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Favorite Christmas Episodes

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Gary OS, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. Ron1973

    Ron1973 Beverly Hillbilles nut extraordinaire

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    I just got done watching the McHale's Navy episode and watched another one after it. It appears the whole series is still up on YouTube.
     
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  2. Message #722 of 884 Dec 8, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
    MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    I honestly thought that concept worked better when Family Ties did it in its second season ("A Keaton Christmas Carol", S2E9, 12/14/1983). Making Alex the proxy for Scrooge was the most obvious choice, but having a younger character standing in for a part usually played by older actors was at least a welcome change. The actual plot beats are the same as they ever were, and this time his two younger sisters (!) are the ghosts. One wishes the show had taken greater advantage of its recurring cast this week. It would have been less effective to use Steve and Elyse for this purpose, but who else were they going to use? Andrew wasn't born yet, Nick hadn't joined the show yet, Skippy is nowhere to be found (presumably celebrating with his own family next door), none of the Keatons' relatives came to visit, and neither of Alex's long-term girlfriends have entered the picture yet. But making the ghosts younger along with Scrooge turns it even more into a pre-emptive warning about his potential future than regret for a misspent past that has yet to really happen yet. Still, I liked their later Christmas episode better: "Miracle in Columbus," S6E17, 12/20/1987, in which Alex gets a job as a Mall Santa. There, he gets job advice from a more established Santa (the late Pete Schrum, better known as Uncle Ed from the "I sure deserve it" years of Gimme A Break!*). None of that prepares him for the ultimate test to the spirit of the season: a girl who asks Santa to bring her father back.

    WKRP was at its best with another holiday, of course: Thanksgiving. That allowed them to use their imaginations rather than shoehorn characters into an established template set by an iconic story.

    The most memorable condensation of Dickens also came in 1983, not from a sitcom, but from a Disney animated cartoon: Mickey's Christmas Carol. Based on a 1975 storybook record and originally intended for TV, it became a theatrical featurette paired with The Rescuers' reissue that year since that was also about mice. Like most of his post-war outings up until his recent Disney Channel revival, Mickey himself is a supporting player in a story that's all about Scrooge McDuck, taking Bob Cratchit's place. Seeing a mouse used as the international symbol of joy, happiness, and love in mourning for a (future) dead child is heart-wrenching. Goofy plays Jacob Marley, making the idea of him dying and going to Hell an even more chilling thought than even Dickens himself could have imagined. Those aspects of the story are the ones sitcom homages never even scratch the surface of. The great pleasure is seeing ancillary Disney characters who seldom appear outside their respective films in cameos. It did strike me as odd that Daisy Duck, playing the role of Scrooge's ex-girlfriend (the character who sang the cut-then-restored-then-cut song in the Muppet version a decade later), has actual dialogue while Minnie Mouse, playing Mrs. Cratchit, does not. Part of this is because they only had 25 minutes to tell the story. This would be the last year Walt Disney's family controlled the company, and the message was seemingly lost on those to whom they passed the torch.** The best way to see it is the long-OOP Walt Disney Treasures DVD set Mickey Mouse In Living Color: Volume 2; the Blu-ray version is a smeary mess and it discards the wonderful making-of documentary, present on every video release before it from 1984 onwards, that shows one last look at Walt Disney Productions before Michael Eisner took it over. It's amazing how much changed in such a short time.***

    *A year before joining that show, Joey Lawrence was a guest star on a Silver Spoons episode entitled "The Best Christmas Ever" (S1E13, 12/18/1982). His character, also named Joey, is the son of a laid-off Eddie Toys employee (Hec Ramsey co-star Richard Lenz), and their family has to live in a cave because of it. Joey's recent real-life financial crisis makes this episode eerily prescient in hindsight. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence!
    **They now own the movie Wall Street. That's right, America: Gordon Gekko is a Disney character.
    ***2019, the year Disney+ began, has the same Chinese Zodiac Calendar sign as 1983, the year The Disney Channel began. I'm convinced this has long factored into Disney's decision-making process.
     
  3. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Got "It's A Wonderful Life" out of the way today. I think up to a year or two ago, I went twenty years without seeing the film due to so much overexposure in the 80s and 90s.
     
