4 Things I Like About Holiday Themed Episodes of TV Programs

The Closer, Royal Pains, Eureka, Castle

This time of year brings out a lot of holiday programming. Much of it is made for TV movies and holiday specials, some from the past and some new, such as the classic from my childhood, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Last year I wrote an article about 5 TV Holiday Shows on My Nice List.

This year, I want to focus on something a little different, namely holiday episodes of regular TV programs. The two biggest holidays for these types of episodes seem to be Halloween and Christmas. Sometimes they are just part of the regular lineup and are broadcast near to the actual date of the holiday. Other times, they are standalone episodes shown especially during the month of the holiday. I look forward to these episodes for many reasons which are listed below.

Makes Characters Seem More Real
 

Cast of the Closer

When my kids were little, I heard many times that children think their teachers live at school. This conclusion is reached because the children have no other frame of reference and only see their teachers there, hence the assumption. Similarly, on TV it seems that many characters live at work, since we mostly see them in their work setting or at least performing their jobs.

Now, there is nothing wrong with this, since that is the point of many shows, notably crime procedurals. It would be extremely boring to watch these folks grocery shop or do the mundane errands we all watch TV to escape from! After all, the shows are about action. But, the holiday themed episodes integrate real life relatable and interesting activities into our favorite shows, making it easier to connect with the characters on a personal level, such as on the season 6 episode of The Closer, “Living Proof, Part 2,” when they all sat down to celebrate a holiday meal together after solving the latest crime.

Fun
 

Rick Castle - Castle

Many episodes from the TV programs I watch stand out in my mind, but the ones I remember the longest are the ones that have fun with the holidays. For instance, NCIS has done several episodes which made note of Halloween and the one that is most memorable for me was “Witch Hunt” in season 4. It was still a crime mystery, but threw in so many fun references and jibes that I laughed out loud. Plus, there was a Klingon! What’s not to love?

Castle also seems to really enjoy Halloween, having done multiple themed episodes in Octobers past. My favorite Castle episode remains “Vampire Weekend” from season 2, where Nathan Fillion dresses up as Mal. But, let’s not forget that Castle also dresses up as Edgar Alan Poe in a nice homage to the famous writer.

Creative
 

Claymation Allison, Carter, Zane and Jo - Eureka

Eureka, while on hiatus, had two Christmas themed episodes, in December of 2010 and December of 2011. And in 2011, Warehouse 13 and Haven joined in on the fun, with all three episodes showing back to back on the same night. The writers were so very creative for these episodes, blending real life mythos with science fiction – the result was amazing!

Eureka, in particular, really did some amazing things with these holiday episodes. The first one, named “O Little Town,” involved Taggart exploring Santology, and trying to come up with devices to explain the magic of Santa Claus. Add in mini fruitcakes and Carter telling the kids a story in front of a fireplace, and it certainly sounds like Christmas in Eureka to me!

The second episode, “Do You See What I See,” involves a transformation of the characters so that they become drawn in the style of classic Looney Toons. As the characters work to fix the problem, they are also drawn in anime style, Simpson style, Peanuts style and last but not least, in the old Claymation style. All of this is blended creatively into the story line.

Warehouse 13′s episode, “The Greatest Gift,” was a variation on “It’s A Wonderful Life,” where Pete is the character that never existed. Of course, it was not an angel, but rather an artifact that caused his disappearance. Haven’s episode, “Silent Night,” involved people mysteriously disappearing and Christmas decorations around town despite the fact it is July!

Sense of Time
 

Evan and Paige - Royal Pains

Watching TV shows, it is sometimes hard to get a sense of the passage of time. Even on programs that toss in references to “so you did not make it home last night” to help us understand it is the next day, it can still seem like they are all happening over the course of a day.

Figuring out seasons can be difficult, and in particular on shows set in warm climates, it is impossible. The best example I can think of is Burn Notice – Florida really does not experience seasons, so you really have no idea if it is August or December. For programs in northern climates, this is not such an issue, because they are wearing coats in the winter months.

Another good example is Royal Pains, which originally started as a summer program about the Hamptons and the population of wealthy people that use it as a summer home. However, starting with the second season, we got the tail end of the season being broadcast in the winter or fall, but apparently still portraying summer activities.

Enter the holiday themed programs which give us context as to what season the episode is operating in. I like this contextual clue which for me helps make the program more enjoyable. I am certainly looking forward to the standalone episode of Royal Pains being broadcast this month featuring Evan and Paige’s wintertime wedding, “Off-Season Greetings.”

 

So there you have them, my reasons for enjoying holiday themed episodes of regular programs. Do you look forward to these episodes as much as I do? If so, do you have other reasons I did not mention? Please tell me your reasons or to discuss mine in the comment section below.

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  • Sabienna B.

    I feel the same way about holiday episodes, especially when it comes to adding realism to the characters. It’s just nice to see these characters that you love take a break from their regularly scheduled serious drama or sitcom antics, to indulge in holiday fun.

    Holiday episodes are also great because they encourage the writers to break from form, as in the Syfy episodes you mentioned. Great article, PT!

    • ptjackson

      Hi Sabienna! Thanks so much for your comments and kind words. It is nice to know that I’m not the only one to feel this way!

      And, you are so right about the writers not only being encouraged, but feeling free, to break from form and think outside the box.

  • Lee Ann

    I’m a little slow getting to this! Yes, I love the holiday episodes. I see that both NCIS and NCIS:Los Angeles are having Christmas episodes next week (yay!!). I loved the Castle episode with Nathan Fillion dressing as Mal (“Didn’t you wear that like five years ago Dad?” or words like that). It does help place them in time, and it does make them more human. And sometimes it gives them a chance to advance the characters in unexpected ways . . .

    • ptjackson

      Hi! Always glad to hear that I am not alone in liking something. 8-)

      Yes, I am really looking forward to the NCIS and NCIS:LA episodes next week! I really enjoyed what they did last year too.

      Alexis makes such good comments, and keeps her dad off balance, which is a bonus for us!

      And, I totally agree that the characters can get advanced in unexpected ways – all for the good!

      Thanks for commenting!

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