Contains spoilers for Rome, The West Wing, Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Futurama and Lost.
We all need a bit of a lift now and again. When life kicks you in the crotch and the world seems a cruel, unforgiving place, your trusty friend TV is there to remind you that goodness and triumph exist.
We asked our writers which scripted TV moments are guaranteed to fill their hearts with triumph and fellow-feeling no matter how many times they’ve watched them.
Here’s the result, a depository of thirty TV extracts (more than one featuring a certain Doctor) that are sure to raise a smile, an air-punch or a happy tear round these parts. Please keep the collection growing and add your own favourites in the comments.
Doctor Who – “No, sir… all THIRTEEN!”
I’ve never punched the air quite so hard as I did when the Twelfth Doctor’s eyebrows first appeared. I’d been hoping that Peter Capaldi might make a surprise, early appearance in The Day Of The Doctor; but as that climactic scene featuring the rescue of Gallifrey unfolded, nothing could prepare me for the wave of joy I would feel upon hearing the words “No, sir… all THIRTEEN!”
There are those who will argue whether The Day Of The Doctor managed to live up to the impossible expectations placed upon it. But for me, it was a story in which the Doctor – every Doctor – saved the day and retrospectively undid a past wrong, using a combination of time travel, wisdom, compassion and lateral thinking. And some forward-jumping narrative trickery, to boot. Not only was it a supreme moment of life-affirmingly joyous television – it was pretty much everything I could ever want Doctor Who to be. By Seb Patrick
Friday Night Lights – “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!”
In a series which is not short of big emotional moments, both highs and lows, it is almost impossible to pick a favourite. Whether it was Jason Street being made honorary captain to rapturous applause after his paralysing injury, Coach Taylor telling Matt Saracen there was “nothing wrong with him at all” after the young QB’s breakdown, Tami Taylor (everything about her), or Vince throwing the State championship winning Hail Mary pass in the final episode, Friday Night Lights had it all.
But for me it was the “You think you’re champions?” from Coach Taylor in the season one episode Wind Sprints, following a humiliating loss and the season already looking over. But on a dark rainy night, with the group forced to do multiple wind sprints in the middle of nowhere, the team spirit coalesces, and the players come together to answer the challenge with a triumphant “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” With it, the show establishes itself as something truly special, and a series you’ll follow until the end. By Nick Horton
Cheers – “One born every minute, huh Coach?”
Nick Colasanto, who played Ernie ‘Coach’ Pantusso on Cheers, was the cause of much behind-the-scenes sadness when he passed away following an illness during filming of season three. His hapless character was greatly loved, and Colasanto’s death took its toll on his fellow cast-members (who memorably almost threatened to quit when a line of his written on the set wall as a reminder in his deteriorating state was eventually painted over).
In the knowledge of that, watching Coach suffer or prosper now in Cheers takes on additional emotional significance, which is what makes his triumph in Pick A Con, Any Con so immensely cheering. Not the sharpest tool in the box, when it seems that Coach has lost eight thousand dollars of his savings to a scam artist, the gang hatch a plan to help him win it back. Alas, it looks as though Coach clumsily screws that up, leaving him even worse off financially… until the moment where it’s revealed Coach was one step ahead of the others all along and he ends up on top. Priceless. By Louisa Mellor
Rome – Titus Pullo’s gladiatorial match
For me, and anybody else who’s ever seen Rome, the number 13 will always cause a swell of warmth and a strong desire to punch the air. This, of course, refers to the moment in the penultimate episode of the first season The Spoils where a dejected Titus Pullo is forced into the Gladiator ring and refuses to fight. The other warriors won’t engage him unless he actually defends himself, so they start taunting the 13th Battalion, where Pullo hails from. Pullo at first quietly tells them to leave off, but the taunting intensifies until finally Pullo’s warrior nature is unleashed and singlehandedly he takes on the whole arena, screaming out ‘thirteen’ between blows as Lucius Vorenus, his estranged friend, and fellow member of the 13th Battalion, watches from the crowd.
