In our household, both in my current home and the home in which I grew up, traditions often revolve around the TV. Around the holidays, this means nights full of Christmas movies and TV specials. One tradition that seems to cross past and present is Frasier Christmas episodes.
Though they weren’t constant or even necessarily a big deal, Frasier managed to pull off some of the most memorable episodes, without the help of special guest stars or musical numbers (usually).
Out of 11 seasons, they did 8 Christmas shows. I’ve watched each of them dozens of times. Which is why I am completely qualified to give you the absolute, definitive ranking of Frasier Christmas episodes. This is it.
#8. Season 8 – Mary Christmas
Terrible. Just awful. Season 8 is notoriously weak, so this one fits right in. Frasier pushes his way into hosting a popular Christmas parade like his broadcasting hero, only to find out he’ll be hosting with “Dr.” Mary, a fellow radio host who offers advice with a medical degree from “the school of hard knocks,” much to Frasier’s chagrin.
The majority of the episode dwells on Frasier’s selfish insistence that things go his way and his ever-growing frustration with Dr. Mary, culminating in an accident sending Santa to the hospital. There’s a somewhat redeemable moment where Frasier meets his hero, and they share some “banter,” but that’s about it. There’s only a minuscule B plot about Niles, Daphne, and Martin opening all the presents early.
Ultimately, it feels like a heartless episode, completely lacking of any real Christmas sentiment or laughs. SKIP.
#7. Season 7 – The Fight Before Christmas
While not an all out terrible episode, on the Christmas scale, it lands low on the list. The aforementioned fights are between Frasier and his upstairs neighbor Cam Winston, not seen on screen here, who are hosting competing Christmas parties. The other is between Niles and his girlfriend Mel, who catches Niles in multiple lies about where he was the night before.
The funniest moments are when Frasier gets enthusiastic about his own Elizabethan themed event. And there’s a sort of interesting point here where Daphne, who is aware of Niles’ feelings for her, panics when Niles gives her jewelry as a gift.
While not inherently bad, it’s just a forgettable episode that makes Christmas feel like a background detail.
#6. Season 1 – Miracle on 3rd or 4th Street
For a first season episode, this one is about on par. Frasier, excited to see his son Fredrick, is abruptly disappointed when he learns Freddie and Lilith are changing their plans. After fighting with Martin over the Christmas decorations, a common theme throughout the series, Frasier agrees to cover Bulldog’s Christmas Day shift at the station, unknowingly forcing Roz into work as well. After hours of miserable, depressing calls, Frasier leaves work, stopping at a diner for dinner. At said diner, Frasier, sloppily dressed and unshaven, realizes he forgot his wallet. The other diners take this to mean Frasier’s too poor to afford the dinner he ordered. Many customers are poor themselves, so they collect enough among each other to cover for Frasier.
It’s a middle-of-the-road episode that’s heavy on the Frasier/Martin conflict, which was the main theme of the first season. Some clever jokes and well-laid punchlines lighten up the script, but overall it’s heavy-handed in its lesson-learning.
#5. Season 3 – Frasier Grinch
With a relatively typical Christmas plot (kid wants sold-out toy that dad didn’t think to get), this episode does really well with the little things. Frasier’s panic doesn’t come from not getting the popular toy, but not having all the brainy toys he thinks Fredrick will enjoy. It takes Martin to clue Frasier into his gift-giving issues. The B plot, where Niles is separated from Maris, who cuts off his credit cards and services, is wisely used a few times throughout the episode. It’s also the first time in the series we see Martin’s true love of decorating for the season. A great visual is Frasier walking into his own apartment, barely recognizable under the colored lights and plastic figures adorning the usually pristine space.
#4. Season 5 – Perspectives on Christmas
A fun episode with little vignettes of comedic situations each of the characters find themselves in, weaved together through their own individual recounts during a massage session.
Martin got talked into a Christmas pageant, which he keeps under wraps until his fear of hitting the high note in O Holy Night (ya heard of it?) gets the best of him, and Frasier and Niles offer their assistance. Daphne, still in the dark about it, notices Martin’s secrecy and she’s convinced Martin is dying. Roz is having a rough patch in her pregnancy, not helped by Frasier who lets the cat out of the bag to Roz’s mom. Niles gets stuck in an elevator and is forced to climb a Christmas tree in his brand new suit to save the day.
