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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

A Classic TV Christmas

Every year, as the holiday season kicks off, I enjoy rewatching some classic TV Christmas episodes that combine faith and family with a few laughs. So in case you’re looking for some TV merriment to get you in the Christmas spirit, here are a few episodes to look out for (or track down online or on DVD):

Happy Days: Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas – Fonzie certainly seems full of Christmas cheer when he hands out presents to all his friends at Arnold’s. And he tells everyone he’s going home for a big family celebration. But on Christmas Eve, Howard and Richie discover that the Fonz was too embarrassed to tell the truth that he had no one to spend the holiday with. Though Howard wanted to have a Christmas celebration for family only, the rest of the Cunninghams convince him to ask Fonzie to come over to fix a mechanical Santa, and then invite him to stick around for the rest of the evening. Fonzie’s subtle appreciation of his friends makes for some tender moments, as does his simple prayer before the Christmas meal in which he says, “God. Thanks.”

Highway to Heaven: Basinger’s New York – This Michael Landon series followed an angel named Jonathan Smith and his friend Mark Gordon, who traveled around the country on missions from God to guide people out of troubling situations. Actor Richard Mulligan guest-starred in this episode as a cynical newspaper reporter who believes the spirit of Christmas is dead. Then, Smith and Gordon join him on a Christmas Eve adventure involving a homeless couple named Mary and Joseph, who are about to have a baby. While some might consider this show schmaltzy, Mulligan’s slow and touching awakening to the fact that kindness still exists in the world makes for a heavenly viewing experience.

The Andy Griffith Show: A Christmas Story – Yes, there’s an old Scrooge whose heart gets turned around by Christmas spirit (and other spirits, since moonshine is part of the plotline), but it’s still a fun, funny, wholesome ride to the end, filled with Don Knotts’s Barney Fife playing Santa Claus, Aunt Bee’s cooking, and Andy Griffith and Elinor Donahue dueting on “Away in a Manger.” If you’re going to spend Christmas in jail, there’s no better town to do it in than Mayberry.

MASH: Dear Sis – This Father Mulcahy-centered episode finds the priest feeling useless because he’s surrounded by doctors and nurses who save the lives of wounded soldiers, but he finds his own efforts at ministering to their souls falling short. Though he’s collecting money for Christmas gifts for the local orphanage, he doesn’t feel he’s making a serious enough contribution to the war effort.

Father Mulcahy gets so agitated that when an unruly soldier becomes physically violent with a nurse, he punches the soldier in the jaw—and feels horribly guilty about it. Hawkeye tries to lift Father Mulcahy’s spirits, so at the 4077 Christmas party, the whole camp gathers to sing “Dona Nobis Pacem” together as a tribute to the quiet strength that Father Mulcahy gives all of them, even if he doesn’t realize it. It’s one of television’s all-time most beautiful (and most Catholic) moments that should be a must-see every holiday season.

If you have any favorites yourself, feel free to let me know what they are by emailing radio@christophers.org or writing to The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004.

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, JESUS: THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org