It’s Christmas and the staff here at Place to Be Nation are giving a great gift to our loyal readers by delivering a sleigh full of Christmas television memories! Included below are clips of each infamous episode as well as our staff’s great commentary. Enjoy this jolly stocking full of Christmas memories!
Married…With Children – You Better Watch Out
Josh Richer: The scene where they are watching Santa crash into their backyard on TV and we see him crash behind them, leading the cast to all turning around…Beautifully irreverent!
Seinfeld – Festivus
Steve Rogers: It’s hard to believe that one of Seinfeld’s most enduring entries in the cultural zeitgeist happened during the show’s final season, but Festivus from the episode “The Strike” has been one of the most popular things to come out of Seinfeld in the more than 15 years since the episode aired. Born from a goofy holiday the episode writer’s parents had made up to today atheist groups trying to erect Festivus Poles in public sites where Nativity Scenes are placed, and Lord knows how many, even the most casual of Seinfeld observers, have incorporated Festivus into their December holiday traditions, usually in good-natured fun of course, no need for the actual Airing of Grievances or Feats of Strengths. Not bad for a made up holiday to combat both the over-the-top nature of the secular and religious iconographies of the December holiday season in Bayside Queens.
Oddly enough, one of the reasons that made the episode an all-time classic is the idea that Festivus is one of five different storylines going on in the same episode! And of course all of them converge, per usual for this era, into one glorious…I mean FESTIVUS MIRACLE at the end! I mean it has The Human Fund in it, Kramer returning to work after his strike at the bagel shop ends (after 12 years), Jerry’s Two-Faced girlfriend, Elaine doing the fake number bit but getting in too deep thanks to wanting a sub club membership card back, and appearances by Whatley and Krueger!
American Dad – Rapture’s Delight
Josh Richer: The best Antichrist episode sees Stan and Francine have sex in a church closet during Christmas Mass, which causes them to miss the Rapture. The rest of the episode takes place in a post-apocalyptic future much like the Left Behind series that ends with a twist of Stan being rewarded for defeating a goofy tongue in cheek antichrist with his own personal heaven: Christmas morning with his family just like we saw in the episode’s opening scene. One is left to wonder if the ending implies that the series is now an extension of these events and is simply Stan’s afterlife or if the whole thing doesn’t count like towards the overall mythology like the “Treehouse of Horror” every year on The Simpsons. It doesn’t matter: either scenario works for me.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future
Andrew Flanagan: A fantastic recounting of the untold history of Christmas. It also has Danzig in it, and isn’t that what Christmas is really about?
Family Guy – Kiss Saves Santa
Justin Rozzero: One of my favorite Family Guy episodes of all time comes from season two. Lois does her best to keep the Christmas spirit alive in her home but the forces of nature seem to be against her. Peter is obsessed catching his favorite holiday special, Kiss Saves Santa, and goes to many lengths to catch glimpses of it throughout the day. With the house burned down and the presents accidentally given away, Lois finally snaps and goes berserk but is finally calmed down when she sees Stewie portray Baby Jesus in the annual town nativity play. The early episodes of Family Guy had a perfect blend of absurdity, reality and heart and this one is a perfect example.
Beverly Hills, 90210 – Christmas Comes This Time Each Year
Tim Capel – Of course we gotta have an entry from P2B favorite, BH “O.G.” 90210, and I can think of no better representative than 1994’s “Christmas Comes This Time Each Year.” It serves as a great time capsule for the show’s fifth, best season, not to mention the year itself (as ever). Behold! Kelly, despite recovering nicely from having her pretty face burned off a few weeks prior, reveals to Brandon that her injuries are more than skin deep. Meanwhile, a lonely and dejected Dylan, fresh out of rehab, somehow manages to maintain his sobriety when he is greeted with a “Christmas present” from the FBI in the form of boozy and eccentric P.I. Jay J. Jones (Wings Hauser!). “Jonesy,” apologizing for not arriving “in ribbons,” pledges to track down the Geraldo Rivera-esque con artist who absconded with Dylan’s fortune months ago. Elsewhere, Jewish Andrea and Catholic Jesse (who producer Larry Mollin described as having ears “as big as Botswana” which might be a racist comment, but is so strange an expression that I honestly can’t tell) clash over how to best introduce the holiday traditions of their respective faiths to baby Hannah. You see, Andrea’s three-month pregnancy (a cautionary tale on geriatric conception) afforded them no time to have such discussions before their daughter’s birth. Also, Donna bonds with Ray’s awesome chain-smoking, mullet-rocking, white trash mom, while her own uptight, disapproving mother proposes an unorthodox gift exchange with Ray: a check for $10,000, his on the condition that he dump Donna. His refusal will set into motion Ray’s arc as a tragic character, as Donna will go on to ruin his life. (He only pushed her down those stairs out of love. If only he had taken the money.) Then Valerie tries to fuck everyone. If you aren’t watching this back-to-back with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I seriously question your Christmas spirit, priorities, and life choices in general.
The Simpsons – Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Todd Gessling: The first ever episode of The Simpsons. First appearance of the evil Mr. Burns, Bart’s “Moth” tattoo and Santa’s Little Helper as a plot device turned permanent character. Worth it just for being episode #1 of maybe the most influential TV comedy of all time.
30 Rock – Ludachristmas
Andrew Flanagan: Liz’s family comes to town, including guest star Andy Richter as Liz’s older brother, who is stricken with a very specific form of amnesia that causes him to believe he’s still 17. Jack is jealous of how supportive Liz’s parents are, while his mother plots to show him they aren’t as perfect as they appear. And Kenneth teaches the staff about the true meaning of Christmas.
