It's hard for a sitcom to produce a Very Special Christmas Episode, without it seeming overwarmed, cliched, or just plain ol' corny. But every once in a while, a show can pull of a yuletide episode that makes the season that much merrier. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order:
1. The Bernie Mac Show, "Road to Tradition"
Disheartened by the kids' materialism after they find their gifts and unwrap them early, Bernie cancels Christmas. He takes all the decorations down and leaves the kids alone in the house with their gifts, taking his wife Wanda on a riding tour of the neighborhood Christmas lights.
Halfway through the ride, they begin missing kids. Upon returning home, they find the house re-decorated and the gifts re-wrapped.
Best moments: As Bernie takes down the nativity scene, he mutters to each piece in the set. "Move your ass, donkey," he grumbles at one point. Also great: the side-eye Wanda gives Baby Girl's "homemade" egg nog after sniffing it.
2. Everybody Hates Chris, "Everybody Hates Christmas"
As usual, times are tight for Julius and Rochelle. So they decide that it's time for Chris, the oldest, to go without a Christmas gift.
Initially, he's crestfallen -- he wanted a Walkman -- but on Christmas Day, when he gets a calendar, he puts on a brave face. Tonya and Drew offer to share their gifts with him.
Best moments: Chris's best friend, Greg, gives him a George Clinton cassette: "I figure when you do get your walkman, at least you'll have a tape." Also great: Rochelle overcompensates for not getting Chris a gift by letting have the big piece of chicken, total control of the TV, and exemption from punishment.
3. Everybody Hates Chris, "Everybody Hates Kris"
Next Christmas, Chris gets a job as a store elf so he can pay off the gifts he has on layaway, then he catches pneumonia.
Best moment: Julius, upon finding out about the layaway, pays off the balance.
4. A Different World, "For Whom the Jingle Bell Tolls"
A Different World had a Christmas ep almost every year of its run. The only reason this one, a retread of the grossly overused A Christmas Carol trope, beats the others is because of its adapted "12 Days of Christmas" carol: "Two butts a bumpin'--and a MC Hammer CD!"
Best moment: Dwayne and Freddie, having married in the future, have a redhead girl and a boy who wears little flip-up glasses.
5. Martin, "Go Tell It on the Martin"
I love, love, love this episode of Martin, where "Brother Claus" takes holds Martin's TV Christmas special hostage until Martin reconciles him with his estranged wife (What's Happening's Shirley Hemphill).
Best moments: where to begin?! A terrified Bebe and Cece Winan's, "Find mah baby, clown!" "Yeah, find his baby, clown!", Mrs. Claus' appearance, the toy dynamite and the live grenade, the dynamite stick in Pam's weave; the awesome little people dance performance that begins with "Christmastime is Here" and ends with "Rapper's Delight." I mean, take your pick!
Hopefully, you've been able to catch a few of these, as they've reaired this week on TV One and/or BET. In the meantime, post a comment and tell us which Black sitcom holiday specials are your favorites.