by Matthew Thompson
While there are quite a few great Halloween and Thanksgiving-themed TV episodes, neither holiday can compete with the sheer amount of quality Christmas episodes television has on offer. It was honestly tough to know where to start. So for this blog, I shied away from TV series that featured in October and November’s holiday posts (with one notable exception I just had to include) and I decided to stick to episodes within larger series as opposed to Christmas Specials (sorry Charlie Brown, Rudolph and the Grinch, I still love you guys too). Without further ado, here are five must-see Christmas-themed TV episodes.
The O.C. “The Best Chrismukkah Ever”
“It’s the new holiday Ryan, and it’s sweeping the nation.” Seth Cohen didn’t create Chrismukkah, but he did help popularize the term in this first season episode of The O.C. With a Christian mother and a Jewish father, Seth decided to combine Christmas and Hanukkah to create a super holiday featuring eight days of presents and one more day with many presents. In doing so, he gave us viewers a new holiday TV classic. Along with it came Seth Cohen Starter packs, Jesus and Moses teaming up, Over the Top references, and of course Rachel Bilson in a Wonder Woman costume. All four seasons of The O.C. featured a Chrismukkah-themed episode, but the first has always been my favorite.
Seinfeld “The Strike”
Long before The O.C. gave us Chrismukkah, Seinfeld gifted us Festivus. In “The Strike,” Kramer ends up resurrecting Festivus, the long dormant alternative holiday created by Frank Costanza in response to the commercialism of Christmas. The crazy Festivus traditions from the aluminum pole to the “Airing of Grievances” are simply unforgettable and help to create one of television’s most memorable holiday episodes. If Festivus wasn’t enough, this episode had George’s hilarious Human Fund scam, Jerry’s “two-face” girlfriend, and Kramer returning to work after the end of a 12-year long strike. If you somehow haven’t witnessed the joyous events of Festivus dinner at the Costanza household, you need to fix that by watching “The Strike” as soon as possible.
30 Rock “Ludachristmas”
Two plotlines dominate 30 Rock’s first Christmas-themed outing. In one, Jack is taken in by the loving and supporting nature of Liz’s family that is in such stark contrast to his own. Jack’s mother isn’t buying it and seeks to bring out the worst in the Lemons. This story is bolstered by some great guest spots including the late great Elaine Stritch reprising her role as Jack’s patronizing mother Colleen and Andy Richter as Liz’s brother who has a disorder that causes him to constantly think it is the same day in 1985 over and over. Tapping into 30 Rock’s more absurd side is the cast and crew’s annual Ludachristmas party. There are too many great gags here to recount, but it climaxes with Tracy Jordan running out of the building with an axe and the events that lead to this are too funny to miss. It all adds up to 30 Rock knocking it out of the park with their first festive holiday episode that aired during its second season.
Veronica Mars “An Echolls Family Christmas”
Veronica Mars delivered a different kind of Christmas episode during its freshman season. This is mainly due to Keith Mars taking on a case dealing with Aaron Echolls’ stalker. It leads to a dark ending with violence juxtaposed against the backdrop of a holiday party as Christmas carolers sing throughout the scene. While it may not be what everyone is looking for in a holiday episode, it does deliver exactly what fans of Veronica Mars look for in an episode of the show which makes this one of the series’ best. Dark fits in VM’s noir aesthetic. And the cliffhanger ending as well as Veronica’s confrontation with Jake Kane shows the series deftness at mixing in serialized storytelling with weekly plots. Veronica’s case dealing with money stolen at some classmates’ poker game is also a winner delivering plenty of wit and one-liners from Veronica, Logan and Weevil along with some stellar sleuthing from everyone’s favorite high school detective. It isn’t the merriest Christmas, but that feels right for one spent in Neptune.
The X-Files “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”
Another alternative to the usual Christmas special is The X-Files sixth season episode “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas.” When Mulder drags Scully out on Christmas Eve to investigate a haunted house, they end up trapped inside and tormented by the apparitions of a couple who used to own the place. Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin are great as the ghostly pair who use psychological tricks in an attempt to scare our FBI leads into sharing a similar fate to them. This episode offers a unique spin on the Christmas episode by tacking the issues of loneliness that can often accompany the holiday season for many out there. While this spooky tale strays from the usual holiday fare, it ends with a nice moment between Mulder and Scully that will help put a smile on your face. Those looking for a Christmas episode with an odd twist would do well to track down this fantastic episode of The X-Files.
While all of these are excellent, they barely scratch the surface of what great episodes television has to offer for Christmas and the other December holidays. I already have quite a few in mind for next year’s post. Be sure to let me know some of your favorites in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a happy holiday season!