Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Chrismukkah to all, and to all a good weekend

So on Twitter yesterday, one of my followers said, "How much does it suck that we don't get a Christmas episode of Chuck?" And given Josh Schwartz's flair for holiday episodes on "The OC" (which gave us not only Chrismukkah, but great episodes built around Thanksgiving, New Year's and, I believe, Arbor Day) and the fact that "Chuck vs. the Santa Claus" was one of season two's highlights, I am a bit disappointed, yeah.

(I asked Schwartz if he had any springtime holidays in mind to compensate, and he said, "Yeah, Pesach." I think he was joking, but how much would an episode set at Lester's seder table rock?)

Which brings me to my question for you on a very slow day of the week before Christmas (and the last full day of Chanukah): what's your favorite December holiday-themed episode of a TV show, and why? I'm not talking about specials like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or even "A Charlie Brown Christmas," but an episode of an ongoing series that happens to deal with Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, etc.

95 comments:

Tom E said...

The West Wing had some very good Christmas episodes. "In Excelsis Deo" from Season 1 was my favorite, I think. It was the one where Toby arranges a funeral for a Korean War vet.

Will said...

It's hard to go wrong with any of the Office Christmas episodes, but the first one, with Secret Santa devolving into a Yankee Swap, was perhaps the best - closely followed by "Benihana Christmas," in which Michael marks the arm of the waitress he's with.

The Simpsons have had some great Christmas episodes. Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," but they have done funnier ones. I love the episode where Bart gets caught shoplifting.

Does Lost's "The Constant" count because it happened on Christmas Eve?

bsangs said...

The "Happy Days" Christmas episode during which Santa mugs Mr. C, Richie sees Fonzie eating a can of pasta at his garage and Fonzie eventually spends Christmas Eve with the Cunninghams. Gets me every time.

Paul Rinkes said...

From recent memory, "Ludachristmas" from 30 Rock has to be a favorite, if only for two lines: "It's not a Lemon party without old Dick!" and, when Jack finds out that Liz's brother thinks Reagan is still president: "You lucky bastard."

Billiam said...

I want to second the above mention of the first two Office Christmas episodes.
Also Futurama had a couple of good ones, featuring a homicidal robot Santa Claus, the second of which features the line "You're not Santa! You're not even a robot! And how dare you lie in front of Jesus!"

GiantAsianMan said...

I always thought Aaron Sorkin did a great job with Christmas episodes, be it on Sports Night, The West Wing, or even Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The performance of O Holy Night from Studio 60 is one of my all-time favorite versions of that song.

Chris Littmann said...

I don't know if it's my favorite, but it's the freshest in my mind because I watched it recently: Did you watch the It's Always Sunny Christmas DVD? Wasn't sure if a screener would be sent to you, but it was really dark and funny, as expected, and there's a rant about Mike Schmidt/Von Hayes that appealed to the sports fan in me.

Really did love The O.C.'s Christmas.

Drew said...

The first Chrismukkah is a brilliant example of what that show did so well -- a perfect blend of comedy, melodrama, and genuine emotion. The second season isn't far behind, with a little heavier on the melodrama and a little more obvious on the comedy. But not much. The acting in that episode is pretty amazing from both Alan Dale and Kelly Rowan.

How Lily Stole Christmas from HIMYM always makes me laugh, particularly "Christmas...that's more Christ to our Spanish speaking friends" and the kids gleefully screaming "Grinch!" over and over at the dinner table. Again, genuine emotion and hilarious comedy. Oh, oh, and Robin taking care of a sick Barney. "Ouchie in my mouth!"

For my money, though, nothing says Christmas like Married With Children. I marathon their Christmas episodes every year with my favorite being the episode where Peg's mom is running a sex hotline from upstairs. This also includes a gag-inducing scene of Al and Griff taking shots of gravy. It's a Bundyful Life is a better-known (and probably better constructed) classic, but the other makes me laugh out loud more.

Matt said...

Yep--all the Sorkin ones are pretty great--the Sports Night with Isaac's confederate flag speech and Dan and Casey thanking the staff at the end, Noel, with Josh and the PTSD, and the episode where Leo testifies before Congress around Christmas, are all darn fine pieces of work. And for all the failings of Studo 60, that Christmas episode nailed it.

Mike C said...

The Sorkin episodes definitely leap to mind, particularly "In Excelsis Deo" and "Bartlet For America".

The other one that I always think of is the Christmas episode of "My So-Called Life". I forget the name, but it was great.

sam said...

Co-sign on the HIMYM "Grinch" Christmas episode, particularly the last few minutes with Ted at his relative's (who's a Jehovah's Witness) house.

Also, agree on "Noël." Adam Arkin is brilliant as the ATVA psychologist, and Leo's "As long as I've got a job, you've got a job, too" and "Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out,'" is fantastic.

And The O.C. Christmas episodes were always among the season's best... even the alternate universe Taylor/Ryan episode from season 4 worked much more than it should have.

Chris said...

This time of year my wife and I enjoy getting out the "Homicide" Christmas episode, "All Through the House." It's one of the funnier installments because it hangs on some great comic pairings - notably Munch and a 10-year-old boy, as well as Bayliss trying to hustle Gee at Hearts. There's also a great appearance by Nancy Marchand. And the cast gets into a snowball fight, which is always a heart-warming plus.

