It was 40 years ago that David Bowie and Bing Crosby teamed up for the most unlikely collaboration in holiday history—their duet of "Little Drummer Boy," which aired on November 30, 1977. Click through for more on this and other memorable Christmas TV moments.
"Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas" (1977)
They performed together just weeks before the older singer's death at the age of 74. David Bowie, then 30, initially balked at the idea of singing "Little Drummer Boy"—he hated the song—but the show went on for a simple reason: His mum loved Bing Crosby.
"Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid" — "That Girl" (1966)
In a flashback to her days as a teacher, Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) gives up Christmas with her family and redecorates a tree at school all for Tommy, a kid who had never experienced a happy holiday. Fun fact: Christopher Shea, who played Tommy (aka the Hard-Luck Kid), was also the voice of Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965)
Linus puts the whole thing in a nutshell: "I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It's not bad at all really. Maybe it just needs a little love."
"Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II" — "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (1970)
James L. Brooks wrote both the original "That Girl" episode and this thematic sequel, in which Mary is stuck working Christmas Eve alone. You can feel Mary's loneliness as she distracts herself by dancing to the Nutcracker Suite. Fun fact: Mary Tyler Moore sang a poignant version of "White Christmas" for this scene, but it was cut because of copyright restrictions.
"So-Called Angels" — "My So-Called Life" (1994)
Rickie (Wilson Cruz), homeless after a fight with his abusive uncle at Christmastime, lights a candle in a church just before the gay teen is found and taken in by the Chase family. The happy ending has apparently been arranged by his guardian angel—a homeless girl who froze to death—in this episode inspired by "It's a Wonderful Life."
"The Night of the Meek" — "The Twilight Zone" (1960)
A drunken department store Santa (Art Carney) explains the meaning of Christmas ("It should come with patience and love ... charity, compassion") in this surprisingly moving episode about holiday magic and redemption. Written by Rod Serling.
"The Sonny & Cher Show" (1976)
A year and a half after their nasty public divorce, Sonny & Cher let bygones be bygones and perform a holiday medley with Bernadette Peters and ... Captain Kangaroo.
"A Very Merry Christmas" — "The Donna Reed Show" (1958)
Bummed that no one cares for her fruitcake, Donna rediscovers the holiday spirit thanks to Charlie, who spends his spare time organizing festivities for kids in the hospital. When the modest handyman insists he's not big enough to play Santa, Donna presses him to put on the red suit: "Charlie, you're the biggest man I know."
"In Excelsis Deo" — "The West Wing" (1999)
Confronted over his use of White House power to arrange a military funeral, Toby (Richard Schiff) tells the president: "A homeless man died last night, a Korean War veteran, who was wearing a coat I gave to the Goodwill. It had my card in it." Does Toby realize that pulling strings like this could bring homeless veterans everywhere out of the woodwork? "I can only hope, sir."
"The Finale" — "Downton Abbey" (2015)
Santa's sleigh seemed to be loaded with happy endings in the final episode of "Downton Abbey," which first aired in the U.K. on Christmas Day 2015. Even Carson, the straightlaced butler, and the kind-hearted Mrs. Hughes get their share of comfort and joy. So, it's a sweet moment when she takes the lead in the singing of "Auld Lang Syne."
"The Nat King Cole Show" (1956-57)
He was the "Jackie Robinson of television," star of the first variety program to be hosted by an African-American. Although the show lasted only a year, Nat King Cole (pictured here with daughter Natalie) would make guest appearances in the '60s, and any time you got to watch and hear him sing "The Christmas Song" was an unforgettable holiday moment.
"The Strike" — "Seinfeld" (1997)
Festivus—an antidote to Christmas commercialism—is celebrated on December 23, when family and friends eat dinner and air grievances next to an unadorned aluminum pole. The scraping sound of that pole dragging on the floor as Kramer and Frank Costanza arrive at the diner is just one brilliant moment in this holiday episode "for the rest of us."
"Christmas Comes But Once a Year" — "Mad Men" (2010)
That Christmas party dance. It seems a safe bet that the spirit at this year's office parties will be more subdued.
"The Christmas Story" — "The Andy Griffith Show" (1960)
It's sad that the Muggins clan, a family of moonshiners, have to spend the holiday in jail. But everyone's spirits are lifted as Andy and company pull together a Christmas feast for the prisoners in the long-running show's only holiday episode.
"Blue Christmas" — "Ally McBeal" (1999)
Ally (Calista Flockhart) makes like Eartha Kitt with her sexy rendition of ''Santa Baby." To listen, click here.
"A Vision of Sugar Plums" — "Bewitched" (1964)
A year before his debut in "Lost in Space," Billy Mumy plays an orphan taken in for the holidays by the Stephens family. Applying her good-witch powers, Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) transports him to the North Pole to meet Santa Claus and discover a different kind of Christmas magic.
"Christmas Cheer" — "Cheers" (1987)
It's Christmas Eve and Frazier (Kelsey Grammer) has "a bug up his chimney." As Norm (George Wendt) and his fellow Santa school grads leave the bar, the cynical psychiatrist says they capture "the spirit of Christmas in the '80s—a gang of pie-eyed Santa Clauses, all trying to find a designated driver to take the sleigh ride home." But then, for a moment, a white-bearded stranger in their midst seems to be the real deal.
"The Nightmare After Krustmas" — "The Simpsons" (2016)
This edgy episode captures the holiday's dark side as Maggie is haunted by a spooky toy. In the mood for something lighter? Check out the premiere of the animated sitcom, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," which aired in December 1989.
"Miracle on Third or Fourth Street" — "Frasier" (1993)
Deeply moved by the down-on-their-luck strangers who take up a collection to pay for his Christmas platter, a wallet-less Frazier slips out of the diner and literally crawls into his shiny foreign sports car—and then crawls back to retrieve his lost keys.
"Happy Holidays With Frank & Bing" (1957)
While Crosby and Bowie seemed incongruous, Crosby and Sinatra come together naturally for a medley that includes a duet of "White Christmas" on one of the first TV specials to air in color. Sixty years later, the song remains the biggest-selling single of all time.
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