Dec 23. – A Garfield Christmas Special

Original Air Date: December 21, 1987

Everyone’s favorite fat cat heads to the farm for the Hoildays

Nominated for an Emmy in 1998. Wanna see what it lost to?

After creating an unsuccessful comic strip involving insects, Jim Davis set about creating the most marketable and appealing illustrated character his brain could assemble, and Garfield was born in June of 1978.

Garfield’s first comic strip

The fat orange tabby would go on to become one of the most recognizable characters in the world, as his daily comic would go on to become the world’s most syndicated strip and resulting Garfield merchandise generates close to $1 billion in income every year.

Garfield’s first TV special and TV show

Garfield’s international stardom launched him into other mediums almost immediately, starting with his first CBS special Here Comes Garfield in 1982. Although it took him a while to get his own show, Garfield and Friends was also an astounding success, culminating with an extraordinary six year run starting in 1988.

Other stuff most of you could take or leave

Garfield has also starred in two theatrically released film, numerous direct-to-DVD offerings, video games, and even has a new cartoon show while his old one still runs throughout the globe in syndication.


How most people my age remember this special kicking off

Contrary to what I thought going into A Garfield Christmas Special, it wasn’t the fat cat’s first animated appearance. Far from it actually, since I believe it was 7th, and it looks as though he’d already been starring in TV primetime one-offs for about five years at the time this aired.

The Arbuckles are doin’ it up right!

I’d always felt like the Garfield specials, were in fact just that: Special. Airing only about twice a year, there was nothing else quite like them on TV at the time. Sure, Jon Arbuckle was a loser of catastrophic proportions, but I’m hardpressed to think of a primary protagonist with a worldview as cynical as Garfield’s in animation at the time. Our hero, in laziness and gluttony united.

Can you tell the opening is a dream sequance?

Even compared to other primetime cartoon specials, Garfield’s were some of the only animated television programs adults could dig on beyond the eye-catching animals reeling in the kids. It’s a cool bit of hindsight I’ve only just discovered having just rewatched Garfield for the first time not being 10, but it makes total sense in a pre-Simpsons/Cartoon Network world, where cartoons ran Saturday mornings, in the afternoons, or not at all.

How ’bout now?

Okay now, two things: As with my struggle reviewing A Chipmunks Christmas, I did my damnedest to not let nostalgia, nor my immense (and admittedly unnecessary) distaste for the horrific, yet wildly popular, more recent movies impact my experience with Garfield’s little Xmas show.

Baby Jon and Doc Boy

Sure, I believe Garfield & Friends has held up remarkably well for an animated program that straddled the 80s and 90s, yet I think I can still say that A Garfield Christmas Special holds up even better. Although, that could’ve been because my expectations were very, very low… Which leads me to the other thing.

Off to the farm to see the family

Garfield and Jim Davis take a lot of crap on the internet these days for… well, being terrible. And while this Christmas special is anything but, I feel my generation has all but written off Garfield, seemingly happy to pass him down to another generation like an old sweater to enjoy, then forget.

Meet mom

People love to call out Davis for being as lazy and cynical as his own creation for any number of things: Whoring out mountains of merchandise, the Bill Murray movies, no longer solely writing/illustrating his own material, and the general banality of the comic strips that should remain his most important showcase. And they certainly have a point.

Dad and Doc Boy

I used to love collecting Garfield books, however, I’ve certainly laughed at Lasagna Cat and Garfield minus Garfield more than the last decade of his official newspaper appearances, but I’d urge others not to write off some his older stuff. Instead let’s agree to split them into two separate phenomena, shall we?

Snow bound

I had to go back and look at them, but I can confirm semi-objectively that both the Garfield strips and the animated productions used to be funny. Often times, uproariously so. Yes, Garfield are and Jim Davis are probably past their prime, but they also appear to have entered a new one (mostly made of halfassed CG) so if that doesn’t gel with your memories: lock ‘em up, and ignore the new show, don’t watch A Tale of Two Kitties, and rewatch A Garfield Christmas Special dammit!

An Ode to Odie

Jim Davis is given a “Written & Created” by credit at the beginning, and it’s a warm reminder of the brilliance he used to unspool before deciding he’d rather sit back and oversee his orange global PAWS Inc Empire, or whatver. Or maybe, this is an exception because Garfield actually makes jokes, and isn’t always standing in front of a periwinkle kitchen wall doing nothing?

Love this scene!

I’m just going to quickly impart three things I love most about A Garfield Christmas. First off, the songs. Like the animation, the sax-heavy jams have a dated quality, however, it’s of an +A 80s caliber that I enjoyed immensely, penned by husband and wife songwriting duo, Ed Boga and Desiree Goyette (who also happened to score a ton of other Garfield and Peanuts tunes!)

Second: ODIE! I’ve always loved the look of the hapless mutt considerably more than Garfield, but this special actually gives him a place to shine. Maybe my memory’s a bit selective but I feel like Odie rarely got to be anything but a comic foil or kicked off tables.

Nice hand! Why are you walking on all fours again?

Here, Odie gets to shed a bit of his moronic exterior, to reveal a beating heart and soul every bit as big as his tongue! Not only does he not fall victim to any torture, he pulls off a remarkable sweet Holiday gesture.

Misunderstood genius

While, everyone on the farm sleeps, Odie rigs up what I can only assume to be one of the greatest gifts a domesticated animal could ever give to another: A Human-less Scratcher!

