Christmas movies are grand and all, but some of the most memorable onscreen holiday moments have taken place on the tube. Here we reflect on our favourite festive episodes from the past 70 years.
I Love Lucy Christmas Show
I Love Lucy, Season 6, Episode 27
Lucy (Lucille Ball), Ricky (Desi Arnaz), Ethel (Vivan Vance), and Fred (William Frawley), spend Christmas Eve reminiscing about the good old days — marking the first time a TV show aired a flashback clips episode. The next morning, the four of them dress up as Santa Claus as a treat for Little Ricky (Richard Keith), and then a fifth Santa who turns out to be the real deal appears — and disappears just as quickly.
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Three’s Company, Season 2, Episode 14
Jack (John Ritter), Janet (Joyce DeWitt), and Chrissy (Suzanne Somers), agree to attend a party at the Ropers’ place, but realize their friends, the Stevenses, had invited them to a much cooler party first. Chrissy makes them go to the Ropers’ boring party until they can excuse themselves to go to the Stevenses’ party. But when they get there, they see the Ropers and realize Mr. Roper (Norman Fell), had been trying to bore them into leaving so he and Helen (Audra Lindley), could go to the Stevenses’ party instead. Oh, those Three’s Company shenanigans!
It’s a Bundyful Life Parts 1 & 2
Married With Children, Season, 4 Episodes 11 & 12
Originally airing as a single, hour-long episode, this Bundy-ful take on It’s a Wonderful Life sees Al (Ed O’Neill), go on a guardian angel-led journey (the guy with the wings was played by Sam Kinison), into what life would have looked like if he was never born. Classic scenes include Al getting electrocuted by his Christmas lights and Marcy (Amanda Bearse), photocopying her tushie at the office bash.
Miracle On 3rd Or 4th Street
Frasier, Season 1, episode 12
Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), agrees to cover for the station’s sportscaster, on Christmas Day. Frasier hopes working will take his mind off his disappointment that his son won’t be home for the holidays. Instead he faces a long day of being “humbugged” by callers’ depressing stories.
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
The Simpsons, Season 1, Episode 1
After Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner), spends the family’s holiday savings on Bart’s (Nancy Cartwright), tattoo removal and Homer (Dan Castellaneta), learns he’s not getting a holiday bonus, Homer is forced to get a job as a mall Santa to pay for Christmas gifts. He then gambles it all away at the dog racing track on Christmas Eve. But the holiday is saved when Homer and Bart bring home the losing pup, Santa’s Little Helper, after he’s abandoned by his owner.
Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose
Schitt’s Creek, Season 4, Episode 13
With his career on the up-and-up again, Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy), feels it’s time for a good old-fashioned Rose Christmas party. But with less than a day to prepare and even less enthusiasm from his loved ones (like, Alexis doesn’t even plan to attend), Johnny realizes there’s probably no going back to their swanky soirees of the past. The good news is there’s still plenty of Christmas spirit lurking at the Rosebud Motel in this holiday bonus episode of the Emmy-winning CBC hit.
The One With the Holiday Armadillo
Friends, Season 7, Episode 10
Ross (David Schwimmer), wants to teach his son Ben (Cole Sprouse), about Hanukkah — but when Ben can’t handle the idea of no visit from Santa, Ross tries at the last minute to find a Santa costume. All he can find, though, is an armadillo, which he tries to pass off as Santa’s friend, the Holiday Armadillo. His plans go awry when Chandler (Matthew Perry), shows up in a Santa suit, and Joey (Matt LeBlanc), comes in wearing a Superman costume.
The Office, Season 2, Episode 10
It’s the annual holiday party at Dunder Mifflin, and Michael (Steve Carell), goes way over the spending limit for Secret Santa and buys an iPod. It becomes the most-coveted gift in a game of Yankee Swap, making everyone else feel bad. But viewers were most interested in whether Jim’s (John Krasinski), gift of a teapot for Pam (Jenna Fischer), would find its intended. Hint: It does, in one of the sweetest moments of their courtship on the show.
