Dec 22nd, 2020, 11:30 PM

The Best New Year’s Eve TV Episodes

By Rebecca Le Goff
Modern Family "New Year's Eve." Image Credit: ABC
Image Credit: Creative Commons/davidyuweb
As we reflect on the year 2020 has been, here is a list of some of the best New Year's Eve themed episodes in popular television shows.

We can all agree that 2020 was a challenging year. In honor of it finally winding down, this list is a compilation of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations in television series. If you are feeling nostalgic and want to look back at some end-of-year episodes, then this list is for you. At the end of each show overview and episode synopsis, there will be a description of the worst event that happened in the year in which the television episodes are set in. Hopefully, they will put the infamous year 2020 into perspective a bit and commemorate some equally tragic events as those this year has seen.

Friends - Season 6 Episode 10 “The One with the Routine” 

Friends. Image Credit: NBC

Friends originally aired on NBC from 1994-2004 and is set in New York City. The show revolves around six friends, Ross Geller (David Schwimmer), Monica Geller (Courtney Cox), Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow), Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) and Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston). This show revolves around their friendships and relationships as they navigate their late twenties and early thirties. Friends also touches on important subjects such as infertility and difficult family dynamics.

This episode is ultimately a classic Friends episode. It starts out with Joey’s roommate Janine inviting him, Ross and Monica to attend the pre-recording of the dance segment of the Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve show. Ross and Monica have been watching the show ever since they were little and are very eager to go. During the taping, Monica and Ross want to be in the spotlight, so they do a routine they practiced in junior high school. Their dance is hilarious and awkward and ends up on the bloopers reel. While this is happening, Joey sparks a romantic interest in Janine and tries to kiss her all night. Meanwhile, Rachel and Phoebe go to Monica’s apartment to try and find the Christmas presents she bought them so that they can buy her something better. Chandler is reluctant at first but then helps look for them too. 

I personally picked "The One with the Routine" to feature because it was the last Friends episode to air in the year 1999. It highlights the well-known dilemma of getting loved ones gifts that are as equally amazing and generally cost the same as theirs. The funniest part for me was the routine that Ross and Monica did on the taping of the show. To me, this represents the closeness of their friendship and also shows how unique their sibling relationship is. Above all, this episode made my list because it shows that friendship is the most important part of the holidays. 

In stark comparison to the jovial atmosphere of this Friends episode, one of the worst events in the year 1999 was the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. On April 12, the school shooting cost the lives of 13 students. On a positive note, the Euro was created in 1999 and began circulating in 19 countries of the European Union in 2002. Despite the tragic events of that year, this episode of Friends celebrates the positive parts of the characters' lives in 1999 and invites the viewer to laugh along.

The O.C. - Season 1 Episode 14 “The Countdown”

Image Credit: FOX

The O.C. originally aired on FOX from 2003-2007 and is set in Orange County, California. The show is a teenage drama about adolescents who live in the wealthy area of Orange County, California. It is about Ryan Atwood (Benjamin Mckenzie) as he is adopted into a rich family by Kirsten (Kelly Rowan) and Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher). He also has a close friendship with his adoptive brother, Seth Cohen (Adam Brody). Their relationship highlights their differences, with Ryan being the "cool" one and Seth being the "awkward" and always sarcastic one. Ryan begins a rocky relationship with Marissa (Mischa Barton) and Seth later dates Summer (Rachel Bilson). This show is filled with dramatic moments and adult relationships and discusses light topics, such as Chrismakkuh, alongside darker ones, like alcoholism.

The central question of this episode is who the characters will spend New Year’s Eve with. Ryan and Marissa are in a relationship but she would like to go to her friend Oliver’s party, while Ryan would rather not. In the end, Ryan goes to the party just in time to kiss Marissa during the countdown. Seth spends New Year’s Eve with his friend Anna even though he also likes Summer. Kirsten's sister Hailey throws a wild New Year’s Eve party too. At the same time, Kirsten and Sandy go to a celebration in which all the men put their watches in a bowl, and the women pick a watch. The woman spends the evening with the man whose watch she picked. At the end of the night, Sandy reveals that he didn’t put his watch in the bowl, and they are both relieved and realize their marriage is not in a rut.

This episode made my list because it explores several important subjects, such as whether couples should spend New Year’s Eve together or not. It’s very funny because it is highly unrealistic that Ryan manages to get to Marissa in time despite heavy traffic. I love how The O.C. portrays Sandy and Kirsten’s marriage and this episode gives important representation to couples who are struggling in their relationships but manage to overcome it. 

Meanwhile, one of the worst events in 2003 was the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in which the seven members of the NASA STS-107 mission died. The last Concorde flight occurred on October 23, 2003. The positive side of 2003 is that the Human Genome Project was completed, through which scientists have successfully sequenced 99 percent of the human genome. As the show tries to depict the glamorous life in Orange County, the characters live in their bubble and the audience is allowed to escape into their world.

