Christmas time has always been (for me anyway), the time where some of my favourite comedies get all festive and treat us to a Christmas special.
With Christmas not that far away I’ve taken that rather difficult task of picking my top 12 UK comedy Christmas episodes.
With 20 episodes of Only Fools and Horses to choose from and several festive episodes of The Royle Family compiling a list of just 12 wasn’t easy. Some who narrowly missed out from the top 12 include The Vicar of Dibley, Alan Partridge: Knowing Me, Knowing Yule and the Bottom Christmas special, Holy.
So without further adieu, here are my top 12 UK comedy Christmas specials…
12. Keeping Up Appearances: The Father Christmas Suit (1991)
The first comedy on my countdown is the 1991 Keeping Up Appearances Christmas episode, The Father Christmas Suit.
Hyacinth has decided that as it is Christmas, Richard should help distribute gifts to the old people at the Church Hall, dressed as Father Christmas. Feeling like an idiot, he goes to show Elizabeth and Emmet, and they both manage to get incredibly drunk. When Elizabeth discovers the drunken part, she decides to dress up in his Father Christmas outfit and drive Hyacinth to the Church Hall, as Richard and Emmet follow on the bus.
While on her way to the Church Hall with Father Christmas, who she thinks is Richard, she spots Daisy, Onslow and the Thorgunby’s on their way to her house. She visits the Thorgunbys, and takes them to the village hall where she meets the vicar, who tells her that Daddy has gotten very drunk, has shed his clothes and is creating a few problems.
Hyacinth eventually finds Daddy. She also sees Father Christmas being kissed by Onslow, but she discovers that it is Liz, and finds out what happened.
Keeping Up Appearances has become somewhat of a guilty pleasure for me, and the 1991 Christmas is well worth your time, even if you’ve never seen a single episode before.
11. Miranda: The Perfect Christmas (2010)
Such fun! Up next is the Miranda Christmas special, The Perfect Christmas from 2010.
Miranda has decided that this Christmas she would like a relaxing and fun time, and that means spending it without her parents.
Together with Stevie, they try to spend Christmas at the shop with Gary, Clive and Tilly, but after present she bought online doesn’t arrive in time, a run-in with some carol singers and a couple of arguments with friends, Miranda decides that maybe Christmas would be better with her family after all!
10. Outnumbered: The Robbers (2009)
In at number 10 is the first Outnumbered Christmas special, The Robbers, which takes place on Boxing Day and as the title suggests, the Brockman family have had a burglary.
Santa isn’t the only one to have visited the Brockman family home at Christmas, this year they have been burgled and Karen (Ramona Marquez) is worried that they’ll return… when she’s not writing New Year’s resolutions that is!
As if the pressure of getting Christmas lunch on the table in time wasn’t enough, Sue (Claire Skinner) and Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey) go in search of Grandad (David Ryall) who has gone missing from the home leaving Pete (Hugh Dennis) to get the lunch ready and entertain Alexa’s annoying mum Jane (Hattie Morahan), who turns up an hour early, and Ben (Daniel Roche) is up running around up to his usual tricks!
Outnumbered was such a good series and as the kids got older the series lost part of its charm, but actually the latest series proved that the sitcom still works, it just has to adopt a slightly different tone now that the kids are older. Although the last series was rumoured to be the final ever, it has been revealed that there are plans to bring the series back for more specials… Christmas ones I hope!
9. Mr Bean: Merry Christmas, Mr Bean (1992)
Ah yes, Mr Bean. One of my earliest comedy memories as a child is watching Mr Bean, and in particular the 1992 Christmas special, where THIS happens…
The episode begins with a trip to Harrods, where Bean (Rowan Atkinson) turns off their entire Christmas lights in order to test a packet of fairly lights, he then inadvertently conducts The Salvation Army band and drives away with the town Christmas Tree on the top of his iconic green Mini.
Back at his flat, he’s treated to a private carol concert before shutting the door on them without making a donation and heads to bed.
The next day, his girlfriend Irma Gobb (Matilda Ziegler) comes round for Christmas lunch and it’s up to Bean to prepare there turkey, however when he loses his watch inside the turkey he dives straight in to find out resulting in one the most iconic Christmas comedy moments ever – Mr Bean running around with his head inside a turkey!