As Pullo tires and an enormous gladiator prepares to finish him, we hear another cry of ‘thirteen’ from the stands and as Vorenus charges into the ring, I would defy anyone not to be on their feet and cheering at the TV, tears in their eyes. The word rousing was coined for moments like this. By Gabriel Bergmoser
The Simpsons – Bart and Marge’s rocky patch
The Christmas special Marge Be Not Proud, where Bart is caught stealing a videogame and his relationship with Marge breaks down, is one of the most heart-warming and gut-wrenching episodes of The Simpsons (The bits where Bart desperately wants to hang out with Milhouse’s mother and do “mom stuff” around the holidays are particularly heart-breaking).
It ends with a lovely reconciliation between them on Christmas Eve, but it’s the final moment of the show that gets me. Marge has actually bought Bart the game he wanted so badly and tried to steal. Only she hasn’t. It’s not the ultra-violent Mortal Kombat clone that every 10 year old wanted in 1995 sitting under the Xmas tree — instead it’s the wonderfully titled “Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge”, a pitch-perfect take on the sort of boring-ass golf game you always seemed to end up with but never, ever played. Is there any better microcosm for the love between a kid and his mum than him thanking her for spending a lot of money on a terrible videogame that he doesn’t want? It brings a tear to my eye. By Wil Jones
The West Wing – “…and now I’m giving it to you.”
There are many heart-warming moments in The West Wing, and several of them come from great, classic season two episode Shibboleth, whether it be Bartlet claiming a group of starving refugees staged a prison break to allow them to remain in the US, him drafting a turkey into the armed forces because CJ has become attached and doesn’t want to see it killed and eaten for Thanksgiving dinner, or Donna agreeing to help CJ learn to lead a group of children in song.
The moment that truly warms the cockles though, is when President Bartlet explains to his long-suffering assistant (and probable future son-in-law), Charlie, exactly why he has been making him run all over town looking for the perfect carving knife. “Because it’s something we pass on, something with a history, so we can say my father gave this to me and his father gave it to him, and now I’m giving it to you… Charlie, my father gave this to me and his father gave it to him. And now I’m giving it to you.” By Juliette Harrisson
Spaced – the gang gets back together
I think you could pick almost any moment from Spaced and it would make me smile. It was a show that seemed to reach straight into the hearts of geeks and genre fans alike, one that felt as though it had been made just for us, whether by recognising something of ourselves in any of the main cast or appreciating the lovingly crafted parody of our favourite films and series.
The moment that gets me the most is in the last episode, Leaves. As with the best narratives, the darker and more depressing the moment, the greater the pay-off. There’s none more upsetting than seeing this group of friends splinter away from each other. Just when it appears that the gang will be no more – Mike comes up with the best possible plan. After kicking down the door to Brian’s flat, Mike finds him cowering in a closet listening to a cassette of screams. With a typical Spaced flourish – Brian ejects the tape and inserts another – and I dare anyone not to smile as the Thunderbirds theme changes both Brian’s and the episode’s mood.
From then on it’s just the perfect sequence – tanks, Take That, dog tags, robots, paintings and blindfolds. It’s a pay-off worthy of a series that in my mind has yet to be matched. By Robin Kemp
Doctor Who – Vincent’s gallery visit
The Time Lords have never been keen on The Doctor’s gallivanting and given how often he’s altered important events and put companions in danger, that’s understandable. Series five episode Vincent And The Doctor however, gives perhaps the most inspiring example of the immense good The Doctor does, as he and Amy take Van Gogh, an artist riddled with self-doubt and unappreciated in his lifetime, to an art gallery in 2010 to prove how revered he eventually becomes.
A touching cameo from Bill Nighy as the curator is the icing on this emotional cake. By Craig Elvy
The Goldbergs – DannieDonnieJoeyJonJordan
The Goldbergs. A warm bath of 80s family nostalgia. An astute observation of the anxieties of teenage years and the fear of looking like a chump to your peers being gleefully exploited by your siblings’ innate ability to spot your every weakness.
Take season two’s DannieDonnieJoeyJonJordan. Younger brothers Barry and Adam discover cool Erica’s secret New Kids on the Block memorabilia and her painful fan video recreation of Hangin’ Tough – and mock her mercilessly for it. Yet they still manage to emulate her mistake by faithfully recreating the same video in a bid to seem ironic. Commence epic sibling shaming.
