Hello everybody! Today, for the penultimate day of blogmas, we’re joined by 2021 debut author Ava Eldred, whose book the Boyband Murder Mystery is fantastic, and who I met because she was live tweeting a Grey’s Anatomy rewatch and then her first time watching This Is Us, and I’m a huge fangirl for both. Thank you for putting up with my incessant replies to those threads, Ava! Onto the post!
I love TV. I think there’s something so special about art (and TV is art) that is mostly consumed in your own home, where your guard is down and you can give it your full focus without worrying what anyone else thinks. I also love Christmas. Lights, sequins, velvet dresses even if I’m just going to the office, Chocolate for breakfast… give me it all. I guess it’s no surprise, then, that I’m a sucker for a good festive episode of the shows I love.
Narrowing it down to just five for this list took me… a while. What about the whole of Dash and Lily, where every episode could have been on the list in it’s own right? What about The West Wing? Any of the Gossip Girl holiday episodes, even if they are Thanksgiving rather than Christmas? My new favourite Netflix series Home For Christmas? The Schitts Creek one, which is objectively perfect? These, though, are the ones I kept coming back to. Five very different Christmas episodes to (hopefully!) get you feeling festive.
GLEE – A Very Glee Christmas
Yes, this episode contains that really weird scene where Rachel follows Finn around a Christmas tree yard (yard?!) singing to him, and yes, it also includes We Need A Little Christmas, which is a brilliant arrangement of a brilliant song, and sure, it was the first Glee Christmas episode, which makes it a Cultural Moment (of sorts), but none of those things are the reason it made my list.
I’m here to talk about Baby It’s Cold Outside.
First things first, I know that song is complicated. I personally think it’s flirty banter between two consenting adults rather than any alternative, but even that raises the question of whether we should be flirtily bantering about things that could be construed as in any way coercive. I don’t know. I see both sides, I get it, but for me, the whole spirit of the song is in Darren Criss and Chris Colfer’s performance. They are both so charming, that ridiculous school is the perfect setting for the beginning of their love story, and their chemistry was always off the charts, right? Well, never more so than here. I feel festive just thinking about it. That’s before we even mention the significance of two Queer teens singing it to each other on the hottest mainstream TV show of the time, with the fact that they might finally get together made to feel like more of a big deal than the fact that they were both men. I re-watched it when I started writing this post, and the warm fuzzy feelings came back as strong as they ever were. I love it completely without irony. Pure magic. Glee at it’s very best.
Gavin and Stacey – Christmas Special (2008)
My love for the first Gavin and Stacey Christmas special is very little to do with the plot, and everything to do with the vibes. I love these characters. In every other show on this list, the unique selling point is in the extraordinary – they’re footballers, or surgeons, or singers, or literal aliens… but in Gavin and Stacey, the extraordinary is in how completely human they all are. This is Christmas as I know it, despite the fact that I’ve never been in the kind of relationship where announcing I was moving back to my partner’s home caused a punch-up next to the tree, or anything else that happens in this hilarious and somehow still relatable hour. Family dynamics are complicated, right? To see that play out with such an underscoring of love is something I think most of us understand, and I think Ruth Jones and James Corden write it perfectly. I think this one might be first on my list for a rewatch.
Doctor Who – The Runaway Bride & The Christmas Invasion
For a show about aliens, the humanity of Doctor Who never fails to surprise me. I don’t know why, since they get it right every time. It has so much heart. I could have chosen most of the Doctor Who Christmas episodes, since they’re almost universally great, but there is something really special about Donna and The Doctor, right? They are a rare kind of magic, and I thought that deserved to be celebrated. But then halfway through writing that last sentence, my heart had a little pang for The Christmas Invasion. David Tennant’s first episode! The beginning of the most magical time in Doctor Who history (if you ask me!) A line I’ve used loads of times to criticise the UK government (“Don’t you think she looks tired?”) I simply cannot choose between the two, so I’m cheating and including both. There is something so inherently festive about standalone episodes of Doctor Who. I think it might be the knowledge that The Doctor will always save the world before the end credits roll. God knows someone needs to.
Ted Lasso – Carol of the Bells
My favourite things: Earnest TV, Hannah Waddingham singing Christmas songs, people who aren’t ‘cool’ really being the ones we should really all aspire to be like, because they have so much love in their lives. Oh, and Roy Kent. Basically, I was always going to adore the Ted Lasso Christmas episode, and not only because I would adore every episode of this wonder-show, which pretends to be about football but is really about self-love. Anyway. Carol of the Bells. We’ve got my favourite platonic love story (or are they?) Rebecca and Ted spreading Christmas joy by delivering presents to children who would otherwise be without, we’ve got number one crush Roy forsaking his sexy Christmas for his family, and it all comes together with the whole gang joining forces for a found family Christmas which would warm even the most cynical of hearts. I’m a big fan of the found family trope, and I love the way it is played here, with almost the entire Richmond team descending on Higgins and his family for a day filled with so much love that I’m smiling typing this sentence just at the thought. Although handled subtly, Ted Lasso is sort of a show where all of the characters know luxury (have you seen Keeley’s house, for one?!) but Higgins has always been the antithesis of that. He may not be a flashy footballer, or even get his own office, but every time he’s seen with his family, there is so much genuine joy on the screen that really, he’s the one with the most every time. Seeing the rest of the characters sharing in that, and appreciating the important things, is the whole essence of Ted Lasso. And then Hannah Waddingham sings a Christmas song in the street. What more could you possibly ask for?
Grey’s Anatomy – Grandma Got Runover By A Reindeer
I so nearly didn’t include Grey’s Anatomy. None of their holiday episodes have been exactly heart warming, and ‘tis the season to be if not jolly then hopefully at least not completely miserable, which is sort of a running theme when it comes to the goings on at Seattle Grace/Grey Sloan/whatever it’s called this season. When it came to it, though? I couldn’t not. Grey’s has done Christmas a few times, but for me, it has to be season 2’s Grandma got runover by a reindeer that takes the cake, both as my favourite of their holiday episodes, and probably my favourite on this list. At it’s heart, this is an episode about faith. In higher powers, sure, but also in medicine, and in the people you love. It lays so much foundation for wonderful moments to come, and isn’t Christmas about that, too? A chance to take stock, reset, figure out what you want and how to get it? (No Ava, that’s New Year, but basically the same thing.)
There’s that gorgeous shot of George, Izzie and Meredith lying under the Christmas tree, l ooking up at the lights, all hoping for better times to come, and if you read about this episode anywhere else, that’s usually the image they leave you with. My favourite part, though, is when Derek tells Addison that Meredith wasn’t a fling. He had loved her. The most interesting dynamic in this whole season for me is between Derek and his own internal struggle – he is trying so hard to keep so many people happy, himself included, and failing on all counts. This is the moment that he’s finally honest. He isn’t trying to hurt Addison, or change anything about the situation – he just wants to tell the truth. He loved Meredith, and once he finally says it, the whole season just opens up. It’s a kindness to himself, after episodes upon episodes where he didn’t give himself that, and that warms my heart as much as any Christmas carol or present under a tree. God, I love that man.
I could talk about Derek Shepherd forever, but as my festive gift to you all, I’ll stop right there. Happy holidays, friends. Wishing you all peace, hot chocolate on the sofa, and all the warm and fuzzy tv you can possible consume before 2022 comes around.
Thank you so much for reading! Which festive episodes of TV do you love? Do you agree with any on Ava’s list. I have to admit I’ve only seen one 🙈. I’d love to chat with you in the comments!