The best ever British comedy Christmas episodes – The Office and Gavin & Stacey to Porridge and The Good Life
Only Fools and Horses, Gavin and Stacey and The Office - The BritBox Christmas collection has over 200 festive specials and we’ve picked out the greatest of all time from the archives.
Nobody does Christmas TV quite as well as the Brits. While the US go crazy for Thanksgiving, here in the UK we prefer our TV specials to be sprinkled with snow, Santa beards and sleighfuls of laughter.
Whether it’s the magical Tim and Dawn kiss in The Office or the Jolly Boys' Outing with Del Boy and Rodney, some of our most treasured comedy moments have come at Christmas time.
To celebrate the start of Britmas on BritBox, we’ve compiled a list of the greatest ever comedy Christmas specials – all available to watch now if you have a BritBox subscription.
The best ever Christmas sitcom episodes
Only Fools and Horses
Jolly Boys' Outing (1989)
John Sullivan was at the peak of his writing powers when he packed Del Boy, Rodney and the whole gang off on a beano to Margate.
Exploding coaches, Trigger’s Kiss Me Quick hat and big moments in the romances between Del and Racquel and Rodney and Cassandra, it’s constantly voted one of the show’s greatest ever episodes for a reason. The only downside? It’s not at all festive.
Del Boy: Trivial Pursuit, aye? Lovely jubbly! How d'you play it?
Rodney: The thing is, Del, it's all about general knowledge. You know, it's a bit intellectual.
Cassandra’s dad: Oh, yeah, some of the questions are really difficult, it could be a bit embarrassing.
Del Boy: Don’t worry, I’ll help you out.
The Desperate Hours (1976)
The second Christmas special from inside Slade Prison and Fletcher and Godber have brought some festive spirit for the inmates by making their own wine.
After being rumbled by warder Mr Barrowclough, the duo end up caught up in the middle of a hostage situation organised by fellow prisoner Reg (Dudley Sutton) and it's up to Fletcher to save the day.
Fletcher: Care for a drink first?
Godber: Why not.
Fletcher: Large one, sir?
Godber: Mind your own business.
The Good Life
Silly, But It’s Fun… 1977
One of the greatest episodes of the much-loved 70s sitcom brought together the Goods and 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.
Margo: Did I hear a dinner gong?
Tom: Not unless the chicken jumped out of the oven and banged one.
Gavin and Stacey
The Christmas Announcement, 2008
The 2019 Christmas reunion special pulled in a record-breaking audience, but the festive special in which the Welsh gang enjoy their first ever Essex Christmas remains the show’s finest hour.
Mick’s love affair with his “bootiful” turkey, Smithy’s Band Aid Performance and Nessa’s unique take on Santa’s grotto combine for a magical episode that all ends with a singalong around the keyboard.
Bryn: You think they've thought of it all, you think ‘Where can they go with this next?’ and then they hit you with it. I mean mint Baileys! Whatever will they think of next!
Christmas Special, 2003
The modern gold standard for all other Christmas specials. Not only did it tick all the right heartwarming, mistletoe-filled boxes for a festive episode, it also beautifully brought to an end Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s classic sitcom with the perfect closing moment – a kiss for Tim and Dawn while Yazoo’s Only You plays.
From Finchy finally getting his comeuppance and Gareth running Wernham Hogg to the green shoots of romance for Brent, the Christmas specials are still worth watching every year, nearly two decades since their first airing.
Interviewer: How would you like to be remembered?
David Brent: Simply as the man who put a smile on the face of everyone he met.
A Christmassy Ted, 1996
A vintage episode of the 90s sitcom, which included a Ballykissangel dream sequence, the classic Ted award-winning acceptance speech and a disaster in the “largest lingerie section in Ireland”.
The added length of the Christmas episodes allows the show’s full cast to all have their own running gags and storylines, such as Father Jack in the children’s playground and Mrs Doyle coping with the gift of an automated tea-maker.
Should you watch it this Christmas? Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…
Dougal: God, Ted, I can't wait to find out what's behind tomorrow's [advent calendar door]. I bet it's a donkey or something .
Ted: Oh right so you've eh changed from your initial prediction. What was it again, Rudd Gullit sitting on a shed, was it?
Seasonal Beatings, 2010
The festive cheer is on short supply in this cringe-tastic episode from the Channel 4 comedy’s seventh season.
But what it lacks in tradition and joy (“That’s not very Christmassy!”) it makes up for in black humour.
