With finals right around the corner, you may not have time to get into the festive spirit and walk through the snow-filled streets of Ottawa. So instead, stay inside and revisit some of your favourite TV series and their most iconic holiday episodes.
The Office—“Christmas Party” (S2: E10)
Relive some cringe-worthy moments with Michael Scott, Jim Halpert, and Dwight Schrute as they re-enact one of the simplest and yet most complicated holiday season traditions: secret Santa.
The writer of this episode manages to incorporate almost every element from this awkward real-life ritual: the frequently suggested, yet never followed, price suggestions for gifts, the inherent weirdness of buying presents for people you barely know, and a holiday freak-out for good measure.
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of eggnog, then fret not. The episode also manages to remind us of the caring nature of the season.
In terms of dramatic arcs, “Christmas Party” really sets the stage for The Office’s most beloved relationship: Jim and Pam.
Even though his doofus boss almost ruins everything, Jim goes out of his way to make a homemade gift to show Pam just how much he cares for her.
As Jim explains, “Christmas is the time to tell people how you feel.”
If you’re lucky, this classic episode may even inspire you to go out and similarly spread some holiday joy of your own.
So, whether you feel like getting into that festive mentality or just want to share in a holiday laugh, this 22-minute study break might be the right choice for you.
Community—“Regional Holiday Music” (S3:E10)
Dan Harmon’s surrealist sitcom Community, chronicling an unlikely group of friends at America’s worst community college, is beloved for its metafictional humour, pop culture references, and simultaneously heartwarming and sarcastic take on friendship.
The Christmas episode from Community’s third season is equal parts deranged holiday special and caustic satire of Ryan Murphy’s Glee.
Facing a Christmas alone, socially awkward Abed falls under the influence of Greendale’s glee club director Mr. Radison (Saturday Night Live’s Taran Killam). With the annual Christmas pageant around the corner, Abed must use the magic of song to bring some holiday cheer to his cynical study group.
When this episode originally aired in 2011, Glee was still a ratings juggernaut and “Regional Holiday Music” is not a loving send-up.
“Not liking Glee Club doesn’t make us bullies,” Jeff declares at one point. “And implying that is reverse bullying!”
Although Harmon’s target of scorn has been off the air for over a year, the parody doesn’t feel dated. The episode’s script is clever in its own right, and draws from the characters’ established personality traits—Abed’s chronic loneliness, the study group’s self-absorption—to form a solid standalone special that contributes to the dramatic arc of the series.
“Regional Holiday Music” isn’t your standard musical holiday extravaganza either. The songs are intentionally awful, the jokes are biting, and cynicism reigns supreme.
“Maybe forcing things to be bright just makes the darkness underneath even darker,” Abed says near the end of the story, quickly summing up the episode’s theme.
It’s the lack of false cheer that makes the show’s redemptive moments feel so genuine. As the study group joins Abed for a viewing of the Inspector Spacetime Holiday Special, a timeless moral emerges: Christmas doesn’t need to be a big production if you have friends to share it with.
Pinky and the Brain—“A Pinky and the Brain Christmas” (S1:E08)
Take a trip down memory lane with one of the best cartoon spin-offs to date. You may have been too young to remember Pinky and the Brain, which originally aired on The WB from 1995 to 1998, but you should recognize them from re-runs of this classic holiday special.
At 22 minutes in length, this episode won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (for programming one hour or less), and for good reason. The kid-friendly backdrop of this episode is offset with jokes and references that adults can enjoy, and the overall message is less goofy and more heartwarming than is the norm with this show.
As is established throughout the show’s run, Pinky and the Brain are no ordinary mice. While Brain’s quirky schemes to achieve world domination never fail to impress, even more surprising is his unlikely friendship with his slightly “insane” partner Pinky. This unusual dynamic rightly takes centre stage for a genuinely moving holiday special.
The show starts in Acme Labs, with Pinky writing a letter to Santa. Meanwhile, Brain creates a doll that he calls the “Noodle Noggin” and inserts a hypnotizing device into it. He plans on spreading the doll to every household in the world while controlling it from his home base, and even manages to slip one under then-president Bill Clinton’s tree.
However, in order to carry out his plan the mice need to break into the North Pole and put the Noodle Noggin on every child’s christmas list.
After the two friends go through helicopter rides, dog sledding, impersonating elves, and working in a mailroom to finally become successful in their undertakings, a little thing called friendship gets in the way.
This episode is especially great because it delves into Brain’s more sentimental side. Not only is it guaranteed to bring you to happy tears, but it will also give you a whole new appreciation for the true meaning of Christmas, which, as the Brain eventually learns, does not involve bending others to your will.