About Christmas TV History

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Bewitched Christmas (1969)

There are four Christmas episodes from the 1960s TV sitcom Bewitched.

Every October I love to share my discussions about the Christmas episodes of the TV series Bewitched again on social media. It's an easy way to engage with both the spirit of Halloween and the yuletide. However, these charming stories are fun to reminisce about year round too. You may remember that I've already discussed three of the Christmas Bewitched episodes--here are those links again:

1964's "A Vision of Sugar Plums" with guest stars Billy Mumy and Bill Daly

1967's "Humbug Not to be Spoken Here" inspired by Charles Dickens

1970's "Sisters at Heart" an episode written by high school students about the subject of racism

This 1969 holiday episode is the first Christmas for Samantha's son Adam.

So the following discussion of the1969 episode "Santa Comes to Visit and Stays and Stays" is the last of the four. Have you seen this episode lately? Let me remind you of its highlights.

Alice Ghostley as the bumbling witch Esmeralda.

It's a few days before Christmas and Samantha Stephens has been busy caring for her children Tabitha and Adam. She still has some Christmas shopping to do, so she asks her witch friend Esmeralda to come and babysit for a short while. Bewitched fans remember Esmeralda--she's a nervous witch who always seems to bring confusion and disaster. Samantha has plenty of patience and kindness for her, that's why she's always welcome in the Stephens' home.

The lovable character Esmeralda is played by Alice Ghostley. The actress actually appeared earlier on Bewitched in one second season episode as the incompetent maid Naomi only to be given this recurring role starting in the sixth season. However, the character actress has a long list of TV credits on other series too--you may remember her from another unforgettable role as Bernice on Designing Women. Christmas TV fans may remember Ghostley from her role as the social worker in the 1977 holiday episode "Penny's Christmas" from Good Times. HERE's my discussion of that episode again. She also plays Officer Muldoon's girlfriend Bonnie in the 1961 Christmas episode of Car 54, Where Are You? HERE's my discussion of that episode again.

Esmeralda inadvertently materializes Christmas seals--Samantha gets the joke!

Esmeralda is called in and she's eager to help Samantha by babysitting. She sneezes and accidentally brings forth a goat. She and Samantha laugh about it and the goat quickly disappears. The nervous witch sneezes again and she materializes two seals. Samantha remarks about Esmeralda's Christmas seals--remember the annual tradition of adhering American Lung Association Christmas seals on greeting card envelopes? The clapping, barking seals disappear quickly, and Samantha reassures Esmeralda that everything will be okay. Darrin's presence makes Esmeralda feel even more anxious and she sneezes once again--this time bringing Santa Claus into the Stephens' home!

Santa Claus is played by Ronald Long--a frequent guest star on Bewitched!

Samantha says 'hi' to Santa Claus--they're old friends (see the two earlier Christmas episodes of Bewitched) and she assures him that he should pop back to the North Pole pretty quickly since Esmeralda's accidental spells don't last long. But a few moments turn into hours, and Santa remains in the Stephens' home.

Bewitched fans have seen mythical characters on the show before--cousin Edgar (Arte Johnson) the elf in the first season, a leprechaun (Henry Jones) in the second season, a wood nymph (Kathleen Nolan) in season 3,  and from season four--ghouls and goblins from a storybook, a Macedonian dodo bird, and Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty. In season six, there's a unicorn, the literary character the Artful Dodger (Todd Baron) from Oliver Twist, and another leprechaun (Henry Gibson). Season 7 sees Mary the Good Fairy (Imogene Coca) the tooth fairy, a troll from a storybook, and in season eight there's the Loch Ness Monster, a ghost in a haunted English castle, and the fairytale characters Hansel (Eric Chase) and Gretel (Cindy Henderson). Of course, throughout the series, there are many witches and warlocks too. This show is filled with fantasy characters! Santa Claus fits in quite well here--making appearances in three episodes. I put together this list of mythical characters from flipping through Herbie J. Pilato's The Bewitched Book (1992). Did I forget one of your favorites?

Gladys Kravitz #2: Sandra Gould

Santa Claus' visit at the Stephens' home sees its complications. Of course, nosy neighbor Mrs. Kravitz is curious about the activity going on across the street. She can't help but stop by to check up on Samantha. When she barges through the front door and meets Santa Claus, she assumes he's an actor hired to enhance the Stephens' outdoor holiday display for the neighborhood contest. Sam doesn't try to convince her otherwise.

Santa becomes cranky waiting to pop back to the North Pole--he has a lot of work to get done yet!

The other complication is that Santa himself is restless. He knows he's missing out on valuable time at the North Pole. He reminds Samantha that he still has thousands of toys to make with his elves before he can make the annual flight delivering gifts. Since Sam can't override Esmeralda's magic, at least she can use her powers to bring Santa's helpers to him here so they can keep working.

Sam is sorry that Esmeralda's spell has kept him longer than she expected.

Santa and his crew working in the Stephens' living room.

Once Santa and his elves are united, we see fast-motion sequences of the toymakers busy at work. Naturally, Mrs. Kravitz peeks in the windows in the middle of the night and sees the impossible! When she shares the crazy story with her husband Abner, he doesn't believe her. More importantly, Santa has a deadline and Samantha wants him to work uninterrupted.

With St. Nick still stuck at Sam's home, she brings his sleigh and reindeer team to him.

It's time for Santa to deliver his toys.
Another hiccup occurs when it's time for Santa to make his annual Christmas Eve toy delivery. Sam zaps his sleigh and reindeer to her front yard and the elves load the sleigh with toys. But Darrin's boss Larry Tate is there--another witness they don't need! As Larry watches Santa and his sleigh fly across the sky and out of sight, he's too embarrassed to admit what he thinks he's just seen. Instead, Larry confesses he's inspired by the holiday spirit to get his wife Louise a mink coat after all.

Tabitha under the tree on Christmas morning.

At the top of the episode, Tabitha had remarked on how she was frustrated by a schoolmate who said he didn't believe in Santa Claus. Tabitha had explained that Santa was a friend of the family and her mother reassures her young daughter. Here at the end, Tabitha shares with her mother that she persuaded her friend at school to finally believe in Santa Claus--she turned him into a mushroom until he agreed that Santa does indeed exist! Another example of the fun when TV witchcraft and Christmas magic cross over.

Do you have a favorite between the four Christmas episodes of Bewitched? My favorite is "A Vision of Sugar Plums" from 1964 in which Sam and Darrin welcome a young boy from he local children's home to spend Christmas with them. Sam helps the cynical youngster discover the joy of the season--a story that still touches my heart decades since my first viewing. What about you?

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

1 comment:

  1. This one is great, weird fun in the way the later run of the show was. My favorite is the same as yours, I believe. Something very special about that episode. :)