The best holiday episodes to get you in the festive zone
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
The weeks leading up to December 24 are brutal. The sun sets at 3 pm; everyone’s either getting sick, currently sick, or recovering from being sick; your favourite student newspaper goes on hiatus until the New Year.
You’re already looking for excuses to stay home, so why not curl up to some festive eye candy of the televised variety? Here is a personally curated list of the most festive Christmas episodes to ever grace the small screen.
“Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” Community
Season 2, Episode 11
In an ensemble cast of memorable characters, Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) was one of Community’s finest. The self-aware pop-culture fanboy perpetually called the sitcom’s plot devices as he saw them, and often acted as an audience surrogate. Community’s first Christmas episode plays into all the tropes: Christmas carols, Claymation, a character searching for the “meaning of Christmas,” as vague a quest as it is. Pudi’s voice performance knocks it out of the park, and in all the meta-Christmas episode referencing, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” manages to squeeze out a lot of heart and originality. I’d also like to recognize Community for being the only show to secure two spots on this list, which leads me to…
“Regional Holiday Music,” Community
Season 3, Episode 10
Look, any follow-up to season two’s Claymation Christmas episode was always going to be a bit of a letdown, but “Regional Holiday Music” is still a fine piece of holiday entertainment. In a nod to the real-life timeslot competition between Community and then-ratings juggernaut Glee, the gang gets gradually roped into the world of hokey glee clubs—and just in time for the Christmas pageant! The episode riffs on plenty of traditional Christmas songs, and a few are even surprisingly listenable. (As a bonus, you get a few breaks of Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino rapping via the delightful “Jehovah’s Most Secret Witness.”) If there had to a follow-up to “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” I’m glad it was this one.
“No-Ho-Ho,” Happy Endings
Season 3, Episode 7
This short-lived sitcom had many highlights, but the third season’s “No-Ho-Ho” is a classic. In the opening scene, Jane’s (Eliza Coupe) ID is outted as fake, which leads to the truth bomb: her birthday isn’t July 16, but rather December 25. The rest of the gang attempts to give Jane one birthday that isn’t overshadowed by the tinsel-decked elephant in the room, and plenty of wackiness ensues. The star of “No-Ho-Ho,” however, is Hiphop Santa—a pop-and-locking take on the animatronic abominations that typically invade our shelves this time of year. Seriously, for a prop that was only in two scenes, there are a surprising number of webpages dedicated to the question of where one can buy a Hiphop Santa. (Unfortunately, you can’t.)
“Christmas Party,” The Office
Season 2, Episode 10
After a bumpy first season, The Office enjoyed a sophomore triumph, including the wonderfully cringy “Christmas Party.” There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, from the disastrous Yankee Swap to the titular booze-soaked Christmas party, but like any effective holiday episode, it sneaks in some geniality—primarily thanks to Jim’s (John Krasinski) Secret Santa gift for then crush and future wife, Pam (Jenna Fischer).
Season 5, Episode 9
The early 2000s were an experimental time for the superhero genre, and I’m sure 90 percent of Smallville is unwatchable at this point in time. Season five experienced a creative resurgence as the showrunners prepared to end the series, and that included the would-be villain Lex Luthor finally embracing his destiny. “Lexmas” positions itself as an It’s a Wonderful Life clone, with Luthor experiencing an alternate reality where he’s married, has kids, and is renowned for his generosity. If you know anything about Superman, then you know this all goes to shit fairly quickly, and the episode ends on one of the series’ darkest notes. But hey, what’s the winter solstice without some darkness?
“Citizen Knope,” Parks and Recreation
Season 4, Episode 10
Leave it to Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope to find comedy and warmth in something like a temporary employee suspension. The episode is peppered with great moments of Knope showering even acquaintances with thoughtful gifts, and the rest of the Parks department have had it, setting out to finally out-do her. The end result—a gingerbread replica of the office, complete with marshmallow Ron Swanson—isn’t even the sweetest part, as “Citizen Knope” ends with everyone joining her campaign for city council. If neither of those things can melt your icy heart, then nothing will.
“White Christmas,” Black Mirror
Season 2, Episode 4
I’m aware the shows on this list lean heavily towards the comedic angle, but Black Mirror’s stab at a Christmas episode earns its place for multiple reasons. For starters, even for a Black Mirror episode, it’s an impressive weaving of multiple storylines, all the way to its chilling climax. The episode also gives us a healthy helping of Jon Hamm, who plays the enigmatic and plotting Matthew Trent. You also don’t need any previous Black Mirror experience to enjoy it, as “White Christmas” is a stand-alone story. At 73 minutes, it’s more of a time commitment than the other Christmas episodes on this list, but if you can binge Hallmark Christmas movies like they’re mini candy canes, why not a single mindbender like “White Christmas”?
“Xmas Story,” Futurama
Season 2, Episode 8
Remember Futurama? I’m talking about the show, and not the countless memes and internet references that probably forget what they’re even referencing. “Xmas Story” is full of holiday digs, from the discontinuation of the term “Christmas” to the extinction of pine trees. Rampaging robotic Santa Claus is both a highlight and also one of the funniest iterations of ol’ St. Nick that will ever exist.
The entirety of Dimension 20: The Unsleeping City
This is cheating, but it’s my article, so I’m calling the shots. Dimension 20 is a terrific show that is about tabletop-based roleplaying games, and the latest season takes place in a fictional version of New York City. I’m including The Unsleeping City on my list because the majority of the season takes place in the days leading up to Christmas, and it leans into the setting to a joyful degree. Just to give you one example: in the second episode, the characters face off against a mob of deformed mutant Santas, aka the annual SantaCon pub crawl that notoriously fills the streets with red-and-white-clad Kris Kringles. The Unsleeping City was also released this past summer, so the festive spirit in-game never matched the blistering temperatures outside. Give this season of television the viewing it deserves and watch it in the days leading up to Christmas.