The holiday season is all about lounging about in your fluffy PJ’s, munching on festive treats and indulging in hours of Yuletide programming. There is nothing quite like the warm fuzzies you get when watching the Christmas special of your favourite TV show. So, with that in mind, we have put together a small selection of some of the greatest Christmas TV specials, and themed episodes of the last few decades.
Bob’s Burgers – God Rest Ye Merry Gentle Mannequins
When Bob’s Uncle Ernie dies,he leaves Bob a storage unit in his will. Ernie once owned a department store and when the Belcher family goes to find out what is inside the unit, they find Chet, (voiced by Zach Galifianakis). Chet used to work in Uncle Ernie’s department store and is convinced he is a shop mannequin. The family takes him in, only to discover that he has a talent for creating seasonal window displays out of mannequins, in which he also poses. As Christmas approaches, Chet becomes increasingly unstable. He tells the family of his lost love Nadine, (another store mannequin, this time a real one), and how he despairs of her loss. It is everything you would expect from a Bob’s Burgers Christmas special, and despite its weirdness, is full of festive, feel good cheer.
Ally McBeal – Silver Bells
Christmas was always an exciting time for Ally McBeal fans. Each year the series would focus at least two or three episodes around holiday themes, with lots of seasonal parties and plenty of Christmas songs being sung by the wonderful Vonda Shepard. In Silver Bells, a smart, intelligent threesome, go to court in a bid to win the right to have a three-way marriage legally recognised. Initially dubious of the whole thing, Ally soon begins to notice similar parallels between her clients love-life and her own. Also in this episode, there is plenty of Christmas cheer to be had as we watch Richard Fish, as he busies himself organising the office Christmas party.
South Park – Hankey The Christmas Poo
Christmas has come to South Park, but Kyle feels left out because he is Jewish, while virtually everyone else is Christian, and celebrating Christmas. He tries to convince everyone of the existence of a piece of poo named Hankey, who comes to everyone at Christmas time. No one believes him, and he is locked in a mental asylum, until Mr. Hankey eventually shows himself to everyone else! Elsewhere in the episode, the town is in an uproar trying to put together the most politically correct nativity play ever.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Amends
Every 90’s teenage girl was obsessed with Buffy. It was rare for the show to do a Christmas themed episode, so this was a real treat, even though things do not go smoothly for the Sunnydale residents. Tormented by ‘The First Evil’, who poses as all of Angels victims from when he was Angelus, (the evil version of Angel), he descends into madness. ‘The First Evil’ tries to convince him to kill Buffy, but instead he decides to kill himself. Ultimately, as it always does in Buffy, everything turns out OK in the end. The episode is full of Christmas themes, right down to an unexpected snowfall in the usually sunny, Californian town of Sunnydale.
American Dad – The Most Adequate Christmas
Ever the underrated little brother of Family Guy, American Dad is another Seth MacFarlane masterpiece. The show has quite a few Christmas episodes in their arsenal, but this one is one of the best. In this episode, we see Stan return from a mission for Christmas. The family has decked the halls with boughs of holly so to speak, but Stan is unhappy with the decorations. He wants it bigger and grander. In an attempt to find the biggest and best Christmas tree, Stan ventures into the woods and is killed by a falling tree. His soul lands in limbo, and he has to fight both heaven and hell to prove it is not his time, so he can get back to his family in time for Christmas.
My So Called Life – So Called Angels
My So Called Life had a tragically short run of just one series. It introduced the world to Jared Leto and Clare Danes, and followed the life of high-schooler Angela, as she traversed the tumultuous landscape of 90’s America as an angsty, forlorn teen. In this episode, Christmas has arrived in Three Rivers, and Angela’s good friend, Rickie has spent the night on the streets, after a fight with his abusive uncle. Angela tries to find him, and is helped by a mysterious, guitar playing, homeless girl. The episode was aired on December 22nd 1994, and still stands up today as an important commentary on the true meaning of Christmas.
The Simpsons – Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire
The Simpsons turn 30 in 2019, and there have been many, many, Christmas episodes over its impressive run. The most iconic of which is the very first episode of the very first season, that aired on December 18th 1989. Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire sees the family struggle through a rather frugal Yuletide. Mr. Burns cuts Christmas bonuses, Bart gets a tattoo that has to be removed, and Homer gets a second job as a shopping mall Santa. Full of cheer and typical Simpsons good humour, this episode really set the bar for a show that would go on to (so far) span three decades, with no signs of slowing down.
Friends – The One With The Holiday Armadillo
Friends has recently enjoyed quite the comeback thanks to its recent inclusion to the Netflix library. One of its greatest episodes is The One With The Holiday Armadillo. Ross, being Jewish, wants to introduce his son Ben to Hanukkah. Ben is obsessed by all things Christmas, and when he hears that Santa has nothing to do with Hanukkah, he wants nothing to do with the Jewish tradition. In an attempt to spark an interest in his son, Ross rents the only costume they had left at a costume store: an armadillo. Posing as ‘The Holiday Armadillo’, Ross tells Ben all about Hanukkah, and the Festival Of Light. Chandler also tries to help by arriving in a Santa suit. Meanwhile, Phoebe and Monica plot to convince Rachel to move back in with Phoebe, and out of Joey’s apartment, but their attempts fail.
Family Guy – A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas
This episode from the third season of the show focuses on the Griffins as they spend Christmas at the local mall. Peter accidentally gives away all the family’s Christmas presents to a needy children’s charity. Seemingly unfazed by this, Lois insists that they all go to the mall to buy new gifts. Back at home, Brian nearly burns the house down while watching the Christmas turkey, but luckily, escapes with only minor burns. However, the interior of the house is destroyed, and all of the decorations have been burned to a crisp . Lois so far maintains her calm through all of this, but when Meg informs her that they have no more paper towels left, she finally flips and goes on a rampage throughout the town of Quahog.
Alan Partridge – Knowing Me Knowing Yule With Alan Partridge
Knowing Me Knowing Yule was the Christmas special of the BBC comedy: Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge. Alan is a fictitious television show host, who has been given his own BBC chat show. Each episode follows him through various capers, and cringe-worthy bungles. In the Christmas special, Alan has been given one last chance with his show, and has been allowed to produce his own Christmas special. Things inevitably go hilariously wrong, and there are lots of festive laughs to be had, mostly at Alan’s expense.
Futurama – Xmas Story
Futurama, Matt Groening’s other show, follows the life of Fry, who falls into a cryo-tank in the year 2000, and wakes up in the year 3000. He is a delivery boy for Planet Express, a company owned by his Great, Great, Great, Great Grandnephew, Professor Farnsworth. In this episode, Fry learns that Christmas is a very different deal in the 31st century. Santa is no longer the jolly old man in the bright red suit, he is now a 7 foot tall robot, hell bent on slaying (sleighing?!) anyone who has made his naughty list. As it turns out, because of a malfunction, everyone is on Santa’s naughty list. The Planet Express team must find a way to defeat the evil robot Santa, and save Christmas, or rather Xmas, as it is now exclusively known.
These are just a few festive goodies to get you in the mood for Holiday season! All of these episodes are readily available to stream, and would make a great ‘Christmas Eve viewing marathon’ for the whole family. There are many other amazing Christmas specials out there too. These are just some of our favourites.