I know lots of websites and blogs are doing “Best Holiday Movie” and “Best Holiday TV Episode” lists, so I decided that I should make my own (okay, I didn’t decide entirely on my own. My friend Tiffany suggested it, and I thought it sounded like a good idea).
I usually go for TV series (especially if I can stream it on Netflix or Hulu, or if I own them on DVD), so I decided to go with that instead of movies. Also, I count holiday specials (like A Charlie Brown Christmas or A Very Murray Christmas – both equally awesome) as movies, which is why you won’t be seeing any of those here.
And now, in no particular order, here is my Ten Very Merry Christmas-Themed Television Episodes:
Community, Season 3: Regional Holiday Music
It’s so hard to pick the best Community Christmas episode, because like Community Halloween episodes, it’s when these characters are really at their best. But, between this and the *very* close second place Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (which is also stellar), I had to choose this one. I think because Season 3 is when the group finally figured out who they were; as an ensemble, the cast was really gelling (and they hadn’t started hating Chevy Chase yet). Plus, the music is just plain fun.
Friends, Season 6: The One with The Routine
Like Community and Halloween, Friends usually shone when it came to Thanksgiving, but they also had some awesome Christmas episodes. It was a close race between The One with the Holiday Armadillo and the first one where Phoebe sings “And please tell Joey, Christmas will be snoowwaaaaay….,” but my personal favorite is The One with The Routine. This is a combo New Year’s and Christmas episode (sort of, since Monica, Ross, and Joey are filming for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve), but it has my favorite two lines that my husband and I have continued to quote literally every year since we first watched this together:
Chandler: What’s with the little lights? Back in my day, we used to have big lights!
Rachel: That’s a good story, Grandpa.
Plus, the whole bit about them searching for their presents from Monica (“Thank you for my azz…“) is pretty hilarious.
Scrubs, Season 1: My Own Personal Jesus
This episode, to me, is everything that makes Scrubs great. It’s goofy and wacky and weird, but it’s also sentimental and heartfelt. Between a horrifyingly macabre “Twelve Days of Christmas” (which includes lines like “twelve beaten children” and “five suicides” and “two shattered skulls” to show the tragedy that comes with working in a hospital on a holiday) and Turk’s reclaiming of his faith as he’s led to a girl in need, there’s Doctor Cox as the Grinch, JD’s impersonation of The Fonz, and lots of reminders that we may defy expectations, especially when we’re challenged to rise to the occasion.
Gilmore Girls, Season 2: The Bracebridge Dinner
There are SO many good Gilmore Girls Christmas episodes. I’m discovering that’s a bit of a theme with this list… if you manage to do one good Christmas episode, you probably do LOTS of good Christmas episodes (assuming you’re on the air long enough for that to happen…). Luke’s Santa Burger in Season 1 almost took this spot (in “Forgiveness and Stuff”), but I had to give the honor to Season 2 especially with golden lines like this from Sookie:
“That makes me so mad. And sad. I’m smad!” (and then later) “It’s white…tart…kind of spicy…SALT! The word is salt!” — If anyone doubted how amazing Melissa McCarthy is, you clearly weren’t watching this show closely enough.
Plus, this is the very beginning of the Rory/Jess phase, and while I know most people are Team Dean or Team Logan, you’re all wrong and I’m right and this episode is amazing.
How I Met Your Mother, Season 2: How Lily Stole Christmas
Once again, this is an episode where the characters really shine. We see the importance of Ted and Lily’s friendship, the early kindlings of what’s special between Barney and Robin, and we get classic lines like, “They think Santa is how Satan spells his name when he wants to trick us.” We also see how Marshall and Lily’s relationship is not only renewed, but stronger than ever — it’s the scene with the present that makes people say they want to be like Marshall and Lily.
Studio 60: The Christmas Show
“How is it that I’m Jewish and the only one with any Christmas spirit? Come to think of it, how am I the only Jew in a Hollywood writer’s room?” This is just one of the many quips that makes this a stand-out holiday episode that I watch every. single. year. But of course, like all episodes of Studio 60, there’s a lot more drama than levity in the episode. While some of the musical interludes in other episodes drag down the scenes surrounding it, the musical performance by “The City of New Orleans,” honoring the people and places ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, will remind you why this is the season of giving and encourage you to think about peace, goodwill towards your fellow humans, and be grateful for all you have. Plus, you know, Santa doing the Nazi salute. Seriously, this episode has it all.
The West Wing, Season 1: In Excelsis Deo
More Sorkin goodness. Depressing, but still warm. I’m sure some people (hi, Ted!) will tell me it’s a huge mistake that I picked this instead of Season 2 Noel, and while I love that episode too, this one just feels more Christmas-y to me. You’ll find many of the episodes I choose are based on some awesome lines/scenes, and one of my favorites in this is when Mandy goes to talk to Toby:
Mandy: It might seem trivial, now.
Toby: Go ahead.
Mandy: The Santa hats do clash with the Dickensian costumes.
Toby: …it *might* seem trivial?
And, like the other Sorkin on this list, there is much more drama than levity in this as well (even moreso than Studio 60). Toby shows compassion, the President shows his grace and understanding, Josh shows Donna how much he really cares, and Mrs. Landingham proves why she’s one of the best TV characters ever written… it’s not like there’s a bad episode of The West Wing in Seasons 1-4, but this one is still a stand out for me.
The Big Bang Theory, Season 1: The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis
SPOILER: Leonard Nimoy’s used Cheesecake Factory napkin. You really don’t need to know anything more than that, right? This one isn’t available on Netflix or Hulu, though, so you’ll need to get your hands on the DVD.
Dawson’s Creek, Season 6: Merry Mayhem
“I love him very much, Dawson.” That’s Todd, talking to Dawson, about…well, Dawson. Todd’s drunk. Audrey is high. Pacey is a stockbroker, Dawson is with Natasha, Joey is with Eddie, and this episode reminds us all why we’re thankful for our (slightly less) crazy families as opposed to the crew assembled in Capeside for this joyus(?) occasion. Plus, I mean, there’s no way I was going to make a TV show list and not have at least some Dawson on here. There are other Christmas episodes, but one of them comes from Season 4 with Gretchen and Mitch and Gail weirdness and mopey senior year Dawson and…meh. Okay, not every show with multiple Christmas episodes have all winners. But Merry Mayhem is another must watch for me every year (even though it is kind of a bummer… actually, lots of these episodes are kind of a bummer. Fair warning).
Will & Grace, Season 4: Jingle Balls
There are bits from each Will & Grace holiday episodes that make them each so hilariously wonderful, and I almost picked both All About Christmas Eve and A Little Christmas Queer to take this spot, but Megan Mullally in that outfit? And special guest Parker Posey? That’s holiday cheer, friends.
Okay, that’s ten. I could keep going. Oh, could I keep going. I didn’t include Home Improvement or Psych or even the deliriously creepy but also kinda cool Supernatural. Oh, and Buffy! And then there’s “A Scandal in Belgravia” in Sherlock Season 2 that has one of those beautiful but painful Christmas scenes… And I have a love/hate relationship with the Glee Christmas episodes (particularly due to the Community episode I decided to put on this list). And I can’t even begin with the Doctor Who Christmas specials.
Which shows do you like streaming in December? What’s missing from my list? Share in the comments, or send me a tweet!