The Rise of the Diwali Episode on American TV

Since The Office’s 2006 “Diwali” episode, many have tried — though not all have succeeded — in depicting the annual celebration.

Ishani Nath

October 22, 2022

The Rise of the Diwali Episode on American TV
Sarah Jessica Parker and Sarita Choudhury in the "Diwali" episode (HBO Max)

“OK, these clothes, this holiday, I need to know everything about it.”

That’s what And Just Like That’s Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) says as she walks into an upscale South Asian boutique to help her realtor, Seema Patel, shop for a Diwali outfit. As one Twitter user pointed out, despite being 55 and living in New York City, home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of South Asian Americans, where Diwali is a big enough deal that it is becoming a city-wide public school holiday in 2023, Carrie somehow remained blissfully ignorant of the annual celebration. In response, Seema (Sarita Choudhury) takes a quick inhale and recites a familiar explanation, “In India, Diwali is a Hindu celebration of light triumphing over dark.”

Holiday episodes on TV, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even Halloween, are typically a way to boost ratings, bring in A-list cameos (hello Brad Pitt in Friends), and set the scene for some good ol’ plot-driving conflict. Diwali, too, seems to have joined this list of holiday celebrations in recent years — from Mindy Kaling’s iconic episode in The Office (2006) to NBCs Outsourced (2010); animated series Mira, the Royal Detective(2020);and the much-maligned episode of Sex and the City spinoff And Just Like That(2022). For the most part, Diwali episodes fit neatly into this holiday format — but with added responsibility.