With tensions running high, Frasier’s original plans of a happy Christmas gathering while he tells each person how he feels about them do not go over well, so instead he arranges massages for all.
An interesting take on the comedy standard of different viewpoints of the same situation. And while there’s no overhanging emotional story or deep moral, the individual instances are comical and the cast plays them off ingeniously.
#3. Season 10 – We Two Kings
A delightful gem in the 10th season, We Two Kings takes classic farce with a Christmas twist. It’s another great example of taking a relatively common comedic trope and executing it with intelligence and nonstop jokes and asides.
After bickering over who will host Christmas dinner, Martin’s had enough. He’s just going to work that day, and blames Niles and Frasier for ruining Christmas. Feeling terribly guilty, the boys come up with a plan. They’ll celebrate Christmas with Martin at his job, a plan that includes swapping out the fake gifts under the tree for the real ones. In the ultimate comedic twist, on Christmas morning, Martin surprises them by having the day off. Meaning all the gifts are locked up in the building where Martin works.
This one’s B plot involves Roz’s major crush on the Santa Claus she’s elfing for. Not the guy playing Santa (who, by the way, is Dean Cain). No, Santa himself. Simple, not a big effect on the overall story, but seasonally and characteristically appropriate.
This episode falls higher on the list because it’s really about the Christmas spirit, and Frasier and Niles finally appreciating Martin’s love of the holidays.
#2. Season 11 – High Holidays
This decision was difficult. I LOVE this episode. I crack up every time, even though I know it by heart.
In its final seasons, the original creative team came back to give the show back some of its former life. It’s very evident in this episode.
There are three plots happening: Frasier’s now teenage son Freddie has come in for Christmas and to everyone’s surprise, he’s a faithful Goth kid, black eyes, black trench coat, chains – you remember the look. Frasier is horrified and confused, until we see Freddie’s new friend Andy, a Goth girl. Frasier is frustrated that Freddie wants to spend all his time in Seattle with his “little ghoul-friend,” as Niles calls her.
But Frasier manages to keep himself busy by filming a tourism promo. He’s attracted to the French girl organizing it, and after meeting Eddie, she insists Frasier bring the dog to the shoot.
The final, and perhaps “major” plot is Freddie’s appearance leads to a discussion about rebelling, where we learn Niles never had a “rebellious period.” This upsets Niles, so he decides to rebel now by “getting high on reefer.” Again, in a brilliant mix-up, Martin eats the pot brownie meant for Niles, unaware of its extra ingredient. He replaces the brownie with a normal one, unbeknownst to Niles.
True comic genius follows, as Martin has wandering conversations and laughing fits and Niles relies on research for his anticipated trip.
The writing is dead on here, as all three plots converge, Frasier’s promo dovetails into an amazing bit on stoned Martin, while Frasier’s eventual heartbreak over the French girl coincides with Freddie’s own heartbreak.
#1. Season 6 – Merry Christmas, Mrs. Moskowicz
One of the best Christmas episodes of television EVER, this genius take on the farcical trope on pretending to be something you’re not.
Frasier winds up on a blind date with Fay, arranged by her pushy mother. In the meantime, Daphne is directing a Christmas play and asks for Niles assistance.
On Christmas Eve, Fay and her mother stop by Frasier’s before their flight to Miami. Fay sees a tasteful wreath above the fireplace, and questions if Frasier’s Jewish. Turns out, Mrs. Moskowicz spied Frasier purchasing a menorah (for Freddie, who is half Jewish), and assumed. Frasier agrees to take the wreath down and play the part until they leave. Through circumstance, he ropes Niles and Martin into the charade as well. But Niles gets called into Daphne’s play at the last minute, so he disappears.
Just as Fay and Mother are about to leave, Frasier’s tasteful Christmas tree arrives, which promptly gets shoved into the powder room. While they are distracted, a beard-clad Niles bursts in, sniffling. The hay from the manager scene is activating his allergies. His surprise appearance allows for the greatest line in the whole episode, with Kelsey Grammer’s perfect delivery, “JESUS!”
Eventually, the jig is up, and Fay and her mom have a loud, emotional, but quick argument. Martin and Frasier try their hand at letting their feelings fly, but they soon realize they’re a bit too WASP-y for this.
And that’s it. The absolute, definitive ranking of Frasier Christmas episodes. Do you see a flaw in my reasoning? Let me know your thoughts!