Originally this started out as a list of any Christmas specials but after the feedback suggested that people mainly remember the sitcoms I thought I’d concentrate on those. So without further ado here is my list of Top 10 Christmas Sitcom Episodes.
10. The Good Life
Episode: It’s Silly But It’s Fun
Original Airdate: 26th December, 1977
What Happened: Tom and Barbara Good enjoyed a non-commercialised Christmas which fit in with their self-sufficient lifestyle however they found themselves joined by snooty middle class neighbours Margot and Jerry after Christmas wasn’t delivered to them. Throughout the day Margot and Jerry learnt that they didn’t need a lot of food and fancy gifts to enjoy the holiday season just good friends and slightly naughty crackers.
Why it’s on the List: I think nostalgia played a big part in this episode’s inclusion as I remembered it as something that always repeated on BBC2 at this time of year alongside Porridge and Are You Being Served? I also enjoy the chemistry between the two leads especially Felicity Kendal’s slightly flirty nature with Paul Eddington and Richard Briers. Everybody also seems to be having a thoroughly good time which translates well to those watching it. Basically as the episode’s title suggests it is very silly but it’s incredibly fun to watch.
9. Family Guy
Episode: A Very Special Family Guy Merry Freakin’ Christmas
Original Airdate: 21st December, 2001
What Happened: Predictably Peter Griffin ruins Christmas by giving all their presents to charity and later Brian starts a fire and sees the TV and dinner ruined in the house and eventually sees Lois go completely crazy and for the first time have a go at her numbskull family. Also Stewie starts a feud with Santa and there are multiple scenes from the notorious festive film Kiss Saves Santa.
Why it’s on the List: I have to say I was a big fan of Family Guy back in the day before it was cancelled the second time and the episodes actually had some stories behind them. This is a case in point as the character of Lois, usually someone who is quite placid, goes completely crazy and tells Peter what she really thinks of him. The final scenes in which Lois finally snaps are hilarious especially when she throws It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey off a bridge. The subplot involving Stewie is also loving surreal as he has visions of a violent Santa and there is also the great Kiss Saves Santa segments which for some are the most remembered parts of this episode.
8. The Office (US)
Episode: Christmas Party
Original Airdate: 6th December, 2005
What Happened: Back in the days before Jim and Pam were married he was still trying to tell her how he felt and made her a very personal present a teapot filled with lots of trinkets and was able to give it to her as part of the office’s Secret Santa scheme. However after Michael Scott goes against the rules and buys an ipod for Ryan he introduces a wildcard Secret Santa in which gifts could be swapped and meaning that Pam might not get Jim’s present.
Why it’s on the List: As there seemed to be an argument on my Facebook group about which version of The Office should be included on the list I put an episode from both here. I am always singing the praises of the American Office, however in the past couple of years it has gone downhill, due to it being able to use the ensemble cast to a greater degree than its British equivalent. It was hard to pick a Christmas special but I went with this one from the Second Season as it has the sweet exchanges between Pam and Jim and the examples of how boss Michael Scott constantly changed the rules to try and garner popularity with his employees. Very funny and very sweet this episode demonstrates what a sitcom Christmas episode should look like.
7. Alan Partridge
Episode: Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
Original Airdate: 29th December, 1995
What Happened: When Alan Partridge was still a chat show host and had his popular ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ he decided to throw a Christmas special in a mock-up of his front room and inviting the commissioning editor of the BBC to try and get a Christmas special. The problem was that Alan invited a lot of guests who were bound to cause chaos including a man in a wheelchair and a chef who was constantly spouting innuendos about stuffing the turkey obviously things were bound to go wrong and the final scenes prove that.
Why it’s on the List: For anybody who only came to Steve Coogan’s flawed presenter in I’m Alan Partridge this episode shows his downfall from the star of Knowing Me, Knowing You and The Day Today to an early morning regional DJ who had an addiction to Toblerones. Coogan is brilliant here as his regular supporting cast and the separate sections work very well to the overall plot that is Partridge is desperate to continue to work as a presenter as it is the thing that defines him the most but we the audience know that he’s not very good at his job and that this Christmas Special proves it as his unstable nature finally erupts.
Episode: The One with the Holiday Armadillo
Original Airdate: 14th December, 2000
What Happened: Ross got to spend Christmas with his son Ben after Ben’s lesbian mothers were away for the holidays. He wants to teach Ben about the Hanukah as he’s unaware of his Jewish heritage however when he wants to dress as Santa to give him this information he ends up with an Armadillo costume and invents the Jewish Holiday Armadillo. Things are complicated when Chandler appears as Santa undermining Ross’ wishes as regards his son. Also in this episode Phoebe gives Joey a cavalcade of disastrous gifts in order to make sure that Rachel moves back in with her once their apartment is ready.
Why it’s on the List: I think Friends had to make an appearance here as it’s such a popular show thanks to E4′s endless repeats. Although there are other memorable Christmas episodes I the think the final scenes with Ross dressed as the armadillo make this their best holiday special. Full of jokes and with a good story behind it, The Holiday Armadillo is another example of a great Christmas episode and every time I see Joey dressed as Superman I can’t stop laughing.
