By Chauncey Telese
Ho ho ho, it’s that time of year again, a time where kids await Santa, grown-ups drink egg nog that causes their breath to melt snow, and of course, watch the Lakers and the Heat (or if you want to fall asleep after presents, there are the Cowboys and the Cardinals).
Last year I ranked the 10 best Christmas movies of all time and, while some of you thought I was a cotton-headed ninny muggins with my selections, I figured I’d try again, but instead rank the 10 best Christmas TV episodes of all time. This is much more difficult because every show has a Christmas episode and I watch a lot of shows. So I’ll try my best and if anything, I’ll at least remind you of an episode of some show you’ve forgotten about.
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#15. Ren and Stimpy: “A Scooter for Yaksmas”: “Ren and Stimpy” was one of the most disgusting cartoons of the ’90s and a show that, in retrospect, Nickelodeon was ballsy for running because there is no way they would run it now.
Anyway, in this episode, Stimpy is all excited for Yaksmus Eve, a holiday in which kids await the Yaksmus Yak who visits your home in an enchanted canoe and uses your shower and as long as you leave him a razor and some shaving cream he will leave you gifts. As absurd and gross as this, is it also led to a great holiday moment. You see, Ren doesn’t believe in Yaksmus and is sour on the holidays and tries to break Stimpy’s cheerful spirit. Ren eventually succeeds, but seeing a sad Stimpy, Ren’s heart melts and awakens the holiday spirit inside of him. While I could never accuse this show of being wholesome or well-written, this episode was sweet and showed that beneath all the over the top gross-out stuff that the show can still have some heart.
#14. Pinky and the Brain: “Christmas Wish”: In this episode, Brain attempts to take over the world by creating a hot toy that every kid will want and thus be able to hypnotize the world with. He takes Pinky to the North Pole so he can put the toys into Santa’s sleigh. Pinky meanwhile wants to personally deliver his Christmas letter to Santa and while chaos and hilarity ensue at the North Pole, the real brilliance of the episode comes at the end when it looks like Brain’s plan may actually work, Pinky is upset that his letter never made it to Santa and as the plan is about to occur, Brain reads Pinky’s letter. His heart melts as Pinky asks Santa (in his letter) to let Brain’s plan work because he always tries so hard and deserves to be happy. Instead of enslaving the world, Brain just wishes that we all have a Merry Christmas. At the end, Pinky gives Brain the world for Christmas (in key chain form) and Brain gets Pinky a gift that he’s always wanted and of course, when asked what he wants to do the next night, Brain responds as usual - “The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world”.
#13. Rugrats: “The Santa Experience”: In this rendition of the classic O. Henry story “The Gift of the Magi,” Angelica discovers that there is no Santa and decides to play a mean joke on Phil and Lil and get them to trade away their prized possessions in exchange for a gift for the other. Meanwhile, Tommy tries to convince Chuckie that Santa isn’t a bad guy. While this wasn’t the strongest of their holiday episodes (the Passover episode is their best one) this a rare instance where we get to see how much Phil and Lil care about each other instead of arguing all the time. Angelica learns the value of believing in Santa and Chuckie gets to spend a Christmas without being in fear of Santa.
#12. Rocko’s Modern Life: “Rocko’s Modern Christmas”: My favorite Nickelodeon cartoon of all time. In this episode, a mysterious family moves in next door to Rocko and when Rocko tries repeatedly to find out who they are, he discovers that they are a family of Christmas elves. The Elves end up becoming neighborly with Rocko but do not want to attend his Christmas party because they fear judgment from the other neighbors. The Elder Elf is right to think this because once Mr. Bighead gets wind that he has elves in his neighborhood his Grinch-like nature causes him to spread bad rumors about them. The Elves eventually agree to attend the party, but once Rocko tells everyone the Elves will be at the party, no one comes. Eventually, the runt of the Elf family reaches out and Mr. Bighead’s sour take on Christmas dissipates. This special did a great job of teaching kids not to be judgmental and that the holidays can bring people together.
#11. “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: It’s a classic right? It just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless someone asks to watch Charlie Brown adopt the dying tree because he feels sorry for it does it? I loved watching this as a kid and as I’ve gotten older I’ve liked it more because it really hammers home to kids that Christmas isn’t about commercialism but about being with the people you care about the most.
#10. Community: “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”: Last year, Community had a brilliant Christmas episode that put all of the study group’s religions together to prove that, despite their differences, they can band together to fight the community college bully (a great Anthony Michael Hall). This year, however, “Community” outdid that episode with a great send up of the classic stop-motion movies like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Abed wakes up one day and sees everyone in stop motion and the group is deeply concerned. With the help of Professor Duncan, who just wants to use Abed’s supposed psychosis to publish a famous paper, the study group try to help Abed find the meaning of Christmas. Eventually, it is discovered Abed is delusional because he can’t cope with his mom abandoning him for Christmas because she got remarried. While the episode wasn’t as funny as it could’ve been, it really touched on the loneliness that exists around the holidays and the stop-motion was fantastic (especially with the Pierce as a bear and Abed’s use of the Christmas pterodactyl to take everyone out of the “North Pole”).
#9. The Office: “Moroccan Christmas”: Most consider “A Benihana Christmas” to be the better episode (and in terms of Jim and Pam stuff, it is) but this one is one of the last episodes of “The Office” to balance chaos with heart. Phyllis blackmails Angela into letting her be the head of the party committee and she decides to do a Moroccan-themed Christmas party. Meanwhile, Meredith gets drunk and sets her hair on fire, prompting Michael to try and hold an intervention during the party which, like basically everything else he touches, is a disaster. Also, Andy is driving everyone else nuts with his banjo playing and his desire to play the sitar. The episode culminates with Phyllis telling everyone that Angela is cheating on Andy with Dwight (which leads to one of the greatest “Dwight” faces ever), and the Office being kind enough not to tell Andy.
