The countdown to the end of the year is well and truly upon us, and with the holidays almost in sight it is time to wind down and get stuck into some long binge-watching sessions. The best way to do it? With the greatest television Christmas specials.
Ever since the invention of video streaming, Christmas fanatics and holiday makers have made it a point and tradition to revisit their most loved Christmas specials and while the slew of options is quite literally endless, (if you want to be specific, we have an excellent Netflix Movie hack here), we’ve done the hard work to bring you ICON’s top 10. From 1989 with The Simpsons through to the more modern US Sitcom of Community, get comfortable for a seasonal binge worth getting on.
As for film, we have a list for that too.
Friends – “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”
With over 10 seasons of the classic sitcom Friends, holiday specials have been a common occurrence and while there are many to choose from, none are more memorable than “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”. Throughout the episode, Ross dresses up as an Armadillo in an attempt to teach his son about the miracle and Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, while he is distracted by all-things Christmas.
Light-hearted and easy-watching, we dare you to count how many time Ross says “armadillo”.
Community – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”
Known for its quirky themes and strange character back-stories, Community has become a modern “The Office”, with a college-twist. In this television Christmas special, the live-action show has been turned into a stop-motion animation that follows the group as they attempt to help with Abed’s psychological issues.
Like every good (or bad) Christmas special, the group break out in song and dance while finding the meaning of Christmas in a magical wonderland. Bizarre? Yes. Strangely entertaining? Also yes.
How I Met Your Mother – “How Lily Stole Christmas”
Airing in 2006, How I Met Your Mother was a relatively new television show and with a bold move to make a Christmas special dedicated to the entire holiday, it was one of the greatest.
After harsh words were exchanged between Ted and Lily – over an issue that occurred many moons ago – Lily sabotages the holiday by disappearing. Whilst the episode plays on information from a previous series, it is clear, funny and a real depiction on what the holiday period can be like for us adults.
The Office – Christmas Party
Arguably, The Office’s best episodes were its holiday specials and if there is one that stands out, its “The Christmas Party”. Already a dysfunctional office, the team plan a Christmas Party that spirals out of control when Michael suggests a “Yankee Swap” with secret santa, leaving the staff to fight over the best gift of the night.
Mr Bean – “Merry Christmas Mr Bean”
If you’re anything like us, Mr Bean was first introduced during our childhood when it was aired just before the 6pm news. Like many memories from our childhood, the nostalgic British comedy became a modern day icon and while it went on to transform into a film franchise, its old-school episodes were the greatest. More specifically: “Merry Christmas Mr Bean”.
From creating shambles in the department store, involving himself in christmas carolling, stealing a christmas tree and trying to cook a turkey, Mr Bean’s strange mannerisms round out the fantastic television Christmas special.
The Big Bang Theory – “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”
Whether you love it or hate it, you must admit that the CBS network’s US sitcom The Big Bang Theory held stature in the world of television. After the series came to an end after 11 years in the game, it stands to reason that it is remembered on this list.
The Big Bang Theory has never been known for its television Christmas specials but one episode that does stand out, relates to us all. Airing in 2008, the episode explores Leonard’s obsession with gift giving etiquette after Penny gives him an “obligation” to purchase her a gift. Leonard takes to the bath store but struggles to choose the best sized gift.
Fraiser – Perspectives on Christmas
An “oldey but a goody”, Fraiser was a US sitcom that explored the happening and hysterics of Dr. Frasier Crane and his new life in Seattle on a radio talk-show. Navigating his way through family, colleagues and friends, Fraiser highlights the very real problems we all experience but with added satire.
“Perspectives on Christmas” reveals just that, as the episode explores each characters unique view on the same events that lead up to Christmas day – and its not pretty.
The Simpsons – “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”
First airing in 1989, The Simpsons continues to be more popular than ever, racking up 645 episodes to-date. Its hard to choose just one television Christmas special from its slew of legendary episodes but its the premiere episode that will forever be remembered.
As the first episode to kick off 19 years of the cartoon, “Simpson’s Roasting on an Open Fire has to be the most relatable. Dysfunctional families, rat-bag children and high expectations are the main themes of the original favourite.
Will & Grace – “All About Christmas Eve”
Considered one of the most successful television series with gay principal characters during its original run, Will & Grace was so missed, it returned in 2017. Exploring the relationship between best friends Will, a corporate lawyer, and Grace, an interior decorator, the series is a comedic representation of friends living together in New York.
After Grace moves out to live with her new husband, Will feels left out when his friend must choose between the Leo and he for a concert of the “Nutcracker”. While he spends the evening with his two avant-garde friends, Karen and Jack, Will is forced to decide between a childhood favourite or a night of luxury.
Seinfeld – “The Pick”
Following four single friends in New York City, Seinfeld is another late ’80s series that continues to be popular today.
Last but not least, Seinfeld’s “The Pick” has understandably been one of the highlight television Christmas specials of the show. “The Pick” highlights the issues with sending out mass Christmas cards as Elaine accidentally reveals too much cleavage on her own one. Along with Jerry’s relationship problems and Kramer being asked to pose for risqué photoshoot, its hysterics will have you addicted.