Christmas episodes of our favourite TV shows can be one of two things; they can be lazy excuses for showrunners to put their feet up and give their actors a week off by basically running a clip-show instead, or they can allow the writers to go for broke, compelled by the festive mood to weave a very different story that’s quite unlike the ones we’re used to. Even shows that aren’t primarily centred around comedy have, with surprising success, managed to deliver an impressive Christmas episode, and though the majority of the shows on this list are shooting for laughs, they all share one thing: they’ve managed to take a potentially rote idea – the cloying Christmas special – and turn it into a great excuse to throw caution to the wind and make viewers feel sufficiently filled with festive cheer.

Here are the 10 best Christmas TV episode of all time.

 

10. Community – “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”

It was clear from the minute we heard that Community was going to attempt a Christmas special that it would be anything but normal, though we didn’t quite expect Dan Harmon and his intrepid writing team to do this. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas is a stop-motion episode of the show, an absurd meshing of a child-like fascination with Christmas with Community’s singular, very smart sense of humour. The results proved fruitful, as the episode earned the show the Emmy award for Individual Achievement in Animation.

Parodying classic Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town while basically following the narrative of Robert Zemeckis’ The Polar Express, this is a gorgeously animated episode with highlights including Chevy Chase as a teddy bear, and an abominable snowman who is in fact pretty terrifying, likely beyond what the animators intended. With its honest examination of what Christmas means, this is arguably the best episode of the show, and definitely one of the best Christmas specials in TV history.

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This article was first posted on December 21, 2012