About Christmas TV History

Monday, June 30, 2014

Patty Duke Show New Year's (1963)

I want to pick up where I left off with the previous Patty Duke Show episode, 1963's "Christmas Present."  The story continues during the week following Christmas.  The episode entitled "Auld Lang Syne" continues the same story introduced in the Christmas episode in which Cathy's father Kenneth Lane has been fired from his job working as a foreign correspondent for the newspaper, The Chronicle.  I have researched and cataloged New Year's episodes in addition to the Christmas ones because I've found that these TV stories generally continue the festive holiday celebration.  Many of these New Year's stories also overlap with Christmas plots, and it is quite common for these stories to incorporate the same, familiar Christmas themes and elements including togetherness and family, celebrations, second chances and renewal, forgiveness, and miracles.  "Auld Lang Syne" is no exception.

Natalie is still angry with J.R. Castle for firing Kenneth.

In this follow-up episode, unemployed Kenneth Lane is preparing to find a new job.  He hopes to be able to find work in the newspaper field, perhaps still writing.  Though Cathy knows that a desk job for her father will allow them to spend more time together, she wants him to be happy.  Kenneth is at his best when he's out seeking adventure as a foreign correspondent and not stuck behind a desk.

Can the stubborn J.R. Castle be persuaded to change his mind and re-hire Kenneth?

Patty wants to help her uncle and she puts a couple of her schemes to work.  First, Patty makes herself look like Cathy and she lavishes Mr. Castle with flattery, hoping to appeal to his vanity.  When that plan falls flat--as many of Patty's schemes do--she has another idea.  What if she gets Uncle Kenneth to write a best-selling novel about his adventures and experiences as a foreign correspondent?  Patty knows J.R. hates it when his writers move on and become best-selling authors.  Patty hopes J.R.'s weakness will force him to re-hire Kenneth just to keep him from moving on and becoming even more successful.

Patty and Cathy go in search of a publisher for Kenneth's book.
Patty eventually convinces Kenneth to try his hand at writing a book while she attempts to solicit a publisher on his behalf.  This plan goes about as well as expected.  Patty and Cathy call upon Bennett Blake, a book publisher Patty saw interviewed on television, and he explains that he doesn't consider books that are written by unpublished authors.  That is, until Blake hears the girls refer to the writer by name--Kenneth Lane!  Blake explains he's been trying to convince the popular foreign correspondent to write a book for years--and has his secretary draw up a contract immediately.

What opportunity does Kenneth have if he can't write a book?

Patty and Cathy are excited for Kenneth to hear their good news but he's frustrated with trying to write the book.  Meanwhile, J.R. Castle returns to the Lane home.  Kenneth's friend, the rebel general, has successfully led the take-over of Kurdistan and wants to be interviewed by no one except Kenneth Lane.  J.R. wants the exclusive interview for The Chronicle but he's too stubborn to re-hire Kenneth himself.  Kenneth's brother Martin isn't willing to make things easy for J.R., insisting that J.R. humble himself to offer Kenneth a new position as a foreign correspondent.

In typical sitcom fashion, all things return to normal at the end of the story.

Kenneth is hesitant to give up on his promise to spend quality time with Cathy and return to being busy with his foreign correspondent job, a job that takes him away from home for long periods of time.  But Cathy insists he make himself happy--she enjoys living with her cousin Patty.  Father and daughter can visit together again next Christmas.  The Lane family finds themselves at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve at the airport, saying goodbye to Uncle Kenneth as he flies to Kurdistan to pursue the news story of the year.  With the holidays behind them, Patty and Cathy can get back to high school hijinks once again.

Do you have a favorite New Year's Eve episode, special, or movie you like to watch year after year?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Patty Duke Show Christmas (1963)

The Patty Duke Show ran from 1963-66.  Similar to Gilligan's Island, this sitcom's outstanding theme song reminds viewers of the series' set-up with teenagers Patty and Cathy Lane: "...identical cousins all the way, one pair of matching bookends, different as night and day..."

With the hundreds of hours of new holiday programming generated each November and December, it's so easy to forget about the classics.  Lately, I've been re-watching some of my favorite sitcoms and this particular Christmas episode always stands out to me.  Anyone else a huge Patty Duke Show fan?  I am--and I always have been.  This is just one of the many classic sitcoms I grew up watching.  Do you remember what makes this particular Christmas episode special?

