Thanksgiving and Christmas might inspire a lot of good TV, but you can't sleep on how much New Year's Eve has done for your favorite shows. From moments of necessary character introspection to zany situational comedy to bonkers end-of-the-world scenarios, these NYE episodes prove that the holiday is definitely an underrated source of inspo for quality programming.
My So-Called Life: Season 1, Episode 16 - "Resolutions"
As with most of this show's best episodes, there's a lot of melodrama and slow talk happening to ratchet up the intensity as Angela (Claire Danes) vows to stop doing Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto)'s homework, and he in turn decides to seek out a tutor, and Rickie (Wilson Cruz) faces the very unfair reality that he is homeless and needs to accept the help that's being offered to him. As overwrought as the emotions always are on this show, the episode proves, yet again, that it should've never been cancelled.
The Office: Season 7, Episode 13 - "Ultimatum"
This one's got a little bit of everything. Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is awaiting the results of his crush's ultimatum to her current beau -- either the guy proposes by New Year's Eve, or he needs to get lost -- as the rest of the Dunder Mifflin team prepares their own publicized resolutions. Everyone falls short of their expectations, but no one is bumming harder than Michael, and, per usual, his seething contempt for the world is absolutely hilarious.
King of the Hill: Season 4, Episode 10 - "Hillennium"
In retrospect, the whole Y2K scare was a big fat nothing, but at the time, there were many who thought the computer date-rollover effect was going to be a massive catastrophe for modern society. Like Hank & Co. in this episode, there were plenty of people for whom the panic set in very slowly as the date approached, so the way the group reacts to the looming non-crisis is basically a time capsule of a very real sentiment of unrest that happened around the turn of the millennium.
Family Guy: Season 2, Episode 3 - "Da Boom"
Remember when the chicken fight gag hadn't been played out ad nauseum on this show? This vintage episode features Peter Griffin as the unlikely savior of his family after he's the only one who takes the Y2K threat seriously enough to lock them in the basement with hazmat suits. Once they emerge from their bunker, they find that a nuclear apocalypse has destroyed Quahog, and for food, they try to make way to the Twinkie factory. This all culminates in Peter founding his own new town as Stewie morphs into an octopus, and there's a pretty epic moment of irony to end it all that makes the episode one of the show's all-timers.
The Simpsons: Season 11, Episode 4 - "Treehouse of Horror X"
Like many of its animated fellows, this "Treehouse of Horror" segment imagines what might happen if all the Y2K hooplah was legitimate. The third part -- "Life's a Glitch, Then You Die" -- condemns Earth to be rendered uninhabitable by infected computers at nuclear plants and a virulent disease that spreads across the globe, and there's a rocketship scheduled to jettison a select part of the population to Mars to recolonize, but guys like Homer and Bart aren't on the short list for that journey and find another, less desirable trip to take.
How I Met Your Mother: Season 1, Episode 11 - "The Limo"
You gotta give Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) points for creativity when he decided to rent a limo for all his pals so they could party-hop until they found the perfect shindig to ring to ring in the New Year. Of course, best laid plans being what they are, their night goes a lot differently than anticipated -- who could've predicted there'd be traffic on one of the busiest nights of the year anyway? -- but things still work out pretty well for everyone involved all the same.
Mad Men: Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2 - "The Doorway, Part I and II"
There's a lot happening with the SCDP crew as 1967 becomes 1968: Don (Jon Hamm) still can't help but wander despite a picturesque holiday away with Megan; Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is stuck holding the ball when a Super Bowl campaign needs a last-minute overhaul; Roger (John Slattery) is having an existential crisis; Pete (Vincent Kartheiser)'s dalliances literally catch up with him at home; and Betty (January Jones) is desperate to rescue a girl from making the same mistakes she once did. Like all of the best episodes of this series, the symbolism in each subplot is subtle, and the consequences for everyone involved are real.
Modern Family: Season 4, Episode 11 - "New Year's Eve"
They say you should never revisit the relics of your childhood to avoid sullying those precious memories, and that definitely turns out to be true for Jay (Ed O'Neill) when he takes most of the family out to a Palm Springs resort he used to love and finds that the place is far from the high class hotspot he remembered ... until he runs into Billy Dee Williams at a poker game.
That '70S Show: Season 8, Episode 22 - "That '70s Finale"
It's pretty appropriate that this show ended on the eve of the '80s, but what made this New Year's Eve-themed series finale so special is that it finally, mercifully reunited the long-lost Eric (Topher Grace) with Donna (Laura Prepon) after he'd spent so much time away. The two resolve to cut the crap -- and for him to stop being a "dumbass" -- before celebrating the holiday with one more visit to the basement smoke circle.
30 Rock: Season 4, Episode 9 - "Klaus and Greta"
It's a rare day when Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) peels the onion of his own emotions, but when he gets tanked on New Year's Eve and leaves a heartfelt voice message for his high school sweetheart, he has to come to terms with how he feels about her. But to avoid things getting too heavy, there's also a subplot about James Franco being in love with a body pillow, so, you know, the usual dose of ridiculous levity is still in full force here.
Seinfeld: Season 8, Episode 20 - "The Millennium"
It doesn't even need to be a holiday for the gang to get into all their weird debacles of this episode -- George (Jason Alexander) trying to get fired from Yankees to take a job with the Mets, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) going to war with a clothing store as Kramer (Michael Richards) accidentally poisons its salsa stash, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) feuding with his girlfriend about her speed dial list, and Newman being so very Newman.
Friends: Season 6, Episode 10 - "The One with the Routine"
With respect to "The One with all the Resolutions" and its hilarious subplot about Ross (David Schwimmer) and his leather pants, it's even funnier when he and Monica (Courteney Cox) break out their doofiest dance moves while trying to earn some camera time on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve.
Futurama: Season 1, Episode 1 - "Space Pilot 3000"
In this series premiere episode, we're introduced to Fry, a pizza delivery dude who is accidentally cryogenically frozen on the eve of the second millennium and wakes up in the year 3000 (after two alien wars), where he'll have to adjust to an all-new world. When he decides not to accept another position as a delivery boy in this future, however, he has to find a few like-minded job deserters and sets sail on the Planet Express Ship where he'll be working as a -- wait for it -- interplanetary delivery guy. Fun times.
The O.C.: Season 1, Episode 14 - "The Countdown"
Remember Oliver? The opportunistic, spoiled jerk who tried to get between Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Ryan (Ben McKenzie)? His maddening arc got a bit of pause when he invited Marissa to his New Year's Eve party with the obvious intention of trying to woo her, but Ryan made a mad dash to make it there in time to plant one on Marissa just as the ball dropped. It was an instant classic moment of the show and offered a brief respite from all of Oliver's scary ways.
The X-Files: Season 7, Episode 4 - "The Millennium"
This "monster of the week"-style episode pits Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) against a group that raises a zombie army to help bring about the apocalypse at the turn of the millennium. But what really stands out is the moment when the two finally lock lips to "Auld Lang Syne."
South Park: Season 3, Episode 16 - "Are You There God? It's Me, Jesus"
This New Year's themed-episode centers on Jesus suffering an existential crisis after the townspeople are disappointed that his father won't show up to greet them at the turn of the millennium. Meanwhile, the boys are all confusing a stomach bug that causes their bottoms to bleed with a male period, as they each hope to become afflicted with the ailment as proof of their maturity. It's a classic segment that nimbly combines gross body humor with some serious life questions to underscore all the zany concepts before going full-throttle with weird, which is exactly the kind of combo that made this show shine in the early seasons.