Movies & TV / Columns

Favorite Christmas Sitcom TV Episodes

December 19, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Married With Children Christmas

We’re in the final countdown before the big day and I thought it would be fun to do a list. Tis the season and this week’s theme comes courtesy of memories of 411mania’s old Top 5 lists of yesteryear. Some of you newcomers may not know this but we used to do a weekly Top 5 list every Friday in the Movie/TV section that tackled fun subjects like the one I’m about to dive into. We’d get 4 or 5 writers and present our selections while you, the reader, would spit on our selections and tell us why we sucked in the comments. It was pure holiday magic. 

Dust off your memories and think back to a time before Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, a time when everyone got their entertainment from stations like ABC, NBC, and CBS.  On CBS we had one of the greatest shows ever called M*A*S*H. It was a perfect balance of drama and comedy that stands above and beyond the sitcoms we have today. While it had a few Christmas flavored episodes, the one I remember most fondly was called ‘Death Takes a Holiday’. I was probably 6-years old when I sat in my dad’s lap and watched it. Granted, most of it flew over my head but I remember my parent’s reaction to it and it stayed with me ever since.

The episode is simple enough. The 4077 plans a Christmas party for a group of orphans and everyone comes together to make it special. That is everyone except Winchester. In the middle of the festivities, a mortally wounded soldier arrives and Hawkeye, B.J., and Margaret must keep him alive so that “his children won’t have to remember Christmas as the day their daddy died.” Pretty heavy stuff.

While the holiday party provides plenty of giggles and Christmas cheer, it’s the battle to keep the soldier alive that provides the hook. At one point Margaret loses the pulse and Father Mulcahy starts to administer the Last Rites, but B.J. cuts him off with a curt, “You’re not gonna pull a shroud over him”,  with Mulcahy reminding him of his priestly duties. It’s those little things that you remember. With more than 30 minutes left till midnight the staff can do more and the soldier passes away, with B.J. and Hawkeye going back and forth on what to do. It’s Hawkeye’s words that resonate: “It’s over. Let him rest”.

In a gesture of goodwill, Hawkeye moves the minute hand of the clock forward and declares that Flannigan died at 12:05 a.m. on December 26. I watched that simple gesture decades ago and I can still remember it like yesterday. That’s the magic of television.

I’ll be honest. I tried to put together a Top 5 list and just couldn’t do it. I’d probably have issues doing a Top 100 to be honest. I will throw some out there but I have to give the Christmas VIP Award to the great Danny Devito. 

Yes. Danny Devito.

He’s in two of the best Christmas episodes with the first being in Taxi’s ‘A Full House For Christmas and then in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s ‘A Very Sunny Christmas. Say whatever you want but Devito is a holiday gem in both and for very different reasons in each.

To give a nod to one of the original’s who paved the way we have to acknowledge The Honeymooners and the episode ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’.  While it’s plot might seem contrived now, back then it was one of the first and its storyline has been used, repeatedly, ever since.

So how does one pair down a list that contains such gems like ‘Santa’s Helper’ from Diff’rent Strokes, Everybody Hates Chris’ ‘Everybody Hates Christmas’, and 3rd Rock from the Sun’s ‘Jolly Old St. Nick’?

It all comes down to preference and the circumstances of watching that particular episode. For example, I can’t remember the exact details of Night Court’s ‘Santa Goes Downtown’, I can remember watching and laughing with my family. I can find clips on Youtube and remember which jokes my dad laughed at hardest.

Same thing for Married…With Children’s ‘You Better Watch Out’. I remember it fondly because I remember when I first saw it and it was a happy time. It didn’t hurt that it’s a hilarious episode as well.  

The list goes on and includes gems like Curb Your Enthusiasm’s ‘ Mary, Joseph, and Larry’, Newsradio’s ‘Xmas Story’, and The Simpsons’ ‘Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire’?

What about the classic ‘Afternoon Delight’ episode of Arrested Development? Cheers had a classic with ‘Christmas Cheer’. The Office had a few selections but I’ll always go with ‘Christmas Party’ because the early seasons from that show were obviously the best.

Going back to my childhood, Sesame Street had ‘Christmas Eve on Sesame Street’ and I can remember Twilight Zone’s ‘The Night of the Meek’, and The Jefferson’s ‘984 W. 124th St., Apt 5C’. That last one was especially memorable as it showed George in a different light and it made a big impact on a young Steve.

I have to wrap it up but have to mention 30 Rock’s ‘Episode 209/Ludachristmas’ and Black Mirror’s ‘White Christmas’…Oh, and I can’t forget…ah, you get the picture. Go ahead and name your favorite in the comments below.

We can all agree that if we weren’t talking about sitcoms, The OC’s ‘The Best Chrismukkuh Ever’ is an underrated classic, right?