The Lane family are preparing for Christmas and decorating the tree.  Left to right: Ross, Patty, father Martin, and mother Natalie.

Though she hasn't seen him in a year, Cathy expects her father to return from his faraway adventures and visit her on Christmas Eve as he promised.

The first season episode, "The Christmas Present," has a simple set up:  Cathy can't wait to see her father Kenneth Lane who is expected to arrive on Christmas Eve.  Kenneth works as a foreign correspondent whose obligations require him to travel quite a bit--this is why Cathy now lives with her cousin Patty in America (more specifically Brooklyn Heights, New York) to give Cathy a more stable, rooted home life.  Cathy is used to her globe-trotting father's lifestyle but he always returns to her on Christmas Eve to see her once again--and Cathy expects it to be the same this year.

Yes, brothers Martin and Kenneth Lane both work for newspapers (Martin is a managing editor).

Not wanting to break her heart himself, Uncle Martin tries to get Cathy to watch the international news on TV to discover her father's imprisonment for herself. 

However, Martin hears from his boss at the newspaper office that his brother Kenneth left his assignment to write about a trade convention in Brussels in order to cover a revolutionary uprising in Kurdistan.  Kenneth illegally crossed over the country's border (with help from his friend who is a rebel general) but he was caught and thrown in jail.  Not only is the US State Department angry with Kenneth for illegally smuggling himself into this rebellion, but the newspaper he works for wants to fire him!  After learning that Kenneth is safe, all the Lanes care about is breaking the news to Cathy that her father won't be arriving by tonight for Christmas.  Cathy eventually sees the newspaper and reads about her father's imprisonment.

Patty (left) tries to convince her cousin Cathy (right) that she shouldn't hope for a miracle.

But Cathy insists that Christmas is about miracles--and she waits by the front door for her father to arrive before midnight.

Despite the impossibility of Kenneth being released from prison, finding air travel, and arriving before midnight, Cathy continues to believe in her father's promise to spend Christmas together.  Martin, Natalie, and Patty don't share in Cathy's strong faith and they are beside themselves trying to figure out a way to keep Cathy from being disappointed on Christmas.  Eventually, a plan is hatched.

Patty can't stand how disappointed Cathy will become when Uncle Kenneth doesn't show up by midnight.

This series' premise of identical cousins makes more sense when you remember that the explanation for Cathy and Patty's resemblance comes from their fathers, Martin and Kenneth, who are identical twins.  Natalie suggests that Martin pose as his identical brother Kenneth in order to spend an hour with Cathy and fulfill her wish to see her father on Christmas Eve.  Martin explains he posed as his brother once in high school and got away with it however, he's hesitant to try it now on Cathy. (Of course he and Kenneth pulled the trick in high school.  TV viewers watch Cathy and Patty frequently pull this same stunt at their high school as well.  Apples don't fall far from trees!)  Natalie and Patty remind Martin that Cathy wants to believe in her father so badly that she won't even question the ridiculousness of the situation.  So Martin agrees to the charade and late on Christmas Eve, he leaves the house claiming he's "going to the office."

It's a Christmas miracle! Cathy welcomes her father home. 

Sure enough, just before midnight, Uncle Kenneth arrives at the Lane home and Cathy welcomes her father with open arms.  (If you didn't quite get it before, you can distinguish Patty from her cousin because Patty's hair flips up on the ends--Cathy's hair is styled to curl under.  Similarly, identical brother Kenneth is distinguishable by his pencil-thin, John Water's style mustache while Martin is clean shaven).

Patty drags Uncle Kenneth upstairs, away from Cathy for a minute, so they can privately discuss his implausible cover story.

While Cathy is excited to spend time with her father, Natalie and Patty become very anxious when Kenneth's explanation for his implausible escape from prison in Kurdistan, his arrangement to find a flight to America, etc. is not the same explanation that they all agreed to before Martin left for the charade.  Will Cathy figure out that this is all a scam?

"Hi Cathy--Merry Christmas!

While Patty and Uncle Kenneth are upstairs, there's a knock at the door.  A second Kenneth has arrived to spend Christmas with his daughter Cathy!  But Cathy isn't shocked at all.  Instead she wraps her arms around this "father" as well and tearfully declares this the happiest Christmas of her life.

This scam doesn't offend Cathy one bit--she's pleased with her loving family.

TV viewers get to see a split-screen special effect twice in this special holiday episode. Identical brothers played by William Schallert.

