With the holiday season upon us, we asked our writers to pick their favourite Christmas TV specials. Most shows have them, but which ones made our list? Read on to find out.
The Simpsons – ‘Miracle on Evergreen Terrace’
This episode comes in the ninth season and chronicles the aftermath of Bart accidentally burning down the family’s tree on Christmas Eve. A rather dark episode of an otherwise quirky and upbeat series, the black comedy may leave too sour a taste in some people’s mouths but plenty of classic gags still run throughout. Marge’s appearance on Jeopardy! to try and win back money owed is a particular highlight, along with Homer crashing a brand new car. In the end the family realises the true meaning of Christmas in a, albeit corny, narrative twist and return to the antics we know and love.
Friends – ‘The One with the Holiday Armadillo’
A great Christmas episode resonates with the viewers’ experiences of what Christmas is, and doesn’t just rehash clichés. Friends’ ‘The one with the Holiday Armadillo’ does this from the opening. Phoebe shows her friends a skull that belonged to her mother to demonstrate that even though it’s Christmas, people still die, setting the theme of dark humour from the onset. While everyone has their own festive traditions, for Ross it’s important that his son Ben includes Hanukkah as part of his celebrations as well as Christmas. Superman, Santa and the holiday Armadillo all make an appearance in this episode, making the mix of tradition and just plain weirdness (as we have all come to expect from Friends) the perfect combo for an all time favourite Christmas special.
Family Guy – ‘Road to the North Pole’
What better way to celebrate Christmas than by following Stewie and Brian in their quest to kill Santa. Of course, contrary to the majority of Christmas specials, Family Guy put a more sinister twist on the festive period. A dying Santa, inbred Elves and flesh eating Reindeer all add to this alternative take on Christmas and Santa Claus. This being said, the inclusion of catchy songs like ‘Christmas Time is Killing Us’ gives the episode an unmistakably festive feel. When you combine this with the addition of Ron MacFarlane (creator Seth’s father) as narrator, the ‘Road to the North Pole’ turns into your stereotypical Christmas tale albeit with a number of twists. For those sick of the feel good Christmas specials, this is a perfect alternative which still keeps the festive feel.
The Office – ‘Christmas Special’
The finale to this great series reunites the cast of the original series a few years after final series. The hint of a fairy-tale ending which sees every character evolve into something genuinely likable, (even the hard-to-love David Brent) is written so well the Christmas special has made many tear up. In spite of all the sarcastic remarks and quips at colleagues, David finally gets the sympathy and respect he deserves. Gervais and Merchant knew the time was right to draw the series to a close and exactly what the fans wanted – Tim and Dawn together. The Office Christmas Special is one of the rare series finales that ends it perfectly without the use of special effects, or cheesy American sitcom backing laughs. It simply delivers an ending fit for the fan base by using its traditional take on the human condition that we can all relate to. An absolute classic that cannot be missed.
Downton Abbey – ‘Christmas at Downton Abbey’
The Downton Abbey Christmas special is truly magical. It makes you want to snuggle up in a thick blanket with a nice big cup of tea and some gingerbread. Although the episode requires previous knowledge of the show, the whirlwind events that take place are worth the two season marathon. From the heartwarming display the family’s gift giving to the servants, to a snowflake covered proposal, this episode has to be one of my favourites. There is just so much packed into this 90 minute special. Another element that heightens the holiday spirit is the multitude of Christmas decorations covering the already grand estate. This Christmas special is sure to bring some holiday cheer along with a dose of drama.
Image by Katya via Flickr