What makes this episode’s gooey heart are the two sequential make up scenes. Erica realises she’s being evil. Cue flashbacks to 1986 and my brother dropping his twisted sibling routine to take me to see Spandau Ballet. At a time when I was scratching his vintage vinyl and he was mocking me, big bro fulfilled my (admittedly limited) life’s ambition of belting out Gold into the same air as Tony Hadley. Thus I melt when acerbic Erica engages her Rolo-centred softness and treats her brothers to a New Kids On The Block concert where they all hang tough together. Arms waving, knees flailing, sibling love never looked so sweet. By Jane Roberts
Game Of Thrones – Brienne and Catelyn’s vow
Just the existence of a character like Brienne of Tarth is enough to inspire a beaming grin, so awesome and unusual is she, but one of my absolute favourite happy moments from her existence is the swearing of fealty to Catelyn Stark. I confess that I tapped out of Games of Thrones shortly after this season because of the dark choices made for some of its female characters (choices the books didn’t hint at), but before those darker turns was this.
“I could serve you, if you would have me. You have courage. Not battle-courage, perhaps, but […] a woman’s kind of courage”. Brienne taking a knee and laying her sword at Catelyn’s feet, and Cate taking Brienne’s hand as they swear by the old Gods and the new to protect each other – heart-flutters, every time. Ah, Brienne… By Phoebe Jane-Boyd
People Just Do Nothing – Clubnight at the Champagne Steam Rooms
People Just Do Nothing may seem an unlikely contender for having a cheery moment but the second series finale is all the more heartening for being so unexpected. If you’re unfamiliar with this jewel in the BBC comedy crown, it’s a sitcom about a group of west London wasters broadcasting old-skool garage tunes from their pirate radio station, Kurupt FM (108.9 on your dial). Led by delusional narcissist MC Grindah and his lazy, insecure sidekick DJ Beats, they’re forever telling the documentary crew who follow them around that Kurupt is bigger, badder and better than it actually is. However, beneath the bravado and the idiocy and the hilarity of their constant failure to get madcap schemes off the ground, People Just Do Nothing builds brilliant three-dimensional characters that are really worth caring about.
In Clubnight, their shady “fixer” Chabuddy G turns his warehouse into a makeshift nightclub called the Champagne Steam Rooms and invites Kurupt to headline the opening night. Things go typically awry and Grindah, having thrown a tantrum and taken some free pills, looks like he won’t even be able to go onstage. Eventually, with a little help from his friends (and a tactical chunder), he gets back up and Kurupt plays an Actually Good set to an Actual Crowd of people for the first time ever and it miraculously comes together as if in a dream. The whole thing ends with a pill-addled double proposal as Grindah and Beats both ask their long-suffering partners – Miche and Roche – to marry them. It’s a very funny, shambolic scene but what makes it heartening is that for those moments, the show cuts right to the core of why these characters are the way they are; why they lie, cheat and mess everything up all in the name of a radio station that can only broadcast a few hundred metres and counts itself lucky if 10 people listen. They want what pretty much everyone wants. To be loved. By their partners, by an audience, by everyone within a 100 metre radius of the aerial. And, for just a few giddy minutes, they are. And it’s beautiful. By Craig Lines
We Bare Bears – Chloe and Ice Bear
We Bare Bears is a cartoon series about three bears, a panda, a grizzly and a polar, who navigate the unique challenges that face bears living in modern San Francisco. The show is a success of character humour and tone. The stories are always powered by bear’s distinct personalities, with Panda an over sensitive social media addict, Grizz always enthused past the point of logic and Ice Bear the stoic, hyper-capable housekeeper and axe thrower.
The episode Chloe And Ice Bear features recurring supporting character Chloe, a child prodigy who has befriended the bears. Chloe starts the episode cleaning up after making a packed lunch for everyone, in preparation for a day out with the bears. Only Ice Bear arrives, his brothers otherwise occupied with a videogame rage-disaster emergency (Panda is very invested), and so Chloe decides to make the day a special experience for the selfless Ice Bear.