Naomi said...

I always liked Christmas episodes on House. Sometimes they're just good for snark, but some of the most unexpectedly sweet and the most horribly depressing moments of the whole series have happened during Christmas episodes (I'm thinking of House and Wilson eating chinese takeout and enjoying each other's company in the first season and of House calling his mother and then ODing in the Tritter arc, respectively).

Plus, trust the California-based writers to always have it snowing for Christmas in New Jersey.

Julie said...

I'm showing my age, but I love the thirtysomething Christmas/Chanukah epsiode which ends with Michael coming home to Hope and Janie all dressed up and ready to light the menorah. Gets me every time. I am hoping to find the thirtysomething DVD under the tree next week.

Tracey said...

No question about it: Twilight Zone's Night of the Meek. Art Carney plays an alcoholic, down-on-his-luck department store Santa who gets fired, stumbles across a burlap sack of goodies, and decides to play Santa. He gives presents to all the poor kids, but all our department store Santa wants is to get to be Santa every year... and in the end, he gets his wish. I love this episode, and I don't even like Christmas!

Jeff said...

I've got to go with Mr. Hanky from South Park.

knocsucow00 said...

Festivus!

Isaac Lin said...

With "In Excelsis Deo" from The West Wing already mentioned, a few Frasier episodes come to mind: the one where he ends up having Christmas dinner in a diner, and the one where Niles and Frasier have to go to a mall, and the one where they try to bring Christmas to Martin at his workplace. These shows showcased Frasier's strength in effectively combining humour with heart.

Matt said...

The MSCL episode was solid, particularly the Ricky story of him getting kicked out and being taken in by the gay teacher, though how much you like it depended largely on your ability to tolerate magical realism, because a big chunk of the plot involved Julianna Hatfield as an angel.

Also, even though it's not expressly Christmas-y, "The Message" from Firefly is really a Christmas episode, revolving around the crew getting presents from loved ones and ending with a funeral in the snow.

Anonymous said...

NewsRadio had three brilliant, brilliant Christmas episodes. -"Xmas Story" (season 2): Mr. James buys everybody a Miata, except for Matthew, while Bill is stalked by a psychotic Santa Claus. -"Christmas" (season 3) Mr. James relies on Matthew's assistance in buying presents for his rich friends. (I believe he picks out mittens for Bruce Springsteen). And then there's "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Show" (season 4)...

Tom said...

Does "A Colbert Christmas" count? His duet with Willie Nelson brought a tear to my eye.

Jess D said...

Here's two diametrically opposed favorites:

I've always really loved the "Bones" Christmas episode from the first season, 'The Man in the Fallout Shelter.' It was very poignant and had a wonderful character focus. Plus it featured Tori Amos's beautiful and melancholy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (one of my favorite Christmas tunes).

I also really love the "South Park" Season 8 Christmas episode "Woodland Critter Christmas." It is so, so very wrong and yet it makes me laugh hysterically. (And their original Christmas episode 'The Spirit of Christmas' with Jesus vs. Santa Claus is always good for a chuckle.)

The "Homicide" Christmas episode mentioned above by Chris is another very good one. Munch is just great in that episode.

Anonymous said...

Season 2 The Big Bang Theory's Saturnalia episdoe was great. Sheldon so blown away by the gift Penny gives him (a signed napkin from Leonard Nemoy) that he gives her the most awkward hug out of sheer gratitude. Sweet.

JanieJones said...

I enjoyed the Christmas episode of The Sopranos where Tony flashes back to Big Pussy being Santa-"To Save Us All From Satan's Power."

I echo the thoughts about 1st Office Christmas episode with the Yankee Swap. Whenever I see this episode, I'm reminded of an aunt (we do pollyanna on the one side of the family because it's so big) who decided at the last minute to do this, afte we finished the seven fishes, and everyone was angry (because we had picked names and bought gifts tailored to that person). The whole debacle culminated into arguments. Definitely not my favorite Christmas Eve.

I also liked all the Frasier episodes that revolved around Christmas such as "Perspectives on Christmas", etc.

If I reached into the deep recesses of my mind, there was at least one "M*A*S*H" episode that was Christmas centric that tugged on my heartstrings.

I also like a "Very Supernatural Christmas."

Alan, Merry Chrismukkah to you and yours. I wish everyone health and happiness.

tanliv said...

An Echolls Family Christmas (Veronica Mars)

Otherwise, I'm a Scrooge--I don't like very-special holiday themed episodes. Bah, humbug.

Chalmers said...

I don't think I've seen it since it originally aired, but Moonlighting's "Twas the Epsisode Before Christmas" still stands out for me.

Not surprisingly, the plot was about a woman named Mary abandoning her baby, three guys named King, etc.

However, it was during the show's brief bantering peak, and the baby theme explored Dave and Maddie a little more deeply and showed their genuine affection for each other (well before "The Big Bang" and the Willis/Shepherd acrimony).

Then, at the end, they turn the cameras around and the whole cast and crew sings "The First Noel," even Richard Belzer who played the episode's villain.

paulf said...

