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Ten Classic New Year's TV Episodes (And Where You Can Watch Them)

Ring in 2022 with your favorite TV shows.
  • Photos: The CW, Sony Pictures Television, FOX, NBC, Warner Bros, ABC.
    Photos: The CW, Sony Pictures Television, FOX, NBC, Warner Bros, ABC.

    If Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about food and family, New Year’s Eve is the holiday of debauchery — just ask your favorite TV shows. For decades, television has been ringing in the new year with raucous parties, easily-solved misunderstandings, and shocking kisses, but whether it’s 1981 or 2021, beloved holiday tropes never get old. As the calendar flips to 2022, celebrate with these ten classic New Year’s Eve episodes:

    Seinfeld: “The Millennium”

    Two years before Y2K, Seinfeld got an early start on its event planning with “The Millennium” (Season 8, Episode 20), which sees Kramer (Michael Richards) and Newman (Wayne Knight) competing to throw the best millennium party. Newman hopes to go all out for his “Newmannium” party, but his plans go awry when Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) informs him he’s booked the hotel for December 31, 2000 instead of December 31, 1999. Classic Newman. Streaming on Netflix

    30 Rock: “Klaus and Greta”

    Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) isn’t the first person to regret their New Year’s Eve behavior, but few have gone to such extreme lengths to protect their reputation. In “Klaus and Greta” (Season 4, Episode 9), Jack recruits Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) to help him delete a message he drunkenly left on the voicemail of Nancy Donovan (Julianne Moore), his high school sweetheart, and things predictably spiral out of control. Meanwhile, in two now-cringey 30 Rock storylines, Liz (Tina Fey) accidentally outs her cousin at a family New Year’s Eve party, and Jenna (Jane Krakowski) enters into a fake relationship with James Franco to counter rumors that he’s in love with a Japanese body pillow. Streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Peacock

    The Wonder Years: “New Year”

    By the time “New Year” (Season 6, Episode 11) rolled around, the original The Wonder Years had moved far beyond pubescent awkwardness. In what would be the classic comedy’s lone New Year’s episode, Wayne (Jason Hervey) plans a family dinner at a supper club on New Year’s Eve, but on the big night, he’s nowhere to be found. Kevin (Fred Savage) and Winnie (Danica McKellar) set out to find him, and later, they watch the ball drop on TV in a moment that represents a new beginning for all three of them. Streaming on Hulu

    Family Guy: “Da Boom!”

    It’s been a while since Family Guy did something truly innovative, but the animated comedy was firing on all cylinders back in 1999 with “Da Boom!” (Season 2, Episode 3). After the Y2K bug triggers a nuclear apocalypse, the Griffins, holed up in the basement in hazmat suits, travel in search of food, particularly Twinkies, which they remember are capable of surviving a nuclear event. When they finally reach the Twinkie factory, they set up the town of New Quahog around it and Peter assumes the role of mayor, but the sugar-crazed leader is soon overthrown. Not only did “Da Boom!” depict the world’s pre-Y2K fears; it’s also the first episode to feature Mila Kunis as the voice of Meg Griffin, who was previously voiced by Mean Girls star Lacey Chabert. Streaming on Hulu

    How I Met Your Mother: “The Limo”

    “The Limo” (Season 1, Episode 11) flashes back to New Year’s Eve 2005, when all Ted (Josh Radnor) wants is to spend the night with his friends. When he receives his Christmas bonus, Ted decides to hire a limo that will take them to five different parties over the course of three hours and return to the best one by midnight. Of course, “New Year’s Eve” and “tight schedule” tend to be oposing forces, so it’s only a matter of time before things start to veer off track, much to Ted’s chagrin. Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video

    Friends: “The One with All the Resolutions” and “The One with the Routine”

    Why pick just one Friends New Year’s episode? At the midway point of Friends’ run, “The One with All the Resolutions” (Season 5, Episode 11) and “The One with the Routine” (Season 6, Episode 10) offered two very different kinds of year-end festivities. While “Resolutions” is best known for Ross’ (David Schwimmer) leather pants, “Routine” takes place at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, where Monica (Courteney Cox) and Ross perform their ridiculous eighth grade dance in hopes of getting on TV. Streaming on HBO Max

    Gossip Girl: “The End of the Affair?”

    The OG Gossip Girl’s fifth season is widely considered its worst outing, but it does feature the show’s only (!) New Year’s episode. “The End of the Affair?” (Season 5, Episode 11) primarily serves to explain, via flashbacks, what happened after Blair (Leighton Meester) and Chuck’s (Ed Westwick) car crash, but real fans know it’s the episode where Dan (Penn Badgley) and Serena (Blake Lively) share a New Year’s Eve kiss that rekindles their years-long relationship. XOXO.... Streaming on HBO Max

    3rd Rock From the Sun: “Happy New Dick!”

    As it turns out, even extraterrestrials can have existential crises. In “Happy New Dick!” (Season 4, Episode 9), Dick (John Lithgow) worries he hasn’t accomplished anything worthwhile, and struggles to do something to make the year count before midnight. Elsewhere, Sally (Kristen Johnson) persuades her boyfriend Don (Wayne Knight) to get her tickets to the exclusive Starlight Room, only to change her mind when he succeeds, and Harry (French Stewart) and Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) plan an explosive party at Happy Doug’s Bar. “Happy New Dick!” is a hilarious episode, to be sure, but if you’re bored of yelling “Happy New Year!” at the stroke of midnight, its title also offers a great alternative. Streaming on Peacock

    The Office: “Ultimatum”

    Determined to stick to your New Year’s resolutions? Watch what Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer) does in “Ultimatum” (Season 7, Episode 13) and consider doing the opposite. Inspired by the office administrator at Vance Refrigeration, Pam puts up a New Year’s resolution board in the office so everyone can share their goals for the new year. But as is the case with all things Dunder Mifflin, the resolutions quickly get out of hand, with Dwight (Rainn Wilson) setting out to find a “loose woman,” Michael (Steve Carell) force-feeding Kevin (Brian Baumgartner) broccoli, and Creed (Creed Bratton) verbally assaulting Erin (Ellie Kemper) for doing a cartwheel. In “Ultimatum”s non-New Year’s-related storyline (for which the episode is named), Michael eagerly awaits the news of Holly’s (Amy Ryan) year-end ultimatum to her boyfriend, although his antics threaten to ruin his chances with her regardless. Streaming on Peacock

    Frasier: “RDWRER”

    The third and final millennium-centric episode on this list, “RDWRER” (Season 7, Episode 12) follows Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) as he, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), and Martin (John Mahoney) drive down the back roads in Martin’s bulky Winnebago — with the license plate “RDWRER,” short for “Road Warrior” — bound for the wine club’s get-together in Idaho. When Niles accidentally falls asleep in a similar RV headed in the opposite direction, they embark upon a wild goose chase that serves as a fitting cap to the century. Streaming on Hulu, Peacock, and Paramount+

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: New Year's Programming, 30 Rock, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Family Guy, Frasier, Friends, Gossip Girl (2007 Series), How I Met Your Mother, The Office (US), Seinfeld, The Wonder Years (1988 Series)