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.
(7) Grey's Anatomy, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" (aired December 11, 2005)
One of those "Grey's" episodes that shouldn't work, but somehow avoids mawkishness thanks to great acting and chemistry (with a shot of that trademark grumpy-Bailey zest). Everyone tries to help Alex pass his boards despite siding against him in the cheating-on-Izzy thing, a boy resists undergoing his second heart transplant (and his mother's relentless holiday cheer), Supergirl (Helen Slater) gets a bleeding ulcer thanks to her family, and Yang and Burke clash over spirituality. But our takeaway image from "Grandma" is the final one: Izzy lying under the tree, looking up through the twinkling lights… and one by one, her roommates joining her, including the dog. The final shot is of the tree from above, with all their legs sticking out, their weird struggling family. Gorgeous.
(10) ER, "A Miracle Happens Here" (aired December 14, 1995)
The lighter bits of "A Miracle Happens Here" are a mixed bag: Carol tries in vain to convince the rest of the ER staff to go, um, caroling in another ward of the hospital; a portly, white-bearded patient with red suspenders, a round wife, and a toy-making workshop hurts his hand, only to disappear mysteriously (do ya get it? ya sure?); and ice-skating kids get run over by a drunk Zamboni driver. The comedy is a necessary contrast to the other, darker storylines, though, especially for Mark. Fortunately, Mark is heartened by one of his patients, a Holocaust survivor named Hanna Steiner. She's gotten carjacked, and her baby granddaughter goes missing, leading to a series of wistful but beautiful conversations between Hanna and Mark about faith and the nature of evil before the baby is found, hungry but unharmed. The entire Steiner family (and their dazzling array of mid-'90s reindeer sweaters) gathers to celebrate Hanukkah in the ER, and the audience gets to enjoy a strong vintage "ER" episode that points up the flip side of the "good cheer" coin without getting too heavy-handed.
In lieu of a scene from this episode (which we couldn't find for the life of us), enjoy this tearjerking montage of "ER" Christmas moments:
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.