Merry Christmas, dear readers! You know the holiday drill — time to list some of my favorite mistletoe laden and eggnog chugging sitcom episodes. If you need some laughs today (or a break from familial obligations) pop in one of these shows and let the joy flow.
OUR MISS BROOKS (1952-1956, CBS)
Episode 50: “The Magic Tree” (Aired: 12/25/53)
Miss Brooks buys a “magic” Christmas tree that seems to enchant all who touch it — they became enamored with her!
Here’s what I wrote back in September when I featured this episode as one of the best from Season Two: “This was adapted from a radio script that was performed almost every year at Christmastime. It’s one of the series’ sweetest, with the ever-popular “Was it a dream?” bit. With many laughs, and a cheer-worthy kiss between Miss Brooks and the suddenly hunky Mr. Boynton, this is an incredibly enjoyable episode.”
THE HONEYMOONERS (1955-1956, CBS)
Episode 13: “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” (Aired: 12/24/55)
Ralph sells his bowling ball to get Alice a last minute Christmas gift.
This episode actually didn’t make my list back in August because it’s one of the sweeter episodes of the series. Taking cues from prior sketches (and the Honeymooners did Christmas sketches every year before the syndicated season), the gift business between Ralph and Alice makes for some laughs, and as usual, Gleason shines. This episode is also notable because Gleason and company step out of character and take a curtain call at the end.
I LOVE LUCY (1951-1957, CBS)
Episode XX: “Christmas Show” (Aired: 12/24/56)
The Ricardos and Mertzes reminisce as they trim the tree on Christmas Eve.
This episode didn’t receive a number because it was viewed as a rerun during its initial airing, thus it wasn’t seen in syndication until the late ’80s. The Ricardos and Mertzes reminisce about Lucy’s pregnancy, the time she snuck into the barbershop quartet, and Little Ricky’s birth, while they decorate on Christmas Eve. It’s magical to see our favorite foursome in a holiday episode, and there are the expected laughs. It was featured on DVD, and has just been colorized and released separately.
THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (1962-1971, CBS)
Episode 50: “Christmas At The Clampetts” (Aired: 12/25/63)
A television, a boat, and a chimpanzee are among the many gifts Mr. Drysdale gives to the Clampetts for Christmas.
More hijinks, Clampett style! We’ve got some of the traditional mix-ups, but two of my favorites: the Clampetts mistaking their brand new television set for a washing machine, and their gift to Mrs. Drysdale: a mink. (She obviously wants a coat, of course, but they get her the real thing.) This series did a few other Christmas episodes, including one where they went to Hooterville for one giant crossover between three series, but this episode is my favorite.
GREEN ACRES (1965-1971, CBS)
Episode 45: “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” (Aired: 12/21/66)
Oliver is determined to have an old-fashioned Christmas, which includes decorating his own tree. But even in Hooterville, all they sell are gaudy aluminum ones, and chopping trees down is prohibited by the state agriculture department.
BEWITCHED (1964-1972, ABC)
Episode 213: “Sisters At Heart” (Aired: 12/24/70)
When Tabitha wants to be sisters with her black friend Lisa, she casts a spell and they both end up polka-dotted. Through another misunderstanding Darrin’s client wants him off the account because he thinks that Lisa is his daughter.
This famous episode was reportedly one of Elizabeth Montgomery’s favorites. A “very special” episode, the script is surprisingly funny, and the premise beams with originality. The script was penned by a high school english class (with tweaks by the production, of course) and that seems to make it all the more special. Not even as preachy as a typical All In The Family, this episode boasts both humor and heart.
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1971-1977, CBS)
Episode 105: “Not A Christmas Story” (Aired: 11/09/74)
A snowstorm traps the newsroom at Sue Ann’s for an early Christmas dinner.
Breaking with tradition, this Christmas episode takes place in November, as Sue Ann has just taped her Christmas special and invites everyone to her set for a meal where things climax with funny hats and the holiday songs. This is such a funny episode — from the height of the series — and the sniping between the news staff is hysterical. One of my favorite episodes, regardless of the holiday slant.
THE BOB NEWHART SHOW (1972-1978, CBS)
Episode 87: “Bob Has To Have His Tonsils Out, So He Spends Christmas Eve In The Hospital” (Aired: 12/20/75)
Bob, well, the title pretty much says it all.
This series had a Christmas episode every season, and they’re all pretty funny. This is one of the most memorable, as the series’ trademark sarcasm extends throughout — including the title. Everyone gets a chance to shine, but the focus is, as it should be, on Bob. This is from Season Four — the series at its peak. (The infamous Thanksgiving episode is also from this season.)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS (1985-1992, NBC)
Episode 36: “’Twas The Nightmare Before Christmas” (Aired: 12/20/86)
The girls all plan to visit their respective families for Christmas, but their plans are ruined when they are held hostage by a man dressed as Santa Claus at the Grief Counseling Center.
