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Watching (TV) In a Winter Wonderland

Ten favorite holiday episodes from the past decade

By Jac Kern · November 22nd, 2011 · Holiday
Some of my favorite holiday memories involve being with family and friends, munching on seasonal goodies as we’re gathered around a warm, glowing … television. Sure, it might sound boring and vaguely pathetic — how very “American” of me — but holidays just wouldn’t be the same without football on Thanksgiving, the Christmas Eve A Christmas Story marathon and all the classic stop-motion specials. Television is at its best during the holidays — I first learned about Chanukah from the Rugrats special, and thanks to Seinfeld Festivus is now a real secular holiday celebrated on Dec. 23.

To celebrate this incredibly cheap way to entertain during the holidays, I’ve compiled some of my favorite holiday episodes of TV shows from the past decade. In no particular order, here are 10 of the funniest and, in some cases, most disturbing looks at the holiday season in the 21st century.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “A Very Sunny Christmas,” 2010

The gang realizes their holiday memories weren’t quite as they seemed when they were children. Mac’s family stole gifts from neighboring families, Charlie’s mom banged her way through a legion of Santas and elves each Christmas and Dennis and Dee are disappointed by the quality of Frank’s gifts. The gang also gets claymation-ed and audiences are left with the disturbing image of Frank emerging from a leather couch like a nude, oily babyman.

Buy it on DVD for that special someone this holiday here.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Mary, Joseph and Larry,” 2002

On top of Larry’s typical daily dilemmas (addressing a rogue pubic hair stuck in his throat takes up much of his time in this episode), he must deal with his in-laws visiting for the holidays. The visit of Cheryl’s traditional Christian family gives the secular/Jewish David household a Christmas makeover. Larry accidentally consumes parts of a baked goods manger scene, mistaking them for animal cookies and upsetting Cheryl and Co. Larry hires a group of church volunteers to set up a live nativity in his yard in exchange for a church donation, but screws that up as well.

Curb - Larry, Joseph, and Mary from Jim Huck on Vimeo.

South Park, “Woodland Critter Christmas,” 2004

From the guys who brought us Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo comes this heartwarming tale of a pack of singing, doe-eyed, Disney-licious animals Stan discovers in a forest. A rhyming (and bossy) narrator forces Stan to comply with the animals when they ask him to create a manger for their impending savior’s birth. Turns out the cute creatures are devil-worshipping heathens. Cue the rabbit sacrifice/deer-on-squirrel holiday orgy! The Anti-Christ is born and about to possess Kyle when it is revealed that it’s all just a Christmas story Cartman wrote in school. Obviously, Mr. Garrison allows Cartman to finish reading his tale.

Watch the full episode here.

Mad Men, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” 2010

It’s 1964 and advertising agency Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price has seen better days.

In a move we can all relate to (please don’t read this, CityBeat party planners), the men decide to cut back on the annual holiday party. However, when Sterling accidentally invites Lucky Strike’s Lee Garner, the office must pull out all the stops to impress the company’s biggest client. As with most drunken office parties, the night leads to excessive smoking, inappropriate banter and Don doing his secretary (OK, that’s pretty much every episode).

Saturday Night Live, Dec. 16, 2006, Justin Timberlake

Say what you want about the former Mouseketeer’s acting roles or boyband past, dude is pretty funny when he’s on SNL. While it’s very difficult to select just one holiday-themed episode of the sketch comedy show (“What about Schweddy Balls?!”), JT took Christmas gifting to a whole new level with his and Andy Samberg’s “Dick in a Box” song. An oft-forgotten skit in this episode is one of JT’s singing business mascots. Justin puts Salvation Army Santa to shame, dressing as a Cup O’ Soup whilst coaxing passersby to “Give it on up to Homelessville.”

Arrested Development, “Afternoon Delight,” 2004

A local tradition, teenagers vandalize the frozen banana stand each holiday season. Michael and George Michael usually fix it up, but this year GM is spending Christmas with his girlfriend Anne (everyone: “her?”) and her creepily religious family. The Bluth family office party gets awkward when G.O.B. threatens everyone with sexual harassment charges, Lindsay tries to find a man and Michael and Maeyby begin karaoke-ing “Afternoon Delight,” not realizing it’s probably an inappropriate uncle/niece song. Perhaps an early holiday gift to us all, Arrested Development is slated to return with a final season, leading into the highly anticipated feature film in 2013. When I heard this, I nearly blue myself!

The Office, “A Benihana Christmas,” 2006

The Dunder-Mifflin boys cheer up a heartbroken Michael with a trip to Benihana, aka “Asian Hooters.” Holiday party wars take over back at the office as Pam and Karen break away from Angela’s party committee to have their own margarita-karaoke party. The two parties merge once the guys return, Andy and Micheal with two waitress-dates in tow. Michael has a hard time distinguishing his gal from Andy’s. (Little-known fact: The two are actually different actresses than the ones in the Benihana scenes.)

Nip/Tuck, “Joy Kringle,” 2005

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like a petrified fetus, white supremacy and an abortion clinic! In true Nip/Tuck form, the show takes a dark, twisted look at the holiday. A mall Santa devoted to giving the Clauses a healthy makeover brings in his wife Mrs. Claus for some tummy lipo. The surgery reveals a preserved, 17-year-old fetus in her womb — proof that she once cheated on her impotent Santa. Meanwhile, Dr. Sean’s ex-wife Julia discovers she is pregnant with her former hubby’s child. Matt’s girlfriend Ariel goes on a caucasian rampage, stealing and re-painting an African-American nativity scene and bleaching her skin, when she discovers she’s 1/16 black. Sean and Julia decide to abort plans to … well, abort, and the episode poetically ends with rain washing away the returned black baby Jesus’ whiteface.

Go here to watch the full episode with educational Spanish subtitles.

The League, “Kegel the Elf,” 2010

Kids say the darndest things, usually because they copy grown-ups. Such is the case when little Ellie begins cursing and making elaborate lunch trades at school. Jenny and Kevin get her an “elf on the shelf” who will report bad behavior to Santa, but when Ellie names him Kegel, she reveals Jenny had been flexing her muscles at Andre’s vajayjay bootcamp. When Taco’s special year-old eggs are dropped to the ground only to remain intact, he proclaims it an Eggsmas miracle. Kevin ends up in full meltdown mode when his fantasy team fails to make it to the playoffs, once again.

Here is the full episode on FX's site.

30 Rock, “Ludachristmas,” 2007

In a tradition soon to be adopted by our own staff, the TGS crew holds an annual party in the writers’ office with the best name ever, but Kenneth the page tries to teach everyone the true meaning of Christmas by bringing a pastor to host the shindig. Tracy faces the difficulty of holidays without booze after he’s issued a court-ordered alcohol monitor ankle bracelet, while Jack considers time spent with the cheerful Lemons versus that with his ice-queen mother. 

Go to this Russian? site to watch the full episode.


This year ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas promotion is preceded by Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas, so we can enjoy the classic holiday programming (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas Vacation) and the newer favorites (The Santa Clause, The Polar Express) beginning Nov. 20.

TBS’ annual A Christmas Story marathon kicks off at 8 p.m. Dec. 24.

TCM begins showing great holiday films (1938’s A Christmas Carol, 1970’s Scrooge, 1947’s A Miracle on 34th Street) most nights beginning Dec. 5.

NBC screens It’s a Wonderful Life at 8 p.m. Dec. 24. New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly begins at 10 p.m. Dec. 31.

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve starting 8 p.m. Dec. 31 on ABC.



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