It’s the character mix that makes this episode so special. Both Chloe and Ice Bear struggle socially but excel in other areas. Their common ground is found through their selflessness; Chloe makes sandwiches for the group and exhausts herself trying to find something Ice Bear will enjoy doing, while Ice Bear is preoccupied with carrying out tasks for his brothers. They’re both youthful characters taking on adult responsibilities.
Their eventual unlikely and hard-won connection is sweet enough, but it’s the shot of the two of them passed out asleep in the back of Chloe’s mother’s car that takes me to about the limit of what my heart can take. It takes two characters that are disconnected from their youth and makes them children again. It is a perfect moment. By Matt Edwards
Star Trek: Voyager – “You’re no longer alone”
In a story about a long, hard journey home it’s perhaps not surprising that some of Star Trek: Voyager’s most heart-warming moments come from the occasional, hard-won steps in the direction of their ultimate goal; return to Earth. This one is, however, probably the most satisfying. The episode, Message In A Bottle, is a comic delight as the Doctor works with the latest Emergency Medical Hologram model to fight Romulans, but there is no guarantee that he will be able to get a message to Starfleet; the crew have come close before, in season one’s Eye Of The Needle, and fallen at the last hurdle.
However, on this occasion, the Doctor is successful and is able to return to Voyager and give them Starfleet’s message – “You’re no longer alone”. Janeway replies, “Sixty thousand light years seems a little closer today”. By Juliette Harrisson
Frasier – “You might as well open this now”
The relationship between prim and pompous Frasier and down-to-earth dad Martin was always at the heart of Frasier’s success. The two were defined by their love-hate connection, forever battling over priorities and values, but always pulling together when it counted. The warmth each felt for the other was palpable, and was the driving force behind many of the show’s most touching moments. Season 3’s Frasier Grinch sees Frasier excited for his first Christmas with young son Frederick since his divorce from ex-wife Lilith.
When a delivery mishap forces Frasier to go toy shopping on Christmas Eve, Martin’s advice – to invest in that year’s hottest property, the Outlaw Laser Robo Geek – goes unheeded, and he returns with shopping bags packed full of educational toys. Unfortunately, later that night, Frederick goes to bed hoping that Santa will be bringing him the aforementioned Robo Geek, and Frasier is forced to realise that he’s been too prescriptive in his gift choices. In a wonderfully heart-rending moment, Dad Martin saves the day; he insists Frasier open his present early, there and then, and Frasier opens his gift box to find “just what he always wanted” – his very own Outlaw Laser Robo Geek. (“Are the batteries included?” “In the box.” “Oh, Dad!”) Frasier has the book smarts in the Crane family, but this Christmas was saved by Martin’s common sense and emotional intelligence. It never fails to bring a tear to the eye; a moment best enjoyed with a glass of Frasier-approved festive sherry, and loved ones sat close by. By Wesley Mead
Doctor Who – Night Of The Doctor
In the build up to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who the BBC had announced a mini, online-only episode was going to be released the following evening, and teasing that it would feature one Doctor out of Matt Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt. I got an email in the middle of the day saying it was being released early, and would I be able to review it? Without any real expectations from The Night Of The Doctor, I had something like a high budget TARDISode in mind.
After Paul McGann appeared playing the Doctor on screen for the first time in seventeen years, I paused the episode, and wrote an email to Louisa Mellor that read simply: OH MY ****ING GOD.
And then the Sisterhood of Karn turn up.
Part of the sheer joy of Night Of The Doctor is telling your brain that this is allowed, this is actually happening. The fact that it’s a brilliant story in its own right is a heady bonus. You get the Eighth Doctor in all his lovely, effusive pomp with a bit of post-2005 mercurial swagger thrown in, just before the universe fails him. Even then, he’s quipping against the dying of the light and demanding to be brought knitting before finally regenerating. There’s so much fun to be had here before the McGann Bang, turning into a version of genocidal version of yourself that haunts you for several lifetimes has never been such larks. By Andrew Blair
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – “ Be you. Be what you want…”
There are points in your life when you are in dark places – the reasons differ but when you are there it seems that very little will lift you out of that funk.