How I Met Your Mother – How Lily Stole Christmas
Steven Graham: This episode has a great running gag when Ted & Lily find the old answering machine and play what is on it. The message has Ted calling Lily a Grinch, but he did not say Grinch. That joke is used to great effect all episode including Ted actually saying Grinch when he finds that Lily stole all the Christmas decorations!
Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Dan McGinn: While not the most accurate adaptation of the Dicken’s classic, Mickey and his All-Star cast banded together to produce a Yuletide staple that still exists in the McGinn household today. Scrooge McDuck, of Ducktales fame, plays the greedy old miser who loves nothing in life but that mean green or in this case those shiny gold coins. He hates Christmas like any other Scrooge but because of the cartoon nature of this special, his attempts at making his fellow man miserable is flat-out hilarious. Like when his nephew (Donald) tries to leave him a Christmas wreath, Scrooge promptly wraps it around him and punts him out the office door. We also get a subtle tribute to It’s A Wonderful Life when the Ghost of Christmas future tells Scrooge that the ominous grave site towards the end belongs to him and that he is “the richest man in the cemetery!” This holiday short just celebrated its 30th Anniversary and now is as good of a time as any to make it part of your Christmas tradition.
The Office – Benihana Christmas
Justin Rozzero: When it comes to Christmas episodes, The Office always put a lot of effort into delivering a classic entry to the catalog. And of all of those submissions, my favorite has always been Benihana Christmas. A dejected Michael, fresh off another breakup, is treated to a Hibachi style lunch by Andy, Dwight and Jim. While at the restaurant, Andy and Michael invite two waitresses back to the office party. Of course, once Michael gets a bit drunk, he can’t remember which of the girls was his and ends up marking her arm to help out. We also get the battle of the parties with Angela’s boring traditional outing vs. Pam & Karen’s more modernized affair. Hijinx ensue, and by the end, heart emerges just like it always does in the Scranton Office park, a part of what made the Office one of the greatest sitcoms of all time at its peak.
Curb Your Enthusiasm – Mary, Joseph & Larry
Andrew Flanagan: Larry David continues to struggle with tipping etiquette, leading to a classic “…Okay…Okay” staredown. But the best part of the episode is the live nativity Larry hires to impress his in-laws, leading to inappropriate comments about Mary and an altercation with Joseph.
American Dad – For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls
Josh Richer: The most memorable one includes Stan trying to teach Steve how to shoot a gun which leads to accidentally shooting a mall Santa…who turns out to be THE Santa. He comes back to life and launches an epic and gratuitously violent clash between Santa’s army of reindeer and elves vs the Smith clan and a moonshiner (a whole other Roger themed subplot). The episode ended with Santa forced to retreat as daylight came, but open to the battle possibly reignited in the future.
Seinfeld – The Gum
Justin Rozzero: This classic episode isn’t an in your face Christmas spectacular, but it does have a holiday backdrop throughout it. While Kramer is helping to restore the vintage Alex Theater, he also decides to take the definitely-not-crazy Lloyd Braun under his wing to protect his fragile feelings from the outside world. That level of protection extended to forcing Jerry to wear glasses, and due to the overwhelming prescription, he ends up buying an absurd amount of Chinese chewing gum. Mix in George’s descent into lunacy and some cleavage from Elaine and we have a holiday winner. DON’T YOU SEE…HE’S TRYING TO FOOL LLOYD BRAUN!
And finally, a few more to click-through at your leisure:
Arrested Development – Afternoon Delight
Andrew Flanagan: The Bluth company Christmas party features Michael and Maeby’s cringe-worthy duet, Lucille driving her car through the crowd, and Gob suspended from a crane in the banana suit. That last one is one of my all-time favorite TV moments.
South Park – Woodland Critter Christmas
Steven Graham: This is an episode where I was the second most shocked ever while watching South Park. It’s a cute store of woodland critters told by Cartman where the saviour is being born. Of course there is a twist and it’s awesome!
Community – Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas
Andrew Riche: I have seen plenty of terrific Christmas-themed episodes, but I don’t think any show captured the essence of what makes the holidays so personal like this fantastic, reference-loaded episode of “Community.” It has always been a tongue-in-cheek fact that the self-aware Abed Nadir and his meta personality serve as the true narrator to this wacky world created by comedy veteran Dan Harmon.
But when Abed suffers an emotional family crisis, like many of us do, he hides behind his overwhelming imagination to escape the harsh reality of the situation. He decides upon himself to turn a psychological intervention from his friends and the egotistical Professor Duncan into a stop motion animation adventure full of Britta-Bots, man-eating hum bugs, Christmas Pterodactyls, and an elaborate gift revealed to be a DVD of the first season of “Lost,” which hilariously turns out to be a metaphor for lack of payoff.
But despite Abed’s inability to let go of his fracturing fantasy, it is the study group who save him from the mental jabs by Professor Duncan and keep Abed’s adventure alive. It is in that moment that Abed says the most important lesson of all: The meaning of Christmas is that Christmas has meaning, whether it involves trying to reconnect with family, hanging out with friends, or spending two weeks playing video games. Like the study group says in their final battle with the Professor, the Christmas holiday may be the enabling of a delusion to some, but when enough people buy into the delusion, something even more magical than a stop motion cartoon happens: It becomes real.
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