Cathy is appreciative of a family that cares enough about her feelings to attempt such shenanigans--and immediately recognizes the second "Kenneth" as her Uncle Martin.  (Hilariously, Patty mistook her Uncle Kenneth for her own father in disguise).  One of the things that makes this episode so special is that this is the only time, I believe, that twin brothers Kenneth and Martin appear together in the series.  While Cathy's father is certainly discussed quite a bit during the run of the series, Kenneth only appears in one other episode--an earlier first season episode entitled "The Houseguest" in which he only briefly appears during a telephone conversation from Paris.  So we get two identical sets of Lanes in this Christmas story--and two times the fun.

J.R. (played by John McGiver) announces that Kenneth is now unemployed.

Just as everyone is feeling good about their own Christmas miracle, another visitor arrives at the Lane home.  J.R. Castle from the Chronicle newspaper is there to bring down the party--he explains to Kenneth that his abandonment of the story in Brussels and his illegal actions in Kurdistan have cost him his job!  Kenneth is fired--and on Christmas, no less.  The episode ends with Patty addressing the camera asking viewers to be sure to tune in next week to see the conclusion of this holiday story. 

Patty invites TV viewers to watch next week's episode for the conclusion.
Next, I'll share a review of the New Year's episode of The Patty Duke Show, the follow-up to this Christmas story line. [ed note: link to follow-up episode review HERE].

Monday, June 9, 2014

Christmas TV Party 2014

The annual Christmas in July party I host each year on this blog is coming up fast.  If you've been around awhile, you may remember that each year the summer party is a little different.  I try to do something special in July each year because each of us gets very busy in December and it's a fun to have a get-together when we aren't in the midst of the holiday season.

This year I'd like to introduce a mini-questionnaire as a way to spark a dialogue and to have everyone get to know each other  better.  I was inspired to try this approach from what I saw (and participated in) two years ago on the website Kindertrauma.  With their blessing, I've adapted the questionnaire to fit our needs.  Answer as fully or as briefly as you like.  Everyone is invited to take part--long-time readers, other bloggers, casual TV fans, or just the curious passer-by.  Everyone should feel free to join in the Christmas TV Party.

Copy + Paste the questions below in an email, answer them, and email it back to me.  Send your responses in immediately and I'll begin posting them starting on July 1st--and roll them out in the order received.  (DON'T put your responses to the questions in the comments below--email them in).  Here ya go:

Christmas TV Party 2014: (insert your name--your website/optional)

1) What is the first Christmas special you remember watching?

2) Name one Christmas program/movie you enjoy watching all year round.

3) Name one overlooked, or under-appreciated Christmas program.

4) Send us to 3 places on the internet (please include URLs).

5) What are your 3 favorite Christmas episodes of a TV sitcom or drama?

Since I'm hosting this party, I'll be glad to be the first one to join the party.

Christmas TV Party 2014:  Joanna Wilson from ChristmasTVHistory.com

1. What is the first Christmas special you remember watching?
I think watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is my earliest Christmas TV memory.  I distinctly remember not being old enough to stay awake past my bedtime during prime time but struggling to see the end.  I was so young I was terrorized by the dentist elf Hermey pulling out the Bumble's teeth! Early favorite Christmas TV movies include The House Without a Christmas Tree (1972) and The Homecoming (1971).

2) Name one Christmas program/movie you enjoy watching all year round.
I enjoy seeing the 1963 Christmas episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show any time I catch it on TV--I can't help but always sing along.

3) Name one overlooked, or under-appreciated Christmas program.
This could be a very long list but today I'll go with John Denver and the Muppets: Christmas Together from 1979--only because it desperately needs to be released on DVD.  I know I'm not the only one who wants to see this get officially released on DVD and maybe even seen in prime time again.  Younger generations should get a chance to see this this classic Muppets Christmas TV special.

4) Send us to 3 places on the internet.
TV Confidential--(radio/podcast)
Classic TV Blog Association
Name That Christmas Special

5) What are your 3 favorite Christmas episodes of a TV sitcom or drama?
I like a little music with my Christmas stories so I like 1971's The Partridge Family Christmas episode and The Brady Bunch Christmas episode from 1969.  Another favorite is the 2 hour tear-jerker from Eight is Enough (1977's "Yes, Nicholas, There is a Santa Claus")--Will Geer plays such a loveable crook and Tommy's gift from his mother always makes me cry like a baby.