  4. Message #724 of 884 Dec 8, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
    MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Married with Children did an episode where Al and Peg try to find something else to watch. Their Christmas episodes were usually pretty funny because they managed to cut through the sappiness and forced cheer of the worst episodes/specials. That particular one, "The Worst Noel," (S8E13, 12/19/1993), which Amanda Bearse directed, was around the same time Republic Pictures claimed the copyright on the screenplay so they could use that technicality to sell the broadcast rights to NBC. I never actually saw the film until the end of the 1990s when it made its DVD debut; I watched it in May.

    My favorite MwC Christmas episodes are the hour-long "It's A Bundyful Life" (S4E11/12, 12/17/1989, concurrent with The Simpsons Christmas Special that started its run as a regular series) with Al's updated version of "The Night Before Christmas" and the first to feature Ted McGinley (as Peg's alternate reality husband), and "You Better Watch Out" (S2E13, 12/20/1987), in which a mall Santa meets with a bad end on the Bundys' porch. The latter was the last episode produced before Coca-Cola folded Embassy Communications into Columbia Pictures Television*.

    *Regardless of ratings when they were new, everything Sony inherited from the former Norman Lear library except Sanford and Son and Good Times was stopped cold before they reached the finish line. Nothing else got past season 6. MwC, made when Lear was long out of the picture but his old writers and producers stayed put at what used to be Embassy, was mostly produced under Sony's ownership, which is one reason why they had more interest in actually finishing it.
     
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  5. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    @Professor Echo and @Gary OS - thanks for the recommendations, I grabbed one from each of your lists and look forward to getting in the Christmas spirit earlier than usual this year. (I’ve found some old Christmas radio shows from the 1950s that I’ve been listening to the past few nights as well, an Our Miss Brooks episode and a Roy Rogers one as well. Good stuff.)
     
  6. Message #726 of 884 Dec 9, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
    Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    YouTube appears to be a goldmine of classic Christmas episodes too, Josh. I watched the following last night:

    Happy Days - 2.11 "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas"
    Growing up, I couldn't stand this show, but when watching some of these early season episodes recently, I've been surprised at how much I've enjoyed them. This one is no exception, as Richie and his family take steps to convince the proud Fonzie, who has nowhere to go for Christmas, to join their family for the holiday. Funny and moving, and Henry Winkler shows what a good actor he could be when given something meatier to do.

    Highway Patrol
    - 1.39 "Christmas Story"
    A neglected wife decides to leave her workaholic husband before Christmas and takes their 6-year-old daughter with her. On the way to her sister's, they stay overnight at a roadside motel, but in the morning, the little girl has vanished. Enter big Dan Matthews (Broderick Crawford) and his Highway Patrol crew to track the missing girl down. No downer of an ending here, as order is restored with the help of a kindly Mission Santa Claus (Elmore Vincent). There's a nice little nod to the fantastical at the close, when Matthews offers the frail-looking Santa a ride back to town, and the man responds, "No thanks. I've got my own means of transportation," and exits stage left.

    The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - 2.14 "The Ghost of Christmas Past"
    While I'm quite familiar with the classic 1940s film, I had never seen any of this late '60s sitcom version - until now. The plot of this one is all over the place, trying to pack in a misplaced baby storyline, a hyper-condensed riff on A Christmas Carol (with Charles Nelson Reilly's money-grubbing Claymore in the Scrooge role) and an extended dream sequence which flashes back 100 years in the past, where the Captain (Edward Mulhare) is alive and able to romance widow Mrs. Muir (Hope Lange). It's a bit of a mess, really, but what the hey...the kids are cute, Mulhare is suave, Lange is sweet and pretty, and Charles Nelson Reilly brings the funny, so it all goes down easily enough.

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Lead Actor

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    It may be a bit depressing, but "Death Takes a Holiday" season 9 M*A*S*H episode is pretty good.
     
  8. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    It's frustrating that "Ghost And Mrs. Muir" is one of the few rerun-staple 60s sitcoms I remember that has never made it to DVD in this region. My memories of it are so strong its the reason I've never been able to connect well with the more famous movie version.
     
  9. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Jack, all episodes appear to be on YouTube, seemingly uncut (at around 25 minutes) and looking sharp.

