It doesn’t matter what VH1 is counting down. It could be “40 Greatest Reggaeton Songs” or “100 Most Forgettable Films of the 1970s.” Whatever the subject, I WILL cancel any foreseeable plans, attach myself to my couch, and not relocate until I’ve seen Godfrey and Michael Ian Black comment on every single thing on the list until I find out what number one is. Well, this weekend, I sat through “100 Greatest Kid Stars” only to find out that Michael Jackson, Gary Coleman, Corey Haim, and Corey Feldman did not make the list, but that naked baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind did. Justin Bieber placed number one! Whoever wrote that list should be fired. I get aggravated just thinking about it.
Hopefully this list won’t infuriate you as much as VH1 did to me this weekend. At least, it’ll take you a lot less than five hours to get to number one. I’m counting down the best (somewhat) recent TV Christmas specials. I say somewhat because I was born in 1989, and not nearly as dedicated to syndication as I once was. So I’ll go ahead let you know that the M*A*S*H episode my extended family talks about didn’t make the cut. Sorry about that Uncle Jim.
Check them out after the jump.
12. The Big Bang Theory: The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis
I struggle with The Big Bang Theory. While I appreciate its premise and enjoy the cast, it’s just a little well…formulaic. It’s like, the writers followed a “Sitcom Writing For Dummies” verbatim and came up with the perfect, award-winning series. Sure it’s funny, and Mayim Bialik is one of the greatest things that’s happened to Thursday nights, but it sort of feeling like I’m watching the exact same five episodes over and over again. Probably because I am.
However, the second season’s Christmas episode is well-constructed treat. Long (albeit interesting) history lesson from Sheldon? Check. Moderate bump in Penny and Leonard’s relationship? Present. Sheldon extremely overcompensates for a minute problem? Yes, half a dozen gift baskets’ worth. Nerd name drop? Leonard Nimoy, check. Leonard and Penny resolve their issue and take one step towards dating? Mmm-hmm. Sheldon shows signs of humanity? Done and done. It’s a tried, true, and calculated thirty-minute delight.
11. The O.C.: The Best Christmukkah Ever
Of all angsty teen dramas of this millennium, The O.C. takes the cake for being the most improbable. Come on, if nerds all looked like Adam Brody I would have boyfriended up years ago! My lifelong affinity for Jewish boys can be traced back to Seth Cohen and Captain Oats. I’m pretty sure this was the very outcome that Josh Schwartz and McG intended.
Thanks to this memorable episode in the show’s first season, Christmukkah is now a household term. It’s now chic to wear Santa hats shaped like yarmulkes, and to wear sweaters embroidered with menorahs and dreidels to tacky Christmas themed parties. Oh yeah, we also got a pretty awesome O.C. Christmas Mix Tape along with it. Eight years later, and I still pop that sucker out around the holidays.
10. 30 Rock: Ludachristmas
Surprisingly enough, this instant classic has nothing to do with Christopher Bridges and everything to do with a plot line
vaguely glaringly similar to an Adam Sandler movie that came out a few years prior. Liz Lemon surprisingly has a functional, optimistic family, and Jack Donaghy’s grumpy mother does everything she can to break them. Also, Tracy Jordan wears an alcohol ankle monitor, and Jenna Maroney sings Christmas carols.
I like Tracy Morgan and Jack McBrayer, I really do. I totally get Tina Fey’s schtick, although sometimes I identify with Jane Krakowski’s character as well. But Alec Baldwin, even now in his old-ish and overweight state, is still a mega-hottie in my book.
9. Glee: Extraordinary Merry Christmas
Before you start your griping, I know with great certainty that many of you secretly enjoy when your wife/girlfriend/DVR tune in to reruns of Glee. Just because it’s a teen musical doesn’t automatically mean that it’s awful. The creators are self-aware–the storylines are mostly the typical ones we’ve all seen before, which is why they deliberately make it melodramatic for comedy’s sake. The concept itself was pretty novel, they spin it as parody of every other high school drama, and the kids on the show have some serious pipes. If you don’t like the show I can respect that, but please come up with a better argument than “it’s so cliché” or “the songs are terrible” before you drone on in a poorly-worded four-paragraph comment. I need specific reasons, like “Kurt cries in every other episode” or “they always glue Puck’s mohawk on crooked.”