Episode: Blackadder’s Christmas Carol
Original Airdate: 23rd December, 1988
What Happened: In a twist on the Blackadder formula, Edmund is a lovely man who gives away all of his money and goods to what he sees as the more needy. He is visited by Robbie Coltrane’s bumbling Christmas Spirit who is looking for someone else but Blackadder asks to see his dastardly relatives and the underhanded tricks that they pulled during Christmas he then discovers that if he continues to be good his future seems him being a servant to the hapless Baldrick. So inevitably the finish sees him end up like all the Blackadders insulting and manipulative.
Why it’s on the List: I honestly think anybody who doesn’t like Blackadder isn’t worth knowing. This was a brilliant twist on the character of Blackadder someone who is completely different from his ancestors there. There are some good period hints to the Victorian era and an extremely well cast Miriam Margolyes as the queen herself. There are also some treats for fans as characters from Blackadder II and the Third return in Edmund’s visions and there is an extra treat of a sci-fi Blackadder which most fans enjoyed. A lot of us know the story of a Christmas Carol but as always Blackadder decided to turn on its head and Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson relished the challenge of bringing their characters into a new historical period.
4. The Royle Family
Episode: Christmas Special
Original Airdate: 25th December, 1999
What Happened: This episode saw the Royles slouched in front of the TV after they’d had their Christmas dinner occasionally munching on Roses and Quality Street. The story involved Anthony going off to Emma’s house to have a second dinner and an annoyed Barbara listening to criticisms about her turkey. The episode ends with Denise’s waters breaking in the bathroom as she prepares to be a mother.
Why it’s on the List: This episode is the one on the list which best mirrors most of our family Christmases, who doesn’t collapse in front of the telly following large helpings of turkey and sprouts. The half-eaten tins of chocolates and the eat-me-dates are offered scattered across the living rooms as people go to look at the Christmas Radio Times to see if there’s anything good on. It’s a testament to the writing of Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne that they are able to balance well-observed family life, natural humour and the heart-warming scenes that feature during Denise’s labour which is even able to show the usually ghastly Jim in a good light. Everybody remembers some of Jim’s lines and Nana’s slightly tipsy outbursts following one too many Snowballs.
3. The Simpsons
Episode: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Original Airdate: 17th December, 1989
What Happened: In this, the first ever episode of the classic cartoon, Bart causes an incident that forces Marge to pay out the back-up Christmas fund and wait for Homer’s bonus to pay for all the presents however when he doesn’t receive one he is forced to work as a department store Santa although he ultimately makes no money from this he ultimately is able to bring home the best present to his family – a new dog in Santa’s Little Helper.
Why it’s on the List: Not only is it the first Simpsons episode but it is also one of their best Christmas specials, although I do enjoy the one with Gary Coleman, like some of the others it looks at what families have to deal with at Christmas including needy kids, horrible in-laws and the desire to please your loved ones. I feel the Christmas period was the perfect time to introduce the Simpsons we got to know the stupid Homer, the mischievous Bart and the constantly worrying Marge attributes that are all amplified during these holidays. As well as the main plot we got to see Bart misbehaving at the school concert and the final sing-a-long of a very different version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.
2. The Office (UK)
Episode: Christmas Special Part 2
Original Airdate: 27th December, 2003
What Happened: For many The Office is the best British sitcom, not for me though, and this final two-parter bought all the characters together with a now fired David Brent still turning up at his old workplace while trying to carve out a new career as a minor celebrity. Meanwhile Dawn’s return to the UK is paid for by the documentary crew to engineer a reunion with Tim and give possible hope to fans of the show of the two finally getting together. In this second episode there were some surprises as David found love then told his long-time friend/foe Chris Finch to F-off before finally Dawn broke up with horrible fiancée Lee and passionately kiss Tim letting the show go out on a major high.
Why it’s on the List: As previously mentioned I was never a big fan of The Office however I thought this final Christmas Special was possibly the best episode of the programme as it was able to wrap up multiple stories in a crowd-pleasing way. As well as bringing the Tim-Dawn kiss and the David Brent’s redemption, Gervais and Merchant also gave us several witty observations of the stereotypical office Christmas Party. So we had the terribly cheesy DJ in Keith, the one woman longing to hook up with a co-worker only to see him with someone else and the many drunken incidents that occur throughout. All in all a well-observed Christms episode and a good way to end a popular sitcom.
1. Father Ted
Episode: A Christmassy Ted
Original Airdate: 24th December, 1996
What Happened: After Ted successfully helps a multitude of priests escape from Ireland’s biggest lingerie department without being spotted Bishop Brennan awards him with the prestigious Golden Cleric Award. However after he is announced as the winner a mysterious priest, claiming to be from Ted’s pasts, rocks up at Craggy Island Parochial House with evil intentions. Meanwhile Mrs Doyle is offended when she receives a teasmaid as a present.
Why it’s on the list: I have to say for that Great Escape/War Film parody alone it should be number one on the list but there’s much more to this episode than that. Father Ted is a series that, in my opinion, never produced a bad episode but A Christmassy Ted has to be one of the highlights for a number of reasons. Firstly for the character’s reactions to Christmas with Mrs Doyle desperate to hang up all the Christmas lights but giving herself an injury to Dougal’s youthful enthusiasm and many hints to Ted about the present he wants to receive. Secondly the story is well constructed from the opening through to The Golden Cleric Award and finally Mrs Doyle’s speech about why she likes making tea. The main reason why it’s at number one in the list is that it is the one Christmas special that I have to watch every year as it doesn’t seem like Christmas until I’ve seen it.
Originally published on boob.ie