     
  10. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Great picks, Jeff.
     
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  11. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    My two are the "Santa" from the first season of Amazing Stories and the Christmas episode from the first season of Newhart.
     
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  12. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    50's and 60's Westerns and, to a lesser extent, sitcoms have consistently offered the most enjoyable Christmas episodes in my collection. With that in mind I have recently watched:

    The Mary Tyler Moore Show - "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II". One of my favorite holiday episodes, even though the show itself is not one I revisit often. This 1st season offering is 100% Christmas from start to finish, as opposed to some Yuletide episodes which only use the season as a backdrop for a story that could often take place at other times of the year. There are many standout moments, including Lou having to decide the amount to write in on a Christmas gift in the form of a personal check he accidentally left blank, all in front of Mary; Rhoda's protest that since Mary is working on Christmas Eve she'll have to "go out in the snow and light matches"; and some fun banter between Phyllis, Rhoda and Mary about presents. This one is Highly Recommended in my book.

    Big Valley - "Judgment in Heaven". A decent episode from the 1st season of this series that I believe has already been mentioned, so I'll leave it at that. Recommended

    Tales of Wells Fargo - "Laredo". Hardie tracks gunrunners to Mexico and becomes involved with a family who's husband/father has been shot and teeters between life and death. A great spot at the end where the Mexican family sings 'Silent Night' in Spanish while Hardie sings it in English. Highly Recommended

    Tales of Wells Fargo - "The Happy Tree". Hardie is asked by a man about to be hung to try and reform his young son from following in his footsteps. Not quite as Christmassy as the first one, but still decent and worth a look. Recommended

    Partridge Family - "Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa". The family, heading back home for the holidays from a gig have the bus break down in a ghost town, where one elderly man lives alone. Good stuff. Highly Recommended

    Gary "with only two weeks left until Christmas, it's time to pick up my viewing for real" O.
     
  13. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Annie Christmas Show-12/3/77 (NBC)
    -This is an interesting item that offers a reminder of how "Annie" was the last Broadway musical to *ever* become a big national phenomenon during its original run in the way Broadway classics like "My Fair Lady" etc. became national phenomenon in the 50s and 60s. After a decade of tuneless rock musicals, "Annie" was a legitimate throwback to old-school Broadway with a simple, engaging storyline, a big national hit song ("Tomorrow") and a popular cast album. In the late 70s a lot of people were familiar with the name of Andrea McArdle who played "Annie" in the original production (and one of the replacement Annies was 11 year old Sarah Jessica Parker).

    -Because the show had become a hit and because the musical it set during the Christmas season, NBC produced this special utilizing the Broadway cast. It revolves around a silly conceit of how the cast of "Annie" wants to have a Christmas party at the theater but the tight-fisted theater owner (played by cast member Raymond Thorne, who was FDR in the musical) won't let them unless the four stage unions approve so we get four musical/variety scenes of the cast trying to convince the "unions" to go along but they are running into resistance. Then, after a Christmas Eve matinee performance (in which we get to see ten minutes of excerpts from the musical, including the entire "Tomorrow" number) all is revealed well as the theater owner reveals the unions were just kidding and there's going to be a big Christmas party!

    -If you saw "Annie" on Broadway as I did twice, this brings back some nostalgia. The special is ultimately very thin gruel as a special and its novelty is how it captures a snapshot of the original cast in a way that TV was no longer doing in the late 70s with the demise of the "Ed Sullivan Show" (which was always the greatest outlet for seeing Broadway musical cast members do preview bits from what was running) and the Tonight Show no longer doing road trips back to New York. Other than the Tony Awards, you never could see anything, and that's the value of this. ("Annie" I would note as a musical, has one unfortunate flaw, and that's the fact that the creative team behind it chose to alter the original political subtext of the comic strip into something that suited their own personal agendas, a gesture that is approved of if it's done the "right" way, but would be denounced if it was ever done in the other direction. It's only because of the strength of the basic storyline in the classic Broadway tradition and the great score that this doesn't sabotage the final effort).

