10 Great Christmas Sitcom Episodes to Stream Right Now

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The Office, "A Benihana Christmas" Photo: Paul Drinkwater/NBC via Getty Images

It's no secret that holiday episodes can be pretty terrible. As BoJack Horseman put it in the BoJack Horseman Christmas Special, "Holiday episodes are always stupid, cynical cash grabs by greedy corporations looking to squeeze a few extra Nielsen points out of sentimental claptrap for mush-brained idiots who’d rather spend their Christmas watching a fake family on TV than actually trying to have a conversation with their own dumb families."

But you know what? Sometimes you just need to put something on TV while you’re wrapping presents, and you don’t have two hours to finish It’s a Wonderful Life. Or sometimes, as Todd told BoJack, "I like it when people on TV hug each other." It's nice to watch that, too.

Here’s a list of ten excellent Christmas episodes of TV comedies, each of which can provide ideal moving-image wallpaper for your holiday party, serve as a diversion from your attempt to assemble the Star Wars: Rogue One Micro Machines Death Star Playset that you bought for your kid, or just be something to actually watch for Heat Miser’s sake. (For more discussion of these episodes and other holiday favorites, listen to this very special yuletide episode of the Vulture TV Podcast.)

Arrested Development, “Afternoon Delight” (season two, episode six)
This one checks all the boxes for classic holiday fare. It’s got inappropriate karaoke, Mae Whitman singing weird songs about the baby Jesus, pot brownies, carnival games, and Gob setting what must be a record for number of times “Come on!” is said in a single episode of Arrested Development. And really, isn’t all of that what Christmas is about? Well, that and Jessica Walter blowing an air horn directly into David Cross’s ear?
Where to stream it: Netflix

Seinfeld, “The Pick” (season four, episode 13)
“The Strike,” a.k.a. the Festivus episode, gets credit for kickstarting an entirely new holiday tradition, but “The Pick” is a more straightforward Christmas installment. It features the original wardrobe malfunction — sorry, Janet Jackson, Elaine Benes beat you to it with her holiday photo nip slip — and the words that every overwhelmed reveler says at some point in December: “You want a Christmas card? All right, here. Here’s your Christmas card.”
Where to stream it: Hulu.

The Simpsons, “Grift of the Magi” (season 11, episode nine)
“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” may be a holiday tradition — after all, it's the very first episode of this long, long, long-running animated series — but the one with Funzo and Gary Coleman is more in line with the sensibilities that later defined The Simpsons. With its withering indictment of the way corporate America manipulates children, especially during the holidays, it’s also just plain funnier, with the obvious exception of some very unfortunate and outdated gay jokes. “Grift of the Magi” also offers one of the best ending of any TV holiday episode: Coleman turning to camera and saying, à la Tiny Tim, “Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, everyone?”
Where to stream it: Simpsons World

Louie, “New Year’s Eve,” (season three, episode 13)
There is a maddening amount of effort involved in trying to make Christmas “perfect,” especially for parents attempting to keep the Santa magic alive for their kids. The first half of this holiday-season-focused Louie captures that truth in extreme, hysterical detail, via a lengthy scene that involves the violent dismantling of a defective baby doll that’s supposed to be a gift for one of Louie’s daughters. Christmas is so damn much work, and then it’s over in less time than it takes to sneeze. This episode reflects that reality with pitch-perfectness, right down to the moment when Louie shakes off the tree ornaments and tosses the naked Douglas fir right out the window.
Where to stream it: Hulu

The Office, “A Benihana Christmas” (season three, episode ten)
Sure, the Yankee-swap episode from season two is great. But this extended Christmas-themed Office has so much to offer: dueling office-holiday parties, Nagasake shots at the Scranton Benihana, and Steve Carell as Michael in peak dejected jackass mode following a sudden breakup.
Where to stream it: Netflix

The Wonder Years, “Christmas” (season two, episode three)
When I was in high school, my friends and I spent weeks trying to convince our English teacher to watch The Wonder Years. For whatever reason, she resisted. She finally caved the week that “Christmas” — in which Kevin tries to find the perfect gift for Winnie and convince his dad to buy a color TV — aired for the first time. The next day in class, she thanked us and said it was one of the best episodes of television she’d seen in years. I think about that every time I watch this … when I’m not weeping while Kevin opens his present from Winnie, that is.
Where to stream it: Netflix

Black-ish, “Stuff” (season two, episode ten)
Christmas is too commercial: That’s a theme in just about every holiday special ever made. But Black-ish puts its own fresh, funny spin on it, pitting Pops’s modest, old-school Christmas (which involved eating Church’s chicken and giving his son jars of pickles as gifts) against Dre’s lavish, new-school one, which is driven by a need to feed his kids’ appetite for “stuff.” This episode also features a rousing round of “Happy birthday, black Jesus” and a healthy dose of Wanda Sykes, because Black-ish Christmas is a gift that keeps on giving.
Where to stream it: Hulu, ABC.com

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, “Kimmy Goes to a Hotel!” (season two, episode eight)
This isn’t a Christmas episode so much as a Fake Christmas episode. There’s still plenty of tinsel, along with tube socks that double as Christmas stockings, a Christmas Carol spoof that casts Tituss as Scrooge, and a funny riff on Dawson’s Creek, complete with an appearance by Joshua Jackson, which is obviously the best (fake) Christmas present of all.
Where to stream it: Netflix

Parks and Recreation, “Citizen Knope” (season four, episode ten)
There’s always one person who is so ridiculously thoughtful about holiday shopping that she puts everyone else to shame. On Parks and Rec, that person is Leslie Knope. Of course, her co-workers do their best to show their gratitude by one-upping her with gingerbread and an It’s a Wonderful Life–esque moment at the end of this terrific episode. Also: Jean-Ralphio makes an appearance, and his hair is a true Christmas miracle.
Where to stream it: Netflix

The BoJack Horseman Christmas Special
Naturally, this BoJack one-off has to be included, even if it acknowledges that holiday specials are stupid, cynical cash grabs. It’s also a half hour that allows us to watch BoJack and Todd watching a holiday episode of BoJack’s '90s sitcom, Horsin’ Around, so it’s really two holiday episodes in one. Plus, the comedy in Horsin’ Around is timely, especially this one-liner: “I’d say your odds are about as a good as a Democrat being elected president!”
Where to stream it: Netflix