I really enjoy this episode, even though the hostage situation is a little… unoriginal… because there are plenty of laughs in the episode. (This is Season Two, after all.) The best bit is, undoubtedly, Blanche’s gift to her roomies: a calendar — “The Men of Blanche’s Boudoir.” In fact, it’s one of the most memorable scenes of the series. Also, this episode is much funnier than the melodramatic fifth season Christmas episode.
MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN (1987-1997, FOX)
Episode 26: “You Better Watch Out” (Aired: 12/20/87)
The Bundys’ Christmas is rudely interrupted when a parachuting mall Santa crash-lands into their backyard.
The first Bundy Christmas will always be my favorite — it’s so anti-sitcom (as most of the post-Lear Christmas episodes had tried to be) and undeniably hilarious. Cast members fondly recall the scene in which Santa crashes, and if you watch, you can even see Ed O’Neill biting his cheek to keep from laughing. One joke has always stuck with me. As Peg comforts the hyperventilating Marcy, “Cheer up. It could have been worse. He could have landed on the picket fence.”
SEINFELD (1989-1998, NBC)
Episode 166: “The Strike” (Aired: 12/18/97)
Kramer gets word that he can return to a bagel shop he worked at previously after a 12 year absence. Jerry, Elaine and George attend a Chanukah party where Jerry sets up a date with a “two faced” woman and Elaine uses her “fake” number to avoid one. Kramer brings a renewed interest in Festivus, a holiday George’s father invented when George was younger.
This is the infamous Festivus episode. As usual, Seinfeld tries extra hard to prove itself different from previous sitcoms, and despite this episode’s presence in the unfortunate ninth season, most of “The Strike” works. While I like the Jerry story with the two-faced woman in theory, the execution is so bad that it’s embarrassing. The Costanza subplot is the best remembered, and the funniest. The culminating dinner is a riot.
FRASIER (1993-2004, NBC)
Episode 130: “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowitz” (Aired: 12/17/98)
Frasier is forced to feign Judaism when his girlfriend’s Jewish mother visits. The charade is further complicated by the apartment’s Christmas decor and Niles’ participation in a Christmas pageant.
This is one of the highlights from the lackluster sixth season. A classic Frasier farce, this episode has Frasier and his girlfriend (played by Amy Brenneman) desperately trying to convince her mother (who set them up in the first place) that he’s Jewish. Of course, the ensemble makes this difficult. With an abundance of laughs, this is one of the most memorable episodes of the series.
EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (1996-2005, CBS)
Episode 84: “The Christmas Picture” (Aired: 12/13/99)
Ray decides to take a family picture for Marie’s Christmas present. But she doesn’t want Debra’s family to be in it.
Raymond did Christmas episodes for eight of its nine seasons, and many of them are enjoyable. (But this series doesn’t need a holiday to get the family together. That seems to happen in every episode regardless.) I like this episode because Debra’s parents are roped in, and because of the story’s theatricality — the episode plays practically in real time, and you all know I love that! Once again, every member gets the chance to shine here, by MVP is Doris Roberts.
FRIENDS (1994-2004, NBC)
Episode 156: “The One With The Holiday Armadillo” (Aired: 12/14/00)
Ross wants to introduce Ben to Chanukah. In order to entice Rachel to move back into their refurbished apartment, Pheobe must drive a wedge between Rachel and current roomie Joey.
The B and C stories aren’t nearly as memorable as the A story, which has Ross hoping to educate his son about Chanukah by dressing up (a la Santa Clause) as a new character — the Holiday Armadillo. This is largely a sight-gag episode, but the stories are all motivated by character, and I appreciate the originality of the premise. I also like that the series respectfully (and with humor) deals with both Chanukah and Christmas.
30 ROCK (2006-2013, NBC)
Episode 30: “Ludachristmas” (Aired: 12/13/07)
Jack gets attached to Liz’s nurturing parents because they provide the love and support he never got from his mom. The staffers get ready for their raunchy holiday party, but Kenneth changes their plans at the last minute.
I’ll be honest with you: this episode, while funny, is primarily on my list because of the delightful reappearance of the irascible Elaine Stritch as Jack’s mother. Her calculated attempts to start a feud between the Lemons are hilarious. She and Baldwin have excellent chemistry together, as do Fey and Stritch. (Stritch is what led me to the series in the first place!)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! Come back tomorrow for more Xena!