Christmas specials either become beloved classics or dwindle into obscurity. That’s just how it is – obviously, there’s not enough room for them all as timeless favourites. But what about the ones that really, really want to be timeless, but end up only sort of being remembered? Well, that’s what happened in 1977 when Hanna-Barbera made A Flintstone Christmas (not to be confused with 1993’s A Flinstone Family Christmas, which I might cover sometime in the future.)
It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when The Flintstones was the most popular H-B franchise; this only changed after the critically panned live-action Flintstones movie in 1994 (Scooby-Doo would eventually replace Fred as Hanna-Barbera’s darling boy, thanks to a variety of delightfully meta TV shows and movies) and slid slowly but surely into obscurity.
The actual plot is pretty standard fare for this sort of thing: Santa injures himself by falling off Fred’s roof (and catches a cold, even though he’s Santa) so Fred has to fill the role, with Barney helping. There is one slight hitch, in that Fred has already promised his boss Mr Slade to play Santa Claus for Bedrock’s orphans, and if he’s late then he’ll be fired. Spoilers: hijinks ensue, but everything turns out fine in the end.
As I said, they didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with this one, but they definitely pushed the boat in one regard… musical numbers. Every 10 minutes or so there’s a big song, with titles like “Which One is the Real Santa Claus?” and “Sounds of Christmas Day” that is clearly meant to take on Rankin/Bass’ monopoly on delightful seasonal whimsy.
Trouble is… all those songs are trying so gosh-darn hard, take up so much of the special, and the fact there are five of them, frankly, just makes them a bit of an drag. Let me point out that there is very little about A Flintstone Christmas that is bad, but it make such an effort to become this instant classic that it goes too far and becomes vaguely irksome. Frankly, I’d only recommend it if you really, really love The Flinstones.