Send in your responses today!  Merry Christmas in July.

Please feel free to use the above image to share your participation in the Christmas TV Party this July where ever you social network.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mod Squad Christmas (1972)

This review is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog AssociationClick here to check out this blogathon's complete schedule.  Today is Day #3 during the week-long event, please be sure to check out all the other participating blog posts.

One of the things that attracts me to writing about Christmas on television is that I'm endlessly surprised by what I find.  Yes, Christmas episodes almost always include Christmas trees, characters exchanging gifts, children anticipating Santa's arrival, and more.  But the variety of means through which series' writers and creative staff express the holiday are actually quite diverse.  Just when I think I've seen it all, I am frequently surprised, once again, by the uniqueness that a series will display in creating a Christmas episode despite the expectations and strictures that define the holiday.  Case in point is the fifth season episode of The Mod Squad, entitled Kristie.  The crime drama that focuses on three counter-culture twenty-somethings as undercover cops also features a Christmas episode with an unexpected spiritual dimension.  Let me review the plotline.

The cop show that attempts to bridge the generation gap (or perhaps to placate television-viewing Middle America to not give up hope on the young hippies). 

The Mod Squad: Pete, Julie, and Linc (Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton, and Clarence Williams III).

The 1972 episode Kristie begins on December 23rd with Pete and Julie discussing their holiday plans when there's a knock at the door.  Pete's friend Jerry is there asking for his help.  Jerry needs Pete to look after his young daughter Kristie for an hour while he tends to some business.  Pete is willing to babysit, but when Jerry doesn't return after several hours Pete begins to worry about what Jerry meant by "business."

Pete is asked to babysit young Kristie for just an hour...

....but when her father hasn't returned before the late show, Pete begins to worry.

Kristie too is worried about her father, and Pete encourages her to pray for him before she goes to bed.  Kristie is played by child actress Debbie Lytton.

Pete reveals to Julie and Linc that his friend Jerry is a recent parolee from prison.  Jerry had been convicted of being an accessory to a jewelry store robbery where he had worked as a maintenance man.  While Jerry served his sentence, his wife (Kristie's mother) was killed in an auto accident, and since his release, Jerry had kept himself out of trouble and devoted himself to raising his daughter.  TV viewers see that Jerry has indeed gotten himself into trouble--his "business" this holiday was meeting with the jewelry store thieves, which includes his ne'er-do-well brother Gordon, who are looking for the jewels from that robbery.  Jerry had tried to explain that he didn't know where the loot was but the conversation turned violent when he didn't hand over what the bad guys had come looking for.

Unbeknownst to Pete, Jerry has been shot and has collapsed on his apartment floor.

On Christmas Eve morning with no word yet from Jerry, Pete sets out to look for Kristie's father.  Bringing Kristie with him, Pete visits the nursery where Jerry works to ask a few questions, and stops by a nearby church vending Christmas trees in order to get a tree just in case Jerry doesn't return before tomorrow.

Young Kristie is attracted to the Nativity display at the local church.

At the church where Pete buys his Christmas tree, Kristie spots a manger display and is drawn to it.  She tells Pete that her mother had explained that Christmas is about showing love and how Christmas began because God wanted to show how he loved people. 

Pete is moved to make sure Kristie is reunited with her father, and he gets Julie, Linc, and the Captain to help him find Jerry.

Pete eventually tracks down where Jerry was living and finds blood on the floor.  Fearing the worst, Pete begins to prepare for Kristie to spend another night with him while his friends continue the search.  Meanwhile, the bad guys are also looking for Jerry.  Late on Christmas Eve, Pete gets a phone call--a body has been found in the bay.  Fearing it may be Jerry, Pete once again accompanies Kristie during her nighttime prayers.  He then leaves for the morgue to identify the body--but Kristie  overhears the telephone conversation and she slips out of Pete's apartment without anyone noticing.

These heavy emotions finally get to Linc!

The body at the morgue turns out not to be Jerry but is later revealed to be his brother Gordon--the victim of the bad guys looking for the loot from the robbery.  Pete's investigation into Jerry's life and possible whereabouts have alerted the bad guys to Kristie's location.  Now they are looking for the innocent little girl, convinced she may have the stolen jewels in her possession!

Kristie slips away to visit the manger scene again and to continue to pray for her daddy.

