Reviews

Sitcom Nostalgia Is On Tap In 'TV Sets: Christmas Treats'

The set may be uneven, but there is a nostalgic charm and unpretentiousness that makes it fun, nonetheless.


TV Sets: Christmas Treats

Distributor: Paramount
Release date: 2010-11-02

TV Sets: Christmas Treats is a compilation of nine Christmas-themed episodes of television shows from the '60s to the '80s. This is the second set in this series, following 2008’s Holiday Treats release, and it includes episodes from The Beverly Hillbillies, The Lucy Show, Petticoat Junction, Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Cheers, and Love, American Style. Unfortunately, the quality of these episodes varies wildly.

As with the first set, the episodes included here run the gamut between stories that are explicitly about Christmas to those in which Christmas serves as a mere backdrop. Of those that include Christmas as the main plot, again, the quality varies. The Beverly Hillbillies continues its country bumpkin routine when neighbors, the Drysdales, give the Clampetts gifts that they don’t understand. Ranging from a television set to a wet suit, the gifts are all greeted with the same ridiculous misunderstanding. The series essentially revolves around one joke and it wears thin in this episode.

Mork & Mindy also deals with the holiday in a similar manner as The Beverly Hillbillies, as it’s Mork’s first Christmas. Here the jokes are a little more successful and there are some funny moments dealing with Mindy’s rival Susan and her self-involvement, but for the most part the episode is a series of misunderstandings that lead to embarrassment for Mork and an excuse for Robin Williams to be over-the-top.

Petticoat Junction and The Odd Couple also center on Christmas stories, but somewhat more successfully. Petticoat Junction offers a classic television story that involves a Christmas tradition in danger of being stopped by a Scrooge-like corporate type uninterested in the frivolous custom. Mr. Bedloe is obsessed with stopping the decorating of the train for Christmas, but of course in the end his plans are foiled and Mr. Bedloe is along for the ride.

The Odd Couple takes a more straightforward approach to the Scrooge character in having Felix as director of A Christmas Carol and his attempts to get Oscar to play Scrooge. Oscar’s refusal and general dislike of the holiday are taken to ridiculous lengths such as when he kicks Felix out of their apartment. Oscar has a change of heart and by the end his anti-Christmas stance is no more. Felix and Oscar’s gift exchange may be the best part of the episode as it is both very funny and oddly touching.

The Lucy Show and Laverne & Shirley offer the most successful holiday episodes in keeping the overall tone of the series while adding in a Christmas story that feels authentic to the characters. In The Lucy Show, Lucy and Viv decide to spend Christmas together instead of going to their respective families’ celebrations. Immediately conflict ensues and they argue about everything from the Christmas meal to the type of tree and decorations. Their opposite traditions lead to a scene that has the two silently destroying each other’s trees all while their children are soon approaching with carolers. It’s a classic silent comedy moment that highlights the chemistry between the two, as well as their impeccable timing.

The Laverne & Shirley plot revolves around the Pizza Bowl’s tradition of serving the homeless at Christmas. When Laverne’s father doesn’t have the money to provide the Christmas dinner, Laverne, Shirley, and Carmine set out to raise money by caroling on a street corner. The running joke of the episode is Laverne’s off-tune singing and Shirley’s attempts to ignore or minimize how bad it is. In the end, things come together, albeit unconventionally, and the homeless get their Christmas dinner. The gift exchange between Laverne and Shirley at the end of the episode, like the one in The Odd Couple is a highlight in its silliness.

As for the episodes with a cursory mention of the holidays, Happy Days, Love, American Style, and Cheers all take place at Christmastime, but offer little else in terms of holiday story. Happy Days certainly adheres to the time of year with the buying of a Christmas tree and decorations abounding, but the episode is really about Richie’s obsession with a girl in a poster and the elaborate story he creates in order to meet her. It’s a sweet, if slightly creepy premise, but one that maintains the feel of the show.

Love, American Style is set during a Christmas party, but is really a comedy of errors involving a flower delivery man, spilled Christmas punch, and a jealous husband. It’s more about the slapstick than anything related to Christmas, but it has some charm. Cheers offers up a solid episode about a man who comes into the bar and tells one lie after another. His attempts to come off as a spy, then a poet are met with suspicion and humor. There is little in the episode to remind the viewer that it’s Christmas, but because of the quality of the series, it’s a satisfying one anyway.

In the end, while the level of holiday story may fluctuate throughout the set, the success of the best episodes still lies in the overall quality of the show. TV Sets: Christmas Treats may be uneven, but there is a nostalgic charm and unpretentiousness that makes it fun, nonetheless. It’s certainly not essential, but still a nice diversion.

6

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