We love White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story just as much as the next Christmas-loving person. But they’re classics. And everyone knows they’re classics. So this year, in the run-up to December 25th, we’re submitting underappreciated, overlooked or simply new films to a made-up thing we’re calling The New Christmas Movie Canon.
Last week, we inducted the 2005 rom-com Just Friends, starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart and Anna Farris. Next up: a piece of television so iconic that it’s broken the steadfast boundaries of the Canon itself. This week we’re submitting the special, hour-long “A Benihana Christmas” episode from The Office.
NBC’s 2005 mega-hit, The Office (a perfect television show), has a remarkable knack for building tight, intimate relationships between the show's audience and its individual characters. As any devoted fan will tell you, we skip Scott’s Tots throughout our perpetual cycling of the show because we care for our beloved Michael Scott too deeply to watch him suffer. We discretely cringe when Angela accepts Andy’s marriage proposal because we know how hard it must be for our dearest Dwight Schrute. (That’s what she said.) We laugh shamelessly when we find an injured Toby watching Spanish-Entourage in a Costa Rican hospital because Toby is the worst, my God. But perhaps, because of this, there is one particular thing The Office does even better: Christmas episodes.
There are seven total Christmas episodes within the show’s nine seasons (all of which are very good), but the very best one—and the one most deserving of New Christmas Movie Canon enshrinement—is A Benihana Christmas. For one, it’s a rare double-episode clocking in at a delectable 42 minutes. This means that it’s short enough so that you won’t fall asleep (as you would watching A Christmas Story for the 15th time), and just long enough to meet the Canon’s subjectively made-up prerequisites. And more importantly, this is an episode that is chock-full of Christmas spirit from each and every one of our show’s most beloved characters. Let’s run through the moments that bring us more holiday cheer than any stop-motion Rudolph ever could:
- We’re gifted a bona fide “Christmas miracle” after Dwight brings in a dead goose he’s run over with his car.
(Regarding the aforementioned character connections: notice how we are fully rooting for Dwight to roast the hell out of this goose and prepare it with a wild rice dressing. I love Dwight Schrute so much.)
- We get to watch Michael enter the office via bicycle, which he’s so graciously brought in as a personal donation to charity. It’s also one of the few great Office-moments wherein we get “censored” Michael Scott after he drops an F-bomb on the way in. (This is most likely just “censored” Steve Carell running with some improv, but the former's more fun to think about.)
- We also get “heartbroken” Michael Scott, after a bold attempt at Photoshopping his way into “Christmas” Carol’s heart (and next to her kids). “Ski-son’s Greetings” from Michael Scott:
- We have Pam’s Christmas gift to Jim: an elaborate CIA prank on Dwight. Stare closely and you’ll see the precious beginnings of a long-awaited Pam-Jim rekindling.
- Ablaze with the Christmas cheer, Stanley defiantly declares to a dejected Michael Scott that you cannot, in fact, cancel Christmas:
- A special Christmas lunch sends Michael and his entourage to Benihana, aka “Asian Hooters”. It is here where we find Jim up to his old pranking habits, coaxing Dwight into explaining the proper goose-butchering technique to their “narcoleptic” waitress.
- We’re given not one, but two Christmas parties after Pam and Karen unite against the overly traditional Angela. Another minor Christmas miracle ensues when Daryl retrieves his synthesizer when the P + K party can't find the power cord for their karaoke machine.
- Filled with the spirit of giving, Michael decides to give his bike to a waitress he’s brought back from Benihana (the one he offensively cannot tell apart from another waitress).
- WE ARE RE-GIFTED THE DELIGHTFUL OSCAR MARTINEZ—who takes one look at Angela singing “Little Drummer Boy,” after a long vacation, and walks right back out.
- And finally, in our warmest moment of the episode, Jim decides to act on Pam’s Christmas present. Together, they send Dwight to wait on a special CIA helicopter on the roof, where he is immediately "compromised" and instructed to destroy his phone.
So sure, you could spend another Christmas watching your traditional family fanfare. But it wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to spend the holidays with Jim and Pam? And Kevin and Andy? And Michael and Dwight? Who knows… you might just get a can of molten goose grease out of it. (Thus saving you a trip to the store for a can of expensive goose grease).