Television in this region makes almost no concession to the fact it’s the Christmas season, so here’s a list of TV episodes (with series and episode number) you might want to get hold of to put you in the mood. In this case, a good mood — sorry EastEnders fans. And, of course, we’re not suggesting that you download them for free from one of the many torrent sites on the Internet, no sir, as they are all available to buy on DVD.
PORRIDGE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
There were two of these, but the 1975 one where there’s a planned prison escape and Fletch just wants to get himself admitted to the prison infirmary (for peace and the good food) is the better of the two.
MORECAMBE & WISE CHRISTMAS SPECIALS
You can get all eight on one three-disc DVD set (all 495 minutes), but if you’re just looking for one then the 1971 special with pianist André Previn is the true classic.
The 1987 episode “Christmas Cheers” (S06E12), where Rebecca has Carla, Woody and Sam all working Christmas Eve, while Frasier is in an anti-Christmas bah-humbug mood, and Cliff is collecting food for the needy to try and win a trip to Disney World.
The episode “The Strike” (S09E10) is a belter and actually popularised the holiday of Festivus (Google it), while George creates donation cards for a fake charity called The Human Fund in lieu of having to give office Christmas presents.
BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL
A parody of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Blackadder – kind and generous to a fault – discovers that no good deed goes unpunished and life will be better for he and his descendants if he’s nasty.
THE WONDER YEARS
The bittersweet coming of age series (set in the late ’60s and early ’70s) did some surprisingly good Christmas-themed episodes. The two to get hold of are “A Very Cutlip Christmas” (S04E09), when Kevin finds his despised gym teacher moonlighting as a mall Santa, and “Let Nothing You Dismay” (S06E10) where he’s trying to get money to buy girlfriend Winnie the perfect present.
STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP
“The Christmas Show” (S01E11) is one of the best episodes of one of the most underrated TV series ever, as Matt tries to bring the Christmas spirit to Studio 60. More here.
The 1996 Christmas special, “A Christmassy Ted”, where Ted is awarded the illustrious Golden Cleric award for leading a group of “lost” priests out of the biggest lingerie store in Ireland.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
The famous TV special from 1965. Because you’re never too old for this and far from seeming dated, its power to convey the meaning of Christmas – in an increasingly commercial world – seems to grow with each passing year. More here.
They’ve done lots of Christmas episodes but the best is arguably the first from 1989 — “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (S01E01). It was also the first full-length episode of The Simpsons ever broadcast and perfectly illustrates how the series would go on to be manic and heartwarming in equal turns. Also worth getting hold of is the Christmas 1997 episode “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace” (S09E10) where Bart accidentally burns down the Christmas tree and presents then claims a burglar did it.
An early episode (S01E11) called “My Own Personal Jesus” was a smartly-done festive episode about real “miracles” at Christmas and managed to be funny and heart-warming without being too schmaltzy.
THE OFFICE (UK)
The double episode set at Christmas that concluded the second series was a brilliant piece of writing in itself, but rarely in a sitcom has a finale been so touching. That it also contains some of the series’ best scenes – from skewering the pomposity of low-celebrity culture, to the horror of blind dates – just cements its position as one of the best sitcoms of the last decade.
The fourth Christmas special from 2008 (“The Next Doctor”) is a lovely slice of campy Doctor Who time-travel fun. The Christmas episode has now become an expected annual event, and in this story it’s Christmas Eve 1851 as the Doctor battles Cybermen through the snowy streets of Victorian London. Family television at it’s best.
KNOWING ME KNOWING YULE
The Christmas special of Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge from 1995 is often overlooked by Partridge fans, but it’s well worth revisiting. Essentially the episode that closes the series and sets up I’m Alan Partridge, it also works brilliantly as a stab at the gaudiness of British chat and light entertainment shows, especially at Christmas.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
This Christmas episode (‘’The Night of the Meek”) is from December 1960. After being sacked for turning up late and drunk, a mall-Santa finds a bag of presents in an alley. He starts to hand them out to the poor people in his neighbourhood and soon realises that the bag can give people whatever present they really want. More here.
They did quite a few festive episodes (Amazon are selling a Frasier: Best Of Christmas DVD very cheaply) but the pick of the bunch was “Frasier Grinch” (S03E09) when he’s determined to buy his son only highly educational toys for Christmas. The frustration of shopping (especially at this time of the year) is also perfectly captured.
For Esquire magazine – for original PDF click here – Christmas TV create