I had one of these very points a couple of years ago and I ended up binge-watching the first season of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The series itself is full of merits but there’s a line that felt like it was being spoken directly to me that still makes my heart swell about a thousand times when I hear it. ‘Be you. Be what you want. And then become Unbreakable.’ It’s simple but brings a tear to my eye every time! By Carley Tauchert-Hutchins
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “We’re family.”
Buffy episodes can be frenetic, as everyone steams about fighting the Big Bad, but underneath the surface is often a seam of quiet sentiment. Such is true of season five’s Family, an episode focusing on Willow and Tara’s blossoming relationship to the general perplexity of the Scooby Gang who can’t quite get a grip on who quiet Tara Maclay really is.
Demons fought, the gang meet at the Magic Box when Tara’s family arrive and denounce her as one of a long line of demonic women who mature at eighteen – that very day. Tara is visibly cowed by her bullying, emotionally manipulative family and horrified at what she thinks she is becoming.
The Gang realise that Tara has inadvertently placed them in danger trying to protect herself and she makes to leave in shame. Before she can go, Buffy steps forward to defend her with the profoundly moving statement that Tara is family. Dawn moves to her side, swiftly followed by Giles when Mr Maclay sneers that two little girls can’t stop him. The whole scene plays beautifully as person after erstwhile vengeance demon step forward to stand up for Tara. This is a very human battle with Tara’s new-found family making a stand for her. The Scooby Gang may not understand Tara yet, but they accept her. And that moment of realisation for Tara – and me – is priceless. By Jane Roberts
Futurama – “Want to go around again?”
Futurama is no stranger to a series finale; it’s had four of them, and all blend the series’ characteristic zany humour with deft emotional touches. It looks like Meanwhile will remain the final capper, though, and what a moment to end on. Professor Farnsworth has invented a time-travel device that allows the user to relive the past ten seconds. Fry steals it, and uses it to enhance his relationship with Leela. Unfortunately, Fry’s abuse of the mechanism – romantic though it is – creates all sorts of sci-fi paradoxes and quandaries, and eventually freezes time and space for all except Fry and Leela themselves. The two live out a lovely, romantic life together alone.
Decades later, when they’re elderly, the Professor is finally able to intercept spacetime and fix the device – and the universe – but he warns them that doing so will reset the universe right back to before he had invented the device. The duo reflect on their lives and decide that they’d happily choose to live through everything together once more. Their final words – as the screen fades to a white blast of energy, then to black for the credits – are simple, sweet and perfectly-judged. “Want to go around again?” “I do.” Like so many sci-fi series that hook viewers with a high concept – Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The X-Files – the core of Futurama was really in its characters, and Fry and Leela are the kind of couple whose relationship we really root for. It warms the heart completely and utterly to think that somewhere out there, they’re reliving those romantic highs and lows all over again. By Wesley Mead
Lost – The Castaways launch the raft
Lost has its fair share of uplifting moments, but one of the most powerful comes towards the end of the first season, in the cracking Exodus, Part One.
Throughout the twenty-two episodes that came before, we see the castaways form their own little society, and while the characters have reason to fear, dislike, or flat-out hate each other at times, they quickly come to realise that working together is their best chance of getting off the island alive.
So, Michael, Sawyer, and Jin build a raft big and strong enough to carry them across the sea towards possible rescue (of course, this is the second vessel, after a pesky little so-and-so torched the first). The stakes are high: there are other people on the island allegedly coming to kill them all, not to mention some kind of monster. Failure to find rescue could mean curtains for the lot of them.
After much build up, when the raft finally sets sail, it’s a beautiful, joyful moment, filled with that all-important teamwork, excitement, and oodles of hope. Of course, Michael Giacchino’s incredible score helps to create much of the scene’s emotional power, as it does so many times during the show’s six seasons. In this particular scene, he captures all the promise, hope, and optimism the characters feel, so much so you want to climb through your screen and start hugging castaways left, right, and centre.
