One of my favourite things about Christmas is settling into watching our yearly helping of Love Actually. It’s something we do every year, and along with that, we also watch some of our favourite Christmas themed episodes of various TV shows. I love that familiarity, and there’s something extra special that comes with watching a Christmas episode of your favourite TV show when it’s actually Christmas. While I always plan what to watch when it comes to the Christmas TV viewing each year, I still have a selection of old favourites I can’t not watch over the festive season. Given that this year more than others will be spent in front of our TV screens, I thought now would be a time to share some of my favourite Christmas episodes we watch every year to help you feel that little bit more festive. And let’s face it, we need it right now.
The Vicar of Dibley – The Christmas Lunch Incident – 1996 Christmas Special
I recently watched all of The Vicar of Dibley episodes this year when they arrived on Netflix and I of course got the joy of re-watching this classic episode. I think given our usual Christmas, the reason I love this episode so much is because of how familiar it feels! When it comes to classic Christmas TV, Geraldine Granger eating four Christmas lunches so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings and the hilarity that ensues has to be right up there.
Gavin & Stacey – 2008 Christmas Special
This is one we never miss every year. In fact, we usually end up watching the entire series of Gavin & Stacey just so we can watch it in sequence. The 2008 Christmas special is just perfection from start to finish – it mimics all of the little things we experience having Chrtistmas with our families every year, from the small talk in the afternoon about what time Eastenders is on to crying at Noel Edmunds on the telly (admittedly it may be a little bittersweet to watch this year!). My favourite scene of all has to be Smithy driving and singing along to Do They Know It’s Christmas – it’s essentially me whenever I’m driving – and Pam’s reaction to finding out Gavin and Stacey are moving to Wales, but the whole episode is just a delight from start to finish and never fails to get me feeling Christmassy.
Peep Show – Seasonal Beatings – Series 7, Episode 5 (2010)
We love Peep Show in our house, and it’s one Christmas episode did not disappoint. It probably goes down as one of my favourite episodes from the show as a whole because it’s just hilarious and awkward at the same time. From Mark’s iconic turkey rant (below) to Jeremy messing up the turkey and Dobby meeting Mark’s parents, there’s just so many moments that have you cringing and pissing yourself laughing at the same time. For me though, it has to be this scene:
Frasier – High Holidays – Season 11, Episode 11 (2003)
Frasier is probably my all time favourite TV show, and High Holidays is certainly one of the best Christmas episodes. While the main plotline centres around Frasier being upset because his son wants to spend time with his friends rather than him during his visit to Seattle, the best of the episode comes from the subplot of Niles deciding to ‘rebel’ in front of Martin, their ex-cop father, by eating a pot brownie. Things don’t quite go to plan though, as Martin ends up eating the brownie by accident and replacing it with a non-weed laced one. Queue a very stoned Martin and Niles milking the placebo effect. It’s hilarious from start to finish and it always makes me smile whenever I watch it.
Only Fools & Horses – The Heroes and Villains Trilogy – 1996
You can’t talk about classic Christmas TV without the best of the best – the Only Fools 1996 trilogy. I wasn’t very old when I first saw these episodes, but watching them as an adult you learn to appreciate them even more – the comedic timing, the jokes that previously went over your head as a child and just generally getting to witness those iconic comedy moments. Each episode within the trilogy brings something different – you’ve got that iconic scene in Heroes and Villains, the emotional end scene of Modern Men (of course with a few laughs thrown in too), and the most heart-warming ending in Time on Our Hands. It’s just one of those Christmas specials that will go down in comedy history.
The Big Bang Theory – The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis – Season 2, Episode 11 – 2008
While it doesn’t necessarily go down as one of the best Christmas TV episodes in history, this particular episode of The Big Bang Theory is one that always makes me smile. The sub-plot revolves around Sheldon trying to find the perfect gift for Penny in return for the one she gives him, but he ultimately discovers that he can’t possibly top it (a napkin used and signed by Leonard Nimoy). While not to the extent Sheldon goes to, I’m sure we’ve related to his dilemma in some way or another over the years trying to find the ideal gift for someone, and I remember this was also one of the first episodes in the show where you see some real development in Sheldon’s character too, and if you’ve stuck with it from the beginning, it makes it even more festive.
Gavin & Stacey – 2019 Christmas Special
It was certainly the top of everyone’s Christmas TV viewing list last year, and the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special of 2019 really didn’t disappoint. It was just as good as the 2008 one and I love how they kept so much of the continuity with the characters and the plotlines. I loved the tribute they paid to Doris and I especially loved the scene where Pam, Mick, Pete and Dawn were off their tits. And of course, THAT cliff-hanger.
Gimme Gimme Gimme – Millennium – 1999
As a child, a special treat would be to stay up late and watch Gimme Gimme Gimme. If you’ve never heard of it, Gimme Gimme Gimme was a sitcom during the late 90s/early 00s following two flatmates, Tom and Linda, essentially rivals in their attempts to find a man. Tom is camp, neurotic and determined to get his big break as an actor, while Linda is sex mad, uncouth and sees herself as the world’s most beautiful woman (let’s be honest, in this day and age, we could all do with some of Linda’s confidence) – their main things in common being the love of booze, cigarettes and their desperation to find a man. I would highly recommend watching it if you love a bit of downright filthy British comedy, but be warned, it’s not for the easily offended!
My stupid little child brain didn’t get half of the jokes in it (rightly so) but I just thought Kathy Burke as Linda was hilarious and the older I got, naturally the funnier I found the jokes. All three series have since appeared on iPlayer and I have had great joy in watching them through again – even now my mother and I still quote lines from the show at each other. Anyway, while I was only 7 at the time of the millennium, as I’ve gotten older this is one of my favourite Christmas specials. The whole episode involves Tom and Linda being forced to spend New Years’ Eve together after their party plans fall through, with hilarious consequences.
Frasier – Miracle on 3rd or 4th Street – Season 1, Episode 12 – 1993
In all honesty, Frasier certainly has some cracking Christmas episodes, it was hard to pick just one for this list out of the 11 seasons, so I ended up having to sneak another one in. This one has such a lovely message to it too – Frasier is heartbroken when his Christmas plans with his son are derailed and ends up falling out with his father and agreeing to spend Christmas Day alone, with only his depressed radio show listeners for company. While on paper, it doesn’t sound like the most cheery of episodes, but there are certainly some funny moments and it really brings home the importance of family and spending time with your loved ones at Christmas.
Friends – The One with the Holiday Armadillo – Season 7, Episode 10 – 2000
While Friends isn’t solely up there when it comes to Christmas TV programmes, it’s still that wholesome, feel good comedy that we all need during the festive season. Again, there are so many great Christmas episodes to choose from, but for me it has to be The One with the Holiday Armadillo from the seventh season. The whole scene where Ross pays Ben a visit as the Holiday Armadillo, followed by Chandler dressed as Santa and Joey as Superman, has to be one of the greatest Christmas TV moments – it never gets old and it never fails to make me laugh.
When it comes to Christmas TV this year, I haven’t actually read too much into the shows that are on offer. I’m certainly going to be watching The Supervet Christmas special as I do every year, and one of my favourite things to watch every Boxing Day is The Big Fat Quiz of the Year – although I haven’t actually checked if it’s on this year. I’ve asked for a couple of Grey’s Anatomy box sets this Christmas too (and of course, Normal People), so regardless of the Christmas telly offerings we’ll (or rather I will) certainly have a great deal to be watching!
What Christmas TV shows are you looking forward to this year? Let me know in the comments!