Ah, Christmastime ― when we gather around the space heater, queue up some heartwarming content and watch a certified medical professional extricate pus and blood from human bodies.
At least, that’s the unhinged idea fueling TLC’s holiday special “The 12 Pops of Christmas,” a wholly necessary seasonal extension of the “Dr. Pimple Popper” series helmed by Dr. Sandra Lee, a dermatologist who loves nothing more than to squeeze goo out of her patients to the delight of her 3 million followers (“popaholics,” for those in the know).
“12 Pops” is a veritable holiday smorgasbord of keloids, lipomas, skin tags, pores of Winer and more. Never mind that the procedures were definitely not filmed in December. There’s an odd shoehorning in of the Christmas spirit — said keloids, located on a patient’s earlobes, are not unkindly referred to as “ornaments”; at one point, Lee draws a snowman on one man’s arm cyst. Cheery decorations around the office signal that this otherwise extremely nonfestive franchise is perfect for the Yuletide.
Note: graphic images below.
The general appeal of “Dr. Pimple Popper” is either undeniable or unfathomable, depending on how you feel about watching minor surgery. For those who love watching gunk wrestled out of a cavity on someone’s face, the experience is something like listening to ASMR. For my roommate, with whom I watched Lee’s Christmas special, the experience involved a lot of eye-covering and shouting.
“The 12 Pops of Christmas” certainly delivers what’s on the package: insides do indeed become outsides, over and over and over again. (Though, if I’m honest, the 12th “pop” is a bit of a letdown.) What I wasn’t expecting from this holiday special was its ability to actually warm my three-sizes-too-small heart. Lee’s patients are visibly moved when they view the results of their surgeries, finally rid of a bothersome superficial growth they’d tolerated for years, sometimes decades. Lee waives her normal fees for her on-camera patients, which feels very, well, nice ― an unexpected appraisal for a show on a network that traffics in gawking at humans for entertainment.
In a way, “The 12 Pops of Christmas” feels like the holiday special 2018 deserves: blood-chilling, outrageous and a little weird. But above all, it’s brutally relatable. We’re all like Lee, who squeezes out chunky pus from a patient’s arm and says it looks a little like fresh snow. We’re all just trying to cut off the bad, superficial shit in our lives and find a little warped joy where we can.
Hey, if you can’t find holiday cheer at the bottom of a cyst sac, where can you?
“The 12 Pops of Christmas” aired on TLC on Thursday, Dec. 13. But don’t worry, you can still watch the special online.