Paying homage to black and white Christmas specials of the past, the Glee club films a PBS show within a show, complete with punny jokes, a laugh track, and tap dancing routines. Later, the club shows up to a homeless shelter sings a song and donates cash from their Christmas presents to the needy. Come on, it’s Glee! A feel-good message is in the very fibers of what makes this show what it is.
8. The Office: A Benihana Christmas
Where were we before 30-minute mockumentaries became all the rage? I love the subtle humor. I love the character development opportunities this format allows for. And most of all, I love that there’s no laugh track.
In this episode of The Office, poor Michael Scott gets dumped..again. I guess I’m not one to talk though; Mr. Scott gets dumped for Photoshopping himself into his new girlfriend’s family portraits, and I’m no stranger to editing myself into pictures I’ve obtained on the internet as well.
The best thing about this episode though is how Pam and Karen join forces to really stick it to Angela. Everyone has an Angela in their life–an uptight, angry weirdo who hates fun and wears ruffled shirts buttoned to the collar. Not a cute look, girlfriend. That’s why you’re stuck bearding for gay politicians and getting it on the side from gullible, dogmatic eccentrics who parts their hair down the center.
7. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Back in early 1960s, there was a gap in the children’s television market for a “very special episode” detailing the true meaning of Christmas. Ladies and gentlemen, the Peanuts presented the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, now considered the gold standard for every holiday television show born after its original air date of Dec. 9th, 1965.
Even as a kid, I used to worry about Charlie Brown. He appeared to have a good family, a nice house, and a satisfactory number of friends. He even had a cool pet beagle who could do things like fly airplanes and play musical instruments. I’m not sure why he took his peers’ playful joshing so seriously. Charlie was just a little bit too in his own head, you know?
Despite Charlie being a perpetual Debbie Downer, the jazzy score of Vincent Guaraldi is heartwarming and iconic to say the least. The next time you get sick of listening to the Home Alone soundtrack or one of Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas albums while crunching numbers at work, give “Skating” or “Christmastime is Here” a listen.
6. Friends: The One With The Routine
Friends is known for their stellar holiday episodes. Though ten seasons are a lot to sort through, this episode is one of the stand-outs.
In this episode, Elle MacPherson, who lives with Joey, invites Joey, Ross, and Monica to act as “party people” and pre-film a segment for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. In a desperate attempt to get some airtime, Ross and Monica bust out their elaborately choreographed dance routine from eighth grade in order to get the director’s attention. Meanwhile, Rachel and Phoebe convince Chandler to let them search the apartment for the Christmas gifts Monica bought for the group.
This episode makes me jealous. I desperately needed a go-to dance combination when I was in middle school. I fell somewhere on the spectrum of being cool enough to get invited to all the “boy/girl” dance parties, but I was never cool enough to ever get asked to dance or even feel confident within a wolf pack of single ladies. I spent most of these nights in the corner by the Shasta and puffed Cheetos, while Nelly songs and “Drops of Jupiter” blared on. A dance routine (and an older brother to hide behind) would have been extremely useful back then.
5. Community: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas…and well, claymation anything
When they announced that Community was taking on a stop-motion Christmas special, we all knew we were in for a treat. The episode was an insane, elaborate, and memorable beacon of Christmas youth. Plus, Chevy Chase as a teddy bear is just hilarious.
The show hit its quirky target audience right between the eyes with their homage to Christmas classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Was anyone else pretty frightened by the claymation abominable snowman character? As a child, at night if I had to use the bathroom I used to sprint across the hallway, slam the door shut, press my back up against it, and catch my breath for several moments in fear that the Sasquatchian monster was lurking in the darkness.
Speaking of scary claymation figures, the villain in all of the stop motion Easter specials used to concern me as well. Bunnies in black with iron tails just don’t sit right with a child.
