TV

When TV takes a holiday

Matthew Perry, left, Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer in the Friends episode "The One with the Holiday Armadillo."
Matthew Perry, left, Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer in the Friends episode "The One with the Holiday Armadillo."

You know Rudolph, for sure, and his animated compatriots Frosty and the Grinch. But do you recall (we ask sing-songily) the umpteen holiday episodes from television's best shows?

We put our brains together here at Weekender Central and came up with a few of our favorites. Tell us about yours in the comments section of this story at LexGo.com.

The Simpsons: "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" started the series and saw Homer become a department-store Santa after Mr. Burns, the modern-day Scrooge, cut Christmas bonuses. Santa Homer doesn't make as much as expected, though, and he tries to parlay it into more at the dog track with a bet on a dog called Santa's Little Helper. Apparently he didn't read the program, because Homer lost it all but wound up gaining a family dog (and a longtime cast member) when the greyhound's owner throws him out. Excerpts are available on Hulu.com; available on DVD as part of the Season 1 collection.

Seinfeld: George's dad shuns Christmas in favor of a holiday called Festivus, which includes the airing of grievances and feats of strength, in "The Strike."

To the dialogue we go — Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) to Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards): "Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. And as I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way."

Kramer: "What happened to the doll?"

Frank: "It was destroyed, but out of this came a new holiday, a Festivus for the rest of us."

Available on DVD as part of the Season 9 collection. Airs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 on TBS.

Frasier: The 11-season series featured eight Christmas episodes. The best among them was "Frasier Grinch," in which the radio psychiatrist (Kelsey Grammer) braves the mall on Christmas Eve after mail-order educational toys for his son were shipped to a Dr. Franklin Crane in Kennebunkport, Maine.

As usual, Frasier's brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), has the best line: "The Cranes of Maine have got your Living Brain."

Frasier's dad, Martin (John Mahoney), comes to the rescue when his grandson reveals that what he really wants is an action figure. Grandfather Crane had it gift-wrapped and ready for his son to regift. Available on DVD as part of the Season 3 collection.

Family Guy: In "A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas," Stewie gets his wish when Santa brings him plutonium. Oh, and the family's insanity drives Lois crazy, so much so that one of the series' signature random tangents is her pushing Jimmy Stewart's It's a Wonderful Life character off the bridge. Available on DVD as part of the Season 3 collection and on Amazon.com's Video on Demand.

Wings: Taxi cab driver Antonio Scarpacci (Tony Shalhoub) winds up a hostage in the "Insanity Claus" episode after he eats the jelly doughnut consumed each afternoon by the new air traffic controller (Dann Florek).

We wonder how Shalhoub and Florek's more well-known TV characters, Adrian Monk of Monk and Capt. Don Cragen of the Law & Order series, respectively, would deal with such a crime. We're left with goofy mechanic Lowell Mather (Thomas Haden Church) planning a Mission: Impossible-style rescue operation that, of course, goes awry. Available on DVD as part of the Season 6 collection.

South Park: Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, appears in an episode of the same name to comfort Kyle Broflovski, who is upset that his Jewish family doesn't celebrate Christmas. The talking poop leaves a disgusting byproduct as he travels, and the adults of South Park blame the depressed Kyle.

Mr. Hankey became such a "poopular" character that he wound up with his own album, Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics. Move aside, Burl Ives, and make room for Satan's song Christmas Time in Hell. It's a new Christmas classic.

Available for free at Southparkstudios.com; available on DVD as part of the Season 1 collection.

Friends: Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) tries to teach his son, Ben, about Hanukkah, but the boy wants a visit from Santa. When Ross attempts to find a Santa costume at the last minute, he's out of luck and stuck becoming the "Holiday Armadillo."

Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) drops his sarcastic persona for two minutes and comes dressed as Santa, even endorsing his friend, the Holiday Armadillo, in front of Ben. Available on DVD as part of the Season 7 collection.

King of Queens: In "Mentalo Case," Doug (Kevin James) fondly remembers his favorite toy, the future-predicting Mentalo, and tries to buy one, only to find that his best friend, Deacon (Victor Williams), snapped up the last one.

Doug takes it from Deacon but decides to give it back as a Christmas gift after he learns that his wife, Carrie (Leah Remini) has bought him his own Mentalo. Little does he know she bought him the knock-off Mental Man.

Available on DVD as part of Season 5 collection.

Just Shoot Me: One of the first of David Spade's numerous attempts to prove that he's funny without Chris Farley had a memorable Christmas episode in "How the Finch Stole Christmas," referencing the name of Spade's character. His colleague Nina Van Horn (Wendie Malick), a former model-turned-fashion magazine staffer, learns there really is a J. Crew (forget Santa). "And he helped me rediscover the true spirit of casual wear," she tells colleagues. Available on DVD as part of Season 3 collection.

MASH: The travails of the 4077th included some memorable Christmas-themed episodes, notably 1972's "Dear Dad," in which Hawkeye (Alan Alda) dresses as Santa Claus and flies to the front lines to help a wounded soldier. We get a little misty just thinking about it. Available on DVD as part of the Season 1 collection. Airs at 4:30 a.m. Dec. 12 on TV Land.

In 1980's "Death Takes a Holiday," the gang tries to keep a dying soldier alive so his family doesn't remember Christmas as the day their father died. Whew, more tears. Available on DVD as part of the Season 9 collection. Airs at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 12 on TV Land.

Scrubs: "My Own Personal Jesus" sees the Sacred Heart hospital staffers delivering a baby under a Christmas tree in a park. The overly emotional J.D. (Zach Braff) gets even more dramatic than usual, earning himself even more disdain from his co-workers, including Dr. Cox, who appears clad in a Grinch costume during one of J.D.'s mental tangents. Available on DVD as part of the Season 1 collection. Airs at 2 p.m. Dec. 8 on The CW.

The Waltons: The two-hour movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story launched the nine-season series. In a nod to the future, it tugged on viewers' heartstrings as the kids waited and waited for John Walton Sr. to arrive home for Christmas. Much of The Homecoming's cast was the same as the series, but two key parts, John and Olivia Walton, were played by Andrew Duggan and Kentucky native Patricia Neal, not the TV series' Ralph Waite and Michael Learned. Available on DVD.

The West Wing: "In Excelsis Deo" sees Toby arrange a military funeral for a homeless veteran found dead wearing a coat that the White House communications director had donated to charity. The episode received an Emmy for outstanding writing. Available on DVD as part of the Season 1 collection and on Amazon's Video on Demand.

E.R.: The medical drama featured Christmas episodes in 14 of its 15 seasons. I guess at least one Christmas didn't have death and carnage. Perhaps the most innovative of the holiday episodes was 2002's "Hindsight," which followed a doctor in reverse time from a car accident. Available on DVD as part of the Season 9 collection.

The Andy Griffith Show: The series' only Christmas episode came in the first season. "Christmas Story" sees a department-store owner demand that Andy arrest a moon shiner. Andy hatches a ruse and arrests the man's whole family and has a Christmas celebration at the jail. It's such an appealing party that the store owner has a change of heart and gets himself arrested so he can join in the fun. It's a change worthy of Dr. Seuss's Grinch character, who debuted just three years before this Andy Griffith classic. Available on DVD as part of the Season 1 collection.

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