TV Sets: Holiday Treats

Jessica Suarez

The episodes range from classic variations on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi to, as in the case of Taxi, only a cursory attempt to include holiday content.

TV Sets: Holiday Treats

Director: Various
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA rating: Unrated
US DVD Release Date: 2008-10-07
First date: 2008

TV Sets: Holiday Treats is comprised of eight Christmas-themed episodes from various television series that span the 1950s to 1990s. The episodes range from classic variations on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi to storylines focused on depression during the holidays to, as in the case of the Taxi episode, only a cursory attempt to include holiday content.

The best episodes on the disc are classics from I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, as well as Family Ties. The weakest episodes are from the mediocre Wings and surprisingly, from the frequently smart Frasier. In between, the collection is rounded out by The Brady Bunch, The Andy Griffith Show, and Taxi

Unsurprisingly, the I Love Lucy episode has held up wonderfully. The episode revolves around Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred reminiscing as they finish their Christmas preparations. The flashbacks are all very funny, but the one that stands out focuses on Ricky, Ethel, and Fred rehearsing their roles in getting Lucy to the hospital in time to give birth. They calmly practice and are ready, yet when the moment actually occurs, they fall into a panic. A fairly common convention used in sitcoms and movies today, this moment is still laugh-out-loud funny and showcases the program’s consistently high level of quality.

The Honeymooners offers an O. Henry spin on Ralph and Alice’s gift exchange, complete with misunderstandings and a joke that carries through the entire episode. The cast even breaks out of character at the end to wish the live audience a Happy Holidays. The Andy Griffith Show and Family Ties both do retellings of A Christmas Carol, although The Andy Griffith Show mainly employs the use of an Ebenezer Scrooge-like character rather than a fuller interpretation.

Family Ties offers a more traditional treatment complete with ghosts of Christmas past and future. The Family Ties episode is a great example of what made the show so consistently good. As always, Alex is the one family member reluctant to buy into any sentimentality – Christmas being no exception – yet in the end he reconciles his own skepticism with his family’s optimism without becoming sappy.

On the other hand, The Brady Bunch episode offers an almost sickeningly sweet story. Carol loses her voice just as she’s preparing to perform her solo at the Christmas service. Cindy asks a department store Santa for only one thing: the return of her mother’s voice. Of course in the end her voice returns just in time to perform her solo. Yes, the episode is overwrought and corny, but its kitsch value should not be underestimated and it’s still fun to watch. Since the DVD skews towards older shows, there is a simplicity and innocence to the collection that is very much in keeping with a large amount of the usual holiday-themed programming. In fact, most of the episodes included are of long-running series and the majority of the episodes come from their early seasons.

While the Taxi episode may be holiday-themed, with talk of Christmas parties and children caroling, the story really centers on Louie’s deadbeat, gambler brother’s return. In other words, while it is clear that the episode takes place during the holidays, the episodes itself is not about the holidays. It retains Taxi’s classic cynicism and sarcastic humor, a departure from the other programs included in this collection.

Possibly the most out of place inclusion is the Wings episode. It already stands out as the weakest series in the bunch and the episode chosen does little to dispel this notion. The episode revolves around Christmas plans falling through for most of the characters, so they decide to surprise and spend the holiday with fellow co-worker, Fay. Unbeknownst to them, Fay is still mourning the recent death of her husband and had made no plans to celebrate. Lame attempts at humor are made and in the end closure for Fay is achieved, yet there is little that ties the episode to the rest of the collection in tone or quality.

Fans of any of the shows included, will surely be happy with the episodes chosen (although I imagine there are better Frasier episodes that could have made the cut). As for bonus features, unfortunately, there are none to speak of. However, the DVD does include a series of vintage seasonal CBS promotional clips shown in between the episodes that add a little something extra to the collection.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.