It’s the most wonderful time of the year — except maybe when it comes to dealing with family. If yours isn’t getting with the holiday spirit, adopt a TV family to spend your winter vacation days with. Below, we round up 13 series with a slew of Christmas episodes and specials for you to binge when ignoring the holiday ruckus is the best option.
30 Rock 81%
What it is: Depicting the behind-the-scenes dramas of fictional sketch comedy series The Girlie Show (and loosely inspired by creator Tina Fey’s time as head writer at Saturday Night Live), 30 Rock follows writer Liz Lemon (Fey) as she tries to please those around her — including network executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) and on-camera talent Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan).
Why you should watch it: 30 Rock is a master class in comedy writing, boasting seven years’ worth of zeitgeist-grabbing one-liners you’ll still laugh silly at today. The series has dozens of trophies to its name, including three Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series. Holiday specials “Secret Santa,” “Christmas Attack Zone,” “Ludachristmas,” and “Christmas Special” are sure to bring you cheer.
Commitment: About 80 minutes
What it is: This Fox animated series from creators Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive follows the Belcher family through their day-to-day of running a mom-and-pop burger joint.
Why you should watch it: Through its first seven seasons, the Belcher family and their eccentric burger-loving patrons has solidified Bob’s Burgers’ status as one of the best family sitcoms on TV. Each episode is ripe with absurd, sometimes crass humor and singalong original tunes, but viewers also walk away with a touching portrayal of a loving family and the ties that bind. “Christmas in the Car,” “Nice-Capedes,” “Father of the Bob,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentle-Mannequins,” and this season’s “The Last Gingerbread House on the Left” will make you want to keep your family close this season, no matter their oddities.
Commitment: About 1.8 hours
What it is: Joel McHale’s sleazy lawyer Jeff Winger is forced to enroll in Greendale Community College in Greendale, Colorado, when it’s learned that he didn’t, in fact, earn a law degree from Columbia University. Partially inspired by showrunner Dan Harmon’s own community college experience, Community is the story of Jeff and the makeshift family of classmates he creates at Greendale.
Why you should watch it: Community earned its cult comedy stripes thanks to its off-the-wall humor; uninhibited performances from McHale, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, and others; and fearlessness in experimentation. Case and point: Season 2’s “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” which dabbled in stop-motion animation akin to animated Christmas classics of yesteryear. “Comparative Religion” and “Regional Holiday Music” round it out to make this a memorable Community Christmas trilogy, indeed. Merry happy!
Commitment: About 60 minutes
What it is: BBC’s long-running Doctor Who follows the titular globe- and time-trotting alien doctor as he and his comrades save various worlds from destruction.
Why you should watch it: Brimming with sci-fi action, romance, and deliciously British wit, Doctor Who has amassed a cult following over the years, even while hiring a rotating roster of Brit talents to play the Doctor. One thing we’ve come to count on since its 2005 revival is a rousing Christmas special that leans heavier on affable comic relief than high-stakes drama — but there are plenty of both! There have been 11 since 2005 and a twelfth, Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, airs December 25.
Commitment: About 11 hours
What it is: This acclaimed early 20th century–set period drama from ITV and PBS invites us into the Yorkshire estate belonging to the fictional Crawley family.
Why you should watch it: An immediate international success with critics and audiences alike, Downtown Abbey serves up TV drama at its finest, though it occasionally indulges in juicy upstairs-downstairs melodrama. The series’ annual Christmas Specials often act as cliffhanging season finales rather than an hour of heartwarming Christmastides (see: Matthew’s season 3 car accident and death), but they provide as good a reason as any to cozy up around a fireplace and lose yourself in the Crawleys’ daily dramas.
Commitment: About 3.75hours
What it is: We all know Friends — heck, you can probably even sing the whole theme song. This decade-spanning, New York City–set sitcom introduced us to friends, roommates, siblings, and on-again, off-again lovers Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Joey, and Chandler and made us fall in love with them in the process.
Why you should watch it: Featuring Christmas episodes in all but the 10th and final season, Friends lets you check in on its central gang at the same time each year to see Ross dressing as the Holiday Armadillo for his son (“The Holiday Armadillo”), Phoebe volunteering her time to collect money for those in need (“The One With the Inappropriate Sister”), Rachel quitting her job at Central Perk (“The One Where Rachel Quits”), and more. Also check out “The One With the Monkey,” “The One With Phoebe’s Dad,” “The One With the Girl From Poughkeepsie,” “The One With Ross’ Step Forward,” “The One With the Routine,” and “The One With Christmas in Tulsa.”
Commitment: About 4.5 hours
What it is: This charming, fan-favorite dramedy is all about a single, 30-something mother’s (Lauren Graham) bond with her bookish teenage daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) and the friends and family orbiting their daily life.
