Christmas specials have been a staple of television since the inception of serialised programming. Some specials embrace the holiday cheer and have touching, feel-good Christmas-themed episodes. Others choose to show the darker, more depressing side of the season. However, these specials tend to bring out the best in great shows. Here are some of our favourite Christmas episodes.
‘Black Mirror’ Season 2 Episode 4
Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror was popular with both fans and critics for its depictions of tech paranoia. The second season Christmas special entitled ‘White Christmas’ elevated the series from network staple to high budget show with actors like Jon Hamm. In its three exceedingly dark stories, ‘White Christmas’ shows viewers technology’s potential to isolate ourselves and ostracise others. For example, the depiction of social media-esque blocking of people in real life with eye and ear implants preventing the user from seeing or hearing the blocked person. It’s dark, depressing and frightening. Everything you’d expect from a Black Mirror Christmas episode.
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Cast: Jon Hamm, Rafe Spall, Oona Chaplin
Streaming on: Netflix
‘South Park’ Season 1 Episode 9
South Park is probably the only show that could get away with focusing a holiday special on a sentient piece of faeces. In ‘Mr Hankey, The Christmas Poo’, Jewish kid Kyle makes a talking piece of excrement his personal Christmas mascot while the rest of the town of South Park attempts to eliminate Christmas in order to be more politically correct. It’s outlandish and disgusting, but in typical South Park fashion, behind the crude humour is some hilarious social commentary on how people take the holidays far too seriously.
Creator: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes
Streaming on: Netflix
‘Modern Family’ Season 1 Episode 10
In ‘Undeck The Halls’ Claire and Phil cancel Christmas until the kids confess to their misbehaviour. Ty Burrell steals all the scenes as the bumbling dad Phil, with excellent comic delivery, making the episode stand out among hundreds in the long-running series.
Creator: Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd
Cast: Ed O’Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
‘The Office’ Season 2 Episode 10
The office Secret Santa goes awry when boss Michael Scott’s desire to swap his own gift leads him to make the exchange a Yankee Swap, randomising the gifts employees receive from each other. Jim isn’t pleased since put a lot of effort into winning Pam’s affections with his inside joke gifts. It’s genius sitcom writing and an excellent Christmas episode.
Creator: Greg Daniels, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Cast: Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video