Merry Christmas indeed.
8. Him & Her: The Christmas Special (2012)
The most recent Christmas special in this list comes from Him & Her, who in 2012 ended their third series with a festive special.
As BBC Three is about to move online, when you think of the channel and the great comedy it has produced, you think of Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey and Him & Her, a wonderfully warm sitcom about a young couple sharing a flat.
In the Christmas special, newly engaged couple Becky and Steve (Sarah Solemani & Russell Tovey) invite Becky’s sister Laura (Kerry Howard) and her partner Paul (Ricky Champ) over for Christmas Day, as well as Shelley (Camille Coduri) her son Kieran (Louis Melton) and Steve’s dad Pete (Christopher Fulford) pays a surprise visit.
My favourite moments in the episode have to be right at the beginning, where Becky and Steve are lying on the bed Skyping Steve’s mum whilst shredding a whole Turkey and dunking it in their tea, and later on in the episode Laura taking Karaoke way too seriously!
7. The Royle Family: Christmas Special (1999)
The first of two The Royle Family Christmas Specials in this top 12 is the first ever from 1999.
After a big Christmas dinner, the family sit down to watch a bit of telly (obviously) but the festive chat is interrupted when Denise goes into Labour.
Somewhat of a Christmas miracle happens when Jim walks upstairs (I know!) to help her. Whilst up there, we’re treated to one of the best one liners in sitcom history, when he turns to Denise and asks her “Are you sure it’s not just a bloody big piss, love?”
6. Absolutely Fabulous: Cold Turkey (2003)
In at number 6 is the Absolutely Fabulous Christmas special from 2003, Cold Turkey, which sees Edina stay home for Christmas for the first time ever!
Christmas for Edina (Jennifer Saunders) was never going to be an understated affair, so as well as buying tons of presents she also opts for a real tree, as opposed to Saffy’s tacky plastic one. There’s one slight problem though, the tree is bigger than the room itself!
One person who’s not that happy that Edina has decided to stay home for Christmas is Patsy (Joanna Lumley), who was looking forward to their annual Christmas vacation, and staying home forces her to have unhappy memories of Christmas as a child. When she collapses underneath the Christmas tree, Patsy is taken to hospital where Doctors tell Edina that Patsy is very sick and could die.
Out of hospital and with her estranged sister Jackie now dead, Patsy does the unthinkable at the Christmas dinner table… she asks for a slice of turkey!
5. Extras: The Special (2007)
Much like The Office in 2003, Ricky Gervais chose to end Extras after two successful series, with a Christmas special starring a host of A-Listers including Clive Owen, David Tennant, George Michael, Gordon Ramsay and Jonathan Ross.
Unhappy with the way his career has headed, Andy Millman wants to earn critical respect and fires his loyal but useless agent Darren, and quits his role in When The Whistle Blows.
However, the credible career Andy hoped for didn’t quite surface as he finds himself accepting roles he’s never wanted, such as playing an alien in Doctor Who, and the final straw is when he finds himself in the Celebrity Big Brother house with the likes of Lionel Blair, Lisa Scott-Lee and Chico, hoping it will boost his career. Of course it doesn’t take Andy long to realise that staying in the house will in fact do the opposite, so after suffering a classic Big Brother meltdown in which he makes an emotional apology to best friend Maggie (Ashley Jensen), he walks out of the house and avoids a press conference to spend time with her.
Many said that Ricky Gervais would find it difficult to top The Office, but Extras came very very close.
4. Only Fools and Horses: Heroes & Villains (1996)
Of course, Christmas isn’t Christmas without an Only Fools and Horses Christmas special and with TWENTY to choose from, picking my favourite wasn’t the easiest of tasks. Eventually I decided that it has to be Heroes & Villains, and with 21.3m tuning in on Christmas Day 1996 it seems I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it.
In case you haven’t seen Heroes & Villains (you better have a good excuse), the episode sees Del and Rodney (David Jason & Nicholas Lyndhurst) get invited to a fancy dress party, and choose to go as Batman and Robin.
When their three-wheel van breaks down, Del and Rodney are forced to run the rest of the journey and on the way interrupt a mugging by appearing from the fog dressed as Batman and Robin.
