Top Ten Christmas Episodes
Christmas… that time of year when we eat, drink, catch up with old friends, crunch around in the frost, wrap up warm, watch too much TV and generally fill ourselves with the feelgoods of the season. High on the list of the joys of
Christmas is Christmas TV. For some, it’s the one time of year when they buy the RTÉ Guide. For others, Christmas dinner must always be followed by a tin of Roses and re-runs of everything from Only Fools and Horses to Fawlty Towers. For all of us, there is at least one show that we love and once a year we get to see much-loved characters festive-up and share the season with us. Here are some of Ramp.ie’s favourites in our nine Top Ten Christmas Episodes.
9. My So-Called Life: S0-Called Angels
Originally aired across the pond on December 22nd 1994, ‘So-Called Angels’ was the episode in which Rickie left home and ended up living on the street, leaving our heroine Angela to traipse around a snowy Pittsburgh looking for her friend and even meeting a mysterious guitar-playing girl.
My So-Called Life did teen angst like no other show before or since. Choc-full of parents saying the wrong thing, kids getting mixed up in bad shit, heightened emotions and school drama it made a star out of Claire Danes and broke our hearts when it went off air after just one season. Worth watching at Christmastime just to remind yourself of all that was great about Angela Chase and co. Not to mention a cheeky sconce at Jared Leto.
8. Friends: The One Where Rachel Quits
This one’s from 1996, when Friends was still cool. It’s the one where Ross break’s a girl scout’s leg and then has to attempt to sell a hoofload of cookies for her so that she can win a place at Space Camp. It’s also the one where Rachel quits Central Perk. AND the one where Phoebe gets upset about Christmas trees ‘being killed’ to ‘serve their Christmas destiny’. Classic Friends fun.
7. The West Wing: In Excelsis Deo
American TV shows seem to follow the same trajectory around Christmas time – they feature central characters coming into contact with and helping the less fortunate. Everything from Saved By the Bell to The West Wing has someone well-to-do helping out someone without a job or a home. And even though it’s twee, they nearly always pull it off. In this episode, from season one of The West Wing, we open with Toby getting a call from the police. A homeless man has died of hypothermia and is found in a coat that Toby donated to The Salvation Army. Cue a series of events in which Toby arranges a military funeral for the deceased, reflecting the theme that The West Wing always comes back to – what people are entitled to. Elsewhere in seasonal proceedings, CJ finally agrees to go on a date with Danny, Josh gets Donna a Christmas gift that leaves her tearful and Bartlet goes shopping in a rare book store. Be still our political-drama-loving hearts.
6. Gavin and Stacey: Christmas Special
The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special opens with news that Gavin has got a job in Barry and is moving to Wales. He goes to Santa’s Grotto where Nessa is playing the part of jolly old St Nick and encounters her telling the local kids to be nice to their parents and not get their hopes up about massive presents. She’s got a heart in there somewhere, has Ness. Gav has to ask her about taking back Stacey’s old room since they’ll be living in Wales and Nessa makes plans for her and Neil the Baby to move in with Dave.
Meantime, Smithy is driving along listening to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’… ‘And in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of…OH COME ON DICKHEAD’ and Sue is making plans to eat turkey on Christmas Day despite having previously told the entire Welsh contingent that she’s vegetarian. Like the rest of the series, the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special is essential, hilarious TV. James Corden and Ruth Jones, please oh please write series 4?
5. Doctor Who: The Runaway Bride
The Doctor Who Christmas Special is a calendar highlight for the Whovians among us who stagger, unfulfilled, through the annual mid-season break. The Christmas Special traditionally serves as a gear-change in the series. The very first one, in ’05, introduced David Tennant as the tenth Doctor. This one, in ’06, brought us a new companion in Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – arguably the greatest woman ever to travel in the TARDIS. Easily one of the most hard-done-by companions, Donna first meets the Doctor when she’s beamed aboard the TARDIS on her wedding day, a spider queen makes an attempt on her life, and it turns out her fiance never loved her. Luckily for everyone else, Donna’s also the funniest companion to-date and makes for a whip-smart addition to the Chrimbo special.
Meantime, this year, once more, the Christmas Special will be introducing us to a new companion, this time a replacement to the Ponds for eleventh doctor Matt Smith.
4. Father Ted: A Christmassy Ted
It’s Christmas 1996 and Ted, along with around a dozen other priests, finds himself lost in Ireland’s largest lingerie department. His efforts to get the clerics out of there before they come a cropper leads to him being nominated for a Golden Cleric, while elsewhere in the hour-long episode, Mrs Doyle is none too pleased to receive a Teamaster as her Christmas present. Classic Craggy Island fun with the fathers made all the more special by the fact that we’ll never see its like again.
3. The West Wing: Holy Night
Dare we include two episodes from the same show? Damn straight we do. This is the first episode without Rob Lowe’s Sam Seaborne but it does feature the return of Danny Concannon, dressed up as Santa Claus no less, so it’s bittersweet. From season four (originally aired in 2002) it shows once again that The West Wing does Christmas decadence like no other show. Season two saw Yo-Yo Ma playing cello in the White House at Christmas, this time we get The Whiffenpoofs… an acapella singing group and y’know, a word that’s just fun to say. This one features seasonal weather trapping people at the White House, angsty exchanges between Zooey and Charlie and a visit from Toby’s dad. We miss you, Barlet and co…
2. Frasier: Merry Christmas Mrs Moscowitz
Christmas is approaching, and while out shopping with Roz, Frasier makes a covert attempt to purchase a sweater for her. Just before she realises, another woman steps in and rescues Frasier by pretending that she is buying it. She recognises him as Dr Frasier Crane, and suggests a date with her daughter, Faye. Frasier accepts, and is pleasantly surprised when they meet. Things are going well until Frasier discovers that Faye was under the impression that he was Jewish, and worries what her mother will think. He agrees to hide the Christmas decorations and play along. What follows is seasonal mayhem as Eddie appears dressed in a Santa costume, the Christmas tree delivery man arrives and Niles shows up dressed as Jesus.
1. The Toy Show
What else? Our number one Christmas episode has to be the annual Late, Late Toy Show. Originally hosted by the inimitable Uncle Gaybo, it went through an awkward phase when Pat Kenny took the helm due to his notable and shocking wooden demeanor even in the face of adorable children, but was quickly righted when Ryan Tubridy assumed the role of Toy Show Commander-in-Chief. From ridiculous Christmas jumpers to an audience firmly tuned to their best ‘panto’ setting and of course the performing and reviewing tots and teens, it is the unmissable highlight of Irish telly. Sometimes the toys don’t work, the kids get shy, the camera pans wildly, somebody says something they’re not supposed to… and of course the piles of One for Everybody in the Audience moments… we haven’t missed it in years. There is, of course, always a stand-out awesome child and this year it was this guy…