Christmas is a special time of year. Instead of just lounging around, having a marathon of our favorite TV shows, we get to lounge around and watch Christmas specials of our favorite TV shows. In the spirit of the season, here is my second installment of some of some of TV’s merriest episodes.
“Buy me Bonestorm or go to Hell!” That’s the marketing pitch that gets Bart obsessed with the latest video game to take Springfield’s kids by storm. After Marge refuses to buy him the ultra-violent game for Christmas, and Milhouse won’t share his copy, Bart resorts to some drastic measures to get it under his tree. The show ends with one of the more touching moments in the show’s long history.
If you aren’t watching HBO’s The Leftovers, you should be. For those unaware of the premise, the show is set three years after an unexplained phenomena caused 2% of the world’s population to disappear, and feature characters trying to deal with the aftermath of these vanishings. The show is suitably bleak, and this Christmas themed episode is no different, as police chief Kevin Garvey is tasked with finding a baby Jesus doll stolen from a manger scene, while his estranged wife, now a member of a cult called the Guilty remnant, slaps him with divorce papers. Admittedly, this isn’t the most cheerful episode on this list, but it’s very well acted and written, and I’ll take any opportunity I can to let people know this show exists.
In our second Simpsons entry on this list, the church is destroyed after Homer accidentally launches a rocket into it (It makes sense in context). The church accepts corporate sponsorship to help rebuild, leading Lisa to abandon her faith. She becomes enamored with Buddhism after a chance meeting with Richard Gere, but he newfound spirituality leaves her conflicted over whether she can still celebrate Christmas with her family. This leads to Homer and Marge to try and bribe her with Christmas presents. There are a lot of great Christmas episodes in the Simpsons canon, and this one ranks among the best.
7) The Office: “Secret Santa”
It’s another cringe-worthy Christmas at Dunder Mifflin. After finding out that Phyllis was selected to be the office Santa over him, Michael tries to go over her head by dressing as Jesus instead. The party’s mood is soured when its discovered the company is going out of business, and Andy’s “12 Days of Christmas” themed gift for Erin goes awry when she is attacked by birds.
No one in the Bluth family is feeling very merry: George Michael is forced to rebuild the family banana stand (following the annual tradition of the stand getting trashed), GOB insults everyone at his office, and then threatens to fire them after an impromptu roasting at the company Christmas party, and Lucille plans to fend off potential attackers by blowing and poking them (There’s got to be a better way to say that).None of the Bluths seem to realize just how inappropriate “Afternoon Delight” is for family karaoke.
5)The Simpsons: “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace”
This is the last Simpsons episode on the list, I swear! After Bart burns down the family tree, he tries to bury the evidence and pin its disappearance on a burglar. Springfield rallies to raise money for the family, leaving Bart wracked with guilt. This episode also features a guest appearance by Alex Trebek, and one of Homer’s most “craptacular” efforts at decorating the house.
4)King of the Hill: “The Father, The Son, and J.C.”
Hank Hill tries not to let his father ruin the holidays. The tension between him and Cotton comes to a head after Hank tells him he hates him. Bobby tries to bring an end to the dysfunction with little help from the one and only JC: Jimmy Carter! King of the Hill always had a much more realistic feel to it compared to its other Fox Animation counterparts, and this episode, both funny and heartwarming, is another prime example of what made the show so unique.
It’s an American Dad twist on Dicken’s Christmas Carol: What starts as a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past (voiced by Lisa Kudrow) turns into a series of wacky mishaps, eventually leading the ultra-conservative Stan Smith to attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan in order to save Christmas. Meanwhile, a past version of Roger attempts to become the biggest name in disco music.
2)South Park: “A Woodland Critter Christmas”
When Stan Marsh comes across a group of cutesy critters with creative names (Including Beavery the Beaver and Chickadeey the Chickadee) decorating a Christmas tree, it seems like South Park is actually attempting a cheesy, schmaltzy Christmas special. It’s soon discovered the woodland critters are not what they seem to be, leading to one of the darkest outings in the show’s history.
I lied. There are just too many great Simpsons Christmas episodes to leave off this list. The show may have dipped in quality in recent years, but this special from 2011 is just as good as some the show’s all time classics. This episode takes a look into the a future where Bart and Lisa are now parents, while Maggie is expecting a baby of her own. The now grown up Simpsons children struggle to connect with their own families at Christmas time, in one of the show’s most touching episodes. Originally planned to be The Simpsons’ series finale, it also proves the show can still be funny after over 25 years.