Welcome back my friends as I count down my all-time favorite Christmas sitcom episodes. Sometimes a Christmas episode will seem ordinary, until that one scene which just works. There is just something special about it which makes the episode go from a run in the mill episode to one which you always remember and can’t imagine Christmas without.

 

 

 

My #3 favorite Christmas episode is from:

 

 

 

 

 

“Miracle in Columbus”

Aired Dec 20, 1987

 

 

Plot Synopsis:Alex agrees to step in as a mall Santa for Skippy. He meets a young girl named Michelle whose sad story touches his heart. Meanwhile, Steven has trouble buying a good tree.

 

 

 

Best Line:”Bush in ’88″…Alex who had a unique spin on Santa. He also suggested a little girl invest in the stock market.

 

 

 

Nitpick of the Episode:Oh lord that stuff with Steven and the Christmas tree was so lame!! Maybe I haven’t watched the series lately but was he always cheap? So rather than go to a normal lot and get a nice tree he puts his faith in a guy who disappointed him three years running! Of course since this is Family Ties it all works out in the end, but that scene of them decorating the cactus was so DUMB.

 

 

 

Standout Character:Alex, it’s his episode plain and simple. Especially the scene with the “real” Santa, more on that below.

 

 

 

Syndication Edit:Not really sure and I didn’t get the chance to watch the unedited episode to find out.

 

 

 

Episode Fun Fact:According to IMDB the little girl in the episode, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, had also appeared in Fatal Attraction and so was deliberately  put in a dress and little girl’s tights by the costume department at the request of the producers who were mindful of the negative reaction and claims of gender ambiguity that had surrounded Latzen’s character in that movie.

 

 

 

Final Thoughts:Family Ties had three Christmas episodes. One was a god awful clip show which I don’t pay any attention to. The next was a Christmas Carol knock off which was pretty decent. Alex made a good Scrooge and the cast seemed to really have fun making that one. If not for my rule about one episode per series that would have been on here. But it’s not because this episode is just fantastic. By the way before I start this episode does subtlety acknowledge the Christmas Carol one. First when Alex confesses he loves Christmas as much as the next guy and second when Elyse points out they have only had awful trees for the last three years. The Christmas Carol episode (with a good tree Steven ran into) was at last that long ago.

 

Ok, bad stuff first. The B story is really stupid. The idea that Steven wouldn’t buy the best tree for his family is ludicrous.  It’s lame and, as usual for this show (and many 80’s sitcoms), just here to give the other characters something to do. It’s also pointless because it’s resolved at the end so easily. And why in the world are Lauren and Nick hanging around? They are just kind of….there. So with all my whining what makes this a great episode then? Let’s talk about that A story.

 

Alex is roped into playing Santa at the mall. At first he is basically Alex, caring more about politics than what these kids want for Christmas. That is until Michelle comes alone, a sad little girl, sad because her father has to work out of town, who touches Alex. He wants to help her but doesn’t know how. The answer comes when the “real” Santa walks in. Actor Pete Schrum was a character actor in the 80’s, and I swear he plays one of the best Santa’s I have ever seen. He is totally believable in the role and just sells the scene. If you can see this scene somewhere, check it out. The whole episode is warm and sweet but it’s this one scene which makes me adore this episode!

 

So after this encounter with Santa, Alex runs into Michelle again and invites her and her Mom to their house. Then the father mysteriously appears and it’s kind of hard to do the final scene justice. I would recommend checking it out. The magical resolution to the problem only works because the Santa scene worked. If that hadn’t been sold so well the ending would have seem lame or contrived. Instead, we totally buy it. The final gag with Alex is just plain funny, it would take to long to explain why the joke is funny let’s just say it’s a brilliant callback and still makes me laugh to  this day. Check the episode it’s 80’s cheese but really good 80’s cheese.

 

 

Grade:A-, Cactus tree? Really? Aside from that this is a fantastic Christmas episode

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mention:Perfect Strangers.

Man is it hard not having this series on here. Have I said that already? They did two Christmas episodes but both were really good. One where Larry is depressed because he can’t fly home and Balki teaches him just because he can’t get home doesn’t mean it can’t be Christmas. This one was almost ruined for me by a jerk on a message board insisting  that this was the first gay sitcom, and using the scene where Larry and Balki are looking out at the snow as an example. I am not even getting into that because it’s so ridiculous.  I still enjoy this episode. The other has Mr.Gorpley get a little lesson in humility. This would have been an easy Christmas Carol episode but the series takes a different path, giving Sam a backstory and having his “redemption” come in a way which seems perfectly logical given Balki as a character. Two very sweet episodes that kind of get forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Two more left! What could they be? I’ll be back with #2 in a few days my friends.

By richb

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