We all know how the raft’s voyage ends, of course, but that does nothing to detract from the absolute joy this scene creates. By Kyle McManus
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers – “Guess who’s back?”
Tommy Oliver had a rough old time of it as the Green Ranger – brainwashed by Rita Repulsa, lost his powers (twice) and survived a number of one-on-one battles with the fearsome Goldar. When it came to choosing the new White Ranger, there was never anybody else in the running. The show did its best to make viewers think otherwise though, introducing red herrings and showing the other rangers inexplicably convinced Tommy wasn’t getting the new powers.
So when the rangers are summoned to the Command Centre to meet their new teammate, there’s a palpable tension as he descends from the sky. Then he undoes the clasps on his helmet, lifts it over his head and… Kimberly faints her way into an ad break. Dodgy gender politics aside, what follows is a heart-meltingly joyous moment for anyone who’s been following the saga of the troubled Tommy. “Guess who’s back!” he tells his friends as they rush to congratulate him, Zordon giving a rare chuckle in the background at the reaction to his surprise reveal.
Tommy then notices his fallen lover and rushes over to her. “Hey, beautiful. Time to wake up” he tells her, as she blinks awake. “Am I dreaming? Is it really you?” “In the flesh.” Kimberly embraces Tommy, and the crisis at hand melts away; she has her white knight in shining armour. More than that, the Power Rangers are a complete team again. In a series mostly remembered for its karate fights and giant robot battles, it’s a beautiful, emotional scene that is as affecting now as it was back in 1994. By Pete Dillon-Trenchard
Penny Dreadful – The Orderly’s promise to Vanessa
Admittedly, Penny Dreadful isn’t full of heart-warming moments, it mainly being a TV series of death and teeth. Plus, this pick comes from A Blade Of Grass, one of its most upsetting episodes, set in the Banning Asylum. In amongst all the cruelty Vanessa Ives is subjected to during it, there are glimmers of gentle kindness.
The damsel in distress being saved by the hero is a trope that always makes me want to head-butt something, as do enforced gender roles, so the orderly’s move to tenderly apply make-up to Vanessa’s face in a bid to make her feel better after water-boarding (etc.), should give me that old head-butt feeling. What the orderly says to her after removing the makeup suddenly makes the scene beautiful: “I’m sorry. One day soon, no one will touch you when you don’t want to be touched, or put make-up on you or take it off, ever, ever again.” An ally reminding a woman she’ll get her autonomy back brings on the warmest of warm feelings. No head-butting required. By Phoebe Jane-Boyd
The Office (US) – “I’m sorry, what was the question?”
The Office (UK) had a couple of moments I’d happily include on this list, primarily from the Christmas specials. The US version of The Office is a lot less real-world and a lot more heart-on-its-sleeve, not to mention massively longer, which is perhaps why it offers us a good deal more to choose from.
For a brief bit of context, Jim and Pam are the US equivalent of Tim and Dawn. They’re played by John Krasinski and Jenna Fisher, who are to be treasured forever. The moment I’ve picked here comes from the last episode of season 3.
The US Office didn’t get good until it shook off the UK version, but the moment I’ve picked here is one that runs parallel to an Office UK moment. Jim looks to be leaving for good and Pam is explaining to the camera that she’s accepted things will never come together for them, much like Tim does when he accepts that things with Dawn aren’t going to work out a couple of minutes before the end of the UK Office. The big difference is that, perhaps surprisingly, the US Office plays the payoff smaller. Jim sticks his head into the room, asks Pam on a date, Pam says yes and then smiles at the camera. Boldly, the payoff to three seasons of build-up is a single facial expression. It works, too.
You could include any number of Jim and Pam moments; their wedding, the baby news, the video, the teapot or when they were down with the Dundees (yeah, you know me), but this one is the one I thought of and it’s the one I’d put on. By Matt Edwards
Red Dwarf – “Then I say fight”
A moment that always gets me is the final scene of Red Dwarf‘s season six episode Out Of Time, which was the last show to feature input from co-creator Rob Grant. The story has the crew find a time machine, and run into themselves from 15 years in the future. They’re disgusted to see how they’ve become amoral jerks, and when a spaceship battle breaks out over ownership of the time drive, they decide to fight back.