Last week's American Dad Christmas episode was pretty great.

As an Irish person, I of course have to bring up the Father Ted Christmas Special. So good.

filmcricket said...

People have mentioned my three favourites: "In Excelsis Deo" and "Noel" from The West Wing and "An Echolls Family Christmas" from Veronica Mars. I'm also quite fond of the Passover plot from (I think?) "April is the Cruelest Month" from S2 of Sports Night. Robert Guillaume shouting "Moses! You're up!" is one of TV's great moments.

Anonymous said...

From way back, both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show had some great Christmas episodes.

katesti said...

I'm seconding two.

The first is "So-Called Angels," the Christmas episode from My So-Called Life. Ricky's story - and Wilson Cruz's performance - is absolutely heartbreaking. I generally weep for about the last ten minutes.

Also, the first-season Bones Christmas, "The Man In The Fallout Shelter." Jess D. already mentioned my absolute favorite part - Tori Amos' incredible "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," played over silent scenes of the characters seeing their families. But I also love so much Emily Deschenal's quiet moment at the very end.

Others I enjoy include every holiday-related episode of The Office, Bones and Booth under the mistletoe in season 3, Ugly Betty's season 1 holiday party, and Barney's dirty Christmas songs about Ted's sister. And I know most people hate it with firey firey passions, but I still love the season 3 episode of Buffy, "Amends." Magic snow and all.

gajaitin1@fastmail said...

Seconding Julie's recommendation of the thirtysomething Christmas episode. If I recall correctly, that episode also used Joni Mitchell's "River" to great effect.

Anonymous said...

Mike C already mentioned it but "Bartlet for America" was probably my all time favorite episode of my all time favorite show.

As for other Christmas Eps, does "Shut the Door, Have a Seat" count?

Very Good, Happy Christmas.

Stringer Sawyer Carmichael said...

Alan, I'm have to say it's making my day that, what was essentially my very first tweet, contributed in some minor way to this fun post. Maybe I'll just quit Twitter while I'm ahead.

My favorite Christmas episode is probably West Wing's Noel. It's the episode where the pilot who has the same birthday as Josh crashes into a mountain and deals with the aftermath of the shooting at the end of season one. I love the story Leo tells Josh about the man falling in a hole:

This guy's walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."

Of course, South Park's Mr. Hanky is pretty great too.

P-Money said...

"A Very Supernatural Christmas" is just plain hilarious with a nice little dose of character development thrown in for good measure. I also have to agree re: the "Echols Family
Christmas" episode on Veronica Mars - truly great TV.

Susan said...

I second "In Excelsis Deo" and "Noel" from The West Wing.

I like the episode of House - I forget the title - where House does Secret Santa and gives all the fellows his name, and when they figure it out, they have to decide whether they're still getting him a present.

I also liked the episode of ER ages ago when the orderly Bob turned out to be a surgeon and saved a life. I think that was the same episode when Carter's grandmother sent a Christmas tree to the ER?

renton said...

This is really showing my age, but I still remember an episode of St. Elsewhere with Dr. Craig standing outside a church in pouring rain listening to Silent Night shortly after the death of his son.

Marcin J said...

Like Jess D., I too enjoy the Woodland Critter Christmas episode from "South Park." It's the oppposite of every other Christmas related episode I've ever seen, and I love watching every minute of it. My runnner up, though, would be any of the first two Christmas episodes of "The Simpsons."

Paul Outlaw said...

Frasier, Season 5: Christmas à la Rashomon. Brilliant.

Will & Grace, Season 6: Barry Manilow and Debbie Reynolds. Nuff said.

M.A.Peel said...

My all-time favorite: X-Files, "How The Ghosts Stole Christmas." Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner play ghosts who try to lure lovers into their house on Christmas Eve to recreate their own murder/suicide. It's a nice moment in the Mulder/Scully relationship, since she leaves her family on Christmas Eve to follow this non-case.

My favorite part is that they use the Bing Crosby "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" throughout, not the Judy.

Also like the House, Fraiser, and Monk Christmas shows. And a very vague memory of a black and white Bewitched episode when she goes to the North Pole to see the real Santa.

Alap said...

I echo Will from above on the Simpsons episode where Bart gets caught shoplifting, "Marge Be Not Proud."

Being non-Christian, I never felt Linus at the end of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was really speaking to me. But when Bart fears he's lost his mother's trust and is left only with her love--because moms have to love you no matter what, but that doesn't mean you're still her "special little guy"-- that's when the Christmas sadness really hits home.

And then when Marge catches him running upstairs with something under his coat, only to realize it's an honest-to-goodness gift to her, there's this look in her eyes (I don't know how the animators drew that in, but I swear it's there)of empathy for how lost Bart must have felt, of guilt for making her son feel that way, and the comfort of affirming to herself that her son really is a good kid. That should be what Christmas carolers sing about.

Plus it's got maybe the greatest one-off character of all time, Don Brodka.

Eires32 said...

As stated above, I am REALLY showing my age but...

Northern Exposure's first season. It was a "Christmas" story tied in with Maurice learning he has a Korean son. I saved that episode on a beaten-up VHS tape for many many years. Too many moments to list, but I vividly remember the John Cullum's singing Ave Maria, as well as the beautiful "Raven" ceremony at the end.

