St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday unlike any other. While the core meaning of a lot of Christian holidays is lost over time, giving way to feasts of capitalism and overindulging, St. Patrick’s Day has kinda always been a little about that. Historically, one aspect of the celebrations was that the Lent restrictions on alcohol would be lifted for the day. Now, Irish and American people alike take that to the furthest degree, spending the day wearing green, drinking themselves into oblivion, and not spending too much time thinking about St. Patrick or the meaning of Irish identity. Its closest relative is Halloween, holidays rooted in tomfoolery and chaos that unite and divide us in equal measure.
These days, the meaning of St. Paddy’s is that chaos. But for some of us, getting involved in that chaos seems a little too scary. If you’d rather watch it from afar than head to your local Irish pub and drain them of cheap shots while wearing a clip-on ginger beard, we’ve got your solution — eight of the best St. Paddy’s Day TV episodes, many of which feature a lot of chaos, magic, and hedonism to enjoy vicariously.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Charlie Catches a Leprechaun” (Season 11, Episode 8)
Naturally, bar episodes are pretty high on the list for St. Paddy’s Day specials. Despite its bar’s namesake, somehow Sunny got to season 11 before having a special based on the holiday. In an otherwise pretty weak season, “Charlie Catches a Leprechaun” makes the most of Charlie’s endearing childlike curiosity and gullibility while Dennis tries to streamline the bar with a booze-selling wagon. After a man is caught pickpocketing, he tells Charlie he’s a leprechaun and Charlie believes him; setting glue traps to catch him, and going on a wild goose chase all over town with Mac to track him. Leaning into the more magical, whimsical aspects of St. Paddy’s Day, this episode sees the gang at their best instead of relying on tired tropes of drunkenness. Available on Hulu.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch, “Salem, the Boy” (Season 3, Episode 17)
For right or wrong, we associate St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture with magic, gold, and leprechauns. A couple of the shows on this list are about witches, and that’s by no coincidence. In “Salem, the Boy,” Sabrina the Teenage Witch leans into that association, with Roland returning as a leprechaun. He gives Sabrina three golden coupons that grant her wishes; which, as we know, never goes well. She turns Salem into a man, but his essence is placed into a boy at school, leading to his attempts to take over the world. It’s a silly, fun episode with no real stakes but lots of ridiculousness and capers all round — perfect for the holiday. Available on Hulu.
How I Met Your Mother, “No Tomorrow” (Season 3, Episode 12)
In “No Tomorrow,” the How I Met Your Mother gang lean into the green hedonism of St Patrick’s Day after attempting to stay at home and have a board-game night. When Barney convinces Ted that the day has no consequences, Ted goes hog wild on behaving badly and finds that his bad deeds actually reward him: For one night only, he can live consequence-free, just like Barney. While Ted doesn’t feel too pleased with himself afterward, there is a lesson in here that every St. Paddy’s Day reveler seems to know already: That even unofficially your behavior on that night is, if not inconsequential, then forgivable. Available on Hulu.
Cheers, “Bar Wars VII: The Naked Prey” (Season 11, Episode 19)
Naturally, more than one show on this list takes place in a bar. In Cheers, the original bar-based comedy, they took the St Patrick’s Day episode hijinks as far as they could reasonably take them for “Bar Wars VII: The Naked Prey.” In the episode, the bar is in an annual battle for sales against Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern — and loses. As in the Sunny episode, the stakes are more about business and pride than having wild, raucous fun — partly because, well, running a bar over St. Patrick’s Day probably isn’t that much fun, but it definitely brings in a lot of money. Catch this episode of Cheers and then spare a thought (and a big tip) for your local bartender if you go out this weekend. Available on Netflix.
30 Rock, “St Patrick’s Day” (Season 6, Episode 12)
30 Rock has special episodes for every holiday you could think of, and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception. Here, Liz’s hatred for the Irish and, in particular, ex-boyfriend Dennis Duffy comes to a head. She attempts to stay inside (with her James Marsden–played boyfriend!) and avoid the revelry — something you might be trying to do, reader, even if it isn’t always possible. The Paddy’s Day chaos always finds you. When Dennis shows up at her apartment claiming to be married, Liz tries to deal with it, all in her Liz Lemon way. Elsewhere, Jenna and Tracy attempt to host the St Patrick’s Day parade, but fight for lead host. It’s a perfect 30 Rock episode, full of fights, megalomania, and general disdain, all heightened by the holiday. Available on Hulu.
Charmed, “Lucky Charmed” (Season 5, Episode 17)
Magic is a theme in a few of these episodes, but perhaps none more so than in Charmed. In “Lucky Charmed,” a less fun St. Paddy’s Day episode than others on the list, leprechauns get their turn to be more of a sympathetic force than a tricksy, difficult, troublesome one. A demon is out killing leprechauns and stealing their magic, so the Charmed Ones, as always, step in to help. The girls battle the evil magic and attempt to reverse the leprechauns’ legendary bad luck, proving St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t always have to go as badly as it has in the past. Available on Netflix.
The Office, “St Patrick’s Day” (Season 6, Episode 19)
Luckily, the holiday falls on a Sunday this year, which means those so inclined can spend all day drinking themselves into oblivion and not have to worry about it until work on Monday. Not so in this classic episode of The Office, in which Dunder Mifflin’s employees are all stuck at work after being made to stay later by Jo, which forces them to attempt to leave to head to a nearby bar by taking multiple breaks. They fail. Eventually, Michael is forced to be direct with Jo and tell her he’s letting the employees leave. She relents, and we have a happy ending, as the employees get to enjoy their St. Patrick’s Day in a bar, as it was intended by St. Patrick himself. Available on Netflix.
2 Broke Girls, “And the Kilt Trip” (Season 3, Episode 19)
As with many festive and outgoing holidays, a lot of us more introverted types might find ourselves grudgingly trying to join the fun even if it’s not quite our bag. That’s what happens in 2 Broke Girls’ “And the Kilt Trip” when, seeking to fit in with Max and her other friends, Caroline joins everyone to get crazy at the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Surprise: She has a not-so-great time, and instead longs to enjoy her own old holiday traditions at the Plaza Hotel. It’s a lesson to all of us, really, and what we’ve been telling you all along: If you’re not really a party type, stay in, curl up, and just watch loads of TV instead. Available on YouTube.