At a certain point, as we grow up, we all learn the hard truth that Santa Claus isn’t real. And then, as we grow up some more, we discover that’s a lie, and Santa is totally real. We know this because TV shows—many of them ostensibly for adults—have gone out of their way to show St. Nick as a living, breathing, toy-distributing being. Here are just a few of them.

1) Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, “Season’s Greedings”

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The Man of Steel isn’t the only super-powered being helping others in the ‘90s series Lois & Clark. In the show’s first holiday episode, Superman takes a bit of time to fly a sleigh—containing Perry White as an Elvis-themed Santa—around Metropolis. Later, Lois hears someone bellowing “Ho ho ho!” from the sky, and assumes Superman is merely dragging Perry White around some more. However, Clark Kent, standing beside her, is much more confused.

2) ER, “City of Mercy”

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This medical drama usually stuck to the drama, but things got a little weird in this 13th season episode. After Morris (played by Scott Grimes) pretends to be Santa for a sick little girl, he’s filled with the Christmas spirit—and kind of annoyed at himself for it. He screams, “There is no freaking Santa Claus!” at which point he immediately sees something in the sky. The camera focuses on Morris, his jaw agape, as sleigh bells jingle and someone cries out “Ho ho ho!” See for yourself.

3) Home Improvement, “Yule Better Watch Out”

This episode of the Tim Allen sitcom begins when Mark, the youngest member of the Taylor clan, write his annual letter to Santa, and his two older brothers Brad and Randy tell him Santa is dead, because Brad and Randy are insufferable assholes. Mark is distraught, as an 8-year-old might be expected to be, until their lovable neighbor Wilson (that guy whose face is never fully seen) comes by as Santa to assure little Mark that his death has been exaggerated. A few hours later, Tim seeing Wilson and thanks him for assuaging his son, only for Wilson to confusedly swear he’s been working in his backyard all afternoon.

4) Might Morphin’ Power Rangers, “I’m Dreaming of a White Ranger”

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It’s the holidays in Angel Grove, and Lord Zedd is even more annoyed than usual. He decides to take control of Earth’s children by giving them all special tops that make he can use to mind control them. But where to make these tops? Why, Santa’s Workshop, of course. Zedd sends his brother-in-law Rito Revolto (Rita’s boney bro) to the North Pole to force Santa and his elves to make the tops; the Power Rangers of course head North to face them, despite Santa’s innate magic somehow rendering the Power Rangers powerless. I won’t spoil who wins, but I find it very telling that somehow Santa and the Rangers’ powers are so incompatible.

5) Gilligan’s Island, “Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk”

On their first Christmas away from civilization, the castaways decorate a bamboo tree and discuss what they wish they were getting as presents. When Gilligan makes the obvious wish that everyone would get rescued, suddenly a radio broadcast comes through: a ship is headed their way after some kind of Navy recon device spotted them. It’s a Christmas miracle! Alas, after a series of flashbacks to their first day of the island, it turns out the Navy was talking about another group of survivors stranded on another island. The castaways are down in the dumps until Santa arrives and tells them to be grateful for what they do have (each other and coconuts, mainly). As Santa leaves, everyone assumes it’s the Skipper in disguise except 1) no one on the island has a Santa suit and 2) the Skipper arrives half a minute later from the opposite direction. No one points out how Santa completely ignored Gilligan’s Christmas wish.

6) Doctor Who, “Last Christmas”

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Yeah, yeah. We all know in last year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, in which Simon Pegg’s best buddy Nick Frost played St. Nick, that Santa was was technically a dream, as everyone—the Doctor and Clara included—were captured by Dream Crabs, who give their victims pleasant dreams while they devour their brains. Of course, because no Moffat-led Doctor Who episode can be that simple, things get Inception-y, there are dreams within dreams, and Santa is there fighting besides the Doctor throughout all of it. But when everyone returns to reality and Santa appears to return to nonexistence, there’s still the matter of a tangerine on Clara’s windowsill, which Santa had promised to give her earlier in the episode…

7) Night Court, “Santa Goes Downtown”

In what was somehow the very second episode of the ‘80s sitcom, a bum who claims to be Santa Claus is brought before the court for vagrancy. As it turns out, he’s supposedly a man named John Stevens who somehow escapes every December from a psychiatric hospital, but inevitably returns every February. However, this does not explain his omniscience, as he knows anything anyone has ever received for Christmas, the fact that prosecutor Dan Fielding used to be held down by his mother when she gave him medicine, and other very specific facts he shouldn’t and couldn’t possibly know.

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8) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “The Body”

Santa never made a physical appearance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but in the otherwise harrowing episode “The Body,” the demon Anya casually mentions that Santa Claus is quite real, and is one of the names for a demon that spent the 16th century riding in sleighs, breaking into people’s homes by climbing in their chimneys, and disemboweling children. So… yeah.

9) The Librarians, “And Santa’s Midnight Run”

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There’s no subtlety about Santa Claus in the world of The Librarians. He simply exists as an avatar of good will—he stores it up over they year and releases it every Christmas so people stop being so grumpy. In this episode, he’s captured by the Serpent Brotherhood so they can steal all his power, but the Librarians rescue, and Santa gets stabbed by some mistletoe. So he keeps switching into different versions of himself (e.g., Odin-Santa) and other merry mayhem ensues. Really, all you need to know is that Bruce Campbell plays Santa, which alone should make it worth seeking out.

10) Smallville, “Lexmas”

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In this rather insane episode, Clark spots a drunk man in a Santa suit about to jump off a building, all because “the Christmas spirit is dead.” Clark rescues him and explains that in fact the soused St. Nick interrupted him as he was delivering presents (at super speed) to the children of Metropolis; the man is so delighted he finds Chloe to help her and Clark to deliver said presents. Once Chloe agrees, this Santa and the presents vanish, and Chloe figures the man must have been the real Santa Claus. Which means that this episode of Smallville began with a Santa so depressed that he was about to commit suicide. Happy holidays, everybody!

H/t to Loree Stark for the feature idea, and to TV Tropes for research help.


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.