    -Dorothy Loudon, who had been Carol Burnett's replacement on the "Garry Moore Show" in the early 1960s had always been toiling in her shadow, since she had nothing but a string of flops on Broadway all through the 60s and 70s until finally, "Annie" gave her a big hit as the evil Miss Hannegan. The special allows Loudon to show off her musical skills outside the Hannegan role.
     
  14. Message #734 of 884 Dec 9, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
    MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    What's ironic about Annie going back to pre-WWII pop for inspiration is that composer Charles Strouse's early career did involve rock music — at least the way it was before The Beatles went to India — since in addition to Bye Bye Birdie, which is not so much a rock musical as a musical about it, he also wrote this little ditty from 1958:



    This is one of my favorites from season 1, too, and one of the drawbacks of the DVDs was that this episode loses Mary singing along with "White Christmas" on TV at the office and responding "for my next selection, I think I'm gonna cry." The MTM Home Video VHS version had it*.

    Another from the MTM archive that isn't even on DVD at all, but that got a VHS release in the 1990s: St. Elsewhere's 1985 Christmas episode "Santa Claus is Dead" (S4E11, 12/18/1985). Dr. Axelrod loses a patient: the man playing Santa for the children at the hospital. He told one of the other doctors, "I had a nightmare last night. I dreamed I killed Big Bird and a bunch of children chased me down Sesame Street!" In light of the recent death of Carroll Spinney, and in light of the fate of the character on the show and actor Stephen Furst** in real-life, that just came to mind. Chad Allen is in it as Tommy Westphall. At the time this episode aired, he was also playing a recurring character named Rob Whitaker on ABC's Webster. Two other guest stars in this episode: Alison Sweeney (later of Days of Our Lives and The Biggest Loser) and Danny McMurphy, were also guest stars there. McMurphy appeared in 8 episodes of the sitcom as a character named Andy. Aaron Fletcher, who played Santa here, played a less ill-fated one on the Christmas episode of the short-lived All in the Family spinoff Gloria.

    *A Christmas episode of The Jeffersons used it when a choir of children sang it in the hallway outside the apartment to get George's goat; I can't remember which one it was, only that it was an episode aired before Zara Cully died and that Sony paid the licensing fee for it.
    **He went to college at the same place as my Mother.
     
  15. Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    Couple quickies tonight since this was a bit of a heavy work day (frustrating when you get behind pace and you worry you're not going to get enough in this season!)

    Honeymooners-"Twas The Night Before Christmas"
    -Hadn't seen this in a few years with its semi-"Gift Of The Magi" resolution. I can remember my first exposure to this on WPIX in the late 70s and into the 80s and WPIX *always* cut the opening scene with Alice and Trixie, which meant I never heard Trixie reveal what Norton gave her for Christmas. Consequently for many years I didn't get the audience laughter when Ralph reveals his new gift to Alice which was because it was the *same* gift Trixie got!

    Highway Patrol, S1-"Christmas Story".
    -I thank this thread for making me aware of it so I could get this one in for what was probably the first time. Interesting that it's listed as #39 (final episode of the season) in the production schedule which means it obviously didn't first air at Christmas time or got held back until it's second season!
     
  16. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    Laramie - "A Sound of Bells". Slim & Jess take in a stagecoach full of people being attacked by Indians on Christmas Eve. Some great guest stars, including Dick Foran and Ross Martin. Highly Recommended

    Man from U.N.C.L.E. - "The Jingle Bells Affair". Great episode about a foreign (Soviet Union type) diplomat learning the true meaning of Christmas. Great mix of both the secular and sacred aspects of the season. Highly Recommended

    Gary "keep the reviews coming, guys" O.
     
  17. MartinP.

    MartinP. Supporting Actor

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    :rolleyes:

     
  18. Message #738 of 884 Dec 10, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2019
    Jack P

    Jack P Producer

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    It's not an inaccurate point. The creators of "Annie" openly boasted of what they did and how it was intentional on their part.
     
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  19. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Thanks for mentioning these Tales of Wells Fargo episodes, Gary! Reminds me that I really need to pick up the S1 & 2 DVD set soon.
     
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  20. Gary OS

    Gary OS Producer

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    You definitely want to pick those up, Jeff. It’s a great western that’s often overlooked.

    Gary “and both Christmas episodes are solid” O.
     
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