6. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”—Community
This episode is pure nostalgia in the best way possible. I’m an animation purist, so I think the minds behind Community deserve a holiday bonus just for attempting Claymation—the fact that they pull it off is just icing on the Christmas cake. The elaborate visuals are especially fun inside Abed’s imagination, where the gang embarks on a quest for the North Pole.
But “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is important for more than just its visuals. It’s also an earnest consideration of the meaning of Christmas. The gang finally concludes that Christmas has meaning because we make it so—we decide that the darkest, coldest days of the year are the warmest and brightest, and when we all decide that together, we make it true. After spending last year in Alaska, I am prepared to agree with that statement.
5. “The Final Page, Parts 1 and 2”—How I Met Your Mother
Seth Green’s role might have been more bizarre than funny, but his reunion with Alyson Hannigan was still a happy occasion. Ted’s old professor delivered some appropriately smarmy SuperTed lines (“I find my mind is often with the sphinx”), the group’s sincere fear of jinxes was vintage HIMYM, and Marshall and Lily’s lullaby further convinced me that baby Marvin is one of the luckiest kids on television. But really, “The Final Page” is all about The Robin. I saw it coming and still sobbed, which for me is a very HIMYM phenomenon; what surprises the characters might not always surprise us, but the writers count on us to enjoy it anyway, and at their best, they’re right. Barney proposed in the most Barney way possible, and in the process, he got Ted’s blessing. And, once again, Ted made me actually like him.
4. “The Goop on the Girl”—Bones
Like any good Christmas episode, this one’s full of gifts—starting with naked Booth.
CLOTHING AS EVIDENCE. IT’S ABOUT TIME.
“I’m just gonna start reciting some saints.” You do that, Booth. We should all do that.
What other presents does this episode leave under the tree? Stunt-casting Zooey Deschanel, who is underused and saddled with a weird character but still thoroughly entertaining because awww, sisters onscreen together! And everyone gets to make cheesy inside jokes about how they look like sisters. And the ending always makes me bawl, starting with Cam’s scene in the car with Michelle. From the moment she insists “there’s no Christmas without you,” I’m a mess, especially when they all show up at the victim’s funeral on Christmas morning. The dinner scene at the end is a great illustration of what a family they’ve all become and how much Brennan’s opened up in the process. She makes her sister second cousin feel wanted. Booth’s peek across the table—along with her amusement when he prays a little bit anyway—pretty much says everything you’ll ever need to know about their warm fuzzy feelings.
3. “Citizen Knope”—Parks and Recreation
“Citizen Knope”: The One Where We Get Vocational Advice from the Woman Who Waxes Jean-Ralphio. (“Her name is Kim. When she rips it off, she smiles. And it makes you feel things.”) The advice-giver is hilarious, but the advice is solid: if you don’t love what you’re doing, why do it?
Ben Wyatt loves model trains and toy Gandalfs. And Leslie. Leslie Knope loves her officemates, and Ben, and they all love her back. Her gifts to them are perfect—especially Donna’s “You Can Get It” robe, April’s Christmas miracle, and Ron’s automatic doors—but for once, they outdo her, giving her the gift of a fresh start, their undying support, and a gingerbread model of the Parks Department. They put their lives on hold for her, because “Find one person here who you haven’t helped by putting your life on hold.” I’m all weepy! Parks and Rec always insists that we’re rewarded when we put others first. They always insist that, even when it’s not Christmastime. And they make me believe it.
2. “Ron and Diane”—Parks and Recreation
You guys, DUKE SILVER HAS A DUCHESS. This episode unapologetically moves every single character toward happiness in a way that feels so genuine, so hard-earned, and so warm-fuzzy. It’s like a pile of wet-nosed puppies on Christmas morning. I didn’t realize how desperately I wanted Ron to be in a stable relationship until he willingly revealed his jazzy alter-ego to Diane. I love that Leslie thinks of herself as Ron’s emotional guardian, but I love even more than she’s passed the torch to the one woman who actually scares Tammy 2. Meanwhile, Chris is making progress with his therapy (and YOLOing), Ben’s watching out for him like old times, and Jerry gets showered with love—in the form of party guests, cold hard cash, and this family.
“Ron and Diane” also packs more laughs per minute than Parks and Rec’s other Christmas episodes. Tammy 2 chases Leslie with an axe (“Protect your eyes; she’s a gouger”). Ron wins Achievement in Chair. April actually likes one of Ann’s jokes. Andy ties his high score in snake. Everyone wins.
1. “The Man in the Fallout Shelter”—Bones
What gets me most about this one is how early it is. “The Man in the Fallout Shelter” is the ninth episode of the entire series, and it feels like the moment when this show really starts to become its true best self. So do the characters (because “nothing brings people together like a Christmas lung fungus”). Everyone’s family life is exposed here: Angela has a rock ‘n roll dad, Booth has Parker, and Brennan has a few unopened presents from the parents who abandoned her. This episode touches on the depth of Brennan’s loneliness; the lab is her real home, but that’s not entirely a bad thing, because her work gives people their lives back. Every character’s strengths are on display, from Angela’s art to Zack’s robot to Hodgins’s abs and Booth’s smile.
“The Man in the Fallout Shelter” is about family. It’s about the importance of spending the holidays with people you love, and although it’s not the episode that brings us, “There’s more than one kind of family,” it’s the first episode that proves just that. After being forced to spend Christmas together, they’ll all learn that they want to spend Christmas together.
Stoned Booth is also responsible for the best description of Christmas Eve I’ve probably ever heard: “It’s Christmas Eve day! Both an eve and a day. It’s a Christmas miracle!”
More than anything, this episode takes my top spot because it’s the one I’m most likely to curl up with on a snowy day. It’s like a reminder that really great things are possible when you pay attention to the people around you.
But that’s just my list. What did I miss? What seasonal episodes do you love most? And to everyone out there, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, and please go watch Muppet Christmas Carol.