Top 15 Christmas TV Episodes Ever
by Kim Potts, posted Dec 16th 2010 12:00PM
Our No. 1 choice for the best Christmas episode ever may not be a surprise -- any episode that involves the creation of a new, Christmas spin-off holiday has to rate a top spot! -- but countdown is designed to bring some ho-ho-ho holiday cheer to your celebration this season.
So, jump down off the aluminum pole, postpone that Airing of Grievances and recall these classic Christmas TV installments.
15. 'Grey's Anatomy'
'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer'
Original airdate: Dec. 11, 2005
The gift that keeps on giving: It's all about the true spirit of the holidays, Seattle Grace-style. Christmas doesn't mean the hospital slows down; in fact, it's quite the opposite, thanks to a man who strangled himself trying to wrap a giant TV for his wife, another guy who fell off his roof while stringing "Hanumas"/Chrismukkah lights and now requires brain surgery from his "shepherd" (Dr. Shepherd, of course) and Burke and Cristina's philosophical differences over a young heart transplant patient. McDreamy's also reunited with his wife, but still pining for Meredith, and Izzie's ticked off at the cheating Alex, but they all pull it together to help Dr. Karev study for another shot at his failed exams, because, as Izzie tells him after she gets a lecture from Mer, "It's what Jesus would freakin' do!"
14. 'The Twilight Zone'
'Night of the Meek'
Original airdate: Dec. 23, 1960
The gift that keeps on giving: He's best known for 'The Honeymooners' (which had a classic holiday episode of its own with ''Twas the Night Before Christmas'), but Art Carney is also the star of this 'Twilight Zone' gem, in which he plays drunkard department store Santa Henry Corwin. Fired after arriving for work late and sloshed, Henry wanders into an alley and finds a bag filled with gifts. The spirit of the holiday is one of the few bright spots in Henry's life, and as he begins handing out the gifts, he realizes the bag is able to produce any gift a recipient requests. After a brief jail stint that ends with Henry changing the mind of his mean, skeptical former boss, he continues handing out gifts until one of his giftees points out that Henry has taken nothing from the bag himself. All he wants? To continue playing Santa every year, a wish that's granted when he finds an elf with a reindeer-driven sleigh waiting to whisk him off to the North Pole.
13. 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
'Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid'
Original airdate: Dec. 19, 1970
The gift that keeps on giving: Thanks to a work schedule that put her in the WJM offices on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day -- instead of off visiting her family, as she'd planned -- it looked like Mary was going to have anything but a Merry Christmas in this first-season episode. Except she's Mary, the eternally optimistic Mary, who can turn the world on with her smile and turn a lonely night by herself in the newsroom into a sweet holiday celebration, especially when her pals Murray, Ted and Mr. Grant show up to surprise her and take her to Murray's holiday bash. Even the sometimes prickly Mr. Grant gets in on the Christmas action, presenting Mary with a card and gift: a blank check he hastily retrieves. Oh, Mr. Graaaaaaant!
'The One With the Holiday Armadillo'
Original airdate: Dec. 14, 2000
The gift that keeps on giving: Ross, Ross, Ross. Mr. Gellar had nothing but good intentions when he found out he was going to have son Ben with him for the holidays. He planned to use the occasion to teach Ben about Hanukkah, only to find out Ben was bummed about the prospect of a year without Santa Claus. Ross tries to rent a Santa suit to appease him, but it was two days before Christmas, and the only costume he could find was ... the Holiday Armadillo! Just as Ross sees an opening to depart Hanukkah wisdom via the Armadillo, Chandler shows up in a Santa suit, followed by Joey in a Superman costume. Ross incorporates his special guests into his Hanukkah tale, though he's not so happy about their interjections. "My favorite part was when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt!" says Chandler. "The Armadillo was actually not so thrilled about that part!" replies Ross.