BF said...

Seconded on Bart the Shoplifter: Any episode with Lee Carvello's Putting Challenge is a winner.

Others:
Arrested Development (In God We Trust) -- It's got Christmas music, so I say it counts!
NewsRadio (Christmas) -- We finally see Wisconsin.
Seinfeld (The Pick) -- Elaine's Christmas card

PS: Favorite Christmas movie is a no brainer: Die Hard

Alyson said...

Man people have mentioned Frasier, but I haven't seen this one: I absolutely love the Christmas ep from season 6 where the Cranes have to pretened to be Jewish for Frasier's girlfriend's mother. From Martin having no idea how to play it, to Daphne directing a Christmas pagent, to Niles dressing up as Jesus, the whole thing is a laugh riot.

I also have to give a shout out to the Gilmore Girls first season Christmas episode, where Richard ends up in the hospital, and Luke takes Lorelai to see him. The episode has some truly comical moments (the "Santaburger") as well as serious, emotional moments (one of my all-time favorite Gilmore scenes is when Lorelai finally gets up the courage to see Richard, goes into the room, and they look at each other and say nothing, yet the expressions on both of their faces say everything.)

Scratch said...

Little House on the Prairie - Christmas on Plum Creek. Great take on the Gift of the Magi.

Also, the episode where the blizzard snows them in, and they have to exit the house via the loft window.

Sara Anne said...

I love "So-Called Angels" and "In Excelsis Deo" as well.

I also wanted to add "The Most Wonderful time of the Year" from Six Feet Under - the episode where the Fishers host the biker funeral for biker Santa after he got hit by a car.

Anonymous said...

"Frasier" always had fantastic Christmas episodes. The one where he meets a Jewish mother in a department store, who sets him up with her daughter thinking he is Jewish, is a classic, with Niles playing Jesus downstairs at a pageant and Marty pretending to be Jewish himself.

Larry said...

Not sure where to bring this up, but I am disappointed that I can't give out Chuck: Season 2 for Chrismukkah presents!

JanieJones said...

Eires32-I completely forgot about that episode of NE-"Seoul Mates". It was a great episode.
Honestly, many shows have done holiday centric episodes. Most of the ones that I have seen have effected me, whether it be funny or touching or a combination.

Katie said...

Super tough question, so I'm just going to list some of the ones I love:

The Office - "Christmas Party"
How I Met Your Mother - "How Lily Stole Christmas"
Bones - "The Man in the Fallout Shelter" & "The Santa in the Slush"
Ally McBeal - all of the Christmas episodes, but especially "Blue Christmas" (I think this is the one where Ally sings "Santa Baby")
NewsRadio - "Xmas Story"

Brian said...

I agree with "Woodland Critter Christmas" on South Park because only Cartman could come up with that.

But I also cannot ignore:

"Afternoon Delight" on Arrested Development and "My Own Personal Jesus" on Scrubs

Anonymous said...

The first Christmas episodes of The Office and Newsradio, and the second "X-Mas" episode of Futurama are my favorites.

Chalmers said...

Renton--Great call on that St. Elsewhere Christmas episode.

As you said, it ends with Craig's agonizing loss of faith following his son's death.

Even before Craig's scene, I was weeping because Westphall returns to the church for the first time in years after his wife's death and Tommy shouts and runs to him.

Oaktown Girl said...

I absolutely second Alyson's vote for the Frasier episode where Niles ends up playing Jesus in the Christmas pageant. Here's the link to the imdb quotes page for that one:

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz

Anonymous said...

From wa-a-a-ay back: I was about 11or 12 when I first saw this episode; it resonated loud and clear and has always been one of my favs.

The "All in the Family" ep where Mike brings home a friend for Christmas dinner who's a student, uh, yeah, that's it. Turns out he's a draft-dodger living in Canada. Cue the trademark, red-faced, righteous indignation of double-ya-double-ya 2 vet Archie. Until another dinner guest, Pinky Peterson, having lost his son in 'nam, shakes the friend's hand and invites him back to the dinner table, saying that he wishes that his son were there to sit down with both of them. Gets me every time.

J.J. said...

Well, most of the absolute best stuff has already been mentioned. Anything Sorkin wrote, and the American "Office" with the Secret Santa and the teapot.

The British "Office" Christmas special, I guess, I'd have to mention too. That was rather nice.

The first season "NYPD Blue" Christmas episode worked for me too. Unless I'm blurring things together on that (it's been a while, since I can't find that show anywhere since it disappeared from TNT)... I think that was the episode when Andy threatened the dude who was going after Fancy (I forget if he was IAB or just upper-level brass, or what, but it was cool to see him get Fancy's back). And Andy ended up playing Santa.

Also, I really enjoyed one of the middle- or later-season "Friends" episodes where Ross was struggling to get his kid (whose mom wasn't raising him Jewish) to sit still long enough to teach him about Hanukkah when Christmas was obviously overshadowing what he was trying to say. It was a little hard to buy the concept that the kid made it so many years into his life (he looked kinda old by then) before Ross got it into his head that it was time to sit him down and teach him that stuff, but it still worked for me because it felt like a pretty fresh story to me at the time (maybe just because of the novelty of telling me a Hanukkah story when I was being saturated with Christmas stuff).

