Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. A time of brutal avarice and stunning generosity. When mothers trample each other so they can see their child happy. When bosses hold lavish parties for their employees with the desperate hope of achieving infidelity. There’s perhaps no greater tribute to both the greed and giving of Christmas than the Christmas television special. Both a horrible grab for sentimental viewers and a chance to express real emotions, Christmas specials are a truly weird beast.
With this being the holiday season, I thought I’d share a Christmas special, every (week)day from now until Christmas. Think of it as an Advent Calendar secretly made by Jewish people.
#20: The Dick Van Dyke Show: “The Alan Brady Show Presents”
Due to my lack of interest in research, this is the earliest example of the “Christmas Special Within A Christmas Special” storyline I can find. I’m sure there’s some earlier one where, I don’t know, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin tumble down a hill into a movie lot shooting a Christmas movie.
But even though it’s an early example, the format is already well-established. If you’ve seen a special, you know what’s going to happen. The actors and writers blow their lines. Everyone worries that Christmas is over. The special goes off with a few charmingly awkward mistakes. Everyone learns a lesson.
However, what separates it from other examples of the trope is how lovingly charming it is. There is winking at the camera — a comedy show about a comedy show is bound to do that — but there are also honestly emotional moments. While Sally Rogers’s “Santa Send a Fella” is crazy sexist today, it separates itself from similar songs like “Santa Baby” by at least being sung by and about a funny woman.
Again, the sentiment isn’t the greatest message. But the fact that Sally’s charm comes from her comedic timing and impersonations (as opposed to her sexuality) is a regrettably unusual Christmas trope of the time.
Mike Drucker is a lovely man with many positive characteristics. He has written for Saturday Night Live, The Onion, McSweeney’s, and Nintendo. He’s also a stand-up or something, I guess.