It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, time for TV shows to roll out a fresh batch of Christmas-themed episodes for our viewing pleasure. But which of the many Christmas episodes we’ve enjoyed over the years have stood the test of time to become a true holiday tradition? You tell us. We’ve ranked the most enduring Christmas episodes ever -- along with a few wild cards -- and placed them in a March Madness-style bracket. Over the next two weeks, we’re asking you to vote for your favorite episodes until we get a winner: the undisputed best Christmas episode of all time.
(5) The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” (aired December 17, 1989)
“The Simpsons” has been on long enough to air a full season’s worth of Christmas episodes… so we have plenty to choose from! But as much as we love “Marge Be Not Proud” and “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace,” we’re going with the original, the prototype, the first ever “Simpsons” episode. For those of you who weren’t born when this first aired: Homer works as a mall Santa to make extra cash for Christmas, bets his paycheck at the dog track, and ends up taking home the losing greyhound, Santa’s Little Helper. The show’s trademark satiric wit isn’t fully developed yet, and the animation’s a little crude. (Okay, a lot crude.) But nothing gets us into the holiday spirit quite like Bart singing “Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg…”
(12) Community, “Regional Holiday Music” (aired December 8, 2011)
If we’re picking a “Community” Christmas episode (and we are), Season 2’s “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” with its Rankin-Bass-style stop-motion animation, seems like the obvious choice. But we prefer this Season 3 installment, which weaves a savage “Glee” parody into the usual holiday cheer. A demented glee club director (“SNL’s” Taran Killam) recruits the study group to perform in Greendale’s Christmas pageant, treating us to a series of bizarre holiday-themed songs in the process. We love this one for Annie’s sexy-Santa seduction of Jeff, for Britta being terrible (as usual), and for its great tag with “Community’s” minor characters using their catchphrases to sing a strangely catchy version of “Carol of the Bells.”
Which episode deserves to advance to the next round of Mistletoe Madness? Vote in the poll above, click here to see the full bracket and vote on other pairings (first-round voting ends Tuesday at 6 PM PT), tweet out your choices using the hashtag #MistletoeMadness, and hit the comments to tell us about all the great Christmas episodes we forgot to include.