We all know that Christmas is a time to get fed up of your friends and family and turn to television for the kind of cheer that you only wish existed in real life. Bearing that in mind, then, it seems only right to suggest some shows to dial up on Netflix Streaming to make your yuletide bright.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Is there anything that says "The Holidays" more than this 1965 animated classic, based on Charles Schulz' timeless comic strip? If so, I'd like to see it, and then remind you that anything that doesn't have Vince Guaraldi's spectacular jazz score automatically loses in any comparison. Whether you're 6 or 60, this is the perfect Christmas show.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Another holiday classic that predates my birth, and one that I didn't even see until I first came to the U.S. ten years ago. While I don't have the nostalgic affection for claymation that many do, this one is still worth watching if only for the surreality of "Yukon Cornelius," potentially the greatest addition to the Santa Myth ever created. But I'll admit that the elf who wants to be a dentist is equally unexpected and wonderful. Who can deny holiday shows written by people who know what it is to want to have better jobs?
30Rock: Secret Santa
General consensus may be that 30Rock lost it by the time it hit its fourth season, but I really enjoyed this holiday episode based as much as anything on the appearance at the end of Larry Wilcox from ChiPs (Yes, I'm easily pleased) and the idea of the Verdukian faith. After all, if you can't be goofy at Christmas, when can you be goofy?
Parks & Recreation: Christmas Scandal
I'm one of those people who thinks that this NBC show is one of the best sitcoms currently on the air, and this 2009 episode about a sex scandal derailing Leslie's efforts to showcase the Winter Wonderland Festival isn't just proof of my theory, but a nice balance of sentiment and snark that fits right in with most people's expectations of the holiday season. (Season 2, episode 12 for those looking.)
Cheers: The Spy Who Came In For A Cold One
Talking of classic NBC sitcoms, this holiday episode of the long-running series came during the show's first season, before the show had entirely found its rhythm (or, for that matter, all of its characters; Frasier and Woody aren't around yet), but I can't resist the silliness about the plot, where everyone in the bar becomes entirely hooked by the newcomer who claims to be a secret agent. Well, except Diane, of course... But that kind of says everything you need to know about the show's dynamic, doesn't it...?
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Amends
When you realize that Buffy only ever did one Christmas episode, and that it came during the show's third season (Still my favorite of the entire run: Giles fired from the Watcher's Council! Faith! The crazy Mayor!), you should probably expect something great from "Amends." Luckily, it delivers, whether its in the "Angel is being driven insane" plot or the sight of Willow's plans to seduce Oz into sleeping with him for the first time (Barry White, Will? Really?). It's a Joss Whedon extravaganza (He writes and directs), and one of the finer episodes of the finest seasons of the show. Well worth revisiting.
Sports Night: The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tenessee
Very few people can write Christmas episodes like Aaron Sorkin - Very few people can write like Aaron Sorkin in general - and this episode from the first season of his pre-West Wing show, Sports Night demonstrates that easily, with all manner of moral lessons, big and small, and some ridiculously great banter between the characters. Robert Guillaume just burns up the screen in the final scenes of this one. If you've never checked out this show before, consider it my Christmas gift to you.
Bones: The Goop on The Girl
What is more seasonal than Santa exploding after holding up a bank? I think we all know the answer to that one, and that it's "nothing." I admit to feeling as if Bones is perfect comfort food television at the worst of times - If, admittedly, you can stomach some grisly remains as part of your comfort meal - and there's little better time for that kind of thing than the holidays, right? This season 5 episode gets a little too slushy - I could do without the "Brennan realizes family is important after all" plot, personally - but it's definitely enjoyable holiday fare.
Psych: Gus's Dad May Have Killed An Old Guy
See above, at least in terms of the show being comfort food. Psych is fast-moving, funny and impossibly light, and this holiday episode - the show's first, I think? - goes for all-out comedy by bringing in Gus' family and managing to make Christmas familial politics seem far more important than solving the murder of the week. If nothing else, it's a nice reminder that your family trip home could always be worse.
Doctor Who: The Next Doctor
As you've been able to see from the last few weeks, Doctor Who's Christmas Specials vary wildly in quality, and sadly the best one yet - "A Christmas Carol" - isn't available on Netflix Instant so far, so let's go for the next best... Or, perhaps, the next most Christmassy. "The Next Doctor" ticks off all manner of Christmas Cliches - It's happening in Ye Olde England! There's snow! And orphans! - but it all works, despite (or because of) it's familiarity. And also, for those who don't already follow the show, it's thankfully devoid of so much of the obvious, unfunny comedy bits that drag down a lot of the earlier Christmas episodes, and also the pretentions towards "epicness" that kills the later David Tennant episodes. It's just a romp with giant robots threatening London that happens to end on Christmas Day. And what's wrong with that, really?