in Television

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas (Especially With These Ten Episodes)

It’s that time of the year again, so put on your most terrifically ugly sweater, and let’s celebrate by watching our fictional counterparts celebrate. (Because who needs a real Christmas, when you can just watch one?)

“The Best Chrismukkah Ever,” The O.C.

The O.C. has a few legacies, but none more longstanding than the popularized holiday-term ‘Chrismukkah.’ Seth’s a son of Newport with a newpsie, Protestant mother, and a public-defending, Jewish father. And when you combine the two, you only could get Chrismukkah, a beautiful interfaith holiday that perfectly represents Seth and Ryan and how they fit into Orange County (aka how they really don’t). It’s a little bit confusing, way too much, and yet so very, very right. “It’s eight days of presents followed by one day of many, MANY presents.” The O.C. had four Christmas episodes, but none come close to the first season’s “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” or the Cohen Christmas card that came out of it.

“Twas The Night Before Christmas… Or Twas It,” Trophy Wife

I thought it might have been “The Date”, but no, instead this is the perfect episode of Trophy Wife to show your friends. Seriously, get your friends into this show. It’s funny, with realistic relationships between the three female leads (that’s practically revolutionary), and Bradley Whitford, Michaela Watkins, Marcia Gay Harden and Malin Akerman all get drunk and sing “I Saw The Sign” together. I don’t know what more you could want. Bradley Whitford climbing on the roof in his quest to keep the dream of (drunk) Santa alive, perhaps? Don’t worry, Trophy Wife‘s got it covered. Just watch and fall in love with Trophy Wife this Christmas.

“Amends,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer

All of Buffy’s third season had been leading up to to this moment. Angel had been brought back from the dead, for seemingly no reason, and had been meandering about – albeit cautiously – ever since. In “Amends,” this all comes to a head. Angel starts to have haunting dreams telling him to murder Buffy, overseen by innocents that he killed in his soul-less form, including Giles’ former love, Jenny Calender. So by the end of the episode, to get away from the pain, Angel decides to kill himself. “Am I a thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man?” he asks Buffy. And finally, she snaps, calling out Angel’s pity party. Buffy gets angry in her desperation, and it’s a heartbreaking yet hopeful scene, full of vindication for Buffy and realizations for Angel. Realizations that will, by the end of the season, lead to the creation of Angel’s spin-off show. Angel’s a vampire cursed with a soul, looking to redeem himself. And in “Amends,” the combination of Christmas fate and Buffy’s strength show him this. It’s not exactly jolly, but it’s a new beginning, and a fitting goodbye to that half of the season.

“The Perfect Christmas,” Miranda

Speaking of goodbyes, Miranda’s “The Perfect Christmas” finishes off the second series of her sitcom, and provides the perfect setting for forgiveness and forced togetherness for Miranda and Gary after their big blow out in series two’s “Just Act Normal” episode. Miranda and her friends plan on having their own Christmas – without her embarrassing mother and father – before it goes all horribly wrong. “She wouldn’t confiscate Christmas, would she? I mean, all the food and the pressies. And the food and the music and the food. And the food and the fires. And the food and the food. And the food.” Miranda takes all of the best parts of a modern, secular Christmas in Britain, and ties it up in one thirty-minute episode. (Just add food.)

“How Lily Stole Christmas,” How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother is at its best (and boy can it go the other way) when it hits the emotional notes that it’s become known for. The reason I stay with HIMYM is because, honestly, I can’t stop myself from caring about the characters. And at Christmas, the emotions are high and HIMYM usually gets it pretty damn right. Holiday seasons are feasts for sitcoms, full of material, and HIMYM shows us this best through “How Lily Stole Christmas,” “False Positive,” and “Symphony of Illumination.” HIMYM, to many, is a show about Barney and his antics. But really, it’s a show about a man looking back on his youth and the lessons that he learned. “I decided to spend Christmas in Manhattan, celebrating with my other family.” And in these three episodes, HIMYM doesn’t let itself forget that, showing Ted centering the group in the way that he has done since day one.

“Ludachristmas,” 30 Rock

Instead of just Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy sharing Christmas, in “Ludachristmas,” we get to see the Lemons and Jack celebrating the holiday season. It’s a fun episode that lets Liz Lemon be a successful human being in the eyes of her family – well, for a little bit – and most importantly, lets us see Liz and Jack in matching Christmas sweaters. Everything takes a downturn for Liz at the end, but it wouldn’t be 30 Rock – or Christmas – if it didn’t.

“The Christmas Invasion,” Doctor Who

Doctor Who’s reinvention created a new tradition for the show: Christmas day special episodes. Some specials have certainly been better than others (“others” being that horrendous episode with Kylie Minogue) but there’s a lot of good things in Doctor Who’s Christmas episodes, with the beginning and ending of David Tennant’s run; the introduction of Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble (the woman who refused to travel with him, and then promised to never leave), and, of course, airing this year, the introduction of Peter Capaldi. Doctor Who has managed, over the last nine years, to become synonymous with Christmas for fans. Something very special indeed.

“Christmas Party Sex Trap,” The Mindy Project

It’s a newbie, but because of Chris Messina’s secret Santa present (those dance moves!!!!!!) “Christmas Party Sex Trap” has to be something you make time for these holidays. It’s one of the best – if not the best – episodes of The Mindy Project to date, and if you don’t watch Danny dancing to Aaliyah’s “Try Again and just feel things, then I don’t think you deserve to celebrate Christmas at all.

Christmas Specials (UK)/”Christmas Party” (US), The Office

When The Office made a move from the UK to the US, the main change resided in the office’s manager, Michael Scott. He was just as embarrassing as David Brent (which can be seen in “Christmas Party,” where Michael demands a yankee swap of the secret Santa presents they’ve all gifted each other), but ended up possessing a lot more heart. So this Christmas, take your awkward comedy with a side of cold reality in The Office UK’s specials, or have it served up with a little more heart in the US’s, “Christmas Party.” Either way, it’s a lot of fun, especially in the UK’s “Episode Two” (which served as the series finale) where a little bit of hope is finally allowed to grow in Slough.

“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” Community

Community’s always been a show that runs with concepts, rather than following any sort of television formula, and so Christmas with Greendale Community College is always something exciting and innovative. But the best of the three (“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”) is one of the only episodes on this list that truly examines Christmas, and even understand what the hell it stands for. As Abed tells us: “The meaning of Christmas is that it has meaning. And it can mean whatever we want it to.”

And to me, Christmas means being warm, well-fed, around friends and family, and supplied with plenty of nice things to watch. Happy holidays and many happy viewings, friends.