I’d put a patent on that shit quickly, Odie

But that’s hardly the most touching sequence this special has in store for the Holiday heartstrings. Third thing I love about A Garfield Christmas Special: Garfield and Granny’s exchange.

Everyone loves a cat in their lap

Every Xmas special lays it on thick with the sentimentalism, but this isn’t of the “If I could only afford the perfect gift!” or “Will Santa make it in time?” variety. It’s not even all that sad truth be told, yet it’s one of the more emotionally moving, relatably real moments I’ve seen in almost anything covered on A Cartoon Christmas.

Single on Christmas

Having solidified a bond together, mostly forged through cynicism and taking pleasure in the pain of others, Granny confides to Garfield how much she misses her departed husband.


Granny explains that he was a hard working man, and although they were never rich, he was always a great provider. She goes on to say that he, like other men of his generation, kept an emotional distance in regards to expressing love and affection. That is, except around Christmas, when Grandpa’d drop the year-long “tough father” façade and unleashed warmth and feeling on the family he genuinely loved so dear. She’s not even all that teary, or even mushy speaking of it, just candid about that emotional display being the thing she misses most around the Holidays.

Letters… From the Past?! (Technically, aren’t all letters?)

So… while stumbling around in the barn, Garfield comes upon a stack of unopened envelopes dating back fifty or so years. Obviously, Granny’s the best person to verify their authenticity, so he gives them to her on Christmas morning.

“Hope these were for you and not some other broad”

As it turns out, inside the envelopes are dozens of love letters written by Grandpa. You could argue that since they were hidden away, they weren’t intended to be read. However, I refuse to entertain the notion they were written for Grandpa’s mistress, gay lover, or anyone but Granny exclusively! While I’m projecting, I’m going to go ahead and say that they were also written from the frontlines of Iwo Jima (WOW!)


What a beautiful moment to close the show on. If that doesn’t do it for you, then you probably just don’t like Christmas. Or really hate Garfield.

Not a mention.

Other than the wish-granting Santa Bot in the opening credits, nada thing. Yet in spite of the low scores here, look what I’m gonna do…

If you like Christmas Specials, you’re going to love Garfield’s because it’s absolutely impossible not to. Even though it’s almost twenty years old, A Garfield Christmas Special feels like one of the most modern specials I’ve seen in some time. It’s charming, well written, funny, and often times, gorgeous to look at. More importantly, I’d like encourage people my age who hate Garfield, but used to love him, to give this a watch stat! Much like Granny, it’ll most assuredly remind you that all your invested affection were well worth the time.

PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)

A Garfield Christmas Special is available on the reasonably-priced Garfield: Holiday Celebrations DVD, bundled with two other primetime CBS specials, Garfield’s Thanksgiving and Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. If you want to continue remembering Garfield at his animated finest, then you should’t be afraid to delve back into Garfield and Friends, which genuinely hold up as awesome, plus the five DVD volumes present all episodes uncut and as they originally aired, without all the cuts you’ll find in syndication. For more Yuletide Garfield joy, this adorable new ornament featuring the fat cat and Pooky will make the perfect addition to any tree.

Yesterday’s Christmas Special

2009’s Dec. 23th Christmas Special

6 thoughts on “Dec 23. – A Garfield Christmas Special

  1. To be honest I liked the “U.S. Acres” portion of Garfield and Friends much more than the Garfield half itself, I always thought of him as a one-note character who had exhausted his silo, then a short spike with Nermal, then back to stagnation, though I can appreciate these rare moments of brilliance.

    And seriously? “A Tale of Two Kitties”?! I didn’t even know that existed… sad.

    Oh and fun fact that you may already know: The voice of Garfield was also the voice of Bill Murray’s cartoon character in The Real Ghostbusters. Bill Murray himself then went on to voice Garfield in the movie.

  2. To be fair, PAWS Inc. was a corporate behemoth even during the time of A Garfield Christmas. I think Garfield became Purr’s corporate mascot around this time, not to mention the car stick-ons, plush dolls, Happy Meal figures etc. Garfield’s saturation point was (I believe) 1988-89. That orange tabby was huge, in more ways than one.

    A Garfield Christmas hasn’t aged well for me. I used to be a huge Garfield fan, but I find the story and songs in AGC a bit too maudlin. The Garfield specials just aren’t as good as the Peanuts specials.

    As for the 2010 Garfield, the strip has transitioned to Jon and Liz’s relationship. It’s like Jim Davis has finally cottoned on to Jon Arbuckle’s true comedy potential. Also, I think Garfield’s eyes make up almost half his body now.

  3. “I feel my generation has all but written off Garfield, seemingly happy to pass him down to another generation like an old sweater to enjoy, then forget.”

    If you look at the handful of interviews he did, Bill Watterson had no shortage of scathing or backhanded things to say about Jim Davis and his comic book work. And online there’s a sizable, vocal of misguided and overzealous Calvin and Hobbes fanboys who parrot their idol’s trashing of Garfield and Davis at every opportunity. these people tend to dominate newspaper comic discussions at message boards.

    I imagine people who aren’t in the camp are a little more charitable towards the older, better Garfield material.

  4. Every year at my house when we turn on the tree for the first time or turn the outside lights on for the first time, we all have to re-enact the tree lighting scene from Garfield, doughnut shaped mouths and “oohhing” included.
    Also, who can forget Binky, the Clown Who Saved Christmas.
    Heeyyyyyyyyyy kiiddddds!!!!!

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