Why you should watch it: The ladies of the fictional Stars Hollow, Connecticut, may speak with a bit more discerning wit than we’re used to hearing in the real world, but they’re still just like us! No matter what’s happening in the greater scope of their respective seasons, Gilmore Girls’ seven Christmastime episodes balance family tension and love on the small screen with “Forgiveness and Stuff,” “Santa’s Secret Stuff,” “Just Like Gwen and Gavin,” “Women of Questionable Morals,” “That’ll Do, Pig,” “In the Clamor and Clangor,” and “The Bracebridge Dinner.”
Commitment: About 5.25 hours
What it is: Despite having her professional life admirably put together as an OB-GYN doctor, Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) is a lovable walking mess on the personal front. This is her story.
Why you should watch it: While its ratings were low enough to get the boot from Fox, its devoted fanbase was loving and persistent enough to get it picked up by Hulu. It just goes to show that once quirky everywoman Mindy and her friends are in your life, they’re impossible to let go. “Josh and Mindy’s Christmas Party,” “Christmas Party Sex Trap,” and the simply named “Christmas” portray the perfect blend of big reflections on life and decision-making — and the scramble for love — many do around the holidays in hopes of ending the year on a high note.
Commitment: About 60 minutes
What it is: Zooey Deschanel stars as the central (and eccentric) “new girl,” Jess, who in the beginning of the series moves in with three single guys as she recovers from a nasty breakup. Let squad goals commence.
Why you should watch it: New Girl’s holiday episodes “The 23rd,” “Santa,” and “LAXmas” break down tropes of the season with its trademark quirk: office Christmas parties, traveling to visit family, and finding the perfect present for someone you care about. Catch up before this year’s holiday-themed outing, “Christmas Eve Eve” on Dec. 13.
Commitment: About 60 minutes
What it is: The Office, a remake of the BBC original starring Ricky Gervais, stars a Steve Carell as the gratingly aloof Michael Scott, manager to a cast of memorable oddballs at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
Why you should watch it: No series brought the discomfort of the holiday work party to the screen more hilariously than The Office. Seven of its nine seasons featured a Christmas-themed episode that saw everything from Michael playing Santa Claus (“Secret Santa”) to gift exchanges gone bad (“Christmas Party”) to coworkers going to Hooters (the two-part “Benihana Christmas”) to everyone trying to keep it classy (the two-part “Classy Christmas”). You’ll laugh all the way through this binge, which also includes “Moroccan Christmas,” “Dwight Christmas,” and “Christmas Wishes.”
Commitment: About 3.3 hours
What it is: Unapologetically unhinged and totally un-PC, Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken is a stop-motion animated sketch comedy series that delights in the demented. It’s gotten four Emmys since its 2005 debut.
Why you should watch it: While a distinct departure from the usual Christmas fare, it may be just what the doctor ordered after the holiday season’s typical onslaught of jingle bells and reindeer. There are eight specials in all: “Robot Chicken’s Christmas Special,” “Robot Chicken’s Half-Assed Christmas Special,” “Dear Consumer (Robot Chicken’s Full-Assed Christmas Special),” “Robot Chicken’s DP Christmas Special,” “Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special,” “Born Again Virgin Christmas Special,” “Robot Chicken Christmas Special: The X-Mas United,” and “Lots of Holidays but Don’t Worry Christmas Is Still in There Too so Pull the Stick Out of Your Ass Fox News Special.” Seven of them will be played back-to-back on Adult Swim Dec. 11–Dec. 12.
Commitment: About 89 minutes
What it is: The hapless Homer, his wife Marge, and their kids Lisa, Bart, and Maggie come to vivid animated life on the small screen as they live and grow in the cartoon world of Springfield.
Why you should watch it: Airing now for 28 seasons on Fox, The Simpsons is perhaps the most significant cultural contribution on this list. Season to season, viewers can find hysterical parody on the present day, and that goes for its 13 (soon to be 14) Christmas episodes. Did you know The Simpsons pilot, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” was technically the series’ first Christmas special? Others include “Holidays of Future Past,” “The Fight Before Christmas,” “Grift of Magi,” “Marge Be Not Proud,” “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace,” “Simpson Christmas Stories,” “Tis the Fifteenth Season,” “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas,” “White Christmas Blues,” “Skinner’s Sense of Snow,” “She of Little Faith,” “Kill Gil, Volumes One and Two,” and the upcoming “The Nightmare After Krustmas,” to air Dec. 11.
Commitment: About 5 hours
What it is: Aaron Sorkin’s decorated political drama charts the two-term presidency of President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his respectable (but drama-ridden) team of White House staffers.
Why you should watch it: Everyone could use a little inspiration going into the New Year, and no one pontificates quite like Sheen as President Bartlet. This series is worth a binge in and of itself — and it may be tough to jump in exclusively for the holiday episodes without getting lost — but for viewers looking to toast the holiday season with President Bartlet, tune into “In Excelsis Deo,” “Noel,” “Bartlet for America,” “Holy Night,” “Abu el Banat,” and “Impact Winter.”
Commitment: About 4.5 hours