwise lighthearted story on its head.

Sure, it starts off depressing enough, featuring alcoholics stumbling in alleyways and kids begging in the streets during the opening scene. But it ends on a high note that sees everyone (especially Art Carney’s Henry, the main character) able to celebrate a decent holiday in what is perhaps the most innocent and joyful Twilight Zone episode ever made.

Image Credit: CBSViacom. 

Streaming on Paramount+ and Hulu

Black Mirror—“White Christmas”

Black Mirror

Has there ever been a particularly cheerful episode of Black Mirror?

Since its debut in 2011, the show has been hailed as an updated, far grimmer successor to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, blending science fiction with horror in an anthology format.

However, whereas shows like The Twilight Zone had the occasional feel-good episode (case in point with the abovementioned “Night of the Meek”), Black Mirror is pretty much known for delivering a far more cynical, downbeat story, featuring a largely negative depiction of the future, such as 2014’s holiday special, “White Christmas.”

It’s Christmas Day, and in a remote cabin, they’ve spent five years working in isolation, two men trade stories about their individual troubled pasts. The first man (Jon Hamm) talks about his time in an online group that helped men pick up women, only for one man to meet an unstable woman on a date that quickly goes from romantic to nightmarish in a heartbeat.

The second (Rafe Spall) details the estranged relationship he had with a former girlfriend and the subsequent years he spent trying to find her and the baby he believed was his.

Like every Black Mirror episode, “White Christmas” is an incredibly downbeat Christmas special, depressing in pretty much every way from start to finish, including a haunting ending that will stay with you a while after viewing.

For those who love contemporary sci-fi, “White Christmas” is a must-watch—although we are warning you, this episode may honestly ruin the rest of your holiday—it’s that joyless and depressing.

Streaming on Netflix

Image Credit: Netflix.

Futurama—“Xmas Story” (Season 2, Episode 4)

Futurama e1639798124375

John Goodman voicing Santa? Yes, please.

John Goodman voicing a malevolent, killer robotic Santa out to rid the world of everyone naughty? I mean, what more could you ask for during the holidays?

Given that it's set a thousand years in the future, Futurama has long been able to play around with traditional holidays as we know them today, giving them an added sci-fi twist.

Hence Futurama’s version of Christmas became Xmas, wherein people decorate palm trees instead of pine trees for Christmas. A robotic Santa Claus roams the world to murder anyone it perceives as being naughty (which, due to faulty programming, turns out to be everyone it comes across).

Amid this dark Christmas setting, Fry laments how much he misses the Christmas he knew in his time, not realizing that Leela—an orphan with no one to celebrate the holiday with—has far more reason to be feeling blue than he does.

Trying to cheer her up, Fry goes shopping for the perfect holiday gift, unknowingly stumbling across Xmas’s killer Santa, who ends up relentlessly hunting him and the Planet Express crew down due to their past selfish behavior.

It’s a silly, fresh spin on the Christmas we know and love, with the killer Santa a genuinely clever take on the beloved Christmas figure.

Not only that, but the episode actually features a touching lesson about the holiday: no matter how bad your holiday situation is (whether you’re alone or stuck in a strange futuristic setting), there’s always someone whose situation is worse than your own.

It’s a light, funny, entertaining episode that illustrates that a little empathy for others can go a long way, especially during the Christmas season.

Streaming on Hulu (premium subscription required)

Image Credit: 20th Television.

Arrested Development—“Afternoon Delight” (Season 2, Episode 6)

Arrested Development

It’s definitely saying something that Arrested Development is perhaps the tamest show on this list.

Just as is the case for the other live-action sitcoms we’ve included on this list, Arrested Development’s Christmas episode isn’t really about a bunch of family members coming together and celebrating the holidays hand in hand.

In true Arrested Development, it’s instead all about the Bluths being selfish people trying (and failing) to celebrate in the way that most benefits them (such as praising yourself in front of your employees and then firing them when they say something negative about you during the annual roast).

It’s nearly Christmas, and the Bluths prepare for the annual office party. GOB, at this point president of the company, looks forward to the yearly toast the employees throw, not realizing he’s completely alienated the entire staff by condescendingly mentioning his expensive suits.

Meanwhile, Michael and Maeby try to spend time together after realizing they may be spending the holidays alone, and Buster gets distracted from his military duties by becoming obsessed with an arcade game. As you might expect for a show as chaotic as Arrested Development, a lot is going on in this episode, with several overlapping storylines that gradually build to a hilariously absurd ending.

However, there’s still plenty of heart and two genuinely important lessons about the holiday in this episode: to appreciate what you have and never take it for granted (even if your family is as dysfunctional as the Bluths).

The song “Afternoon Delight” should be avoided when singing karaoke with a family member at all costs.

Streaming on Netflix

Image Credit: Netflix. 

Final Thoughts

Mad Men e1639798361652

Holiday cheer is in the air, and there’s no shortage of Christmas-themed shows and movies currently streaming online and playing on TV.

To get a break from the regular family-friendly Christmas-themed episodes like Frosty the Snowman or The Year Without a Santa Claus, we suggest checking out these ten specials, featuring stories that are pretty dark in tone or subject matter when it comes to their depiction of the holiday season.

Additionally, we also recommend checking out Mad Men’s “Christmas Waltz,” Archer’s “Lo Scandalo,” American Horror Story’s “Unholy Night,” The Sopranos’ “To Save Us All from Satan's Power,” and the Robot Chicken Christmas Special.

Image Credit: Lionsgate Television. 

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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Image Credit: Netflix. 

Featured Image Credit: FX.

Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).