The Andy Griffith Show – “The Christmas Story” (Season 1, Episode 11)
No holiday season is complete without the friendly antics of Andy, Barney, Opie, and Aunt Bee. This episode opens on Christmas Eve, with local store owner Ben Weaver insisting that Andy jail Sam Muggins for moonshining. Andy begrudgingly agrees, but makes a moral point by locking up Sam's wife and two children as well. Andy rounds up his clan to throw a festive party for the incarcerated family, and Weaver is moved by Andy’s generous holiday spirit; he eventually gets arrested in order to join the fun. Perfect for the whole family, this heartwarming episode is will have you chuckling from beginning to end.
The Office – “Christmas Party” (Season 2, Episode 10)
The holiday season is in full swing at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, and to celebrate, the office throws a Christmas party complete with Secret Santa. Jim picks out the perfect gift for Pam, though his plan is thwarted when Michael selfishly makes everyone play "Yankee Swap" in order to get a better gift. This episode is a classic in many ways—it captures the forced awkwardness of workday office parties, while hilariously documenting the ways that the Christmas spirit brings out the best (and worst) traits of Dunder Mifflin’s ragtag team.
Downton Abbey – “Christmas Special” (Season 2, Episode 9)
The first Christmas special of the Downton Abbey series finds the Downton household bustling with Christmas preparations. Though Mr. Bates’ murder trial puts a cloud over the household, the staff rallies and festivities prevail. Lady Mary finally confides in Matthew about the Turkish minister’s scandalous death in her bed, and is relieved to find out that he isn't concerned—in fact, he ends up proposing to her in the snow. Though 2015’s Christmas-themed series finale is a satisfying, tie-up-the-loose-ends farewell, the first Downton Abbey Christmas special teems with promise, and will set you on a path to watching the whole series all over again.
The West Wing – “In Excelsis Deo” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Despite the communal spirit of the season, this episode finds West Wing staffers distracted by their personal issues. Toby gets called from D.C. police to identify a dead homeless man, who turns out to be a veteran wearing a coat that Toby donated to Goodwill. When he can’t trace down the man's family, he arranges a military funeral at Arlington. Meanwhile, Josh concocts a plan to protect Leo from leaks about past substance abuse, while C.J. fights for a noble cause and President Bartlet picks out the perfect gift. A boys’ choir singing “The Little Drummer Boy” accompanies the final scene—a funeral for the unknown vet—and we dare you not to shed a tear.
Mad Men – “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” (Season 4, Episode 2)
Sterling Cooper Draper Price throws an elaborate Christmas party to satisfy the whims of a forceful client, while Freddy Rumsen returns, now sober and stirring up old feelings for Peggy about her role in the office—both as a worker and as a woman. Don's loneliness leads him to an ill-advised one-night stand with his secretary, an awkward situation that he doesn’t handle well afterwards. Focused on new and old relationships alike, as well as the uncomfortable forced frivolity of the season, this episode doesn’t offer a lot of good cheer—but it’s surprisingly funny, festive, and certainly not to be missed.
30 Rock – “Ludachristmas” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Liz Lemon's family visits for the holidays, and Jack Donaghy's mother, Colleen, is determined to show Jack that the Lemons aren’t as picture-perfect as they appear on the surface. While the cast and writers of TGS with Tracy Jordan prepare to throw their annual blowout Ludachristmas party, a horrified Kenneth cancels the festivities and makes the staff sit through a talk about the meaning of Christmas; predictably, chaos ensues. Here, 30 Rock finds dark humor in the concept of “quality” holiday time with family and friends, testing relationships in the name of Christmas spirit—to hilarious ends.