I’m sure I’ve enjoyed many memorable holiday episodes over the years, but the first one that always springs to mind these days is ‘The Man in the Fallout Shelter’ from Season 1 of Bones. The one where Zach accidentally releases a fungus in the lab, and everyone has to stay in quarantine instead of participating in their normal holiday plans. As an early episode of the series, it was an absolutely wonderful way to let us get to know the characters better (“Well, nothing brings people together like a Christmas lung fungus”), and it beautifully evoked both the communal spirit of the holiday season and the tremendous melancholy it can bring for those without or separated from family. The wordless montage where everyone got a few minutes to visit with their loved ones through the observation glass was incredibly poignant --- especially scored to the beautifully haunting Tori Amos cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ --- as was the closing scene when Bones sat down alone and finally unwrapped the presents from her missing family after so many years. I also loved the exchange of the perfect handmade Secret Santa gifts, and the affecting conclusion to the central case. A revelatory and moving hour that currently stands as my favorite Christmas episode.
First runner up: ‘O Little Town’ from Eureka Season 4. Check out my review for all the reasons why.
My favourite Christmas special of all time is Yes, Minister's 'Party Games.' Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister was a British sitcom that satirised the way we run our country, and it is the only reason I know anything about politics. It was absolutely brilliant and its peak was this Christmas special, in which lowly Minister for Administrative Affairs Jim Hacker somewhat unexpectedly becomes Prime Minister of Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is absolutely hilarious from start to finish, it makes use of the Christmas setting while moving the story and characters forward in leaps and bounds, and it taps into British political issues that we still seem to be talking about, even though it was aired in the mid-1980s.
I also love pretty much all the West Wing Christmas episodes (a show I hope to review on this very site, coming soon in 2013!). The season 6 Christmas story, also the last one, was a bit of a downer but most are lovely. The season 1 episode, 'In Excelsis Deo,' made me bawl like a baby but in a good way and the season 2 episode, 'Noel,' was the episode that got me hooked on The West Wing.
Oh, and this list is for TV, but Christmas isn't Christmas without The Muppets' Christmas Carol. I'm just saying.
I love Monk. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an obsessive compulsive detective (Adrian Monk) with Sherlock Holmesian crime solving abilities. Joined by his assistants (Sharona, seasons 1-3, Natalie, seasons 3-8) and his friends on the force (Captain Leland Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Randy Disher), Monk solves wacky and complex crimes, all the time dealing with his crippling OCD. In short, Monk is cute, funny, and good enough to have earned Tony Shaloub an Emmy nomination every single season (he won three of the eight). Plus, it’s one of those shows you don’t have to watch chronologically to understand and enjoy. For my favorite Christmas episode choices, I’ve picked two of the four Monk Christmas specials, “Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa,” and “Mr. Monk and the Miracle” (the lesser two Christmas specials are “Mr. Monk meets his Dad,” and “Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa”).
In “Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa,” Monk gets into an altercation with a benevolent Santa giving toys away, which results in a media circus and possible criminal charges. It’s one of my favorites largely due to Monk’s terrifically awkward TV interview, in which he tries to convince the reporter that he really does love Christmas and shouldn’t be the most hated man in San Francisco. I also really enjoy Monk’s tirade on joy. “Damn joy!”
“Mr. Monk and the Miracle” concentrates more on Captain Stottlemeyer. Stottlemeyer is divorced, his kids won’t talk to him, and his back problems have forced him to take a leave of absence from the job he loves. At Christmas, to boot. As Monk, Natalie, and Randy attempt to raise their friend’s spirits, they stumble onto a mysterious fountain with magical healing properties. Too good to be true? Watch and find out. This episode contains my favorite ‘here’s what happened.’ Spoiler alert: it’s a Gregorian chant.
I've never really gotten in to the whole Christmas special thing, probably because most were cartoons I didn't care much about. Except of course for my childhood hero, Garfield. Yes my childhood hero was a fat lazy cat, does that explain much about my personality? In the special Jon and Garfield head to Jon's parents place out on a farm. Garfield bonds with Jon's grandmother, gets to understand Jon a bit more after meeting his crazy family, and even has a good moment with Odie. I loved the little moments of sentiment in the story, and the reminders of what this time of year means. If a perpetually spoiled creature like Garfield can learn the value of Christmas, then maybe there's hope for all of us.
I'm not a big fan of the typical Christmas episode or special. I don't care much for Charlie Brown or the Grinch, and holiday episodes on series television are often a take-off of either A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life, both of which I prefer in the original. At any rate, my favorite Christmas episode is probably "A Very Supernatural Christmas". It's a dark, twisted, intense episode that was also poignant, personal and touching. That's an awful lot for one holiday episode to do in 42 minutes, but they did it.
In this year’s edition of About Us, I talked about how much I love all the Christmas cartoons. One of the joys of being back in the States this year is that I have been able to watch them all again. And, oh yes, I have my Charlie Brown tree.
Many of my favorite shows have done Christmas episodes, most of which I just love. But, my favorite Christmas episode ever is “In Excelsis Deo” from The West Wing. Toby gets a call from the D.C. police who have found his business card in the pocket of a dead man. It turns out that the man is a homeless Korean War vet who had one of Toby’s old coats that he had donated to Goodwill. Toby takes it upon himself to arrange a military funeral with full honors at Arlington. The President, understandably a bit put out, asks Toby if his doing this might not start a precedent with homeless vets. Toby’s response is one of the best of the series, “I can only hope so, sir.”
Meanwhile, we learn that Mrs. Landingham lost two sons in Vietnam on Christmas Eve; Josh and Sam approach Laurie for dirt on Lillienfield; C.J. gets emotionally involved in a hate crime case, while finally agreeing to a date with Danny; and, Josh and Donna have a wonderful bonding moment over her Christmas present.
What makes this episode so amazing is the final few minutes. With a children's choir singing “Little Drummer Boy,” the show cuts between the funeral at Arlington and the staff gathering around the Christmas tree. The tears always fall.
That’s it. Enjoy whatever it is you choose to watch over this holiday and have a safe and happy season.