11. 'Arrested Development'
Original airdate: Dec. 19, 2004
The gift that keeps on giving: When we were kids, we thought the song 'Afternoon Delight' was about ice cream. Michael Bluth was under a similar false impression about how innocent the Starland Vocal Band's tune is, and that leads to one of the many bits of Bluth family Christmas fun in this season two episode that also finds the fam performing karaoke at the company Christmas party, G.O.B. trying to be a man of the people (but being too obsessed with his expensive suit for it to actually happen) and Buster getting distracted from going to Army by a fistful of quarters and an arcade crane machine.
10. 'The Andy Griffith Show'
'The Christmas Story'
Original airdate: Dec. 19, 1960
The gift that keeps on giving: Barney Fife (Don Knotts) as Santa is but one of the delights of this simple, sweet episode, the only Christmas ep in the show's eight-season run. Most of the action takes place in the Mayberry jail, where, after department store owner (and resident Scrooge) Ben Weaver demands that Andy lock up local moonshiner Sam Muggins, Muggins' family, as well as Andy's, gather to celebrate the holiday with Sam. After witnessing how Sam and Andy and their broods can turn the jailhouse stay into a warm, inviting celebration, Weaver gets himself arrested so he can be part of the fun, and he ends the holiday by getting a nip of Sam's hooch himself.
9. '30 Rock'
Original airdate: Dec. 13, 2007
The gift that keeps on giving: The '30 Rock' crew is committed to an evening of debauchery -- via their annual "Ludachristmas" celebration -- but Kenneth the Page has other plans, via his pastor, in this season two episode in which we meet Liz Lemon's family -- including dad Buck Henry and brother Andy Richter -- for the first time. Kenneth's push for the true meaning of Christmas gets Tracy so charged up that he wants to chop down the Rockefeller Center tree, but Lemon's family holiday plans sail along much more smoothly ... until Jack Donaghy's mean-spirited mama (Elaine Stritch) shows up and tinkles all over their optimistic holiday parade.
8. 'Little House on the Prairie'
'Christmas at Plum Creek'
Original airdate: Dec. 25, 1974
The gift that keeps on giving: How cool it must have been that this classic family Christmas episode actually premiered on Christmas night in 1974. The epitome of a family celebrating the holiday with the truest spirit of Christmas in their hearts, the Ingalls family set about giving each other very special gifts. Mary was making Pa a shirt, Pa was making a set of wagon wheels to earn cash to buy Ma a fancy new stove and Laura had a big surprise of her own. But when it comes time to open the packages, Ma realizes she and Mary made the same shirt for Charles, so, as any good mom would do, she hides her gift and lets Mary's take center stage. Ma's reward comes later, when she opens her stove, but her grand gift isn't from Charles ... it's from Laura, who sold her beloved horse, Bunny, to Mr. Oleson, in exchange for the stove. Kinda makes you feel guilty for all those crappy Jean Nate gift sets you gave your own Ma all those years, doesn't it?
7. 'The O.C.'
'The Best Chrismukkah Ever'
Original airdate: Dec. 3, 2003
The gift that keeps on giving: The Cohen family didn't actually invent Chrismukkah, but this clever, quip-filled episode, in which we learn Sandy and Kirsten began celebrating the holiday so son Seth didn't miss out on any December holiday, certainly made it a pop culture phenomenon. The fact that Seth got both a homemade comic book starring him and the beautiful Summer in a Wonder Woman costume as gifts? Merely the gold star at the top of the Chrismukkah tree.
6. 'South Park'
'Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo'
Original airdate: Dec. 17, 1997
The gift that keeps on giving: It was a Christmas short that led to the creation of 'South Park' as a series, so it's fitting that this, the show's first Christmas-themed episode, is also one of its most classic. An icky, clever jab at the political correctness that envelopes Christmas and the holiday season every year, the action revolves around the titular Mr. Hankey, the talking Christmas dookie who makes poor Kyle think he's losing his mind. The episode also includes the fan fave 'South Park' tune 'Kyle's Mom is a Big Fat Bi*ch' and, in true Christmas spirit, is the first episode in which Kenny isn't killed, all adding up to one big piece of ... Mr. Hankey. And we mean that in a good way.
