2018 has been a year for a lot of really great television, but one thing it’s failed to provide — like every year since 2003, really — was a new classic when it comes to the New Year’s Eve episode. It’s not necessarily the year’s fault, because there’s so very rarely a worthwhile New Year’s Eve episode of television in the first place.
Think about it. A truly classic, definitive New Year’s Eve episode of television is sweet while also acknowledging just how lame of a “holiday” the end of the year is. (There’s a reason the movie about this day — called New Year’s Eve — is bad. Clearly, all the blame about its quality lands on the shoulders of the day itself.) It’s also about the particular night before the new year, not New Year’s Day. And it’s definitely not about New Year’s resolutions, because that’s looking ahead to the future, and New Year’s Eve is a singular moment. A proper New Year’s Eve episode captures a moment in time so perfectly that you’ll be telling your children and grandchildren about it for years to come, even long after Peak TV has completely ruined television as we all know it.
Based on this carefully-researched criteria, I can tell you that plenty of the episodes you’d argue are actually the definitive New Year’s Eve episode of television are instantly disqualified:
- Boy Meets World, “Train of Fools”: Sure, this episode could be considered great… if you’re a child and not at an age where it’s now slightly iffy that all the white kids don’t get that, when the black kid (played by Wesley Jonathan, of City Guys and What I Like About You fame) says “partay,” he clearly means “party,” But as we all know, Boy Meets World didn’t understand race relations until Angela was introduced. We also know that pre-Crisis Eric Matthews — you know, before he was seemingly lobotomized — only had a handful of good episodes centered on him, and this was not one of them.
- Mad Men, “The Good News”: This episode is of course disqualified for ending on New Year’s Day and the aftermath of the events of New Year’s Eve. Sorry, Caity Lotz.
- Friends, “The One With All The Resolutions”: As I’ve already noted, get that New Year’s resolution crap outta here.
- Friends, “The One With The Routine”: This episode is one big cheat, as it’s a combo Christmas/New Year’s Eve episode… and it’s not even really New Year’s Eve, as it’s all about how Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve is taped weeks in advance. This is a false New Year’s Eve episode.
- Frasier, “RDWRER”: Look, this isn’t a good episode because it’s New Year’s Eve, it’s a good episode because it’s Frasier.
- King of the Hill, “Hillennium” / Seinfeld, “The Millennium” / Being Erica, “Everything She Wants”: Come on now — Y2K and new millennium episodes are a whole other beast than straight New Year’s Eve episodes. And in the case of Being Erica, the New Year’s Eve stuff is only in the past, not the present.
- How I Met Your Mother, “The Limo”: At one point, “The Limo” would have been the only other worthwhile New Year’s Eve episode of television. But as with all things How I Met Your Mother these days, many points have since been deducted for the way the series ended. Despite what it may look like, I actually didn’t make the rules: I’m just enforcing them.