I think about Christmas episodes a lot this time of the year. I’ve also been watching some Christmas episodes, but mostly just Teen Titans Go! and The Simpsons so far. I’ll get around to some of the other classics. These episodes tend to be sillier and funnier, especially Teen Titans Go!, which doesn’t ever do pathos. However, a Christmas episode from another show struck me today, and it’s from the classic sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Like many sitcoms, they did multiple Christmas episodes, but I primarily remember the one from the first season, “Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II.” Also, it’s weird that this episode was titled that because “Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid” is a That Girl episode that was written by James L. Brooks. Maybe he didn’t imagine a world where people remembered and cataloged TV episode titles. This is the first season, so Mary Richards is still new to everybody, including at work. Some Christmas episodes are silly or uplifting. This one is quite melancholy.
Mary knows she is going to have to work on Christmas Day. Somebody has to be in the newsroom in case something big comes across the wire, and to do some other work in the interim. However, Mary is usually cheerful, and she’s got plans for the holiday nevertheless, and is going to see her family on Christmas Eve. Alas, as the low person on the totem pole, Mary finds out she has to work on Christmas Eve as well. She has to cancel on her family. WJM needs somebody there on the evening of Christmas Eve, and it comes down to Mary.
There’s a big chunk of the episode that is just Mary alone in the office at night. There is Christmas décor up, but that only adds to her loneliness and isolation. She tries to enjoy some of the festive elements of Christmas, but it’s a little hard for her. It’s genuinely stark and moving. Of course, in the end Murray and Lou and the gang feel bad for her and leave their own Christmas Eve plans to stop by the office to wish Mary well and to give her some gifts. Granted, at first Mary things there is an intruder in the building, but that adds to the humor in this case.
“Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II” was named by TV Guide as the best Christmas episode ever back in the day. I wouldn’t say that, but it is a really good episode, and one of my favorites of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It also feels fitting in 2020. Granted, many of us have been going into places of work a lot less, and a lot of us are working from home. We haven’t been in an office in months. There will be more isolation this year. Holiday parties aren’t happening (or shouldn’t be). We are collectively Mary Richards all alone in a newsroom trying to pass the time. In the end, though, she gets to see her friends. In the end we will as well. If you want a Christmas episode that hits a little harder right now, this one is on my watch list.