Holiday Season: My Favourite Christmas Episodes

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Christmas (and generally any "holiday") specials are something I have mixed feelings on, while there are some excellent moments out there; Halloween in particular seems to raise the bar for American sitcoms each year, there is a generally sickly, hollow, crass and commercial feel to Christmas on television. It could be my increasing cynicism about society in general and my historically terrible experiences at the Christmas period (I generally suffer tragedies or exceptionally hard times around this season - this year is no exception). But it could also be the vapid consumerism of it all.

Then again, when I'm back home with the family for a few days things are indeed good - spats, arguments, presents, Christmas dinner - it's all great, even last year's argument (which resulted in my not talking to my brother for months) was good fun. So I do like the togetherness Christmas brings, even if the present giving is a pain in the arse.

So baring that somewhat schizophrenic spirit in mind here are some of my favourite Christmas episodes:

Arrested Development - In God We Trust

I was tempted to go with 'Afternoon Delight' for my Arrested Development Christmas special, but I do feel that it's just pipped by In God We Trust. It's the pageant scenes which do it for me - recreations of famous works of art. Including George Michael wandering around in a muscular body suit to impress Maeby, at least until he sees the 'fronts piece' he'll have to wear.

The full development of Tobias's "nevernude" disorder is prompted by this entire escapade (it was mostly hinted at until this point) and the final scenes of George Sr, dressed as God and fleeing, before being wrestled to the ground just cap it all for me. It's a real dysfunctional Christmas.

Seinfeld - The Strike

Possibly the least festive of all the episodes listed here, The Strike is one of those phenomena which has actually managed to influence reality. On the 23rd of December each year, some people break out their aluminium pole, sit down for the airing of grievances and then partake in the feats of strength. All of which are parts of Festivius - an anti-celebration of Christmas in protest of all the commercialism and tacky nature of many parts in modern Christmas.

The Strike itself primarily focuses on Kramer's return to employment after an exceptionally long strike, but it's the events surrounding the Costanzas which make this such a memorable experience. If Festivus wasn't so clearly traumatic for children I'd celebrate it myself.

Blackadder - Blackadder's Christmas Carol

Many countless shows and franchises go for a retelling of the classic Christmas story 'Christmas Carol', but none of them pull it off with as much aplomb and style as the Blackadder version. Dripping with satire, sharp observations, wit and cracking performances from all the cast it's one of the finest Christmas moments on television pretty much ever.

Add in the fantastic spin on the moral of the story at the end, and we're left with something I can watch year after year and still laugh at.

Doctor Who - The Christmas Invasion

The Doctor Who Christmas specials tend to be somewhat uneven, this is mostly due to Russell T. Davies's crude use of blunt tropes and devices when dealing with science fiction. To give Rusty his props, he can write emotion with the best of them - but he's awful at science fiction. Tending to rely on the old trusty "magic button" to get his characters out of the situations he's stuck them in, making everything feel less earnt.

Voyage of the Damned is the pinnacle of this, it's an utter travesty which is almost completely wasted. The only really bright spots being Tennant himself, Clive Rowe (who is rather badly bumped off on the bridge, a shame because he's a fantastic actor) and Bernard Cribbins's cameo which would grow into one of the most amazing supporting moments in the show at the end of the Donna years. Likewise The Runaway Bride, as much as I adore Catherine Tate as Donna, is not great either.

But The Christmas Invasion is fortunately not one of the lame duck specials - it's an exciting tour de force which introduces us to Tennant's Tenth Doctor. One filled with witty lines, tense moments and even a little foreshadowing. I don't know exactly what it is which makes The Christmas Invasion stand out when compared to the others - but I do hope The End of Time this year manages it as well - even if it will be a bleak story.

Homicide: Life on the Street - All Through the House


Another Christmas episode with a relatively dark tone to it, Homicide's iconic third season Christmas episode follows the murder of Father Christmas. A winding journey walked by the cynical Munch which eventually leads to a bleak moment where he has to tell a young boy that his father is dead. Only to relieve the moment, by having the boy's father come home. Happy ending! At least until you remember that someone dressed as Santa was still murdered.

No-one can accuse Homicide of pandering to the season, that's for sure.

Supernatural - A Very Supernatural Christmas

Victims are apparently being pulled up the chimney by some form of Anti-Claus. Eventually Sam and Dean get on the trail and discover that they might be hunting after Holdenacar, the god of the winter solstice. It's an episode which harks back to the pagan traditions of Christmas, revelling in the darker aspect of the entire holiday. It also sheds a little light on the Winchester boys past and manages to bring a little of the Christmas spirit in at the end.

Actually, looking at most of those episodes it's quite possible that I am a real grinch. Very few of them seem to have positive things to say about Christmas. Perhaps Wednesday's list of my favourite Christmas Movies will be more upbeat!


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