As much as I savor the anticipation of shiny new Christmas episodes and specials, there is something lovely about revisiting a comfortable old friend. The memories created by viewing a funny or moving story are particularly poignant during the holidays and I make a point of trying to watch at least a few of my favorites each Christmas to get me in the holiday spirit.
1. Gavin and Stacey (2008)
I’m in love with the entire world this show creates so the Christmas special is guaranteed to be a winner in my book. While the plot lines of Gavin and Stacey are pretty traditional (boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl go through a rough patch, etc.), what makes it outstanding is how the writers, Ruth Jones and James Corden, have invented, in quite specific detail, the quirky backstory of each character. Of particular note, Gavin and Smithy have a sort of shorthand between them which can only be developed over years of being best mates.
2. Nan’s Christmas Carol (2009)
Like many sketch comedians, actress Catherine Tate has produced several Christmas specials featuring an array of her character creations. As the name suggests, in Nan’s Christmas Carol, Scrooge-like Joannie “Nan” Taylor is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve night, each attempting to show her the error of her ways.
I included this one, not because I feel it’s the very best, but because I love the chemistry between Tate and her guest ghost, David Tennant and because I feel it offers a representative taste of sketch comedy specials in general.
3. Knowing Me, Knowing Yule With Alan Partridge (1995)
Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) is a tv presenter whose chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge is gasping its last breath. In hopes of being commissioned for another series, Alan plans a holiday extravaganza complete with an avian costumed re-creation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and a dinner prepared by sexually suggestive transvestite Fanny Thomas. It’s Yuletide chaos for Alan and holiday hilarity for the rest of us.
4. The Office (2003)
This special is something I like to watch annually, not as much for its Christmas content as for being the second best series ender ever. (The best is Life on Mars, in case you were wondering). SPOILER ALERT for the odd Britophile here or there who hasn’t seen The Office but still plans to: After a brief brush with reality star fame, a lonely and humbler David Brent shows his more vulnerable side while in a last minute nail biter scene, Tim and Dawn finally get together at the Wernham-Hogg office Christmas party.
5. Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean (1992)
When I discovered Mr. Bean, I also discovered my son’s love of physical comedy. Since then, Mr. Bean’s Christmas preparations and celebrations have been a must watch at our house. Gargantuan turkeys, pilfered Christmas trees and Mr. Bean’s turn at guest conducting a Salvation Army Band never fail to amuse and impress, but the nativity scene at Harrods has to be my all-time favorite…even before I knew what Daleks were.
As Fraulein Maria once said, “These are a few of my favorite things.” What are the Christmas episodes and specials you like to watch again and again?