Having spent so much getting to know and love these characters it always warms my soul to see them refuse to back down, despite facing certain death. Even Rimmer – that lovable coward – refuses to surrender. It’s emotional because that’s exactly the attitude you’d hope they have, and seeing Rimmer be heroic once he figures out how to save the day is lovely.
Sure, they technically die at the end of the episode, but thanks to some fantastically complicated time travel jargon, everything is A-Okay by the start of series seven. By Padraig Cotter
Community – That’s What Christmas Is For
Community is a series that often sneaks in heartfelt moments amongst the wacky comedy, and no scene from the show’s six-seasons-and-not-yet-a-movie proves that quite like That’s What Christmas Is For; a big musical number at the end of a stop-motion animated seasonal special, in which the principal cast have all transformed into toys within Abed’s mindscape. Somehow, despite all that silliness, this song never fails to warm the cockles of my heart.
A quick recap for the uninitiated/forgetful: the episode Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas hinges on Danny Pudi’s fan-favourite character attempting to find the true meaning of Christmas, because – as we find out towards the end – his mum doesn’t want to spend it with him this year. Abed struggles to come to terms with this, and his study group chums do their best to help by embracing his festive fantasy. Right at the end, they succeed in bringing Abed back from the brink by bursting into song.
This scene and the song within it are an example of how strong the bonds of friendship can be, and an exploration of what the festive season means to different people: it can be religious (I really love that Annie chimes in with “Christmas can even be a Hanukah thing” before Shirley gets to do her Jesus bit), it can be a videogame binge, it can be spending time with your loved ones, or, if you’re Pierce, it can be a celebration of music, cookies, liquor and trees. It’s an awesome, inclusive and – if you’re me, at least – tear-inducing moment. By Rob Leane
The West Wing – “I’ve been down here before and I know the way out”
After Josh’s co-workers become concerned by his erratic behaviour, he is forced to spend the day with a psychotherapist. After a long and revealing session, Josh is diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following his shooting at the end of the previous season.
As he walks back to his office after the exhausting day, concerned understandably for his job given the new revelations, Leo is waiting for him in the White House foyer. It’s already a kind gesture for Leo to wait around for his deputy, but it’s the touching story he then tells about a friend helping another friend out of a hole that really hits home. He’s not only showing his unwavering support to Josh, but also at the same time referencing his own troubled past and letting Josh know he’s not alone. Finally he delivers the reassurance Josh needs to hear at that time, “as long as I got a job, you got a job.” It’s a warm and poignant moment that emphasises the close-knit bond between the White House staff and demonstrates the true value of friendship. By Rob Keeling
The Office (UK) Tim and Dawn kiss
The Office’s Dawn and Tim were a true 21st-century love story: a pair of frustrated office workers hurtling into their thirties with no sense of purpose, finding solace in each other as the least intolerable people in the room. But things never worked out for them during the series, and it seemed they just weren’t meant to be.
Their big moment comes in the second of the Christmas Specials, as they’re reunited at the office party. Dawn quickly resumes her friendship with Tim, and it’s clearly the first time she’s been properly happy in months. Later, as she leaves with fiancé Lee, Dawn opens her present from Tim – a reminder never to give up on her ambitions. It’s a bittersweet ending for them, in keeping with The Office’s cynical tone.
Except it’s Christmas, the time for miracles. As Brent and Tim try to explain a joke to Gareth over the strains of Yazoo’s Only You, a tearful Dawn appears from the back of the room. She pulls Tim ever so close and gives him a kiss none of us will ever forget. It’s raw, tentative and no doubt slightly wet and snotty, and this is precisely why it hits the joy receptors so hard – it’s painfully real.