'Death Takes a Holiday'
Original airdate: Dec. 15, 1980
The gift that keeps on giving: Series star Mike Farrell wrote and directed this touching episode, in which Father Mulcahy organizes a Christmas party for the local children, and we learn that stuffy Charles Winchester is actually a big old softie who's been hoarding his fancy chocolates not for himself, but to gift to the kiddies. The tearjerking heart of the episode, however, involves a soldier who's mortally wounded, prompting Margaret, Hawkeye and B.J. to do anything they can to keep him alive until Dec. 26, so his family won't have to remember Christmas as the day their father/son/husband died.
4. 'The Simpsons'
'Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire'
Original airdate: Dec. 17, 1989
The gift that keeps on giving: Homer got no bonus and Marge had to use the family's Christmas gift fund to pay for the removal of Bart's tattoo, so all seemed hopeless in this, the first full-length 'Simpsons' episode. Homie's meager earnings from moonlighting as a mall Santa lead he and Bart to the race track, where he bets, and loses, on a dog named Santa's Little Helper. In the end, he and Bart head home with the abandoned SLH, who the rest of the family falls in love with, making it the Simpsons' greatest Christmas ever and launching a show that would provide years of joyful moments to TV fans.
3. 'The Brady Bunch'
'The Voice of Christmas'
Original airdate: Dec. 19, 1969
The gift that keeps on giving: Oh, Miiiike ... Carol is supposed to sing a solo at church on Christmas, but she loses her voice just days before! This holiday episode, in which the Bradys' problem doesn't really seem like such a problem in the scheme of things, and, like all Brady problems, is wrapped up neatly, and positively, by episode's end, is also a great example of the show's charm and ability to bring pleasure about which we don't feel a single bit guilty.
2. 'The Office'
Original airdate: Dec. 6, 2005
The gift that keeps on giving: Pair it with 'A Benihana Christmas' and you've got one fantastic way to spend a holiday season evening, but it's this, the show's first Christmas episode, that remains 'The Office's' best holiday installment. The Christmas party theme was a no-brainer, but thanks to the selfish, sometimes well-intentioned plots of Michael Scott, an event that takes place gazillions of times a year became an event fraught with hurt feelings and missed opportunities, as Michael turned a Secret Santa gift exchange into "Yankee Swap," all because he was angry he'd blown the $20 allowance and bought his giftee an iPod, while he received Phyllis' DIY potholders. The swap meant Jim's carefully selected gift for Pam -- which was originally to include a note confessing his feelings to her -- went to Dwight, while even Dwight's feelings were hurt when Michael rejected his gift of paintball lessons. "Yankee Swap is like Machiavelli meets Christmas," says Mr. Schrute, summing up Michael's machinations (which end with him buying a load of booze to temper the angry staff, and then getting flashed by a sauced Meredith).
Original airdate: Dec. 18, 1997
The gift that keeps on giving: Sure, Chrismukkah is a great new holiday, but it's still a combination of two existing ones. Festivus, the holiday introduced in this classic episode of 'Seinfeld,' is truly a new celebration, created by the father of the episode's writer, Dan O'Keefe. The Airing of Grievances, the Feats of Strength, the Festivus pole ... all real, as the senior O'Keefe sought a way to celebrate the season without kowtowing to the commercial pressures that accompany the more traditional December holidays. In the TV episode, the holiday was instead sparked by Frank Costanza's (Jerry Stiller) ill-fated attempt to buy a trendy baby doll for his son George (Jason Alexander). Runner-up 'Seinfeld' Christmas episode: 'The Pick,' the 1992 nugget in which Kramer takes Elaine's Christmas card photo, which leads to Elaine unintentionally exposing her nipple while sending her best wishes to friends and family.
What are your favorite Christmas or holiday-themed episodes?