For some reason, despite only ever watching it casually and never liking the show all that much (that rash of shows loosely based on the neutered act of a comedian didn't hit it out of the park very often, for my money's worth) a lot of "Home Improvement" Christmas episodes left residue in my mind somewhere, probably because they usually had the same Christmas lighting display storyline going every year. But one that sticks out in my mind was one where one of the kids pitches a fit because they won't let him go on a trip his friends invited him on. That reminded me of the kind of knucklehead nonsense that would go on in my house.

Anonymous said...

J.J. beat me to it, but The Office UK's xmas episodes are great. The David Brent music video alone is worth a nod on a 'best of' list.

Sophietje said...

I totally agree about the West Wing christmas episodes. Love those. Never failed to bring tears to my eyes.
Other favorite holiday episodes are BBT with Nimoy's DNA and all of the Doctor Who specials. (I'm really look forward to this year's, which will be showing a day later than in the UK. Whoo hooo!)
And I had forgotten how hilarious the Frasier episode is that everyone's talking about above. Really have to watch that again...

Now I know what I'm watching this weekend!

Brandy said...

Six Southern Gentlemen From Tennessee... the first of the Sports Night Christmas episodes.

Also the cheese grater bit from second season's The Reunion (Was this also cheese and spackle?)

And the Frasier episode where Niles, Frasier and Martin go off in Martin's RV to try to get to a New Years party and hijinx ensue.

Anonymous said...

Paul Rinkes, that 30 Rock is great, though the Lemon Party line is just so mentally debilitating if you actually get the reference they are making there.

Anyone who doesn't get that reference, please, for the love of god, don't look it up. Just trust me on this.

J said...

The Santa Claus Conquers The Martians episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is required viewing for me around this time of year. Open up your heart and let the Patrick Swayze Christmas in!

Heather said...

Really enjoyed "Chuck vs Santa Claus" but also love HIMYM's "How Lily Stole Christmas", "A Very Supernatural Christmas" and "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" (all staples at my house now if only since I always watch it when its on). I'm very sad that some of my favorite shows such as Lost and Burn Notice don't have them. I would love to see an Other's Christmas or Michael being a Santa.

Kensington said...

What made that St. Elsewhere episode especially poignant was that hyper-Christmassy Dr. Craig had harangued Dr. Westphal for his lack of Christmas spirit, yet at the end, it's Westphal who's in Church with his children and Craig, bitter, bereft and lost, who's unable to bring himself to enter.

Gosh, St. Elsewhere was a brilliant show.

Also, I too am fond of the Bones Christmas episode where the team is quarantined, and, although it's a little corny, Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classic remains a regular favorite in my house.

Bear said...

Grey's Anatomy Season 2, episode 10? It was just classic Grey's, with the added bonus of Christina telling Burke "I'm Jewish", and Izzy tearing Shepherd a new one for not meing cheerful enough.

I love the West Wing and VMars ones too, but I watch the Grey's one every year.

Anonymous said...

The show "Frank's Place" starring Tim Reid had a short life but a good Christmas episode with one of the better "reveal" endings - I think there was a Hanukkah part and a the main story of a globetrotting uncle returning to Ne Orleans. Wish they would release this series on DVD. Otherwise second the West Wing suggestions particularly In Excelsius Deo

Isaac Lin said...

re: Friends episode with the "Holiday Armadillo" -- I just laughed uncontrollably when it was revealed that Superman flew the Israelites out of Egypt...

amysusanne said...

re: Moonlighting's first Christmas ep: >>Not surprisingly, the plot was about a woman named Mary abandoning her baby, three guys named King, etc. <<

One of my favorite moments in the entire episode is when David is all hyper ranty about the baby, the Inn, etc. and Mary offers him a cigarette from her pack of Camels.

It's impossible to pick a favorite because there have been so many excellent Christmas/holiday episodes over just the past few years. I tend to watch the MSCL ep a *lot*. I get weepy every single time Patty asks Juliana how she died. I'm misty just typing that out.

A fave from my childhood was the episode of "Growing Pains" with Hallie Todd as the homeless girl. When Ben screams and rants incoherently at the discovery that she's stolen all the presents, even the socks, I crack up every time.

Nina said...

Didn't ER have some good Christmas episodes?
I seem to remember a very awkward elevator ride with Abby, Luka and Carter.

amysusanne said...

People mentioned "thirtysomething" above. My favorite of their holiday eps was "The Mike Van Dyke Show" where Michael was having a bit of a crisis of faith and dreamed his life as Dick Van Dyke.

skittledog said...

Echoing everyone who said How Lily Stole Christmas or Echolls Family Christmas - both excellent in completely different ways. Am also a fan of the original Chrismukkah for just being so friendly and enjoyable - exactly the kind of comfort food you need when cold weather, short days and family squabbles threaten one's calm.

Stef said...

I have to add my vote as well for the X-Files' "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas." I rewatched it recently and it just holds up so well.

Paul Outlaw said...