The US version of The Office lasted long enough for its Tim and Dawn – Jim and Pam – to kiss, get married, have two children and work through marriage difficulties. But what makes Tim and Dawn’s moment so powerful is that Tim and Dawn are deeply flawed characters; there’s no guarantee these two would still be together at the end of one year, let alone nine. But in this one moment, the two underdogs finally get the chance to try and make their dreams come true; it’s almost fairytale. And like all good fairytales, theirs ends with the kiss. By Pete Dillon-Trenchard
Battlestar Galactica – Starbuck’s triumphant return
Battlestar Galactica didn’t have many punch-the-air moments. It’s a story about the remnants of humanity trekking across the universe desperately seeking a new home where the intelligent androids who nuked the rest of the species won’t find them, after all; not the cheeriest of all possible narratives.
But it does have a few moments, and one of the most heartening comes at the end of season 3. As the fleet prepares to face off against attacking Cylons and several key crew members wrestle with the knowledge that they aren’t quite human, after all, Lee Adama shrugs off his lawyer drag and heads out into the black. Swirling space clouds obscure his vision, but his radar shows there’s an enemy craft stalking him. It’s a scary moment.
But then the mysterious spacecraft draws up alongside him, and it’s not a Cylon vessel at all: it’s Starbuck. Since she’s been missing and presumed dead since season 3 episode 17, it’d be thrilling enough just to see her, but then she laughs and delivers the killer line: “It’s gonna be okay. I’ve been to Earth. I know where it is, and I’m gonna take us there.”
Bear McCreary’s psychedelic cover of All Along The Watchtower swells in the background as the camera zooms out through most of the universe, then refocuses on a familiar-looking green and blue planet. It’s an incredible cliff-hanger to end the season on, and a moment of hope in a show that needs every glimmer it can get. By Sarah Dobbs
The Simpsons – “Do it for her”
The Simpsons flashback episodes are filled with heartfelt moments, but none cause a lump in the throat like as the ending to And Maggie Makes Three in the show’s sixth season.
When Bart and Lisa notice that there aren’t any pictures of Maggie in their family albums, Homer recounts a time when the family was financially secure enough that he could quit working at the nuclear power plant and take his dream job at a bowling alley. When Marge gets pregnant again, Homer literally has to go crawling back to a gloating Mr. Burns, who really rubs it in with a monstrous plaque that says “DON’T FORGET, YOU’RE HERE FOREVER” placed over his workstation. Maggie’s photos turn up in the final shot, where he needs them most, strategically arranged around the plaque to change its message to “Do It For Her”, reminding Homer why he’s really at the plant. It’s an unforgettable moment that perfectly encapsulates the sacrifice made by parents. By Rob Keeling and Mark Harrison
Doctor Who – “Give me a day like this”
Steven Moffat’s first two-parter The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances was the last Doctor Who story Christopher Eccleston filmed, which is why it arguably boasts his best performance as the Doctor. It’s capped with a beautiful scene, after all seems lost, in which young mother Nancy confronts the titular child and admits that she’s his mother, and it’s only by a fluke of weird science that the naughty nanogenes that created him realise what’s up.
This isn’t the first Doctor Who story in which “everybody lives”, but after being plagued by death on so many adventures, the Doctor’s rapturous response is Eccleston’s finest hour. By Mark Harrison
Buffy The Vampire Slayer – “Buffy Summers: Class Protector”
“Every now and then, people surprise you.” And every now and then, a show as quip-loving as Buffy The Vampire can knock you sideways with a show of tender sincerity.
Buffy’s continued struggle with her inability to be like other girls (and fit in in this glittering world) is compounded by a break-up in season three’s The Prom. Instead of wallowing, the Chosen One’s pain stiffens her resolve to give her friends a nice, fun, normal evening, even if she has to kill every single person on the face of the earth to do it.
Nothing so drastic is required, and after dispatching a few Hell-Hounds, Buffy is finally able to join her friends at prom, where she’s surprised by two wonderful gestures. One is her classmates acknowledging her as-yet-unspoken role as their protector, the other is Angel’s surprise appearance.
Nice as the second one is, it’s the first that touches me. In an episode full of moving moments—the break-up, Giles awkwardly offering “ice-cream of some kind”, Xander settling the payment on Cordy’s dress—Sunnydale High’s 1999 Senior Class graciously paying tribute to the girl who’s ensured it has the lowest mortality rate ever is the most heartening. By Louisa Mellor