This December, we’re wishing for peace on Earth (but not necessarily on television).
Not to go all Grinch on you, but there can be a lot of letdown around the holidays. It's too cold. It's too warm. There's not enough snow. There's too much damn snow. You got bad presents. You didn't get any presents. Well, whatever, there's at least one place where you won't be disappointed this time of year: television! Was there ever a greater gift to Earth than the concept of the Christmas episode? Sure, world peace would be nice, but until then, let's take what we can get.
Doctor Who S5E14: A Christmas Carol
British shows all seem to have Christmas specials, and given its long history (even if we just count the rebooted series), this entire list could have been filled with Doctor Who episodes. That being said, this 2010 entry co-starring Dumbledore II himself, Michael Gambon, is the most accessible to non-Whovians, as it's based on the structure of the Dickens classic from which it takes its name. It does use one of those ourobouros-like plot devices that writer/producer Steven Moffat so loves, but the episode is so fun and bright, disbelief is easy to suspend.
South Park S8E14: Woodland Critter Christmas
As with any episode of South Park, this holiday-themed profanityfest is not for the easily offended. Between the immaculate conception happening just slightly further down the food chain (namely at the porcupine level), and Kyle expressing a desire to become the Anti-Christ (to make things better for the Jews), one might even consider this an... ANTI-Christmas special (see what I did there?). Also, there's an AIDS joke. Now don't say I didn't warn you.
The Twilight Zone S3E14: 5 Characters in Search of an Exit
I don't know about the rest of you, but Christmas always makes me think of Sartre's existentialist play "No Exit." It's probably because I saw this episode at a tender age. 5 individuals, in various occupation-specific costumes awake to find themselves trapped in a smooth cylinder with... NO EXIT — except the open top, from which comes a horrible ringing sound. I won't spoil the Christmas connection as it would give away the entire twist, but I will say that you can also look at it as a commentary on spending days trapped in a house with family. After all, hell is, as Sartre famously opined, other people.
The O.C. S1E10: The Best Chrismukkah Ever
Big sigh. OK, I don't know, guys. In this VERY SPECIAL EPISODE, Seth Cohen teaches his pals (and the world!) the true meaning of Chrismukkah — a word invented for the express purpose of stealing Festivus' thunder (I'm just spitballing here; I have no idea what the true motivations were). That's all. But it's important to the millennials (except me) because the characters were all inoffensively attractive and had rich person problems to which we should all aspire. Hey, maybe that is the true meaning of Chrismukkah!
Community S3E10: Regional Holiday Music
Honestly, this is probably the meanest episode Community has ever made — and that's saying something. From its outright hatred of Glee (we find out the Greendale equivalent of the Glee club was murdered) to its skewering of the earnest happiness that comes with most Christmas-themed episodes, we're given a view into the cold, black heart of this cult series. But its original songs (including personal favorite "Baby Boomer Santa," which transcends everything that's come before and mercilessly rains blows on the idea that the Baby Boom generation changed the world) are worthy entries to the Christmas music cannon.
The King of Queens S5E11: Mentalo Case
There are certain wounds that time can't heal. I, for instance, wanted a Nintendo system as a child. My parents refused as it would "rot [my] brain" (though apparently in a way that watching 10 straight hours of television wouldn't). Doug Heffernan, the titular King of the title of the show, affably played by Kevin James, is in much the same boat here. Tasked with finding a copy of a lost childhood toy, Carrie (Leah Remini) buys a knockoff, shattering Doug's dreams all over again. Rosebud....
Creature Comforts S1E13: Merry Christmas
This Christmas special from cult British animation studio Aardman Animations is practically the definition of exuberant. Concept: Interview the British public about their feelings on the season and then show them coming out of the mouths of adorable, stop-motion animals. Guaranteed to put a smile on the face of even the most curmudgeonly of critics (e.g. me), Creature Comforts exemplifies the very best qualities of the Christmas spirit.
Seinfeld S9E10: The Strike
A Festivus for the rest of us! And with that sentence, a new holiday truly was born. What was once just another brick in the Jenga stack that was George Costanza's traumatic life is now a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, to the point that the Google query "buy festivus pole" returns more than 66k results. It's a Festivus miracle!