Best ever British and US Christmas sitcom specials – Gavin and Stacey, Only Fools and Horses, The Office, Friends and more

Christmas comedy specials are the perfect mix of big laughs and heart-warming seasonal sentiment. We’ve picked out the best UK and US festive episodes available to watch on BT TV.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 2 December 2022 - 10.14am
BBC Ricky Gervais in The Office Christmas specials in 2003

The best part of Christmas are the family traditions. Whether it’s the food, the board games or watching your favourite episodes of classic TV shows, there are some things that it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without.

If your holidays aren’t complete without Del Boy and Rodney, the Holiday Armadillo in Friends or Tim and Dawn’s mistletoe kiss, we’ve put together a list of the most timeless UK and US Christmas specials,  and importantly - where you can watch them in 2022.

Best ever British Christmas specials

Gavin and Stacey

Smithy screaming like Noddy Holder, Mick’s Norfolk Bronze turkey, Bryn getting over-excited by Mint Baileys, Nessa as the worst Santa Claus ever... Gavin and Stacey feels as much a part of Christmas as pigs in blankets and stockings by the fire.

Watch the 2008 and 2019 Gavin and Stacey Christmas special on BBC iPlayer, BritBox or on Gold with NOW.

Only Fools and Horses

From 1981’s Christmas Crackers to 2003’s Sleepless in Peckham, nobody does Christmas quite like Del Boy, Rodney and the Only Fools gang.

Our personal favourites? The not-very-festive 1989 Jolly Boys Outing episode, where the gang head on a beano to Margate, is a classic. And the 1996 Time on our Hands, where the brothers' millionaire dreams finally come true, remains a heart-warming finale.

Watch every Only Fools and Horses Christmas special on BritBox or on Gold with NOW.

The Office (UK)

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s groundbreaking sitcom concluded in perfect fashion in 2003 with a Christmas special double-header that never fails to make us shed a tear.

Tim and Dawn’s kiss to Yazoo’s Only You and David Brent finally sticking it to office yobbo Finchy are fist-punching moments of joy that will always add some sparkle to your Christmas.

Watch The Office Christmas specials on BBC iPlayer, BritBox or Gold with NOW.

Motherland

The essential Christmas sitcom for struggling parents and anyone welcoming in-laws over the holidays, Motherland’s 2020 seasonal special is one of the show’s greatest episodes.

Julia, Kevin and Liz haven’t been invited to Amanda’s Annual Seasonal Soiree, but they crash the tinsel-and-tiaras bash anyway to try to ease their festive stress. The results are joyous.

Watch the Motherland Christmas special on Netflix.

Porridge

BBC

A classic Christmas double-header with Fletch and Godber featured the prisoners getting roped into an escape plan for Slade Prison's Mr Big Harry Grout (Peter Vaughan) in the episode No Way Out, before launching their own illicit homebrew, ‘Chateau Slade’, in The Desperate Hours.

Both festive episodes remain essential holiday viewing.

Watch the Porridge Christmas specials on BBC iPlayer, Gold with NOW or BritBox

The Good Life

One of the greatest episodes of the much-loved 70s sitcom brought together the Goods and the Leadbetters for a jolly Christmas Day of homemade crackers, decorations and party games.

Penelope Keith’s Margo is on sparkling form as she has to learn to love a slightly less glamorous Christmas – including a paper hat made from the Daily Mirror.

Watch The Good Life 1977 Christmas special on Gold with NOW or BritBox

The Royle Family

Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne’s sitcom did plenty of Christmas specials, but our personal favourite is the 2000 episode when Antony brings his girlfriend Emma over for Christmas dinner, along with her parents Valerie and Roger.

It’s a classic culture clash between the two families, which ends with Jim going on an epic and emotional rant about how his life turned out compared to that of moneybags Roger. But as it's Christmas, the show has a happy ending as the family surprise him with a satellite TV package. “Roger, my a**e!”

