Christmas isn’t just a time for family and friends, giving and sharing. If you’re among TV Junkies, you know that one of the greatest holiday joys in the world is in the good old fashioned Christmas episode. To get everyone into the festive mood, we’ve compiled some of our absolute favourites. There are some present, some past and even a few classics thrown in there for good measure. But we don’t want to be the only ones with a say–be sure to add your picks in the comments section below.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, “Amends”
Most of ‘Amends’ dealt with the fallout of Angel’s latest bout as Angelus while the remaining Scooby gang members figured out what to do after the Willow/Xander cheating debacle. And while a large part of my enjoyment may have come from Oz and Willow agreeing to give things another go—with Oz offering up the sweetest rejection as part of it—this episode was one of the few to stand out as things squarely landing in favour of the good guys. Angel’s battle with self-loathing was always pretty well-deserved, but in between David Boreanaz’s pro brooding and Buffy’s powerful feelings for him, I couldn’t help but root for the guy. Seeing him saved, not by Buffy, but by the world in general, when the sun didn’t rise was a great and quiet victory for both Angel’s good side, and Buffy, who saw it in him. And yeah, it was Buffy’s speech that probably talked Angel off the sunrise and sent him off into his spinoff mission, but for a show that usually left the heroine fighting for her life (and those of her friends), it was nice to see the universe give her a holiday miracle in the form of a dark and snowy sky instead.
CASTLE, “Secret Santa”
What made “Secret Santa” so special was that it was the first Christmas episode on Castle and also the first Christmas that Castle and Beckett spent together as a committed couple. With plenty of holiday cheer, incredible music, a fantastic case, wonderful comedy and also a truly heartwarming storyline, this episode was the perfect way to ring in the holiday season. And when Castle and Beckett realized that their own separate holiday traditions meant nothing to them if they couldn’t share them together, the two beautifully began a new tradition, celebrating Christmas with one another as the Castleverse loudly cheered them on.
FRIENDS, “The One With Phoebe’s Dad”
Friends was better known for its annual Thanksgiving specials but its Christmas episodes were always a treat as well. One of their best was “The One With Phoebe’s Dad” in its highly successful second season, finding Rachel and Monica hosting a holiday party despite their radiator breaking and pumping out hot air all day long while Chandler and Joey joined Phoebe in a funny yet also very touching quest to track down her real father. With the cast doing what they did best, delivering a mix of hilarious comedy, witty one-liners and movingly emotional moments, it’s no wonder this episode became an instant classic. After all, who would you rather spend the holidays with than your family and Friends? Oh, and I still walk into my family’s home every Christmas
SEINFELD, “The Strike”
Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza were never known for their sane actions or thought-out plans, but once you got to know their parents—especially the Costanzas—things started to fall into place. As soon as Frank Costanza introduced the world to a bare pole and a truly cringe-worthy dinner, “Festivus” became a household name. Now, it actually isn’t a Christmas in our house if there’s no “Airing of the Grievances.” OK, not really, but you can probably hear someone quote “a Festivus for the rest of us!” at some point in our hallways come December.
THE OFFICE, “A Benihana Christmas”
Nothing screams Christmas quite like a Benihana, amiright? When Michael (Steve Carell) finds himself single during the holidays, the guys take him out for some teppanyaki to cheer him up, while the “party planning bitches” get busy with competing Christmas parties back at Dunder Mifflin. Directed by Harold Ramis, these two-part episodes perfectly summed up everything I loved during The Office‘s golden days, and what I miss about TV comedy today.
THE MINDY PROJECT, “Christmas Party Sex Trap”
I knew I really, really liked Danny Castellano, you know like more than just a friend, but this was the episode where I fell in love with him. Head over heels, deep, deep in love with him. The Mindy Project works best when it serves us lots of romance with a side of wacky hijinks mixed in. This episode, which found Mindy throwing an office Christmas party to lure in her crush, Cliff, had all of that in spades, but quickly went to a whole other level of awesome thanks to a life-changing dance sequence.
When Danny, who had been short changing Mindy on Secret Santa gifts all night, revealed his real present to be the choreographed dance to Aaliyah’s “Try Again,” I had to pick my jaw off the floor. He not only had learned the dance, but he remembered Mindy’s affinity for it. There wasn’t a woman watching who could resist Chris Messina’s charms at that moment, because damn, that man has some moves!
If you’re like me, you’ve probably watched the scene dozens of times (thank you Internet!) and maybe have even compared it to the real video (guilty as charged!). You’ll notice that Messina’s moves are spot on. The dance was such a hit that the show even had him reprise his sexy moves once again in the Season 3 premiere. It may have taken another half a season for Danny and Mindy to finally get together after this touching moment, but I knew right there and then that Danny Castellano had me completely hooked!
