Friday, February 26, 2021

The Subversive Pleasure of Watching Christmas Shows After Christmas


March is right around the corner, but this week I watched two classic Christmas episodes: “The Angel’s Sweater” (Father Knows Best) and “The Voice of Christmas” (The Brady Bunch). 



Why? Because I can remember a time when doing so wasn’t possible. 


I think you would have to be over the age of 50 to understand the satisfaction that comes with watching a Christmas show out of season.


Until the first videocassette recorders hit the consumer market, watching any episode of television – especially a Christmas episode – was often a one and done experience. Holiday shows were rarely rerun over the summer, and usually left out of the line-up when that show went into syndication.


That’s why, even after decades of watching The Brady Bunch in reruns, I did not see “The Voice of Christmas” until sometime after the year 2000. That’s more than a decade after A Very Brady Christmas aired in 1988.


When I watched it the other day, I remembered as I always do what it felt like to finally see it during a holiday marathon on TV Land, and what a treat it was to experience a “new” episode of this show so many years after it ended. 



I enjoyed every moment: Carol’s excitement over singing a solo in church jeopardized by a sudden case of laryngitis; the Brady boys trying to shove a huge Christmas tree through the front door, until their dad shows them an easier way; Mike, confident that he lived in a healthy, functioning society, leaving his six year-old daughter alone in a department store while she waits to meet Santa; that greedy little brat in line next to her, with his pretentious ascot and his mile-long want list. Cindy’s shining blue eyes after Santa promises her mommy will get her voice back in time: “He’s better than a doctor. He’s Santa Claus.”



From the opening scene of Alice wrapping presents to Florence Henderson’s rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” it’s everything I could have wanted from a holiday episode of a Comfort TV classic.


“The Angel’s Sweater” is another standout Christmas episode, which I saw for the first time when the third season of Father Knows Best was released on DVD. It features a lovely and even profound fairy tale within the story (written by Roswell Rogers) that begins in the Anderson home with the pending arrival of Jim’s sister Neva. 



It’s apparent from the reactions of his family that this is one of those annual holiday relative visits that happens more out of obligation than preference: Neva is a dour woman who no sooner arrives than she starts complaining about “kids running around” during her travels. Kathy bears the brunt of Neva’s barely-suppressed anxiety around children. After the inevitable blow-up between them, Jim has no time to moderate a truce because of a burst water pipe.


Finding a repairman to make a house call on Christmas Eve? Seems unlikely – but not in Springfield. Enter Mr. Fix-it – a jolly old man with an accent from the old country who fixes the pipe, while telling Kathy a story about Katrina, a little girl just like her. 



The tradition among residents in Katrina’s small fishing village is to buy the nicest Christmas gift they could find and give it to the church as an offering for the poor. Katrina agonizes over what should she give, “What is the greatest gift?” she wonders. An angel tells her it’s a secret that everyone learns in a different way. And when Katrina learns that lesson, Kathy does as well.


It’s a beautiful story, no less resonant in March than it is in the weeks leading up to Christmas.


So many of the trappings of the season can only be enjoyed in November and December: the egg nog that suddenly appears in your grocer’s freezer between the milk and the cream, the carols added to radio station playlists; but it’s nice to live in a time when these Christmas classics are accessible whenever I need a holiday spirit booster. I’m already looking forward to July, when it will be 110 degrees in Las Vegas, and I’ll be watching Bob Hartley get stranded in a Chicago blizzard.


  1. This was a very nice read (and I enjoyed your line about the little boy and his ascot--haha in front of Cindy to see Santa!) I enjoyed your synopsis of that Father Knows Best episode too, and I have a big confession; I'm nearly 60 years old and I don't think I've ever sat thru a single Father Knows Best episode. I think I've seen the opening to the show about 1100 times in my life (growing up when it aired in syndication) but could never bring myself to sit thru an entire show. Just never liked any of the characters except for Bud. And as long as we're on the subject, I was always sorry Mary Richards only had one xmas episode. Loved how she wrapped the inside of her front door in wrapping paper, and her decorated desk in the newsroom! I'm currently near the end of Season 2 of my Bob Newhart Show DVD collection, very much looking forward to the 4-5 more Christmas shows coming. I feel a little sorry for the kids and young adults today who will never know the countless Christmas shows and specials we enjoyed in the 1960s-80s. Sorry for my long ramble!

    1. Your long rambles are always appreciated!
      I hope you'll give Father Knows Best another try, especially once your get past the first season. Among classic '50s sitcoms I much prefer it to 'Leave it to Beaver.'
      And of course, there was one more sorta Christmas episode with Mary Richards, when Sue Ann was taping her holiday special.

    2. Thank you David, and I appreciate the tip about Father Knows Best--your word is good enough for me!

  2. ABC first reran TBB's "The Voice of Christmas" on Aug. 14, 1970, so it didn't care how hot it likely was over most of the country that night. ABC reran it once more on Dec. 25, 1970 before retiring it to daytime & syndicated reruns from then on. I first remember seeing "The Voice of Christmas" on WTBS on Friday, Dec. 22, 1989, my last workday of 1989. My biggest laugh from that episode is Greg's reaction to Alice's stinky remedy for Carol's laryngitis. He took a deep whiff of the pot on the stove, expecting a nice smell, and then his eyes scrunched together & his nose curled, and he said in a choked voice "I've just decided to go on a diet!". The cast members' reactions to situations were often funnier than the lines they said.

  3. The Angel Sweater episode from Father Knows Best is the best Christmas episode I’ve ever seen on a family sitcom show. I remember seeing it as a child in the 60s through syndication during a summer vacation. The story made such a heartwarming impression on me that I searched for it throughout the years until the third season was released on dvd. It’s one I never fail to watch each Christmas for its feel good message.