In the middle of the night when Pete leaves the morgue and returns to his apartment, he finds Kristie is missing!  Pete decides to search for her in the only place he knows she may have run to--the church with the Nativity display she admires.  Only problem is the bad guys are following Pete and they too arrive at the church in hopes of finding Kristie!  It turns out the jewels were hidden in Kristie's favorite stuffed dog toy all along--hidden there by her uncle Gordon so he would be able to find them again.  (Does this remind anyone else of the 1955 movie The Night of the Hunter?  A deadly psycho-- played effectively by Robert Mitchum--hunts down an innocent child in order to reclaim valuables hidden in her toy as well.  You may also remember that that movie too reaches its tension-filled climax at Christmas time).

Captain Greer gets to play Santa for little Kristie.

But this Mod Squad episode has a happy ending as Pete finds Kristie first--and her father Jerry soon joins them at the church.  After he had regained consciousness from his altercation, Jerry had contacted Julie.  Kristie's father arrives with the police at the church just in time.  On Christmas morning, there are gifts under Pete's Christmas tree for Julie and Linc--and the Captain is dressed as Santa Claus for Kristie.  Pete gives Kristie a special gift he knows she'll love--her very own miniature manger scene!  In voice-over, viewers hear Pete recite the familiar first Christmas story from the Bible found in Luke, chapter 2.

The friends and co-workers become like family at Christmas time.

Sometimes stories of faith, prayer, and the original inspiration of Christmas pop up in unexpected places such as hippie cop shows too.

If you're curious to read about more holiday episodes found in MeTV's summer line-up of classic TV, click on the following links to previous posts from this blog: Wanted: Dead or Alive, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Dobie Gillis, Gilligan's Island, Car 54 Where Are You?, Welcome Back Kotter, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Dragnet, Family Affair, Lost in Space, The Odd Couple, and The Donna Reed Show.

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Wanted: Dead or Alive Christmas (1958)

This review is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog AssociationClick here to check out this blogathon's complete schedule.

I'm so excited to see the classic TV western Wanted: Dead or Alive on MeTV's summer schedule that I wanted to share the series' outstanding Christmas episode, Eight Cent Reward.  I'm certain that you'll join me in thinking that this particular episode is worth a second viewing!  They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

Yes, that's hunky Steve McQueen playing the lead in this TV series.  Much like actors Clint Eastwood and James Garner, McQueen launched his successful film career by first starring in a TV western.

In Eight Cent Reward, bounty hunter Josh Randall is approached on Christmas Eve by a young boy with a proposition: young Laddie Stone wants Randall to find Santa Claus!  The little one offers all the money he has--just eight cents--for Randall to deliver St. Nick.  He explains that he needs a special gift for Christmas. It's the same gift he has asked Santa for over the past couple of years, and he's desperate to ask Santa for the gift again this year.  Randall asks Laddie what he wants from Santa but Laddie refuses to reveal it.  Laddie insists that he'll only talk with Santa about what he wants for Christmas.

Though Josh Randall listens to Laddie and takes him seriously, the others in the bar think the little boy's request is the silliest thing they've ever heard.

Could you say no to that sweet face?  Laddie Stone is played Jay North.  You may also recognize him as the actor who plays the title character in TV's Dennis the Menace.

The other men in the saloon overhear Laddie's request and jokingly promise that Randall is such a good bounty hunter that he's sure to deliver Christmas' Most Wanted Man.  Randall can't refuse Laddie's request--even if he doesn't know how to satisfy it.  Not wanting to break the little boy's heart,  Josh agrees to find Laddie's man for him and the bounty hunter sets off to meet Laddie's parents.  

The Stones are angry that Randall has encouraged Laddie to hope to talk with Santa Claus.

Josh Randall finds the Stone farm just outside of town.  It was a once successful sheep farm that has struggled the last few years after wolves decimated most of the flock.  Life is hard on this family farm, and Laddie's parents, Hilda and Harmon Stone, are angry with Randall for making impossible promises to their son.  Harmon is upset because Laddie doesn't quite differentiate the distinction between dreams--Santa Claus--and reality yet.  Josh promising to find Santa Claus for the little boy only delays the inevitable and painful truth that Santa is...impossible to locate.  Hilda is a bit more understanding.  She doesn't want Laddie to grow up too soon but she's desperate to find out what Laddie wants from Santa--she knows her son hasn't been happy with what he finds under the Christmas tree the last couple of years.  She just wants Laddie to get what he wants.

