Ok, maybe not top eight, but certainly eight totally fun holiday episodes to watch this time of year!
“Amends” – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
For a show whose premise was basically seven seasons of Halloween, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s single attempt at a Christmas episode is one of my favorites in the whole series. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of spookiness creeping around amongst the holiday “cheer.” Angel is haunted by the First Evil (the later big bad of the final season) in the form of the more recently dead Jenny Calendar and memories of his past escapades as a souless vampire and, prior to that, as a shitty soul-having human. The First attempts to convince Angel to knock his brooding boots with Buffy, a good time that would inevitably lead to him losing his soul. Having a difficult time resisting the temptation, Angel decides to kill himself by making friends with Mr. Sunlight rather than succumbing to the demon inside him. The most intense moment of the episode occurs when Angel grabs a pleading Buffy and hopelessly asks, “Am I a thing worth saving, huh? Am I a righteous man?” Santa thinks so, Angel. Luckily, as the sun rises we hear a weather report announcing that a freak snow storm magically hit Sunnydale (that’s the Sunnydale in Southern California) blocking out any vampire-dusting light. Apparently the Powers that Be have decided that the world didn’t quite want Angel gone yet. The couple walks through the snow together hand in hand. Holiday cheer up the yang, am I right?
“The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis” – The Big Bang Theory
I have to admit that I don’t watch too much Big Bang Theory, but this episode is certainly my favorite and is definitely up there when it comes to holiday themed episodes. I don’t remember what happens with the other nerds on the show because the best story arc revolves around Penny mentioning she got Sheldon a gift. Naturally, Sheldon feels threatened by such an imposition of social norms and buys several gift baskets of various sizes so as to be completely prepared to counteract any gift level Penny may throw at him. The result: dude, I can’t even explain what happens or why it’s so funny. Happy Holidays
“Festivus” – Seinfeld
It’s a Festivus for the rest of us. Tired of the commercialism of more traditional holidays? Or how would you like to take a vacation just a few days before December 25th? Well then my friends, I may have just found the holiday for you! With traditions like the “Airing of Grievances” in which everyone gets the opportunity to tell attendees at the Festivus table how each has disappointed him during the year, and the “Feats of Strength” where the night’s not over until you wrestle the host to the floor, Festivus is a holiday everyone should experience once. Barring that, just check out the classic episode and dream of your very own Festivus aluminum pole
“You Better Watch Out” – Married with Children
I’m not going to lie, this show has a special place in my heart for it’s ability to always do holiday episodes right. That hard luck family from the 90’s that wasn’t on Rosanne experience a Christmas miracle when the Lakeside mall Santa, who had been scheduled to parachute in to a crowd of eager shoppers, misses his mark and crashes in to the Bundy lawn, dead as a doornail. That alone should make this episode a classic for the whole family.
“Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo” – South Park
This episode is brilliant on so many levels and depressing on the one where you remember how fucking amazing South Park used to be. I honestly don’t know where to start, so let’s just jump into the music. “A Lonely Jew on Christmas” and “Kyle’s Mom’s a Bitch” were instant classics the second you heard them. Plus, in an episode revolving around a fiber-preaching turd in a Santa hat, we get to see religious sensitivity and political correctness through the innocent eyes of children. This is also the only episode on the list where, not only is that Jesus guy mentioned, but actually appears on the day of his birth. It’s not actually a small amount of depth and satire crammed in to a 22 minute long Christmas special, which (by the way Joss Whedon) manages to make you think without needing to make you cry.
“Pilot” – Six Feet Under
What, you didn’t think I could out-holiday-morbid Buffy? Silly mortals. I almost forgot that the episode that started one of the best series that I have ever seen was not your average Charlie Brown Christmas. The Fisher clan attempts to gather for obligatory family time in the funeral home/family manse. By attempt I mean that Claire, the rebellious red-headed daughter, goes off to do some meth, David (the secretly gay Michael C. Hall) tries to spend time with his boyfriend, and Nate, the eldest, banging some chick in an airport supply closet while waiting to get picked up by his father. And where is the lucky patriarch of such doting children? Well on his way to pick up Nate, Nathaniel Fischer gets hit by a bus and dies. His ghost-type things spends the rest of the episode (and series) visiting his stunned children and mostly just fucking with them. Really, egg nog for all who can get through it.
“Christmas with the Joker” – Batman: The Animated Series
Any BtAS fans here? Stupid question. Who else would visit this weird and geeky corner of the Internet? That kind of makes a long plot summary a little unnecessary, so let’s reminisce together. Remember when the Joker busted out of Arkham Asylum on a Christmas Tree Rocket? Classic. Or when he (maybe thankfully) commandeered the broadcast of It’s a Wonderful Life in order to host his own variety Christmas Spectacular of kidnapping, explosions, and general mayhem? How festive. I think my favorite part of the episode occurs when Scrooge-y Batman finally gets what’s coming to him: a spring loaded pie. That Joker, what a kidder.
“The Christmas Invasion” – Doctor Who
Santa forgive me, I don’t watch Doctor Who. Don’t worry non-Whovians, this sounds nuts to me too. Marking the first full-episode appearance of Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, the episode deals with the post-regeneration effects a Time Lord suffers through while London is under attack by the Sycorax during Christmas. The Doctor spends half the episode being guarded by Rose Tyler, her mother Jackie, and ex-boyfriend Mickey, before being energized by a spilled cup of tea and challenging the Sycorax leader to a sword fight to decide the Earth’s fate. This is also the first time we see his iconic brown duster, suit, and Converse as he joins Rose for Christmas dinner.