Watch the Royle Family Christmas specials on BBC iPlayer, Gold with NOW or BritBox

Best ever US TV Christmas specials

Friends - The One With The Holiday Armadillo - Season 7 episode 10

NBC

"I understand why Superman is here, but why is there a porcupine at the Easter Bunny's funeral?"

Friends did plenty of great Thanksgiving episodes, but its finest Christmas moment came with season 7’s unforgettable Holiday Armadillo.

Ross is determined to teach his son Ben about his Jewish heritage after he’s spent past Christmas holidays with his ex-wife Susan. The results are perfectly chaotic as Ross, Chandler and Joey all arrive to surprise Ben in unique costumes.

Watch seasons 1-10 of Friends, including The One With The Holiday Armadillo, on Netflix. 

The Office (US) - Christmas Party - Season 2, episode 10

The season 2 Christmas special marked the moment that the US version of The Office truly began to stand out from the original UK show. The unforgettable Secret Santa (“I only care about you a Homemade oven mitts' worth”) game and the sparks from Jim and Pam’s romance made this an enduring Christmas special that is always worth rewatching over the holidays.

All 9 seasons of The Office are available on Netflix, Prime Video and NOW

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia - A Very Sunny Christmas - Season 6, episode 12

The anti-Christmas special Christmas special from the Sunny gang.

It’s not going to be for the faint-hearted, but if you like the idea of an adult holiday special filled with stolen toys, naked elves and an unforgettable run-in with Santa Claus, this double-length episode is the comedy special for you.

Seasons 1-15 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, including A Very Sunny Christmas, are available on Netflix

Will and Grace - Jingle Balls - Season 4, episode 12

What more could you want from a Christmas special? It’s got snow, Karen as a sexy Santa cracking a whip in the Barneys shop window and a happy ending where Grace – or possibly Santa – saves the day.

Watch Will and Grace on Sky Comedy with NOW

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air - Christmas Show - Season 2, episode 12

Fresh Prince did a handful of great Christmas episodes, but the season 2 special where the Banks family take a vacation to a ski lodge ranks as our favourite.

Filled with laughter, festive silliness and even a warm-hearted ending for Carlton and Will, this has got everything you need for a cosy Christmas classic.

Watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air on Sky Comedy with NOW and BBC iPlayer

Schitts Creek - Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose - Season 4, episode 13

The holiday special comes when the sitcom is fully at the peak of its powers in season 4 and is based around Johnny trying to recapture the magic of the Rose family’s old spectacular Christmas parties.

Packed full of classic Moira one-liners, even the Grinch would come out smiling after watching this episode.

Watch seasons 1-6 of Schitts Creek on Netflix

Modern Family - Undeck the Halls - Season 1 episode 10

Modern Family’s Christmas specials peaked in season 1, when Phil is forced to cancel Christmas over a cigarette that he believes belongs to one of the kids.

Elsewhere, Mitch and Cam are forced to help out a mall Santa that they get fired and Jay is forced to adopt some Colombian holiday traditions.

Seasons 1-3 of Modern Family, including Undeck the Halls, are currently available on All4

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Yippie Kayak - Season 3, episode 10

The Nine-Nine does Die Hard and Jake is living his dream. This classic Christmas episode starts with Jake, Charles and Gina breaking into a store to do some last-minute Christmas shopping and it quickly spirals into a dangerous mission when armed robbers take over the building. A perfect Christmas episode – as long as you consider Die Hard a Christmas movie.

Watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix

Cheers - Christmas Cheers - Season 6, episode 12

Where else would you want to spend Christmas than at the bar where everybody knows your name.

With Frasier as the Christmas grinch, Cliff using a food donation box to win a trip to Disney World and Norm working as a store Santa, this episode is filled with festive laughter.

Watch every episode of  Cheers on All 4

Frasier - High Holidays - Season 11, episode 11

We love all the Frasier holiday specials, but the very last one in season 11 is our personal favourite. A typically screwball episode that centres around Niles trying marijuana for the holiday, it’s a Frasier classic.

Watch every episode of Frasier on All4