Mark’s family, Super Hans and Dobby all end up squeezed around the dinner table and it’s a meal filled with tension, intense awkwardness and bust-ups about cauliflower.
Jeremy: Right. Lovely! The more, the merrier.
Mark: Exactly. The more, the merrier, they said as another poor soul was crammed into the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Vicar of Dibley
The Christmas Lunch Incident, 1996
Dawn French tackles a feast of food and the full array of Dibley’s unusual festive traditions as she ends up accidentally invited to a trio of Christmas lunches that she’s too polite to turn down.
Frequently voted one of the country’s favourite ever Christmas specials, French is in fabulous form as she faces down the onslaught of turkey slices and Brussels sprouts.
Alice: What you looking forward to more than anything else at Christmas this year?
Geraldine: Well, my highlights are going to be Jurassic Park and the Queen's speech, written this year by Ruby Wax, I believe. And what about you?
Alice: I'm totally excited about your first Christmas sermon; it, it's just going to be an experience I'll never forget.
Geraldine: Alice, my *first* Christmas sermon was last Christmas.
Alice: Oh, yeah, I forgot.
To the Manor Born
The First Noel, 1979
Another appearance from Penelope Keith with her other classic 70s sitcom, which remains one of the most-watched Christmas specials of all time – more than 20 million people tuned in for the latest back and forth between Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and Peter Bowles’ Richard de Vere.
The episode centres around Audrey and Richard competing over the Christmas crèche design for the church and although the show’s gentle humour may seem a bit quaint for younger viewers, the gags and performances have stood the test of time.
Audrey: My mother and I would be so pleased if you could spend X-mas day with us at the Manor. X-mas - makes it sound like a skin complaint.
Victoria Wood’s underrated and short-lived BBC sitcom pulled off a Christmas cracker with this episode. Following the dramatic cliffhanger of Bren’s estranged husband interrupting her kiss with Tony (Andrew Dunn), the plot is built around a series of misunderstandings about Bren and Tony’s romance.
Building the final festive pay-off that Tony hasn’t forgotten her Christmas present, or gone off her, the episode has the perfect serving of Yuletide laughs – boosted considerably by Julie Walter’s scene-stealing appearances as Bren’s mother.
Bren: Tony didn't tear it. It was Martin.
Jean: Ooh, this gets better. Who's Martin? Should we have had a bet on him?
Bren: He's my-
Jean: Calor Gas man?
Dolly: Mother's boyfriend?
Anita: Stick insect?
Cold Turkey, 2003
It’s a crisis Christmas for Eddy and Patsy as they end up missing out on their usual holiday abroad and have to spend the festive season with their family.
Its all a bit too much for Patsy who ends up in hospital on drugs, while things are no more calm at home as Eddy has to cope with her family.
Eddy: What’s the matter with you then?
Patsy: I don’t know Eddy. Just a little funny turn. Still, I’d rather be here than Christmas. A few days on drugs. Lovely.
It’s not for granny or the whole family to enjoy, but the Bottom Christmas special gets more into festive traditions than many shows on the list, as Eddie and Richie discover a newborn baby on their doorstep.
Okay, the violence and bad language isn’t exactly brimming with seasonal joy, but the setpiece gag with the Frankenstein mask, Terry’s All Gold and Grrr aftershave is beautifully done.
Spudgun: Poor little mite. What a way to spend your first Christmas.
Eddie: What, lying on your back with a bottle in your mouth? It sounds pretty good to me!
The Royle Family
The Royle Family at Christmas, 2000
Craig Cash and Caroline Aherne’s sitcom did plenty of Christmas specials, but this ranks among the best of them as 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 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!”
Nana: What’s she had done?
Denise: Implants Nana.
Nana: Ooh, Valerie. Are you alright sitting in that hardback chair?
What’s on BritBox – The 2020 Britmas collection
BritBox is the number one destination for fans of classic Christmas comedies over the holidays with seasonal treats from decades gone by including Allo ‘Allo!, Absolutely Fabulous, Birds of a Feather, Blackadder, French and Saunders, Gavin & Stacey, Only Fools and Horses, The Good Life, The Vicar of Dibley, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, The Catherine Tate Show and Les Dawson's Christmas Box.
A selection of pantomimes are also available for the first time this festive season, including Cinderella: The Shoe Must Go On (1986) starring Danny La Rue, Jack and the Beanstalk (1998) narrated by Paul Merton and Aladdin (2000) featuring the music of S Club 7.
The best festive episodes from Coronation Street and Emmerdale round off the collection.