Full House - Season 4 Episode 13 "Happy New Year"

Image Credit: ABC

Full House originally aired on ABC from 1987-2005. The show revolves around a father, Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), and his brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos), along with his best friend Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier). All three take care of Danny’s children: DJ Tanner (Candace Cameron), Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) and Michelle Tanner (Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen). The show is about this family in San Francisco as they grow up and deal with school, life and relationships. 

In this episode, Michelle, who is around the age of four, learns about New Year’s Eve. Danny and Jesse set up Joey with a blind date. Jesse celebrates New Year’s Eve with his girlfriend Rebecca. Danny spends the evening with his girlfriend Cindy and her son, Rusty. Rusty teases Stephanie that he will kiss her at midnight. Later, she realizes it is a joke but still decides to kiss him. DJ celebrates the evening with her romantic interest Ricky. The whole family spends New Year’s Eve with their romantic interests at their house.

This show made my list because Full House is one of the best family sitcoms there is. This episode in particular is enjoyable because we see each character find a romantic interest, and it's made all the more special because Michelle learns what New Year’s Eve is. 

The "Happy New Year" episode aired in 1991, one of the worst events of which was the series of conflicts that led to the Gulf War. However, arguably the most positive event of 1991 was the START 1 treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union, and 1991 was important because it started the dissolution of the USSR. During this momentous year, the Tanner family remained cheery, reminding the audience of the power of family and friends to help a person through anything.

That ‘70s Show - Season 8 Episode 22 “That ‘70s Finale”

Image Credit: FOX

That ‘70s Show originally aired on FOX from 1998-2006. The sitcom is set in the 1970s and revolves around a group of friends, Eric Forman (Topher Grace), Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson), Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). This show is set in a fictional town in Wisconsin, and clearly depicts the political and social aspects of the time period. That '70s Show is unique in that a main character, Fez, is a foreign exhange student, whom the audience follows as he adjusts to living in the United States and learns about American culture. 

In That '70s Finale, the friends celebrate the last day of the year 1979. Eric comes back to town and reunites with Donna. Fez and Jackie are a couple. Characters Kitty and Red decide to stay in Wisconsin rather than moving to Florida. This episode is filled with flashbacks over the years. In the end, the group of friends has a final “circle,” a hilarious recurring activity throughout the show in which they sit in Eric's basement and smoke, as they celebrate the New Year.

This episode makes my list because not only is it a New Year’s Eve episode, it is also the series finale. This episode is important to show that friendships can maintain no matter the distance. I also loved how Eric and Donna reconciled and the characters were able to reflect on their memories together. That '70s Finale is truly the end of an era.

Compared to 2020, one of the worst events in 1979 was the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident in which there was a partial meltdown of the number 2 reactor of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. A positive event in 1979 was the launch of ESPN on September 7, 1979. The characters in That '70s Show love watching television, so it would not be a surprise if they watched ESPN.

Modern Family - Season 4 Episode 11 “New Year’s Eve”

Image Credit: ABC

Modern Family originally aired on ABC from 2009-2020. The show revolves around three families in the Los Angeles area that are either nuclear, blended or same-sex. The viewer follows the lives of Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), Gloria Delgado-Pritchett (Sofia Vergara), Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen), Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet), Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland), Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter), Luke Dunphy (Nolan Gould) and Manny Delgado (Rico Rodriguez). The show is about these families navigating life and their relationships with one another. 

In this New Year’s Eve episode, Jay invites the parents of all the families to a hotel he last went to in the 1970s. When they arrive, they are disappointed because the hotel is not modern. Haley and Alex babysit the children and this is challenging because the two boys invite two girls over and they are only in their early teens. Gloria needs grapes for a Columbian tradition in which you eat twelve grapes and make twelve wishes, one for every month of the year. 

This show makes my list because Modern Family is important in representing the different kinds of families. This episode especially has a lot of comedy in it, and shows the challenges of puberty and growing up. It also reveals the importance of family and emphasizes that family makes life better.

One of the worst events of 2012 was the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, which resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six staff members. In 2012, there was also the tragic Aurora shooting in Colorado which resulted in 12 fatalities. The stars of Modern Family were involved in a video titled "Make the Promise to Parent Together," inspired by the tragic loss of young lives at the hands of senseless gunmen.

This New Year’s will be different because we might not be able to spend it with the ones we care about, but you can watch one of the episodes of this list with your family through Netflix’s Teleparty. As you reflect on the worst events that happened in the years these episodes are set in, remember that time heals all wounds and that there is hope for the future. The resilience it took to get through the devastating events of previous years should be harnessed as we approach the final push towards the end of 2020. To help us get there, we can all hope that 2021 will be better than this year.

Happy New Year from ASM!