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.
(8) M*A*S*H, "Death Takes a Holiday" (aired December 15, 1980)
The "Charles Winchester is a grump with a heart of go--- er, chocolate" subplot plays on the classic "Gift of the Magi" story, as Charles skimps on his donation to the potluck party for the local orphanage, then secretly donates packages of candy bars in a family tradition from back home. Cute, but missable; the story you likely remember from "Death Takes a Holiday" is over in the surgical suite, as Hawkeye, BJ, and Hot Lips try to keep a dying man alive until the clock strikes December 26, so that the man's family doesn't remember Christmas as the day their daddy died. If you felt that later seasons of the show got too maudlin, this one may be better read about than rewatched. Still, an interesting idea, and the ep -- which kicks off with an impressive string of puns -- was written and directed by Mike Farrell, who played BJ.
In lieu of a scene from this episode (which we couldn't find for the life of us), enjoy a montage of "M*A*S*H" Christmas photos set to a Norwegian rendition of "O Holy Night" (YouTube is a very strange place):
(9) Family Guy, "A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas" (aired December 21, 2001)
The main plot is standard material -- Lois struggles to create the perfect Christmas, despite the best (and stupidest) efforts of her family -- but it's the little throwaway bits that make it art. Reluctant pageant Jesus Stewie sharpens a candy cane into a shiv. Joe Swanson has wreaths affixed to the wheels of his wheelchair. Lois, in full meltdown mode after Brian sets fire to the house, shoves Jimmy Stewart mid-"It's a Wonderful Life" monologue off a bridge, and the three Wise Men argue over who violated the five-dollar limit on gifts for the newborn Messiah. But the best part, of course, is Peter's ongoing quest to watch the holiday film "KISS Saves Santa." Voiced by the real band members, the movie within the episode features awesomely random lines like, "Everyone knows pterodactyls hate the screech of a guitar!"
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.