Finally arriving at the party, the pair of them run into the main room singing the Batman theme tune… only there’s a slight problem, the fancy dress party has in fact been cancelled and replaced with a wake!
So not only is Heroes & Villains the most memorable Christmas episode of Only Fools and Horses but I’d argue that it’s also one of the most memorable episodes of Only Fools and Horses ever. If you were to ask most people for their most memorable Only Fools and Horse moment, dressing up as Batman and Robin will be up there alongside the chandelier smashing into pieces and Delboy falling through the bar!
3. The Royle Family: The New Sofa (2008)
If I could spend Christmas with any TV family, it would have to be the Royles… after all, they love to sit in front of the TV just like me! The second appearance for The Royle Family in this list is for their 2008 Christmas Special, The New Sofa.
Inspired by Nigella, Denise (Caroline Aherne) decides to cook Christmas dinner and herself and David invite their parents over for turkey and roast potatoes, only the turkey is still frozen, and the Potatoes sadly resemble charcoal more than they do potatoes.
But fear not because after some scheduled mingling, some tropical punch (not forgetting the 7up for those who don’t drink) and a quick test of Denise and David’s new reclining sofa, there’s nothing wrong with the Carrot Crush, so they all tuck in to shall we say, an alternative Christmas dinner!
Every Christmas without fail I have to watch this special as it really is the best one they’ve done. It’s a shame that this will be the third Christmas year in a row without a new special. Fingers crossed we’ll get one in 2016!
2. The Office: Christmas Specials (2003)
In 2003, The Office bowed out with two excellent Christmas specials. One on Boxing Day and one the day after. Technically a two-parter, both of these specials have made it to number two in my countdown of the 12 best comedy Christmas specials.
If you have never seen The Office before… WHO ARE YOU? And WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? In short, it’s a mockumentary about an office in Slough where Ricky Gervais plays manager David Brent and the show was responsible for making Gervais a household name.
Some time has passed since the camera crew last visited; Brent is selling cleaning products, has released a single in an attempt to launch a music career and back in Slough, Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) has been promoted to General Manger and Tim (Martin Freeman) has had to say goodbye to Dawn (Lucy Davis) after she moved to Florida with Lee (Joel Beckett).
In the first part, Dawn and Lee are flown back to England to attend the Wernham Hogg Christmas party, David Brent pops by the office (as he regularly does) and with Gareth now having his own office, Tim has a new, equally annoying, desk-mate.
In the second part, David wants to show off his new girlfriend at the Christmas party, one problem though, he doesn’t actually have one, so he turns to the internet to look for a woman to take to the party. After several dates it’s fair to say his search is not going well, until date number four.
Having left without saying goodbye, Tim realises he’s still interested in Dawn, and eventually Dawn realises this, leaves Lee and comes back to kiss Tim. a happy ending indeed, so not only an excellent Christmas special, but also a brilliant way to wrap up The Office as a whole.
1. Gavin & Stacey: Christmas Special (2008)
And in at number one, it HAS to be the feature-length Christmas special of Gavin & Stacey where Stacey’s family (and Nessa and Dave Coaches) come down from Wales to spend the festive season with the Shipmans in Essex. Out of all the Christmas specials in this list, the Gavin & Stacey special is the only one that I would happily watch mid-May if Gold were to show it (and they often do!).
As if Christmas wasn’t tense enough, Gavin (Mathew Horne) choosing to accept a job in Cardiff sparks off a huge family argument that is just brilliant to watch! Smithy (James Corden) bless him doesn’t have the best Christmas either, his best mate is moving to Wales and the mother of his baby (Neil) has just agreed to marry Dave Coaches (Steffan Rhodri).
There are so many great moments in the episode that it’s hard to pick my favourite moment. Nessa (Ruth Jones) giving everyone a single Celebration chocolate for Christmas is pure genius, Smithy and Gavin singing along to Band Aid in the car never fails to get me into the Christmas spirit, Mick’s (Larry Lamb) obsession with the Turkey is brilliant, Dave Coaches proposing by wrapping a cigarette packet with a ring inside is inspired and I genuinely could go on and on…
From the writing to the performances, Gavin & Stacey really was a special series that was kind enough to give us the best Christmas present ever, a Christmas special that stands the test of time and gets everyone in the festive mood. The TV equivalent to Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas is You if you like.