About Christmas TV History

Monday, July 15, 2013

That Girl Christmas (1966)

I'm going to take a one day break from Animation Celebration this week to participate in The Me-TV blogathon.  This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association.  Go to http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to http://metvnetwork.com to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.

I wanted to share the 1966 Christmas episode of That Girl entitled Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid--a classic TV episode that connects with two other Christmas programs that you may be familiar with.  But more about that in a minute.

This episode's story is told in flashback as Ann Marie shares her experience from three years ago.

In Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid, Ann Marie is working as Santa's helper at a department store when her boyfriend Don Hollinger drops by to visit her.  On her break, Ann recalls the story of a previous Christmas three years ago.  While teaching at a private boarding school, one of her students, a boy named Tommy, has nowhere to go over the holiday break because his parents are working out of town.  Feeling sorry for him, Ann cancels her plans to spend Christmas with her own parents and volunteers to stay with Tommy at the school.

After learning that Tommy will have to spend the holiday alone while remaining on school grounds, Ann volunteers to keep him company.

Making matters worse, Ann discovers that Tommy has never had a happy Christmas--he's used to spending the holidays alone as his parents are usually out of town or working.  Ann promises to make Tommy's Christmas a happy time.  However, the task proves to be a difficult one.

Watching it rain, Ann fears she's adding further disappointment to Tommy's holiday.
After promising to build a snowman together, Ann becomes frustrated when it's so warm it is raining outside.  Though the school's Christmas tree is already decorated, they take down the ornaments and hang them again.

Re-decorating the school Christmas tree.
The yuletide meal she's able to offer him isn't a special turkey dinner--only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  After spending their days playing board games, Ann fears she's disappointing Tommy when she had promised him a merry Christmas.

Ann phones the Green family asking if Tommy can come over to visit.
When another student, Roger Green, who lives close to the school drops by to use the gym equipment, Ann witnesses how much fun the two boys have together.  Ann telephones Roger's parents and asks them if they'd be willing to have Tommy come over to their house for Christmas.

Both Ann and Tommy are touched by the Green family's true spirit of the season.
Though Ann ends up spending Christmas alone, she feels satisfied knowing that others are enjoying themselves elsewhere.  It's not until Tommy returns to the school after Christmas that she learns Roger and his family are Jewish--and they had helped Tommy celebrate Christmas and had given him a toy truck in order to make the little boy happy.

Christopher Shea as Tommy Phillips.

There are two reasons this classic TV episode stands out to me.  The character of Tommy is played by actor Chris Shea.  You may recognize the child actor’s voice as the one behind the iconic character of Linus in the 1965 animated TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas.  If you've ever wondered what Shea looked like, this episode gives you a clear view.  I don't know about you, but for me it just doesn't feel like Christmas each year until I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV each December.

How many times have you watched the 1st season Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show?

Another reason this classic episode is one of my favorites is because a similar title, Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II, was used again for the 1970 Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Though not the same story plot, both episodes were penned by the same writer, Jim Brooks.  The premise of both episodes is very similar, both single women are forced to work on Christmas, sacrificing their own plans.  One of the brilliant things about this The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode is that when Mary Richards' friends at work decide to visit her at the office late on Christmas Eve--they become like family.  This workplace family becomes one of the most vital and emotional aspects of the entire series--including the very last episode when they all leave WJM.

So watching the 1966 Christmas episode of That Girl is a little like getting three great Christmas experiences from one show--you get to see the kind-hearted Ann Marie helping a lonely boy at Christmas time, as well as re-visit A Charlie Brown Christmas and another treasured favorite, the first season Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

EXCITING NEWS: I see Me-TV is airing a four-hour block of Christmas episodes on Sunday, July 21st, 2013 starting at 3pm(ET).  This special programming includes holiday episodes from The Donna Reed Show, the Beverly Hillbillies, That Girl, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Bob Newhart Show, and M*A*S*H.  For episode titles, see the Me-TV schedule.  Merry Christmas in July!

If you're curious to read about more holiday episodes found in Me-TV's summer line-up of classic TV, click on the following links to previous posts from this blog:  The Honeymooners, Bewitched, Dragnet, Family Affair, Lost in Space, The Odd Couple, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rhoda, and The Donna Reed Show.

And, don't forget to check out the other blogs in Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV blogathon.  Click here for the link to the complete list of participating blogs.


  1. Joanna, what a special treat to read about Christmas in July, courtesy of the lovely Ann Marie and her kind heart! When I read that Ann was telling about this event that happened three years earlier, I was waiting for the zinger at the end. Thank you for putting a face to the voice of Linus because "A Charlie Brown Christmas" warms me to the tips of my toes!

    1. Chris Shea's adorable lisp and bright face is a special treat for those of us who LOVE to see what the actors behind the voices look like! Thanks for commenting.

  2. I'm crazy for Christmas episodes and your connecting the dotes on The Hard Luck Kid is terrific.

  3. Great trivia here. That's Linus, huh? Even more adorable in person! :) I mostly watch That Girl for the fashion, so I've missed some of the more interesting tidbits!

  4. Joanna, I thoroughly enjoyed read about this episode and was intrigued to learn about the James L. Brooks connection. Your accompanying pics are delightful--Marlo Thomas did a wonderful job with Ann's slightly exaggerated expressions. This was a wonderful post for the Me-TV blogathon and for July--Christmas in July!


    I'm not quite sure why but I got all misty-eyed reading abut Ann Marie's Christmas. And I love the trivia of the connection between that and the MTM Christmas show you mentioned. Really great stuff!

    Also, since I did my post for this event on Danny Thomas, I feel like you were talking about my daughter!

    Loved the visit - lovely choice for the blogathon!


    1. Maybe next time we can work together on the animated TV Christmas special "Cricket on the Hearth"--starring voice work by Marlo & Danny! *wink*

    2. Ha! How fun although I'm not familiar with "Cricket of the Hearth." :(

  6. Thanks for revisiting one of my all-time favorite Christmas episodes. I didn't realize that Brooks had written it, but it makes sense -- it's just as memorable (if not as familiar) as the MTM episode.

  7. This is a great post! I love That Girl, and I love Christmas episodes.

    Chris Shea and his brother Eric were both adorable and were all over TV in the 60s and 70s. I was saddened to learn that Chris died in 2010.

  8. Thanks to everyone for your comments. It's nice to know other people love classic TV too :D

  9. Not only does Ann Marie bring a joyous holiday to a deserving little mook, but she's stylishly dressed to boot!

    God bless us, everyone!

  10. I'm going to check out the "Christmas in July" block this weekend on MeTV. Fascinating that Jim Brooks wrote similar "That Girl" and "MTM" holiday episodes. I've always thought of "That Girl" as a sort of precursor to "MTM" - not to mention, "That Girl" was winding down just as "MTM" was beginning its run. Excellent post.

  11. What a great post. I haven't seen that episode but I'll look for it. "That Girl" was a favorite of mine growing up.

  12. I enjoyed this post, Joanna - though I remember next to nothing from THAT GIRL except the opening credit sequence. Being a TV omnivore growing up, I'm sure I watched more than a few episodes of this show, but just don't remember much about it at all, other than Marlo Thomas was pretty charming. This sounds like a cute episode, and thanks for showing us what the kid who voices Linus looks like!