#8. Hey Arnold! “A Hey Arnold Christmas”: This is one of the most touching holiday episodes I’ve seen because, while it is very light on jokes, it is very big on sentiment. Arnold draws Mr. Huynh in the boarding house’s secret Santa pool and when Arnold asks Mr. Huynh what he wants for Christmas, he says he wants to find his daughter that he was separated from during the Vietnam War. Arnold makes it his mission to track her down but it is almost impossible. Meanwhile Helga tries to find the perfect gift for Arnold but still doesn’t have the courage to tell him that she likes him. She sees how upset and dismayed Arnold is that he can’t find Mr. Huynh’s daughter and is somehow able to track her down. The father-daughter reunion is one of the best moments in the history of the show and the network.
#7. Futurama: “A Xmas Story”: Fry wants to have a classic Christmas but he learns that since his time, Christmas has changed considerably. Pine trees are extinct and the holiday is pronounced ex-mas; also, years ago Mom’s Corporation created Santa Bot which was designed to judge whether people were naughty or nice. The only person on the nice list is Zoidberg and this leads Santa Bot (voiced by John Goodman) to try and wipe out everyone that is naughty. This is one of the funniest episodes of the show and one of the funniest Christmas episodes ever. It is also one of the many examples of Fry trying to win Leela’s affection.
#6. King of the Hill: “Pretty Pretty Dresses”: In this episode, Hank and the guys become concerned when Bill’s holiday depression is worse then normal. Bill’s wife left him around Christmas, causing him to be somber around the holidays. This time he deludes himself into thinking Lenore is coming back. The guys all place Bill on suicide watch and eventually Bill starts thinking he’s Lenore which almost ruins Hank’s Christmas party. This episode is a great example of what “King of the Hill” does best - great character development that allows for the comedy to come out rather then just rely on jokes.
#5. “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas”: While this year’s “Road to the North Pole” was twisted, dark, and goofy, this episode is just funny. Lois is so bogged down by all of the holiday shopping that she becomes stressed. Then when Peter accidentally gives away all of the presents to the Salvation Army, she is on the edge but realizes that gifts aren’t important. Then when Brian accidentally burns the house down, she goes on a rampage because all of the Christmas spirit is sucked out of her. Stewie meanwhile tries to get weapons-grade plutonium from Santa and the not-so-classic “Kiss Saves Santa” runs in conjunction with the episode. This episode is one of my favorites and a great Christmas episode, especially when Lois fights Frosty the Snowman.
#4. The Simpsons: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”: This was the first episode of “The Simpsons” after they spun off from “The Tracey Ullman Show.” This episode introduces us to most of the characters and Homer gets a side job as a mall Santa after losing his holiday money. Bart gets a tattoo behind Marge’s back but she stops him and makes him get it lasered off. Homer takes what money he has and bets it on a dog named Santa’s Little Helper. The dog comes in dead last but Homer decides to adopt the dog as a present to the kids. This was the episode that started it all and without it, not only would the world be denied a great Christmas episode, but my favorite show of all time and a major part of my life would cease to exist.
#3. Saturday Night Live”: Over the years SNL always brings it when it comes to Christmas. The best skits done on the holidays are in no particular order: Matt Foley as a mall Santa (“T’was the night before Christmas and all through the van you’re old buddy Matt fell asleep on the can”), “Schweddy Balls” with Alec Baldwin, Betty White’s “holiday muffin,” Adam Sandler’s “Hanukah Song,” Adam Sandler’s opening song about being a bad kid all year, Gumby’s Christmas special, Mr. Robinson’s Christmas, and Glengarry Glen Christmas. There are a ton of others I could easily list but those happen to be my favorite ones. The point is the show always brings its A-game around the holidays.
#2. The Simpsons: “Marge Be Not Proud”: In this episode, Bart is caught shoplifting a copy of “Bonestorm” and must return to the scene of the crime so the family can take their family portrait. Marge is absolutely devastated when she finds out Bart had been banned from the store and she starts treating him like an adult. He misses out on hugs, hot chocolate and making snowmen. Bart realizes that he is not ready to outgrow his childish ways and also discovers how manipulative and selfish Milhouse can be. This episode showed how sweet Bart can be and how much he actually values family.
#1. South Park: “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo”: “South Park” has never made a bad Christmas episode, whether it’s the insane “Merry Christmas Charlie Manson,” “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” which feature some great songs (especially “Christmas Time in Hell”), “Red Sleigh Down,” “Christmas in Canada,” and the sick and twisted “Woodland Critter Christmas,” but this is the episode that started it all. Kyle is depressed because he is the only Jewish kid in town. He sings about it with the Emmy-winning song “A Lonely Jew on Christmas,” and then summons Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo and with his trademark “Hidey Ho!,” hilarity ensues. Kyle is the only one who can see him because he believes, prompting everyone else to think he’s starting to lose it. Meanwhile, Kyle’s mom is offended that the school is asking Kyle to play Joseph in the Christmas play and thus Mr. Garrison is forced to make a nondenominational Christmas pageant. This leads Cartman to sing the classic “Kyle’s Mom is a Big Fat B---- ” and that leads Kyle to become institutionalized until the town realizes that the holidays don’t really need to be about faith but about community.
Thank you for reading and I hope you don’t think my list was constructed while on hardcore egg nog. I hope you all have a very happy holiday.