How could I forget The Judy Garland Show (Season 1, Episode 15)? With guest stars Liza Minnelli, Lorna & Joey Luft, Jack Jones and Mel Tormé. A Christmas episode of her short-lived variety show like no other. I will be popping that in the DVD player next week.

Word verification: mintos.
"The Frishmaker."

srpad said...

Most of the ones I thought of immediately were all taken but I'm gonna list'em anyway!

I can still see the final shot of an angel's wing in the My So Called Life's Christmas episode even though I haven't seen the show in over a decade.

The Fasier where they pretend to be Jewish is great! Maybe because I'm Jewish I don't know. When they are all crying and ask themsleves "How do they do this?" is a hoot!

It's not quite the same thing but the "Santa Claus" episode of MST3K is probably my favorite one of all (favorite MST3K, not holiday show). I still watch the video tape I have of it most years around this time. Santa Claus and his wizard ally battle Satan for the soul of a little girl. Who knew?

I haven't seen them in years but when I was akid and the off networks would show syndicated shows in the afternoonm and evening, I used to love this time of year because you would get all of teh chrismas shows for a few weeks straight of Happy Day, Laverne and Shirly, What's Happening and all the rest. It just made me all that more excited for the coming holiday. As I have grown up, I miss that. (Yes I am Jewish but my family always celebrated Christmas)

oneofestelles said...

This is a completely different holiday, but the Yom Kippur episode of Northern Exposure is one of my all time favorites of a favorite show. Plus it's a holiday that isn't often explored.

Toby O'B said...

First for me would be "The Alan Brady Show Presents" episode of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', in which the writers performed on their boss' holiday show.

Second, the Christmas in November episode of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' where they were snowed in at the station; they're all mad at each other; and if they want to eat "Christmas dinner" on Sue Ann's soundstage, they have to wear the hats of many lands. And Georgette sings a lovely rendition of "Silent Night".

Finally, there's the episode of 'Dream On' where Martin and his ex-wife Judith get stuck in a snowstorm just as she went into labor. She ended up having the baby in a manger.

I love any Christmas episode so long as it doesn't involve yet another variation on "A Christmas Carol" or "It's A Wonderful Life".

Tate said...

The WKRP episode where Mr Carlson is visited by the ghosts of christmas past, present and future... and he finds a future where Herb is the only employee left at WKRP.

The MOONLIGHTING episode "It's a Wonderful Job" where Maddie wishes she had never kept her detective agency open and her guardian angel shows her an alternate life where Hart to Hart has taken over her offices, David is engaged to Cheryl Tiegs, and Agnes Dipesto is an evil, rhyming CEO of a greeting card company. Future Maddie is a lonely drunk who commits suicide by crashing her car into a wall. Her life flashes before her eyes and real Maddie wakes up back at the bar where she first met the angel. Great great episode.

And the ROSEANNE episode "White Trash Christmas" where the Connors get into a battle with the neighborhood association and go overboard with the gaudy decorations.

William B said...

Off the top of my head, I like The Office (UK) Christmas special; Veronica Mars' "An Echolls Family Christmas"; Buffy's "Amends" (which I quite like, even if it does earn the ire of many); The Office's (US) Santa Swap episode; Seinfeld's Festivus episode; M*A*S*H's "Dear Sis" and the episode with the doctors trying to prolong a soldier's life so that his family won't remember him having died on Christmas; South Park's "A Woodland Critter Christmas"

vortexgods said...

That one is pretty easy, actually. The best Christmas episode ever is Invader Zim's The Most Horrible X-mas Ever. I can still remember the horrified looks on my sister's face when I played it for her for the first time.

Mr. Slushy: But Zim and Dib were wrong that day. Santa wasn't destroyed, Santa lives on…

Small Child: In the hearts, and minds, of us all? (giggles)

Mr. Slushy: No! In space! Gathering power! And every Christmas he returns to Earth, and that's why we all live in this protective dome! (alarm sounds) Looks like Santa's here! Raise the shields, children!

GregM said...

Yes to the Invader Zim episode, and count me as another person who appreciates "Amends" (Joss Whedon & co. tortured their characters so much that a last-minute magical realism reprieve is okay in my book.)

I haven't seen any of the Frasier, HIMYM Office eps, so I'll have to catch up there.

The best animated Christmas special is, of course, "The Snowman" (written by Raymond Briggs, and usually found on PBS.) Completely silent expect for a musical score and one opening sentence at the beginning.

sc said...

I can't believe no one's mentioned it but one of my faves is the Curb Your Enthusiasm Christmas episode where Larry "eats our Lord Jesus Christ" and gets in a fight with Joseph over Mary's rack!!
Classic LD

Sylar said...

I really like both of Psych's Christmas eps ("Gus' Dad May Have Killed and Old Guy" and "Christmas Joy"), "Christmas Scandal" from Parks and Rec, "Christmas" from Early Edition, and "Chuck Versus Santa Claus" of Chuck.

Worst Christmas ep: Community's "Comparative Religion"

arrabbiata said...

