Friday, December 17, 2021

The Unshakeables: Will Robinson Meets Santa Claus


I’ve mentioned before that “A Vision of Sugar Plums” from the first season of Bewitched is my favorite Christmas-themed episode of any classic television series. But I don’t think I’ve ever explained why. 


Start with the obvious – it’s a smart and imaginative script (as most of them were in the series’ early seasons) and it’s a welcome break from the formulas that were recycled through so many episodes over eight years (One of Sam’s eccentric relatives pops in, Endora zaps Darrin with a spell that will embarrass him at work, etc.).


Beyond that, it’s a show that endorses a very interesting position on the existence of Santa Claus. I suppose if your audience is already on board with witches, it’s not that big a leap to Santa being real as well. But they took such a bold and definitive stance on the question that, when I first watched it at an age when my own belief was fading, it restored my faith. Sometimes it still does.


The story opens with the Stephens’ and the Kravitzes both visiting an orphanage, where each couple will take a child home to spend the holidays (do people still do this?). Darrin has his doubts about Michael (Billy Mumy), who starts a fight with another boy who still believes in Santa. Michael has been through some rough times, not the sort likely to be specified in a sitcom from this era, but clearly they left their mark. Samantha convinces Darrin that this is exactly the kind of boy who could use a couple of days in a happy home.


It does not begin well. Michael is polite but sullen, seemingly uninterested in any of the Christmas festivities the Stephens’ have planned. And when Darrin dresses up as Santa, he finally snaps.


Darrin: “Don’t you want to see what Santa brought you, son?”


Michael: “I don’t care what you’ve brought me. And I’m not your son.” 



That’s the last straw for Darrin, but Samantha has another idea. She gently asks Michael why he’s so sure that Santa Claus is just a fantasy, and that’s when we learn that Michael once had a father who told him so and…the episode doesn’t reveal what happened to that clearly-departed dad, but we can only assume it wasn’t good.


“Suppose I were to tell you it really isn’t exactly that way?” Samantha says, to which Michael responds. “Prove it.” And that’s when Sam does something she rarely did over the course of 254 episodes: she reveals her identity as a witch – and then offers to fly Michael to the North Pole to visit the real Santa Claus. 



And then another surprise – Darrin, who lives in perpetual fear about anyone learning his wife’s secret, not only assents given the circumstances, he can’t resist taking the trip with them.


What follows I will leave for those who have never seen this classic to discover. But as one might expect Michael is transformed by the journey after learning the true meaning of Christmas.


But did it really happen? Sam later finds Darrin and Michael both asleep on the living room couch, and then Darrin tells her the crazy dream he had about visiting Santa. So that settles that…except for those slushy footprints on the carpet…



And as an extra bonus, “A Vision of Sugar Plums” also gives us one more “almost gotcha” with Gladys Kravitz, and a brief guest appearance by Bill Daily one year before I Dream of Jeannie.


Billy Mumy is believable, as he was in everything – one of those child actors with a maturity that never seems inauthentic to his age. It’s admirable how Darrin does what he thinks is the right thing by giving Michael a cheerful holiday of sugarplums and giftwrapped presents. But Samantha recognizes how that’s not going to suffice, and relates to Michael with a more direct approach, and in doing so restores his sense of hope and wonder.  Life had knocked him down a few times, but now we can see that he is going to be just fine.


This would not be Sam’s last meeting with Santa or her only visit to the North Pole. She flew grumpy old Charles Lane up there in another classic holiday episode called “Humbug Not to Be Spoken Here” (1967). But for me “A Vision of Sugar Plums” has just a little more magic than all of the other Christmas stories I watch every year. And it’s all the proof I need that Santa Claus is real – at least in TV Land. 




  1. Another extra bonus arrives with Bill Daily at the end of the episode. Playing his wife is an actress named Gerry Johnson. She would replace Bea Benaderet as the voice of Betty Rubble on "The Flintstones" after Bea left to work on "Petticoat Junction".

  2. ABC reused this episode for Christmas 1965, adding a couple scenes referring to Sam's late-term pregnancy w/ Tabitha to redo the episode as a flashback.