About Christmas TV History

Monday, January 26, 2015

Laverne and Shirley Christmas (1978)

Last December, a group of us tweeted during the airing of this 1978 episode on MeTV's marathon of holiday programming. Thanks again to everyone who joined me during the Twitter Party--I had a lot of fun, as usual. Do you follow me on Twitter? I post daily Christmas TV listings, links to new posts on this blog, and other Christmas entertainment updates at @TistheSeasonTV

I've already shared on the blog here about the 1976 Christmas episode of Laverne & Shirley entitled "Oh Hear the Angels' Voices." The 1978 Christmas episode, "O Come All Ye Bums," was created for the series' fourth season. Although both Laverne & Shirley Christmas episode titles are derived from popular carol lyrics, each episode is quite distinctive. The 1976 episode is a variety show-within-a-show that takes place at a mental hospital and the 1978 episode is about the Pizza Bowl's annual charity Christmas dinner.  Let me explain further.

As they sing carols and decorate the tree together, Shirley scolds Laverne for not knowing the correct lyrics to the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  For example, Laverne sings "Three blind mice..." instead of "three calling birds."

"O Come All Ye Bums" begins with Shirley and Laverne decorating their Christmas tree and preparing for the upcoming holiday. A knock at their front door produces Rags, the neighborhood hobo (Laverne calls him a bum--a label Rags himself embraces even after Shirley protests.  I think viewers are supposed to see Rags as destitute--perhaps even homeless--but a friendly, well-known character in their neighborhood.)  Rags has come to Laverne's apartment to ask about her father Frank and the annual Christmas dinner for the needy at the Pizza Bowl.  Laverne promises to track down her father and find out about his plans for the dinner.

At the dept. store, there's a funny physical comedy bit with the girls playing tug-o-war over bargains with another shopper.

Squiggy explains to the children waiting in line that Santa will return after he feeds his reindeer named Donner, Dancer, Smasher, and Blitzkrieg.

Later, we see Laverne and Shirley Christmas shopping at Meckler's department store.  The roommates' attention is drawn to the store's Santa Claus and his assistants.  Lenny and Squiggy are earning extra Christmas money working as Santa's fairy and elf.  Much to Laverne's surprise, her father Frank is working as the store's Santa Claus in order to earn some additional money he needs in order to pay for this year's charity dinner at the Pizza Bowl.  But we know Frank is quick to anger.  After one naughty child pulls on Santa's beard, a ruckus ensues that catches the attention of the store manager.  Sure enough, Santa is fired from his job!

Laverne recognizes her father under the false beard.  He confesses he took the extra job because the Pizza Bowl had a bad year.  He needs extra money to afford to host the charity Christmas dinner.

Recognize the rotten little boy who gets Santa fired?  That's Scott Marshall in the blue hat--the series creator Garry Marshall's real life son.  If you've watched as many 70s episodes as I have, you may recognize Scott from episodes of Happy Days and Mork and Mindy too!

If Frank can't afford to feed the needy at the Pizza Bowl this year, the gang decides to come together and help raise funds themselves.  Carmine, Laverne, and Shirley stand on a street corner in downtown Milwaukee to carol and collect money.  Unfortunately, the gang occupy a busy street corner--one where a bell-ringing Santa Claus and a Salvation Army band are also fundraising for charities.

Carmine, Laverne and Shirley have the best of intentions with their fundraising effort.

But the police are called in to calm the musical melee.

Recognize the tambourine shaking Sister Sarah?  That's actress Lynne Marie Stewart who also plays Miss Yvonne on Pee-Wee's Playhouse.

There's stiff competition between the three groups for the attention of people passing by on the sidewalk.  Eventually, the escalating noise levels between the three groups attracts the attention of a police officer.  Laverne, Shirley, and Carmine, who don't possess a license to solicit money, are required to stop fundraising.  How will they ever be able to afford to feed the needy this year?

Rags (played by character actor Hamilton Camp) brings spam, someone else brings a can of corn, and another brings a banana! Violá--it's Christmas dinner!

On Christmas Eve, Frank is troubled because he feels that he's let everyone down by not being able to host the annual charity Christmas dinner.  When Laverne arrives, she's accompanied by the neighborhood's needy who have all brought one food item with them! Although they won't be feasting on turkey and all the traditional fixings, Rags and his group remind everyone at the Pizza Bowl that they look forward to Christmas dinner each year as a time to spend with their friends--not for the meal itself.

Lenny and Squiggy save the day--it's a Christmas miracle!

After everyone feels the warmth of friendship this holiday, Lenny and Squiggy arrive at the party bearing a roasted turkey and stuffing.  It turns out a local butcher offered to give Lenny and Squiggy a complete Christmas dinner as long as they agreed to never date his daughter again.  Everyone is happy this Christmas season!

Realizing the spirit of Christmas is about being together and not about the trappings, everyone lifts their voices and sings "O Come All Ye Faithful" at the Pizza Bowl party. 

I think my favorite scene of this episode is the closing tag.  Shirley finds Laverne sitting under the tree early Christmas morning eager to exchange gifts.  The friends rip open the wrapping on their gifts at the same time--to uncover identical gifts.  Each roommate has given the other an autographed, framed photo of Elvis Presley.  Although both women are very happy with the new 8x10s of their singing idol, Shirley responds, "At least I spelled 'Presley' correctly." This classic punchline cracks me up every time I hear it.

Best friends exchange identical gifts--it's funny every time!

Are you interested in joining a twitter Christmas party in July?  Since Christmas programming airs year round, I'm thinking we should be able to find something fun to watch during the month of July that we can all watch together and comment on at Twitter.  Are you interested?  Leave your comments below.

1 comment:

  1. Love both of these classic Christmas episodes. Always fun seeing how beloved characters spend the holidays. And the Twitter party was a lot of fun, too. A new way to watch these episodes with other fans far and wide. I'd be up for a Christmas in July Twitter party, as well. Hopefully the timing works out!