Many of my favorites are already on the list, but I'll add my votes to some of those South Park episodes (the first Mr Hanky appearance works on so many levels),and some of the Frasier and MASH episodes. I definitely agree with the Homicide episode "All Through The House", which provided one of my favorite Giardello quotes- "Let me give you a little advice for the future, Tim. Never try to hustle a Sicilian." I use it whenever someone is doing a particularly bad job of lying to me about something. Though it's set on the hottest night of the year, Christmas also makes me think of that show's "Night of the Dead Living" episode, which features a guy in a Santa suit who threatens to jump off a ledge, attacks a crowd with a water pistol, escapes police custody in their own building, and is recaptured when he comes crashing through the ceiling of the Homicide Unit.

And since it's something no one else has mentioned, I'll add the Avengers episode "Too Many Christmas Trees", which has a group of psychics using ESP to give Steed some nasty Christmas themed nightmares while trying to steal important secrets. Includes a great inside joke- Steed receives a Christmas card from his previous partner Cathy Gale (who had been played by Honor Blackman), looks at the envelope and asks "What can she be doing in Fort Knox?" More people get murdered than your typical Christmas episode, but you wouldn't expect any different from The Avengers.

Lisa said...

The X-Files had two earlier Christmas episodes that were tour de forces for Gillian Anderson. The first was "Beyond the Sea" (featuring the brilliant Brad Dourif) about the aftermath of the death of Scully's father and "Christmas Carol," an absolutely heartbreaking story of the child Scully believed was hers.

Jim said...

Already mentioned: The Festivus Seinfeld

MTM Snowed-in Xmas with SueAnn Nivens

TDVDyke Show with "I am a fine musician"

Not mentioned: The King of the Hill where Jimmy Carter has to reconcile Hank and Cotton.

Cotton: "C'mon, Hank! Time to go shoot a Christmas tree!"

Hank: "Well, Dad, you know how I love to be the one to yell 'ready, aim, timber!' but I've got plans with Buck Strickland."

Jeff B. said...

The Seinfeld episode The Gum, which only mentions Christmas once. George is standing over the recently burned Jon Voigt car, Kramer says "Merry Christmas" and George dejectedly replies "whatever."

MGolden said...

the Extras: Extra Special Series Finale Christmas Special is still one of my favorites. just a brilliant series finale that happens to be set at Christmastime, but the Christmas music playing as Maggie stuggles to make ends meet gets me every time. and when she watches Andy hitting rock bottom on Celebrity Big Brother, awesome.

Alex said...

The O.C. probably wins.

My So-Called Life would be included, if not for the ridiculously upbeat ending. Come on! HerskoZwick love downer endings as much as HBO. Not quite as much as me though...

That cold open with Ricky on the street was so great, I almost couldn't believe it!

There are way, way too many to sort through in my brain. One of the first that popped up was that Christmas episode of Nip/Tuck in Season 4. Dark and funny, from memory.

Gunface said...

Hand-down, my FAVORITE Christmas episode of all-time is Saved By The Bell's very special Christmas episode where Zack and the gang cross paths with a homeless girl and her father who live in the mall. They invite them all over for Christmas and a little "friends forver".
I love it bc it is the epitome of 90s schlock. There's so much WRONG with these rich Californians making a superficial, charitable effort. Just a great addition to the bizarre out-of-character strides from one of the greatest syndicated shows of ALL TIME.
Also, it was an excellent excuse to use the mall set again, and see Screech's interpretation of Dickens.

Sean McQuaid said...

TOP TEN
In chronological order of airdate:

HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL
"The Hanging Cross" (1957)
Paladin tries to mediate between embittered rancher and Indians who stole his son.

WKRP
"Bah Humbug" (1980)
Scrooge-like Carlson dreams his own version of Christmas Carol after cutting staff's bonuses.

THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
"The Blue Carbuncle" (1984)
Holmes spends the holidays seeking a stolen jewel.

THE TICK
"The Tick Loves Santa!" (1995)
A Claus-clad thief becomes a self-cloning one-man crime wave.

PINKY AND THE BRAIN
"A Pinky and the Brain Christmas" (1995)
Brain invents a new toy to help him take over the world.

BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES
"Holiday Knights" (1997)
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn take a mind-controlled Bruce Wayne on a Christmas shopping spree, plus holiday tales of Clayface & Joker.

NERO WOLFE MYSTERY
"Christmas Party" (2001)
Murder, romance and a Santa with a secret complicate a holiday party attended by Nero's assistant Archie.

JUSTICE LEAGUE
"Comfort and Joy" (2003)
During the League's holidays, Flash helps orphans, GL and Hawkgirl party in space, and J'onn spends Christmas in Smallville with Superman.

VERONICA MARS
"An Echolls Family Christmas" (2004)
Veronica spends the holidays investigating a high-stakes poker scam while her father tracks a celebrity stalker.

DOCTOR WHO
"The Runaway Bride" (2006)
An angry, bitter Doctor mourning the loss of Rose protects bombastic bride-to-be Donna Noble from hostile aliens.



RUNNERS-UP
(five that would qualify for my Top 15)

TWILIGHT ZONE
"The Night of the Meek" (1960)
Drunken department store Santa (Art Carney) finds magical sack that creates Christmas gifts.

TWILIGHT ZONE
"The Changing of the Guard" (1962)
A professor (Donald Pleasence) forced to retire is visited by ghosts of past students.