4. How I Met Your Mother: How Lily Stole Christmas
Over the last six weeks, I’ve dedicated my evenings to watching all seven seasons of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. It’s been anything but a tedious task. This adorable tale of Christmas forgiveness aired in the second season of the show’s run. Ted retells the story about calling Lily out for being a grinch…but he didn’t say “grinch.”
Sure the laugh track makes me want to rip each of my hairs out individually, but overall it’s a pretty great show. Ted is a relatable guy, flawed with a heart of gold. He makes the perfect straight man surrounded by the caricature of Barney, the ideal woman Robin, and the sugary sweetness of Marshall and Lily.
Speaking of which, I freakin’ love Jason Segel. He plays the piano, and writes vampire puppet operas, and loves potentially fictitious beings, and oh is he tall! My only chance of spawning basketball-playing offspring is to breed with someone at least a foot taller than me. Jason Segel is like a lumbering, hilarious heap of manly adorableness. The fact that he always plays practically the same character just solidifies my theory that Jason Segel and I would get along swimmingly.
3. The Office: Christmas Party
The Office‘s first Christmas party is one we all remember fondly. Michael buys Ryan an iPod and gets stuck with the crappiest oven mitt Secret Santa present ever, Jim takes steps to revealing his feelings for Pam, and everyone (especially the ominous redhead) gets rip-roaringly intoxicated.
I used to regard Jim Halpert as the other perfect man of prime time–that is, until the strongest epiphany of my life hit me like a lightening bolt. Jim Halpert is kind of a jerk! I mean, he’s cute and funny and nice to most everyone, so he gets away with it…but you know that behind the scenes, Jim thinks he’s better and smarter and more handsome than anyone else he works with. Even these pranks on Dwight–while they are funny, that’s an awful lot of effort set forth just to ruin someone’s day, especially someone who clearly has some sort of mental imbalance or social disorder. Not cool Jim, pick on someone your own size.
2. Friends: The One With The Holiday Armadillo
From fat suits to Halloween costumes, Friends episodes that involved costumes never disappointed. Ross’s rarely mentioned son Ben makes a cameo for probably the first time in five seasons for a Christmas visit with Ross and company. Eager to teach Ben about his Jewish heritage, Ross runs into trouble when he realizes that Ben will be devastated if Santa Claus doesn’t visit. Unable to find a Santa costume, Ross settle on a “Holiday Armadillo” get up, but is quickly upstaged when Santa AND Superman also show up at Monica’s apartment.
Ross has never been my favorite Friend. I never really forgave him for the demise of his and Rachel’s original relationship. Sure, she’s out of line for calling him a cheater–after all, they were “on a break.” But he was acting like a crazy jealous psycho in the episodes leading up to that! Clearly, he was the one way out of line. But after that whole tryst with the copy girl (which, in my opinion, was still pretty immature and sketchy), apparently they completely forgot about Ross acting like a possessive maniac when Rachel got a brand new job. Friends might have forgotten, but people don’t.
However, Ross shines when he gets to do segments dependent on physical comedy. Ross was the Jack Tripper of the 90’s! His spray tan mishap was hilarious, as was the leather pants-powder-lotion-paste incident, but David Schwimmer donning an armadillo costume is a modern classic.
1. Seinfeld: The Strike
It was clear where this list was headed. The Festivus episode not taking the number one spot on a Christmas sitcom countdown would be like Bob Marley not topping a best Reggae music list. Or like Justin Bieber being picked as the greatest child star ever.
Festivus is more than the fictional holiday George made up to get out of buying his work friends an actual gift. It is a sacred occasion that should be honored with aluminum poles, meatloaf dinners, observational witty banter, an airing of grievances against the friends and family that have gathered, and finally, the closing feat of strength. Personally, I’m pretty thankful I have an infallible source to attribute all unremarkable coincidences on–ah, the gift of the Festivus Miracle.
Also, do yourself a favor and check out this Twitter account. I’ll be the first to admit, the thought of Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George battling a world full of iPhones, eHarmony, Pinterest, and obscure local social blogs is pretty comical. Sure, if the show magically were to pick up again in the present, they cast would all be a bunch of narcissistic unmarried ex-cons, but a girl can dream.
Follow Chelsea on Twitter at @xCawoodstock