About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

CHiPs Christmas (1979)

Are those quotation marks necessary?
I've been enjoying watching episodes of CHiPs every weekday on MeTV over the last several months.  But when I read our guest blogger's essay about BJ and the Bear from last week, I was reminded that one of the episode's guest stars, Pamela Susan Shoop (she played Alison in "Silent Night, Unholy Night"), also appeared in another Christmas episode in 1979--in "Christmas Watch" on the TV drama CHiPs.  What an exciting Christmas Shoop must have had that year!

CHiPs officers listening to the story of the stolen bell.

Who would steal from these cute kids?

Let me walk you through this yuletide episode.  The California Highway Patrol officers are reminded by Sgt. Getraer that they should be on high alert for thieves over the holidays.  Sure enough, a local church reports that their youth group had raised funds to purchase an antique bell for the belltower.  When the precious delivery is made, a man and a woman claiming to be from a contractors service convince the youth group leader that the bell needs further repairs and offer to fix it before the Christmas Eve service.  Later, the reverend discovers the church and its parishioners have been ripped off.  Officer Poncherello feels badly about the church's loss and promises to work hard to find the thieves.

Recognize Rev. Warmer?  That's actor William Schallert.  Just last year, I blogged about his appearances in the Christmas episodes of The Patty Duke Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

TV viewers follow the couple responsible for stealing from the church.  We see that they have several cons going this Christmas.  Another theft we see them work is to pass themselves off as potential buyers to private owners looking to sell their vehicle.  The "husband" checks under the hood and asks to take a test drive while offering his driver's license and several credit cards to the owner to hold as collateral.  When the couple never returns the automobile after the test drive, the police discover the ID and credit cards are fakes.

"We saw the ad in the newspaper about selling your fancy blue station wagon.  Can we take it for a test drive?"

"We'll be back in a few moments--WE PROMISE!" 

Making the crime even more crippling, the "husband" waits several hours after stealing the auto and then calls the private owner on the telephone posing as a police officer.  Sure that the owner has already called the police, the thief requests that the owner come to the local police department and identify the car thieves.  When the owner leaves her home, the car thieves break in and empty her residence of its valuables and Christmas gifts too!  What a nightmare.

Pamela Susan Shoop plays Alice Piermont, half of the criminal couple that is responsible for ruining Christmas for so many.

Before the inevitable car chase at the end of the episode, there are a few minor stories as well.  Three inebriated men in a car pull up to the CHiPs station house fuel pumps and ask the officers to fill up the gas tank!  Turns out the men have just left an office Christmas party and are too drunk to really know what they are doing--or where they are doing it.  Yes, they are removed from the vehicle and taken somewhere to dry out.  Later, the driver of the vehicle returns to the station, now sober, and thanks Ponch and John for stopping him before he hurt someone. TV junkies may recognize that quite a few cop shows include a Christmas storyline about drunk drivers behind the wheel after leaving the office holiday party.

Drunk driver pulls up to police station and asks for a fill-up.  Oh boy!

Of course, Officer Grossman is "supervising" the decorating of the tree.

Ponch's Christmas improves once his mother arrives.

There's also a story line about Ponch missing his family this Christmas.  What he doesn't know is that his fellow officers have made arrangements for Ponch's mom to come to Los Angeles from Chicago to spend the holiday with him.  After her arrival, she gets to see how important his work is to the community he serves.  She also witnesses her son return the 15th century bell to the children at the church on Christmas Eve--but you knew that was going to happen, right?

Although there isn't enough time to install the bell, each child in the congregation is offered the chance to ring it at the Christmas Eve service.

Although "Christmas Watch" is a typical episode of the series, it is nice to see the Christmas episode pull at the heart strings.  (Maybe "typical" is overstating it.  There WASN'T a fiery explosion during the car chase at the end).  One of the thrills that I enjoy in watching this series again is identifying all the guest stars.  This episode doesn't disappoint with actors William Schallert and Pamela Susan Shoop.  It was a happy Christmas in 1979, wasn't it?

1 comment:

  1. Saw this as a kid a few times, I am sure, but loved rewatching it this year for Christmas. Great to see a holiday episode of one of my favorites. The thieves were especially heinous here, at Christmastime! But loved seeing Shoop and Schallert. Can't believe the run of CHiPs is close to hitting the final season already!