Monday night marks the beginning of Passover, when Jewish families get together for a Thanksgiving-like meal with extended family. But unlike Thanksgiving, Passover has no NFL football, Macy's Day parade, or Charlie Brown specials to watch and use as an excuse to ignore your family. But there are still plenty of Passover TV specials out there. We're here to break them down into the best of the best. When you want your family to stop kvetching, turn on these episodes to get in the spirit.
4. Gossip Girl
"No tradition is sacred," booms the trailer for the episode that revolves around a Passover seder. As with everything Gossip Girl, the episode is full of ridiculous upper-class drama and unintentional comedy from over-the-top acting. (If you haven't watched, Gossip Girl is like the proto-Scandal.) It's no classic, but there are some giggles. "I don't even know how to say half the words in this prayer-book that's named after Lieberman's wife," the mother says, citing Haggadah v. Hadassah.
3. 'Shalom' Sesame Street
These specially-made Shalom Sesame were a Sesame Street knockoff made to introduce kids to Judaism, and they are adorable. The songs aren't particularly good, but props to the mensch who came up with the "Les Matzarables" pun that is the basis for this song. But the best part? The episode of "Jerusalem Jones and the Lost Afikoman" from 1990 stars a young Sarah Jessica Parker. Dressed in Indiana Jones gear, she goes back in time to learn about Passover along with her creepy porcupine pal.
The show was a go-to for Jewish day schools when teachers didn't actually feel like doing anything in the days before the holiday. One warning, though: Do not watch this late at night. That porcupine still gives me nightmares.
2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
'The Seder' episode is perfect in its mix of random Larry David-isms into a too-real account of actual Passover seders. In the episode, David invites a neighborhood sex offender played by Rob Corddry without a place to go into his home for the seder, because "What would Jesus do?" Corddry's character obviously causes some enjoyable conflict among the David family.
But the best parts come from the hyper-realism of the rest of the seder. Jews everywhere will recognize those awful yellowed Haggadahs in their hands. Then there is the hiding of the afikomen, with accusations that a child cheated to win that single dollar reward by getting inside information. Larry David understands the Jewish American experience.
1. Rugrats Passover
Was there ever any doubt? The Rugrats Passover episode is the greatest of the great, and that bright orange VHS tape is probably still sitting near my home TV. The babies and Grandpa Boris get trapped in the attic, and he tells them the story of Moses, with Tommy and crew recreating it in their imagination. Tommy is Moses, Angelica is Pharaoh, and the rest of the crew fills in the side characters. "Let my babies go!" he demands.
The show was an immediate hit, the best-rated show in Nickelodeon's early history and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award. And it's actually decently accurate, at least in spirit if not from the book of Exodus. The episode remains embedded in my head, from Chuckie accidentally building the pyramid upside-down to the failure to let their bread rise past matzah. Take 20 minutes out of your Passover seder and give the episode a watch again. You won't regret it.