Actress Virginia Gregg is Hilda Stone.  Gregg had a forty year career in film and television as a notable character actor--I love seeing her on Dragnet appearing as one of Jack Webb's regularly featured cast members.

Josh sets out with a plan to find someone in town willing to play Santa Claus for Laddie. Josh's Santa will ask the boy what he wants for Christmas, and Josh will buy it.  If Laddie ends up asking for an impossible gift, Santa will be there to explain it to him and Laddie won't lose hope.  With the Stones' permission, Randall heads back to town, however, his plan has some challenges.

The saloon's bartender isn't convinced Ben can be trusted to play Santa Claus but Josh is desperate to help little Laddie.

The only person in town willing to play Santa Claus is Ben, the town drunk.  Ben pleads with Randall to give him an opportunity to do something meaningful for once, but the bounty hunter doesn't have much choice.  He needs a Santa.  Together they put together a makeshift costume for Ben and the two men head to the Stone farm on Christmas Eve as it begins to snow.

This Santa needs a twelve step program!

Josh asks Ben to wait in the Stones' barn until he gives the signal, then Ben, wearing his Santa Claus outfit, will enter the home and speak with Laddie.  But there's a glitch in the plan--Ben is kept waiting in the barn long enough to discover a horse tonic--a tonic that contains a high percentage of alcohol--and he becomes intoxicated!  

Laddie has his heart set on talking with Santa this evening.  When St. Nick doesn't arrive, Mr. Stone attempts to explain to his young son that life is full of heartbreak.  Luckily, Laddie is still a little too young to understand.  But TV viewers get the message--keep your tissues handy!

 Meanwhile, Josh is in the Stones' home and Laddie is beside himself waiting for Santa's arrival.  When a knock comes at the door, Laddie runs to answer it--but only a stranger stands on the doorstep.  The stranger has seen the lamp burning in the window and is hoping to sit by the fire for a few minutes before moving on in the snow.  While Mrs. Stone offers the old man a bit of hospitality on this cruel night, Josh goes looking for the missing Santa Claus--and doesn't like what he finds.

Not one to turn away a stranger on Christmas Eve, Hilda offers the old man a place by the fire, food, and a warm blanket for the evening.

Sober up, Santa!

Josh tries to sober Ben a bit, but the old drunk is a mess.  Afraid to disappoint young Laddie, Josh brings Santa in the house despite the obvious.  Sure enough, Laddie approaches the stumbling drunk, rips off his beard, and runs from the room in tears!  The adults in the farm house are devastated--Mr. and Mrs. Stone, Josh Randall, Ben, and the old man all watch in horror as the little boy's dreams are dashed.  But it's late and no one knows what else to do, so everyone retreats to sleep for the evening.

The bounty hunter gets a big emotion-filled hug from his most grateful client ever.

Laddie finally got exactly what he wanted from Santa!

Josh Randall and Ben are awakened bright and early Christmas morning with screams of delight from little Laddie!  He's gotten the perfect gift from Santa after all--but how could this be?  Hilda and Harmon thank Randall for the gift and he exclaims he didn't do it--Ben says he didn't give anything either.  It turns out, all Laddie had wanted--what he asked for the past several Christmases--was a new rifle for his father to be able to shoot and kill the wolves picking off the family's sheep herd.  While I admire Laddie's loving spirit, his willingness to sacrifice his Christmas wishes for toys and instead wanting a practical gift that would benefit the whole family and their livelihood, I still find it kind of a shock that this 1950s TV episode's story centers around a wish for a gun to kill wolves.  I guess this is another reminder that it's not the 1950s anymore.

Ben finds a jingle bell among the ashes in the fireplace!  Ben is played by actor Lloyd Corrigan--who also appeared in several Lassie Christmas episodes.

The adults wonder where the rifle came from--until they realize that the unassuming old man is missing.  Though he left no tracks in the snow and the doors are still locked from the inside, the mysterious stranger has left without a trace!  However, a little boy's faith and hope in the magic of Christmas is restored--no further explanation is required.  I love the story device of the stranger who is revealed to be possibly the real Santa Claus--an early example of a classic plotline that is weaved into this western with satisfying results.

If you're curious to read about more holiday episodes found in MeTV's summer line-up of classic TV, click on the following links to previous posts from this blog: Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Dobie Gillis, Gilligan's Island, Car 54 Where Are You?, Welcome Back Kotter, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Dragnet, Family Affair, Lost in Space, The Odd Couple, and The Donna Reed Show.

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