The Ten Jolliest Christmas TV Sitcom Episodes
For Thanksgiving, we tallied up the ten best Turkey Day Sitcom episodes, and there were a surprising number of good candidates — but the November holiday of gluttony has nothing on Christmas, the holiday for which it seems sitcoms were made. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so sang Andy Williams (probably in a special televised right after some of the sitcom episodes on this list), and TV embraced that to the utmost.
So while you’re wrapping presents, baking cookies, stringing popcorn and cranberries, or whatever Christmassy thing it is you do to prepare for the big day, check out these ten holiday episodes — because sappy sentimental sitcoms are one of the reasons for the season.
10. The Andy Griffith Show, “Christmas Story”
Aw, shucks. This season-one episode from 1960 is about as sappy as a syrup tree, but it still warms the holiday heart. Only in Mayberry would the best Christmas party in town be down at the courthouse, with Andy on guitar and the fancy china out and the pretty Miss Ellie serving punch. Heck, a cell at the Mayberry jail was a lot better than most current Denver apartments. But then, that's the benefit of a fictional America, right?
9. WKRP in Cincinnatti, “Bah, Humbug”
There have been a lot of sitcom takes on Dickens's A Christmas Carol, most notably the Odd Couple episode "Scrooge Takes an Oscar," which could have been on this list, too, were it longer than ten slots. But this 1980 WRKP episode does more than adapt and amuse; it reveals something about the characters and their pasts, but also manages to be a commentary on modern America...and offers good advice on not accepting homemade brownies from the office pothead.
8. Friends, “The One With the Holiday Armadillo”
Man, the end of the year was important to the '90s juggernaut that was Friends. Maybe it was because of the way they were trying to show how young adults were breaking away from their familial norms and still clinging to the traditions with which they grew up. Or maybe it was just crazy-popular to capitalize on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Either way, this Y2K episode is one of its best, with Ross trying to convince his rarely appearing son Ben (Ross was not the most attentive of dads, right?) that Hanukkah is just as awesome as Christmas, armadillo style. Seriously, if Jewish families everywhere didn't adopt a stuffed armadillo to help celebrate the holiday, they were missing out.
7. The Dick Van Dyke Show, “The Alan Brady Show Presents”
The classic ’60s-cool sitcom rarely marked the holidays, with this notable exception from 1963, when the fictitious Alan Brady (the star for which Rob Petrie served as head writer) asks the writing staff, their families and his producer to put on a show. Dubious setup, sure, but the payoff is charming and winning and total Mad Men-era showbiz, and makes you want to have a dinner party in your living room with all these lovely people.
6. The Jeffersons, “984 W. 124th St., Apt. 5C”
George Jefferson, when you got down to his core, was a stand-up guy (though as Florence would point out, it was tough to tell when Shorty was standing). And nothing proves the depth hidden behind George's swagger than this 1977 episode. When Weezie suspects that George is sneaking out to do who-knows-what in a not-great part of Harlem, she trails him...and finds out that he's been leaving gifts at the door of the low-rent apartment where he'd grown up, long before he became the successful dry-cleaner tycoon of NYC. It's a lovely Christmas card to 1970s New York, and a reminder that gratitude and generosity are two of the reasons we love this season.
Keep reading for more seasonal sitcoms.
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