The 10 Best Sitcom Christmas Episodes of the Past 30 Years

By Chris Cummins in Daily Lists, TV
Monday, December 20, 2010 at 8:06 am
5) Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, "Knowing Me, Knowing Yule"

After accidentally shooting a guest to death at the end of the previous episode, rude-but-lovable talk show host Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) returned to the airwaves with this madcap Christmas special of the Britcom Knowing Me, Knowing You in which his streak of bad behavior continued undeterred. Over the course of the hour-long program, he exposes his rampant homophobia towards his musical director, insults a born-again Christian and a paralyzed golfer who are guests, nearly gets beaten up by a transvestite chef and repeatedly punches the BBC executive who can save or bury his show. In other words, just another typical evening of chat for Partridge. Although he's come close to breaking through in the U.S. a few times (Hamlet 2 and a memorable guest spot on Curb Your Enthusiasm are amongst his career highlights on this side of the pond), American stardom still eludes Coogan. Perhaps that's the reason he recently returned to Partridge for a series of web shorts called Mid Morning Matters that find the character as delightfully anti-social as ever. As great as it is to have Alan back, he still has never been funnier than he is in Knowing Me, Knowing You. If you haven't had the chance to make his acquaintance, start with this Christmas special and marvel at its ability to jingle your bells.

4) Community, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"

Community continued to prove itself as the most subversive sitcom currently on network TV with this recent homage to both The Wizard of Oz and vintage Rankin/Bass holiday specials that has already become essential holiday viewing less than a month after its initial airing. It must have been a Herculean task to accomplish, but somehow writers Dan Harmon and Dino Stamatopoulos crafted a non-denominational holiday show that is equally cynical and sentimental (and that's not even getting into the brilliance of the killer Lost joke that plays a key role in third act). The oddly uplifting finale about embracing the holiday and the bullshit that comes with would make Rudolph proud. "Music and liquor and trees, that what's Christmas is for." Amen to that, Pierce.

3) The Office, "The Office Special"

I previously sang the praises of this wrap-up of the UK's original The Office in my list of the 10 Most Underrated Christmas Specials Ever and I'm mentioning it again here because with each successive viewing I become convinced that this two-part episode is the perfect way to wrap up a series. The final couple minutes of the show are featured above, and upon watching them again it's difficult not to be won over by the humor -- and unexpected heart -- that Ricky Gervais and company pull off here. I know that you Michael Scott fanatics out there are probably bummed that I didn't put one of the U.S. Office episodes on here. My apologies, but I guess I'm just too much of a David Brent man.

2) Seinfeld, "The Pick"

"The Pick" centers around Elaine's infamous Christmas card nip slip and how a nose scratch can often be misinterpreted as a pick. Classic moments from the show for sure, but ones that have been overshadowed by a certain December event that features an aluminum pole and impromptu displays of strength. You see, these days the Festivus episode gets all of the Seinfeld holiday glory. In the tradition of that celebration I'm going to air my grievance that "The Strike" (featuring the debut of Festivus) isn't nearly as funny as "The Pick." Feel free to air your own grievances about my totally subjective decision in the comments...

1) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, "A Very Sunny Christmas"

"A Very Sunny Christmas" could have easily had the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang slumming their way through an uninspired holiday adventure. Instead, the episode -- which debuted as a straight-to-DVD feature last year and is currently airing on FX -- has Charlie, Mac, Sweet Dee, Dennis and Frank embarking on a hilarious search for the Christmas spirit. Of course given the characters we are dealing with here, it is a search that somehow involves references to obscure Phillies players and an assault on Santa Claus. Oddly enough, this episode also gives us the most insight yet into why the gang is so selfish and generally fucked up (Frank was a Christmas Grinch to Dennis and Dee, Charlie's mom is a whore, Mac's parents stole his presents from neighboring families, and so forth). Along with the unexpected character development comes a denouement in which everyone has to pay for their awful actions for once at the hands of the Big Lebowski himself, David Huddleston as Frank's old partner, Eugene. The laughs here are bigger than just the shock value of seeing a nude Danny DeVito or hearing the word fuck casually bandied about. In fact, the funniest moments tend to be little character beats like Mac urging Charlie not to "get lost" in a game of Simon and Dennis' continued exasperation towards everyone. Then there's the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-influenced segment in which Frank gets some stop-motion comeuppance. With so many winning bits crammed into such a brief running time, it's little wonder why this has quickly become my favorite Christmas sitcom episode ever. Now if you'll excuse you, I have to see if I can find an Omnibot somewhere to share my holidays with.
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