Dunder merrily on high
With the news that NBC are floating the idea of rebooting The Office – albeit without Steve Carrell – in 2018, we decided to take a look back at its seasonal episodes. But as any Dunder Mifflin connoisseur will know, the remake of Ricky Gervais’ and Stephen Merchant’s classic mockumentary wasn’t always consistent, especially during its final few seasons. If you only have time to squeeze in a couple of episodes over the festive season, where do you start?
Well here, for your reference, is the definitive ranking of every Christmas episode of The Office.
7. Dwight Christmas (Season 9 Episode 9)
“This is me and my family celebrating Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas in 1982 on the farm. There’s me and my brother Jeb breaking the ceremonial pig rib. He doesn’t come back for Christmas anymore. The sepia tint is from an app on my phone. This is the same photo, matrix style.” – Dwight, holding up a picture
Three words: no Michael Scott. Every ranked list must start somewhere, and this one starts in the final season. By season 9, The Office was no longer good. Michael Scott had long since moved to Colorado to start a family with Holly; Jim, now running his own sports marketing job in Philidelphia with Darryl, was a father of two and husband to Pam; Dwight was a caricature of Dwight, and the new characters were a mixed bag, to say the least.
NBC were toying with the idea of a Dwight Schrute spinoff, and during the final season of The Office were saw less and less of, well, the office, and more of places like Dwight’s family farm. I’m glad they decided against the spinoff.
If you’re going to watch one Christmas episode of The Office over the festive period, choose another one.
6. Christmas Wishes (Season 8 Episode 10)
“Thank god Erin’s getting a ride home with Robert because she is trashed. And who better to drive her home than Robert, I mean, what a stand up guy, you know? I mean he’s going through a lot, separating from his wife, showing up to the Christmas party in a track suit and a blazer.” – Andy
In sixth place, this offering from Season 8 has some standout moments – I will never not enjoy Jim and Dwight teaming up to play a prank.
Andy, by this time the boss of the office, tries to make everyone’s Christmas wishes come true, which goes about as well as you can imagine.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with the episode per se, if you’re asking me to compare episodes with Robert California to episodes with Michael Scott, you’ll always find the Robert California episodes at the bottom of the pile.
5. Moroccan Christmas (Season 5 Episode 11)
“An intervention. It’s sort of hard to describe, but really its– it’s a coming together… it’s a surprise party for people who are– who have addictions. And you get in their face and you scream at them and you make them feel really badly about themselves. And then they stop.” – Michael
Phyllis, running the Party Planning Committee, decides to throw a Moroccan-themed Christmas party. Meanwhile, Meredith gets so drunk she accidentally sets her hair on fire, forcing her colleagues to stage an intervention.
My favourite part of this episode is Dwight’s bulk-buying of Princess Unicorn (jingle: my horn can pierce the sky) in order to sell to desperate parents at a huge profit. Dwight sells his last doll to Daryll, who in turn sells it to Toby for further profit. It’s worth watching for Toby’s reaction when he realises the doll he’s bought for his daughter is the black version of Princess Unicorn.
This episode is also notable as the first time the office finds out that Angela is cheating on Andy with Dwight.
4. Christmas Party (Season 2 Episode 10)
“So Phyllis is basically saying, “Hey Michael, I know you did a lot to help the office this year but I only care about you a homemade oven mitt’s worth.” I gave Ryan an iPod.” – Michael
The original Christmas episode remains one of the best. For the office’s secret Santa, Jim buys Pam a teapot filled with sentimental gifts. Meanwhile, Michael, breaking the enforced $20 limit, buys Ryan a $400 iPod.
Disappointed by Phyllis’ gift of a handmade oven glove, Michael introduces a Yankee Swap, in which someone can choose to either steal someone else’s gift or open a new one.
This episode, being so early on in its run and so before Jim and Pam got together, highlights the burgeoning friendship/romance, which was so pivotal in those early seasons. Michael Scott is at his absolute best/worst here too, displaying his petulance and thoughtlessness in his reaction to receiving Phyllis’ gift. He later redeems himself by buy 20 bottles of vodka from his own pocket for the office party.
3. Secret Santa (Season 6 Episode 13)
“Earlier today this office needed a Santa. And then it needed a second Santa. And then it needed a Jesus. And now, it needs a Michael. And that’s one suit Phyllis cannot fit into.” – Michael
Jim, by now co-manager, agrees to let Phyllis dress as Santa. Everyone loves the idea, with the notable exception of Michael, who has also arrived dressed as in a Santa costume.
After disrupting the party and trying to steal Phyllis’ thunder, Jim finally tells Michael to stop. Not to be outdone, Michael modifies his costume to look like Jesus and continues to ruin the party, using a microphone to reveal people’s Secret Santas and generally put a downer on the atmosphere.
2. A Benihana Christmas (Season 3 Episode 10/11)
“It’s a bold move, to Photoshop yourself into a picture with your girlfriend and her kids on a ski trip with their real father. But then again, Michael’s a bold guy. Is bold the right word? “ – Jim
This double episode, from arguably the best ever season, has all the ingredients to make this one of the best all time episodes of The Office.
Michael’s relationship woes continue as Carol dumps him for superimposing his own head on the body of her ex-husband in a family photo with their kids. To cheer him up, Andy takes Michael, along with Dwight and a reluctant Jim, to “Asian Hooters” Benihana.
Encouraged by Andy, Michael invites two waitresses back to the office party. One of the greatest jokes of any episode is revealed when Michael and Andy arrive back at the party with two different waitresses, though they are none the wiser.
Meanwhile, Pam and Karen join forces to organise an alternative Christmas party to the official one run by Angela.
There’s a wonderful final scene, too, that sees the climax of a long-running prank involving Jim and Pam convincing Dwight that he’s working for the CIA. Watch it.
1. Classy Christmas (Season 7 Episode 11/12)
“Man, I worked hard. I worked so hard for this! I was after corporate constantly. I emailed Joe. I wrote letters. And, know who I end up owing this to is the Scranton strangler. Thank you. Thank you, Scranton strangler. I love you! You just took one more person’s breath away.” – Michael
This episode has one perhaps my favourite ever cold opening, which you can see above.
But that’s not why I’ve chosen it as the best Christmas episode. It’s because, for one brief, beautiful moment, all is right in the office. Michael is once again allowed to dress up as the office santa, the party is planned and under budget, nobody has got drunk, everyone is in good spirits. “My kids are growing up,” says Michael.
And then comes the bombshell that, since Toby has been called for jury duty, Holly will be sent to cover him. This, of course, forces Michael to scrap the entire planned party and pay for a different, much classier party fit for Holly in an attempt to win her affections back.
Elsewhere, Dwight uncharacteristically gets the better of Jim in a series of increasingly extreme pranks involving snow.
This is an exceptional episode, showcasing not only a return to form for the Jim/Dwight prank rivalry, but reminding us why Michael Scott is perhaps the greatest comedy character of all time. For all his obvious flaws, you cannot help but root for him as he seizes the opportunity to make another go of it with Holly. What more could you ask for at Christmas?