What is it about Christmas that inspires so many TV tie-ins? Aside from Halloween, it seems like Christmas is the most popular holiday to use as a narrative prop, and the episodes below are some of the best for the way they've weaved their stories around the holiday. It was tough, as always, to pick just five, so sound off in the comments with your favorites. (And before you ask, yes, I remembered the weird Saved by the Bell where the gang gets charitable for 22 minutes, but it didn't make the cut. C'est la vie.)
5. "Noel," The West Wing The West Wing's pitch-perfect second season deals in part with the emotional fallout from the assassination attempt that ended the first one, which is where the stellar "Noel" comes in. Josh spends the episode talking with a therapist (a great guest turn from Adam Arkin), and he reveals via flashbacks just how badly he's been suffering from PTSD. A well-written episode about the series' best character, and one that ends on a wonderful note of seasonal forgiveness and help.
4. "Marge Be Not Proud," The Simpsons The Simpsons' first episode was a Christmas story, but it was the seventh season's "Marge Be Not Proud" that found the show in prime working order. The requisite feel-good ending lands squarely thanks to a plot that finds Bart trying to win back Marge's affections after he gets caught shoplifting a video game he wants for Christmas. Funny and quotable, back when Simpsons was still funny and quotable.
3. "The One With the Holiday Armadillo," Friends I don't even remember what else happens in this episode, and the only thing that sticks out about the main plot is how annoying Ross' son was. Yet it's worth it for the sheer insanity of seeing Ross dress as the Holiday Armadillo in a pathetic but moving attempt to teach his son about Hanukkah. Remember when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt? That was the best.
2. "Comparative Religion," Community Community's second-season Christmas episode was a technical achievement, but the first season's "Comparative Religion" was just as good. A typically hilarious and lightning-fast episode, it dealt with the themes of easygoing tolerance that tend to crop up in most of the show's story lines. Plus there was the epic re-creation of jocks-vs.-geeks flicks of the 1980s, complete with Anthony Michael Hall as the resident jock. The final showdown is glorious.
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1. "Christmas Party," The Office Back in the day, The Office was pretty damn funny, and the second season's "Christmas Party" is a prime example of how good this ensemble can be. Michael's weird crush on Ryan leads to a horribly imbalanced white elephant game as everyone tries to get the iPod, while Jim makes Pam that sweet tea kettle to show her how he feels about her. It ends on an enjoyably wacky note, as the office party gets truly out of control and everyone gets drunk and finally has a good time. No matter what happens to the show in the future, we'll always have Yankee Swap.