Seinfeld, Season 9, Episode 10
This Seinfeld episode most famously popularized the holiday of Festivus, but it also introduced us to the concept of a two-face (someone who looks good sometimes, and bad at other times), and explained why Kramer (Michael Richards), never held a job. Pulitzer Prize-winning actor-playwright Tracy Letts also made a memorable appearance.
The Voice of Christmas
The Brady Bunch, season 1, Episode 12
Carol (Florence Henderson), gets laryngitis and may not be able to sing a solo at the holiday church service, so youngest daughter Cindy (Susan Olsen), asks a department store Santa Claus for a miracle. The request presents Dad (Robert Reed), with the seasonal problem that Santa might not be able to deliver his promise. You need to watch to find out.
Deck the Halls
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Season 1, Episode 15
For his first Christmas at the Banks mansion, Will (Will Smith), decides to go all out with the decorations — to the disgust of his rich relatives and all the neighbours. Will threatens to fight a neighbour — who turns out to be boxing champ Evander Holyfield (played by himself). But all is resolved when the American president shows up to approve of Will’s decorations.
I’m Scheming of a White Christmas
Home Improvement, Season 2, episode 12
While Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor (Tim Allen), decorates the house in Clark Griswold fashion, two of his sons use a portion of the holiday charity money they raised to buy comics and video games in Bart Simpson fashion. Insert traditional family sitcom scene in which harsh lessons are learned.
Cheers, Season 6, Episode 12
All is not well where everybody knows your name. Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), is depressed, Rebecca (Kirstie Alley), is making everyone work late and Sam (Ted Danson), realizes he’s the only one who didn’t get Rebecca a gift. Yikes!
Bob Has to Have His Tonsils Out, So He Spends Christmas Eve in the Hospital
The Bob Newhart Show, Season 4, Episode 15
This is actually the fourth Christmas-themed episode in the classic CBS series. In it, everyone is making plans for Christmas while Bob learns he needs to be hospitalized to have his tonsils removed. Not only is he embarrassed by having the operation at his age but his nurse was once his patient as well.
MASH, Season 1, Episode 12
Hawkeye (Alan Alda), pens a letter home to his father during the Christmas season, relating a number of amusing anecdotes, including Radar’s (Gary Burghoff), effort to mail home a jeep piece-by-piece and Henry Blake’s (McLean Stevenson), monthly sex talk. Meanwhile the 4077 prepares a party for a nearby orphanage where Hawkeye is slated to play Santa Claus. Just as the party is about to begin, an emergency call comes about a critically wounded soldier at the front. So Hawkeye ends up being transported by helicopter and performing emergency surgery as Santa.
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Grey’s Anatomy, Season 2, Episode 12
Religious differences are at the forefront of this festive episode filmed back in the heyday of Grey’s. Burke (Isaiah Washington), and Cristina (Sandra Oh), clash, while Alex (Justin Chambers), struggles with his own faith as his intern friends help him study for an exam.
Christmas at the Clampetts
The Beverly Hillbillies, Season 2, Episode 14
In the exact kind of far-fetched Christmas episode you’d expect from this classic comedy, the Drysdales shower the Clampetts with Christmas gifts — including a TV (which the Clampetts think is a washing machine), and a chimpanzee (who they think is a sailor from another country). To express their thanks, the Clampetts give Mrs. Drysdale (Harriet MacGibbon), a full-length mink. Just what she wanted! Except it’s an actual mink and not a coat. Natch.
The Andy Griffith Show, Season 1, Episode 11
After department store owner Ben Weaver (Will Wright), catches moonshiner Sam Muggins (Sam Edwards), Andy (Andy Griffith), throws Sam’s whole family in jail. To lift spirits, he relocates the gang’s holiday celebration to the sheriff’s office, feast and all. When Ben sees how much fun they’re having, he goes to great lengths to get arrested so he can join — and when he does, he shows up with a suitcase full of gifts. This wound up being Andy Griffith’s only Christmas-themed episode — but at least it was a memorable one.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean
Mr. Bean, Season 1, Episode 7
From pulling Santa’s beard and swiping a Christmas tree from the department store to slamming the door on carollers and accidentally tossing his turkey out the window, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), celebrates the holidays in the kind of offbeat way only Mr. Bean can.