Monday, December 22, 2008

Favorite Christmas TV Episodes

The Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert got me thinking with his recent article about Christmas TV episodes. I like several of the selections on his list ranging from the slightly off-kilter (South Park's "Mr. Hankey and the Christmas Poo," which is about exactly what it sounds like, and Seinfeld's classic Festivus episode, "The Strike") to dramatic (The West Wing's "Noel," still a favorite of mine, can't stop thinking of it whenever I hear "Carol of the Bells") to dark (Six Feet Under's "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," on the first anniversary of the death of Fisher family's patriarch).

Thus, I started thinking of other stand-out Christmas episodes from other shows. In particular, I remembered Once and Again's "The Gingerbread House" in its first season. Not only did it inspire me to seek out Tori Amos' haunting song "Winter," but it featured the main couple, Lily Manning and Rick Sammler, splitting up after Lily's confession that she'd slept with her soon-to-be-ex-husband from whom she asked for a divorce on Christmas Eve while decorating the Christmas tree.

In the third (and tragically) final season, Once and Again's Christmas episode, "Pictures," had the woman who broke up Lily's first marriage give birth to Lily's daughters' half-sister in Lily's bedroom, in the middle of a blizzard on Christmas Eve. Talk about melodrama . . .

A decade earlier, Christmas in an interfaith family was the subject of two episodes of thirtysomething, created by the same people behind Once and Again. In a first season episode entitled, "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Michael and Hope Steadman argued over how they should celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas during their daughter Janie's first year. The last scene makes me tear up every time, where Hope gets a menorah for him and Michael gets a Christmas tree for her.

In the second season, Christmas and Hanukkah evoked a crisis of faith for Michael in "The Mike Van Dyke" episode as Hope was in a serious car accident while out Christmas shopping. This is the one where Michael imagines himself as a character in the black and white "Dick Van Dyke Show."

Do you have any favorite Christmas TV episodes for which you'd like to give a shout out?


Roberta Lipp said...

I was a huge thirtysomething fan, and those episodes were stellar.

I was also a huge Once and Again fan, but not as huge as I thought, because I don't remember either of the episodes. It's because it never made it into syndication. I need lots of reruns.

And on the same note (because it's the same creative team), My So-Called Life, which tragically only had one season, had one of the most tearjerking Christmas episodes ever, So-Called Angels. Stunning.

michellewaite1 said...

First of all, when is Thirty Something going to be on DVD? I am dying to watch it again. That Christmas episode was the first episode I ever saw of the show.
Second of all, Friends Christmas Armadillo episode is my favorite Christmas show. I laughed so hard I cried during that scene when they are all standing around the Menorrah, Ross in the Armadillo costume with the song Traditions from Fiddler on the Roof playing. I might just have to dig that DVD out and watch it tonight.
BTW, I love Mr. Hankie too. The South Park Christmas album is the best.

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