9 TV Episodes That Pay Homage to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ & Where to Watch Them

TV Shows

Those annual airings of the James Stewart classic It’s a Wonderful Life have had an effect: Many a TV show has paid homage to the 1946 film with a special episode. What are the ingredients? A main character who wonders what would have happened if they’d never been around, a guardian angel to provide the answer—and a haywire alternate history. Here are some of our favorite life changers.

1. Mork & Mindy (May 3, 1979)

In “It’s a Wonderful Mork,” the title alien (Robin Williams) stays on planet Ork—and his would-be Earthling friends suffer. Mindy (Pam Dawber) is wed to a gambler named Cliff. “I hope you fall off your name!” Mork sputters.

Pluto TV, Prime Video

2. Moonlighting (December 16, 1986)

What if Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) had never kept Blue Moon Investigations open? “It’s a Wonderful Job” reveals it would have turned into the Hart detective agency (yes, as in Hart to Hart).


3. Night Court (February 27, 1991)

“Hey Harry, F’Crying Out Loud—It Is a Wonderful Life…Sorta” sends the judge (Harry Anderson) to a B&W courtroom presided over not by Harry T. Stone—but by corrupt Dan Fielding (John Larroquette).

Friday, December 1, 9/8c, Catchy Comedy; Freevee

4. Dallas (May 3, 1991)

With a gun in his hand, J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) contemplates suicide in “Conundrum.” Then Adam (Joel Grey) steps in to show him a J.R.-less world—Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is a soap star!

Freevee, Prime Video

Tom Jones and Will Smith in 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

5. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (February 8, 1993)

“The Alma Matter” boasts the coolest guardian angel: a singing Tom Jones.

Hulu, Max, Paramount+

6. The Simpsons (December 9, 1993)

Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta)—smitten with a fellow aficionado of beer, doughnuts, naps and TV (Michelle Pfeif­fer)—sees what his life would be like without Marge (Julie Kavner) in “The Last Temptation of Homer.”

Tuesday, December 5, 1/noon c, FXX; Disney+

7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (December 8, 1998)

“Better get in before the sun sets,” warns one local. In “The Wish,” bloodsuckers—some from the Scooby Gang!—run amok when Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) isn’t there to stake ’em.


Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Michelle Gellar-'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'

20th Century Fox Licensing/Merchandising / Everett Collection

8. Friends (February 17, 2000)

Suppose Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) hadn’t fled her wedding: “The One That Could Have Been” depicts wildly different futures for the group—like Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) as a cigarette-puffing corporate shark and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) buying into his soap stud status.

Wednesday, November 29, 7:30am/6:30c and 8am/7c, TBS; Max

9. The Big Bang Theory (December 12, 2013)

“The Cooper Extraction” takes Sheldon (Jim Parsons) out of the equation (he’s in Texas) and offers what-ifs. Could Leonard (Johnny Galecki) have found the nerve to ask out Penny (Kaley Cuoco)?

Sunday, December 24, 6:30/5:30c, TBS; Max

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