About Christmas TV History

Monday, July 17, 2023

Christmas in July 2023: The Six Million Dollar Man (1976)


Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #17 in the month-long celebration of Christmas entertainment. Each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies that are a creative or imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition will be released soon).  

This week, let's look at especially creative examples of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in TV episodes in which characters have read Charles Dickens' book and look to influence someone else who needs inspired with the holiday spirit! For more--see Day 15's introduction with a discussion on the TV series The Rogues and Day 16's discussion on Bewitched.


Lee Majors as the Bionic Man.


In this fourth season episode, Col. Steve Austin is asked to skip his Christmas vacation in order to check on a company developing a life support system for a landing on Mars that is plagued with problems.  Austin meets the company’s owner Mr. Budge and learns that the equipment testing problems are not sabotage but a greedy company owner who is going by the minimum standards--the equipment fails because it’s too cheaply made. Steve also meets Crandall, Budge’s nephew and chauffer, who Budge has demoted from his accountant when Crandall stole company money, desperate to pay his wife’s medical bills.  


Ray Walston plays Budge--this episode's Scrooge.

Steve spends the holiday with Crandall’s impoverished family--even getting them a Christmas tree and gifts they weren’t expecting. On Christmas Eve, Mr. Budge accidentally over-medicates himself, and he falls in and out of consciousness with hallucinations. Under doctor’s orders, Steve Austin is instructed to keep Mr. Budge from falling asleep until the medication wears off. So, Steve takes advantage of an opportunity and gives Budge the Dickens’ treatment!  Disguising himself in a Santa Claus suit, the Bionic Man spends Christmas Eve showing the groggy Budge the consequences of his greedy actions.  

This episode's story is interesting because Steve Austin has read Charles Dickens' book and he takes it upon himself to gaslight the Scrooge-like Budge to change his stingy business practices and to improve his relationship with his nephew and past employee Crandall. This adaptation of Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" may play fast and loose with the spirit of Christmas (and ethical behavior) but is fun none the less.

Austin is dressed as Santa, showing Budge how Crandall celebrates his Christmas.

Two of my favorite scenes include Steve Austin bionic jumping to the top of a fir tree in the Crandall’s back yard in order to rip the top of it off for the family’s Christmas tree.  Another is the scene in which Steve uses his bionic hand to chisel a tombstone to help scare Budge into reconsidering his life!


Left to right: Adam Rich, Quinn Cummings, Dick Sargent, and Natasha Ryan.

I previously wrote about this episode with more detail on this website a few years ago--click HERE to see that discussion again. I'll be discussing more examples of this kind of Scrooge Treatment version of "A Christmas Carol" more this week, so keep following!


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. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for an upcoming release. 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

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