DOCTOR WHO
"Voyage of the Damned" (2007)
The Doctor boards a spacefaring version of the Titanic that might be as doomed as the seagoing original.

CHUCK
"Chuck Versus Santa Claus" (2008)
Chuck's spy life and his civilian life collide during a hostage crisis at the Buy More.

DOCTOR WHO
"The Next Doctor" (2008)
The Doctor meets a new Doctor in olden-days London.



HONORABLE MENTIONS

TWILIGHT ZONE: "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (1961)
WKRP: "Jennifer's Home For Christmas" (1979)
DARKWING DUCK: "It's a Wonderful Leaf" (1991)
BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES: "Christmas with the Joker" (1992)
FREAKAZOID: "In Arms Way" (1995)
NEWSRADIO: "Christmas Story" (1995)
NEWSRADIO: "Christmas" (1996)
NEWSRADIO: "Stupid Holiday Charity Talent Show" (1997)
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: "Amends" (1998)
GILMORE GIRLS: "Forgiveness and Stuff" (2000)
MONK: "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa" (2005)
DOCTOR WHO: "The Christmas Invasion" (2005)
MONK: "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad" (2006)
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: "How Lily Stole Christmas" (2006)
CHUCK: "Chuck Versus the Crown Vic" (2007)
MONK: "Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Claus" (2007)
THE CLOSER: "Next of Kin" (2007)
PSYCH: "Gus' Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy" (2007)
HOUSE: "It's a Wonderful Lie" (2008)
MONK: "Mr. Monk and the Miracle" (2008)
BIG BANG THEORY: "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" (2008)

Anonymous said...

Surely Mr. Bean getting his head stuck up a turkey deserves mention here.

Rob S. said...

Arrabbiata: thanks for solving my addled memory's puzzle of why one of my favorite Christmas episodes ends up with the cast of Homicide being hosed down on a the squadroom roof on a hot summer's day.

Jose C said...

Most of my favorites have been covered, but two that nobody has mentioned yet:

Squidbillies "Rebel with a Claus" episode has it all. Carols, smoked reindeer, and redneck violence. And one of the funniest Christmas gift requests ever on TV.

the "Cheers" Christmas episode where Sam, trying to buy a last minute gift, meets a lingerie model who ends up having more to do with Woody at the end, and the best comment on stuffing, is right up there as well.

And Happy Festivus to all. May your airing of grievances be short and sweet this year.

Zach said...

Anyone who has missed the new classic carols in "Mr Hankey's Xmas Classics" (season 3) MUST locate and see them ASAP :D :D The Dreidel Song, Carol of the Bells, Merry F*cking Christmas.. they really went to the wall with these. You have to love a South Park they only are allowed to replay after midnight, one time per year.

Cheesy as all the Dickens epsiodes are, I remember the Popular Christmas Carol reenactment very fondly..props as always to Tammy Lynn Michaels as Scrooge.


For all time serial angst, still hard to top Buffy "Amends", simple though it might have been.

Another vote here for So Called Life "So-Called Angels". Absolutely devastating.

Still, my all time favorite moment, for all it aired in March.. goes to the NX festival of lights Chris puts on at the end of season four 'Northern Lights'. "Goerthe's final words: More Light."

Bon Hiver, all.

Tracey said...

Actually... there was an episode of Matt Frewer's Doctor, Doctor that had an excellent Christmas Carol riff... mainly what I remember about it was Julius Carey's character as "the ghost of Marley"
Carey (Jamaican accent): I am the ghost of Marley, man
Frewer: Jacob Marley?
Carey: No, BOB Marley, man. Now grab m'dreds, we be jammin....

Anonymous said...

Ah, somebody beat me to mentioning "A Pinky and the Brain Xmas!" I've watched that one every year since it first aired and I still tear up when Pinky gifts Brain with a globe keychain at the end of the ep. Good stuff.

ER had a number of poignant eps but another favorite was the first Scrubs Xmas episode "My Own Personal Jesus." I'm not particularly religious but I can relate to Turk's lack of faith/spirit during what should be a festive time of year.

And lastly, another shout-out to "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" and the Studio 60 Xmas ep featuring the wonderful version of "O Holy Night" by The City of New Orleans band.

Pamela Jaye said...

Amends was Awesome. I had to make myself remember it, but once I did...

Some people really loved Boy to the World, one of Ally's Christmas eps, with that kid from MSCL. I wasn't one of them, but...

I believe Grey's has only been able to do two Christmas eps, due to the wonky timeline (and me screaming at Shonda that we won't notice that the timeline is so awful if only you'll *skip* the mileposts (holidays, proms))

The most recent one ran before Thanksgiving. sigh. The first one had its good points (I especially liked Cristina telling Burke she was Jewish - but didn't keep holidays)

The West Wing's Noel was good.

I'm still not even approaching Amends. (I loved Buffy eps with flashbacks)

The Big Bang Theory - why do I only remember one? I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy. Even before that particular thought occurred to me - in fact probably *because* I had not yet had that thought - I was all goosebumpy.

It seems to me the ER has used the same song more than once - in some similar way that I just can't remember. The first time, Rosemary Clooney was singing it.
Also, getting to hear Scott Grimes sing is fun.

I don't even remember which tape we put Studio 60 on...