5 Modern Christmas TV Shows & Specials To Binge Before The Holidays
Updated: May 15
Consider holiday specials a treat, a gift from show creators to fans in between seasons to spread some holiday cheer (or dismal). In between those annual rewatches of classic Christmas movies, there is always room to return to beloved characters in standalone Christmas episodes.
They may not have nostalgic undertone of childhood attached, but Black Mirror’s "White Christmas," Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas, and more provide more than enough laughs, life lessons, and fan favor to usher in the start of the holiday season. As the holiday season quickly approaches, hop online and stream a quick special to watch with family, friends, or in those much-needed moments of alone time.
"Black Mirror: White Christmas"
It may be darker than the average Christmas tale, but not everything can follow a Hallmark movie plot. In fact, the only facet that truly makes this a holiday special is that events play out on Christmas Day.
Jon Hamm and Rafe Spall star opposite one another in this three-part special written by series creator Charlie Brooker. The stories are interwoven with messages on digital “peeping,” digital clones, and the erasure of one’s online - and by default, actual - persona. Hamm and Spall’s characters come to understand just how powerful human connection is and how dangerous it can become. And isn’t that the meaning of Christmas, after all?
"Doctor Who" Christmas Special: “Last Christmas"
Each year, the Doctor and his companion find themselves battling Daleks, frigid winters, and evil masterminds ahead of the holidays. But in "Last Christmas," a series of events makes the circumstances endured by the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capldi) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) that much more profound).
The two enlist the help of Santa Claus (Nick Frost) when “Dream Crabs” begin attacking a research facility at the North Pole. These alien creatures send their victims into a dream-like state while devouring their brains. While attempting to help scientists at the base, the Doctor and Clara find themselves, too, trapped within their own dream states (Clara with her now-deceased boyfriend and the Doctor living in the long-lost planet of Galifrey). Can Santa be the answer to what is real and what is not? Will Clara - or the Doctor - even want to emerge from their dream states?
"Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas"
Abed-centric storylines never fail to entertain; they also ask us to ponder larger questions about life and meaning in a way that only Abed himself can comprehend. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is no different, told through Abed’s (Danny Pudi) subconscious.
Technically not a special, this mind-bending episode of Community centers “Planet Abed” as they try to understand why he is seeing the world in claymation. With the help of psychology professor Duncan, the rest of the group also transforms into claymation and helps their friend as he gets through repressed memories of Christmas and why he feels stuck (both physically and metaphorically).
"A Very Big Mouth Christmas Special"
With the Hormone Monsters at the helm, we get a very special holiday episode filled lessons and tales for our favorite Big Mouth characters. The special pokes fun at it’s mostly Jewish characters (and cast), and explores the meaning of the holiday season with interwoven frame stories.
How does Jessi navigate Christmas for the first time, with a new family and unborn sister on the way? Do Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus have sex? Does believing in Santa require faith? And for the group of friends at Bridgeton Middle School, what even is faith? Per usual, creator Nick Kroll infuses clever references to pop culture (“Mira-Kill on 34th Street”, “Vader Johan”) with timely topics that leads to a profound revelation from the Hormone Monsters themselves.
"Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas"
In what could only be considered a Christmas miracle, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist returned for a final time in the two-hour TV special, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas. Fans got one final chance to say goodbye the characters and their toils in love, loss, and the trials of young adulthood. Following her father’s death in the show’s second (and final) season, Zoey is still grieving by the time Chrstimas comes around.
What better way to commemorate her father than by recreating every single part of the holiday they enjoyed together? Of course, in grief comes acceptance that things are bound to change. Set to the backdrop of classic Christmas tunes (“Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) and modern “heartsongs” (“Call Me Maybe”), Zoey leans on her friends, family, and longtime romantic interest, Max, to get through the holidays and embrace the life she has now - while respecting what has been lost.
Veteran actor Christopher Meloni stars in Happy! created by Grant Morrison and based off a comic book series of the same name. When he is not on the job, police detective Nick Sax (Meloni) works as a hitman to fuel his growing substance abuse addiciton. Hitman first. Detective second. Father third?
But Nick encounters a new purpose in life when - following a drug-induced heart attack - an imaginary cartoon unicorn, Happy (Oswald Patton) begs for help finding a missing girl, Hailey (to whom he is the imaginary friend). Who is this missing girl? Why did Happy find Nick? And will Nick take on the job, even if it serves him nothing? What follows is corrupt investigation towards an even more corrupt "Evil Santa," missing children, alien abductions, and potential apocalypses. Happy! might take place around Christmastime, but it is anything by jolly.