Cult Following’s Favorite TV Christmas Episodes

“So-Called Angels” – My So-Called Life (1994-1995)

A staple of 90s angst was the story of wistful Angela (Claire Danes) and her best friend Rayanne (A.J. Langer), along with gay teen Rickie (Wilson Cruz), making their way through the trials and tribulations of high school. This episode focuses on being unwanted, looking for a place to call home, and the love that we all need. Rickie is alone for the holidays, and is watched over by a mysterious homeless girl, played by Juliana Hatfield, who has a secret. Every time I watch this, I well up with tears.

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“Fall on Your Knees” – Popular (1999-2000)

Before there was Scream Queens, American Horror Story, or even Glee, Ryan Murphy created this show, centering around seemingly-perfect cheerleader Brooke (Leslie Bibb), tomboy journalist Sam (Carly Pope), and their friends. The accepted social order of high school is upset time and time again throughout the two-year run of this show, and the holiday episodes are always a highlight. In this episode, bitchy cheerleader co-captain Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels) is visited by three spirits in order to reverse her “Bah, humbug” attitude towards the holidays. The joy of watching this comes from recognizing the traditional Dickensian elements put into modern context, portrayed by the wacky characters created by Murphy.

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“The Man in the Fallout Shelter” – Bones (2005- )

When a potentially lethal fungus is released from a 50-year-old body, certain employees who engage in inappropriate eggnog drinking on duty results in the entire crew being quarantined for the holiday. Booth (David Boreanaz) realizes he will miss his custodial visit with his son Parker, and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) confesses the reasons she leaves town for the holiday is that her parents disappeared on Christmas Eve, leaving the holiday perpetually unhappy for her. Angela (Michaela Conlin) keeps everyone’s spirits up by instigating a hand-made gift exchange among the team, including Dr. Goodman. The beauty of these gifts, and the genius of how appropriate they are for each recipient, shows how tight the team is becoming, when they have the right combination come together.

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“The Polarizing Express” – Psych (2006-2014)

On this spin of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Shawn (James Roday) is so dismayed by his mistake that led to a criminal being released, and his father being fired from his consulting position, that he dreams what the world would be like without him. He is escorted by Tony Cox of “Bad Santa” through alternate realities where Gus is (un)happily married and Juliet never transferred to Santa Barbara. Will the normally flippant Shawn listen to his superego and decide to grow up and take some things more seriously, or will he listen to his inner child and stay immature forever?

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“Do You See What I See?” – Eureka (2006-2012)

In this series about a scientific community who often must recognize and correct unusual phenomena due to experiments gone wrong, we must expect a very special Christmas episode. When Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson) and Alison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) decide to merge their family traditions and create the most perfect holiday, a gift goes haywire and throws the town into various animated styles, including Claymation, anime, and Looney Toons style. Deputy Andy (Kavan Smith) and Carl the Jeep (Jim Parsons) are especially hilarious in their transformations.

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“Blackadder’s Christmas Carol” – Blackadder (1982-1989)

Staples of British comedy include Rowan Atkinson, the team of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and Tony Robinson. In this series, they are joined by actors more commonly known for their serious work, such as Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, Sleepy Hollow) and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from the Harry Potter series). The plotline reverses the traditional Ebenezer Scrooge story from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, by following generous shopkeeper Ebenezer Blackadder through his visits by spirits who accidentally persuade him to be more selfish by showing him what might have been. Again, recognizing the source material and enjoying how it is turned is the best part of this episode.

We hope you have a fun and happy holiday by enjoying some joy and hilarity while gathering with loved ones! Please share your favorite holiday TV moments in comments below (or on Facebook).

  • Adam Rutkowski

    I’m surprised you were able to keep it down to 5 selections! I know how much you love your Christmas Specials as you do your Musical Specials…… meaning you’ll have to write an article about your favorite Musical Special Episodes.