NASHVILLE, “Two Sides to Every Story”
This season’s early Christmas episode of Nashville deserves some love here. Up until then the show has somewhat lost its way–is it even possible to simultaneously maintain that level of melodrama and quality of music? But the festive episode nonetheless (if you’ll excuse the pun) hit all the right notes. I am loving where Hayden Panitierre’s real-life pregnancy has taken her character, and am really relishing in Rayna’s growing discomfort with the superficial trappings of her showbiz marriage. Even as the plotlines become more ludicrously convoluted, the actors and their characters, and much of the music, keep me coming back for more.
But as for Christmas classics, it’s all about the 1964 Rankin-Bass Rudolph, though I also have a soft spot for the rarely-seen Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, released two years earlier and featuring a musical score by the great Jule Styne. Of course, if we’re talking Christmas CLASSICS, every year I show my Humber class my copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special. Never gets old. And yes, it really was as bad as everyone says. Worse. I mean, half the thing is spoken in “Wookie” (Wook-ese?). Who ever thought that was a good idea?
SOUTH PARK, “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics”
The tree can be decorated and the lights turned on, but these days it just doesn’t feel like Christmas in my household until I’ve gathered my friends and family for a viewing of South Park’s “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.” But this wasn’t always the case.
I had viewed the episode–essentially a collection of carols–when it originally aired in 1999. South Park was all the rage then and my 13-year-old self was no doubt impressed by the language used, which is why many of the songs became stuck in my head for the next decade. A few years ago when hosting some friends one evening, I decided to dig the episode out, and was surprised to find it just as catchy as I’d remembered. There were some definite Christmas classics with a South Park (usually offensive) twist, along with a couple of catchy gems written just for the show. The difference was, as an adult I now totally get the sense of humor.
Since then it has become a staple in my household around the holidays. I get the occasional groan the first time I mention South Park to a guest, but by the end of it the night most are humming “Christmas Time in Hell,” much to my delight. If you like the type of humor South Park offers and this one slipped by, I highly recommend you check it out. For all those interested, you can download an uncensored version of the album online.
Some Highlights include:
- A Christmas Mashup duet starring Santa and Jesus.
- A Rendition of “O Tannenbaum” (“O Christmas Tree” in German) by Adolf Hitler.
- Mr. Garrison’s “Merry F*@%ing Christmas” is sure to offend just about everyone
- An inside joke relating to Star Wars at each commercial break with, “Fighting the Frizzies at 11.”
The O.C., “The Best Chrismukkah Ever”
Maybe it’s because I grew up straight in the middle of The O.C.‘s pop culture dominance. Or perhaps I’m just a sucker for a Newport mansion decked out to the holiday nines. But The O.C.‘s first-ever Christmas episode, “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” is a seasonal favourite that will stay with me for the rest of my life, just like its “California” theme song. Hearing Seth Cohen explain the idea of Chrismukkah, the “greatest super holiday known to mankind,” to the fresh-from-Chino Ryan Atwood is enough to earn true holiday episode status, however the real heart of the episode comes as we watch Ryan ultimately hang his custom-made stocking next to the rest of the Cohens, who look on with pure seasonal joy as he shows he’s part of the family. A Chrismukkah miracle, indeed.
FRIENDS, “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”
No one does a hilarious holiday episode like Friends and the first one that always comes to mind is “The One With The Holiday Armadillo.” In a sweet but misguided attempt to teach his son Ben about Hanukkah, Ross dresses up in the only costume he could find on short notice: an Armadillo. Santa’s “part-Jewish friend” attempts to explain the story of Hanukkah when he’s interrupted by Chandler in a Santa costume. What ensues is one of the funniest scenes in Friends history (which is really saying something), including Monica’s surprising Santa lust and a last-minute appearance by Superman. Trust us, you have to see it for yourselves.
SUPERNATURAL, “A Very Supernatural Christmas”
Motel Christmas tree hung with air freshners + gas station gifts + two brothers = all the Christmas feels! This episode occurred early in the show’s history when Sam and Dean Winchester were still very raw from losing their dad. The wholeepisode centered around flashbacks from a Christmas they had spent alone as children while John Winchester was off hunting. If you weren’t moved by scenes of Baby Dean cooking for his little brother and trying to preserve his innocence about Christmas, and Baby Sam giving his big brother a present meant for their father, then you probably have no soul. This episode is the reason Supernatural fans attach so much meaning to the Samulet.
What are some of your favourite holiday episodes? Tell us below!