Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Good Times Christmas (1974)


Last month I wrote about the 1975 New Year's Eve episode of Good Times and I've previously shared about the 1977 episode "Penny's Christmas" and the 1978 episode "The Traveling Christmas." Since there's one more Christmas episode of the series, I decided to see it once again. Each of these Good Times holiday episodes are quite different from the others. Are you familiar with the 2nd season Christmas episode "Sometimes There's No Bottom in the Bottle?"



In this episode, the Evans family is busy preparing for Christmas. Florida is grateful because members of her family are visiting from out of town. Aunt Millie and Uncle Oscar have brought their daughter Naomi. Although the cousins don't know each other well, Michael, Thelma, and J.J. notice that Naomi is a bit strange. Not only does Naomi spend most of her time in the bathroom but the Evanses have noticed that she laughs at everything.


Even J.J. knows his jokes aren't THAT funny.
 
It's been three years since Thelma has seen her cousin and she promises to be more friendly to Naomi--if she stops spending so much time in the bathroom.


Teenage alcoholism rears its ugly head over the holidays.

What TV viewers see is that Naomi is hiding in the bathroom so she can finishe off a bottle of whiskey. Although Naomi claims to be enjoying a relaxing steam bath, she's really numbing herself with alcohol. Soon enough, members of the Evans family begin seeing the clues.


Florida reminds James that they have food, their health, and family this year for Christmas--even if he doesn't get a Christmas bonus.

In the meantime, James is anxious about his Christmas bonus at work this year. Last year, he didn't receive a bonus, and this year he's not sure what to expect. When he returns from the car wash Christmas party, he's carrying a new bottle of liquor and a check!

Thelma's experiences in the inner city have shown her this troublesome behavior before.

Eventually, Thelma catches Naomi stealing booze from a kitchen cabinet--and she confronts her cousin's drinking. Thelma is worried about Naomi's lack of concern for her behavior. Thelma tries to offer her cousin some words of advice but Naomi isn't listening.


This vodka tastes watered down!

Later when James, Florida, and Willona decide to drink a toast to the merry holidays, they notice the bottle of vodka in the kitchen cabinet tastes watered down. They know someone has tampered with it but they aren't sure who to suspect. They ask J.J. if he has been drinking and he reinforces what they already know--he doesn't like to drink. Thelma decides to keep her mouth shut about what she knows.


If it's not J.J.--then who is it?

It's time for Christmas dinner.

Naomi's parents Aunt Millie and Uncle Oscar finally return to the apartment after visiting friends around Chicago. The family gathers together around the dinner table to share the Christmas meal. Uncle Oscar offers to make a toast to celebrate the holidays with family--even offering to pour a little wine for the children at the table to toast.


Uncle Oscar is an advocate for responsible drinking.

James and Florida don't want alcohol offered to their children for a toast but Oscar insists that a little bit of wine with a meal won't do any harm. He points to the example set by his own daughter Naomi--who has enjoyed alcohol in the past. Unfortunately, it is at that moment that Naomi stands up to agree with her father and she collapses.


Don't secrets like this always seem to come out during the holidays?

Thelma explains that Naomi has passed out from drinking all day long. Sick with worry, Uncle Oscar expresses relief that his daughter is only drunk--he feared she may be doing drugs! The Evans family expresses concern for Naomi--and the episode ends without any judgement for Naomi (or her father Oscar).

On Christmas morning, each member of the family shares what they hope for the others.

Although it seems like the episode ends abruptly, Naomi's dangerous behavior and Oscar's ignorance continue to resonate while the credits roll. If you grew up watching 1980s sitcoms, you may expect television stories about teenage alcoholism to include not only moral judgement from the other characters but also solutions provided to viewers who may be struggling with similar problems. However, Good Times was created at an earlier time in television when identifying social problems was still considered cutting edge. After all these years, I'm still struck by the powerful force of this episode because it doesn't end with any quick fixes or an inevitable happy ending for Naomi. Don't secrets like Naomi's always seem to come out during the holidays?

Which of the four holiday episodes of Good Times is your favorite? Feel free to share your comments in the section below.


4 comments:

  1. Love the colours! So upbeat for a really depressing storyline! :)

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    1. Moving, for sure.

      It IS pretty colorful, isn't it?

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  2. Used to watch often as a kid, but I haven't seen this show in at least 30 years now. Will have to give it a rewatch, soon.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Joe. I'm into Good Times again. I wish there were more Willona episodes--her character always stands out to me.

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