Impressions: The Mary Tyler Moore Show- Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid

I thought for this month, we’d try to be a bit on theme and kick off with a Mary Tyler Moore Christmas episode. Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid is the 14th episode of the first season. It is a fun episode, and while it does manage to bring Christmas spirit, it is not overly in the audiences’ face, which can be a problem with these episodes.

It starts off with Mary, whose desk is, of course, decorated over the top while the rest of the office is not, talking to her mother about how excited she is to see her for Christmas. Mr. Grant informs her that someone has to work on Christmas and that since they’ve all had to do it before, Mary is getting the short end of the stick this year. He feels guilty at the heartbroken Mary but goes with it anyway.

She is then approached by a coworker with children who had the bad luck of working late Christmas Eve. He tells her since she is working Christmas anyway, it would be nice of her to work the Christmas Eve shift to allow him more time with his kids. Mary, although disappointed, of course, agrees because she’s well… Mary.

So Mary’s first plans are destroyed, and her backup plans to spend Christmas Eve with Rhoda can’t happen either. A sad Mary ends up totally alone in the station that night. She even ends up trying to start a conversation with a guy over the transmitter to give her something to do. Completely alone, Mary even panics at one point before we get our happy Christmas episode/sitcom resolution.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, overall I feel worked so well because of the cast and the jokes. I mentioned before that there were really important episodes that challenged norms, especially in the areas of feminism, but aside from those notable ones, a lot of the show was simple. Simple, but well done, with a great cast and solid jokes. This episode is that.

Everybody is in high form, from Ted giving out a recording of the best segments he did that year instead of Christmas gifts. To Rhoda giving Mary a rather fancy toaster oven and jokingly going through all the ways, it can cook an egg. – by the way, that toaster oven was nice – Even Mr. Grant gets his jokes in with Mary “decorating” his desk with a tiny fake tree and him feeling like Scrooge for making Mary work on Christmas. There are a lot of great quips and fast exchanges, which is what made the show work so well. The chemistry and timing are spot on.

It also is a good look at Mary’s kindness and the way it impacts those around her, generally and specifically in this case, for the better. Mary is hurt and disappointed to have to cancel her Christmas Eve plans knowing she can’t go home, but her better nature can’t help but want to make sure the father is home with his kids. It is not just her kindness, though, but the effect that it has. The guys, Mr. Grant, Ted, and Murray, ultimately can’t let a sad and lonely Mary spend Christmas Eve alone. She is far too kind to them for them to not have shifted and desire to return that kindness.

The episode ends rather touchingly with them singing together, until Ted show boats which ends the song but brings the laughs.

Bottom line? It’s not the best episode in the series. I will say that I feel, by and large, Christmas episodes rarely are. Because by their nature, they are focused on making a point and bringing “Christmas cheer,” and the things that make a show a success take a bit of a backseat. However, as far as Christmas episodes of great shows are concerned, this one is pretty good. It has good humor, and again while the “message” is there, them being unable to leave Mary alone, it’s not so in your face or corny. You’ll get more laughs in other episodes of this show, but there are plenty to be had here. So if you are looking specifically for good Christmas episodes, I would put this on the list.

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