New Year’s is often the odd one out when it comes to holiday season programming. While many households keep the TV on in the background of Thanksgiving dinner, and Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa give us lots of time at home to watch classic and contemporary faves with our families, New Year’s is usually spent out on the town. Beyond that, the production schedules on many shows dictate winter hiatuses that leave the ends and beginnings of the year out altogether.
Still, there have long been TV writers who make creative use of the tropes of the holiday — namely, exaggerated resolutions, excessive drinking and midnight kisses. Some have even taken advantage of all the symbolism by writing New Year’s episodes as finales. And thanks to omicron and its cousins, a lot of us will have more couch time than usual to watch those stories this New Year’s. So in between writing out your 2022 goals and setting a countdown clock with your quarantine-mates, take some time for Variety‘s 15 best New Year’s TV episodes of all time.
An honorable mention goes to “Marcus Watkins,” the penultimate episode of Season 2 of “Love Life.” The episode, which just premiered this year, spans a year of time focused on Marcus’ (William Jackson Harper) pain and growth while enduring the events of 2020 in solitude. He begins his year at a New Year’s Eve party, finally having processed his divorce from Emily (Maya Kazan) and his breakup with Mia (Jessica Williams) enough to feel optimistic about life for once. But 2020 soon does to him what it did to all of us. He stocks up on antibacterial spray, begins to work from home in March, and tells off his racist boss and quits his job in June. He endures crushing loneliness and a touch of self-hatred through it all. But after his sister’s (Punkie Johnson) tiny, masked-up outdoor wedding in August, he finally has a breakthrough, about both his own imperfections and those of the people around him. On Dec. 31, 2020, he attends a different kind of New Year’s party: He pops champagne at 9 p.m. and falls asleep on the couch before the clock even strikes 12, having nodded off with a smile on his face because finally, he’s no longer alone.