The Other Christmas Episode: “Busy Christmas”. Original Broadcast: December 19, 1956 (and Christmas 1964 (see below))
Tonight’s episode with America's Favorite Family is brought to you in part by PROGRESS!!!(!) in the form of your local natural gas company. As used at the New York World’s Fair! Hey look, there’s the Futurama!
I distinctly remember being promised that Bender Bending Rodriguez would be here…
Wait just a minute…this is Futurama II. This is an ad in a 1956 episode with Ozzie and Harriet talking about the 1964 World’s Fair! Ozzie Nelson can see into the future! OMIGOD! HE HOLDS THE DREAD POWER OF SECOND SIGHT! NONE OF US AREoh, it’s a rebroadcast.
That's right, as the televised portion of the Nelson family saga started winding down, they spent an increasing part of the final seasons flashing back to the first seasons, which is what 1964 Ozzie and Harriet tell us at the start of tonight’s installment.
1956 Ozzie is trying so hard to get cozy with the holidays…
Note the dreaded (but iconic) eagle over the fireplace, placed to make sure that you don't think this is Soviet Russia's Favorite Family.
…but the holidays, as they do to all sitcom family men, conspire against him.
Compounding the issue, Ozzie gets it in his head that everybody’s imposing on him and ruining his Christmas. It doesn’t help that everybody is kind of imposing on him, since in addition to buying the tree and hanging the lights for America’s Favorite Family, he’s hustled into a series of community events by the fast-talking sharpies who are his friends and neighbors. Thanks to none of them waiting for Ozzie’s answer, he’s expected to carol with Mrs. Irving’s group, play Scrooge in a production of A Christmas Carol, and pull Santa duty at his lodge’s Christmas party. All on Christmas Eve.(Just to make sure this point is underlined, Ozzie traditionally waits until Christmas Eve to buy his live Christmas tree from the lot. Not because it’s a 50s thing, but apparently because Ozzie is a bargain hunter, and if that means sometimes you get knocked around a bit by an increasingly temperamental mob, it’s all worth it as you watch your family scramble to decorate the tree in the last hour before bedtime. Hey, nobody said being cheap was easy.)
So that’s our basic situation, and the comedy (such as it is) comes from Ozzie juggling his preparations for all three outside obligations while still trying to pull the family stuff together. Once everything ends happily ever after, 1964 Ricky closes the show with a Christmas song for the whole the family.
This episode was a little bit closer to what I expected from a 1950s family sitcom, the type of goofy story that could've played on the radio series (but didn't...although apparently the one about the lost present did). It’s a little like a Leave It To Beaver story…if the writers got mixed up and wrote Ward more like The Beaver. So far, that’s two episodes we can mark as “if this is the type of thing you like, you’ll like this type of thing.”
Our Holiday Lesson For Today: Scheduling is the key for a successful Christmas multitasker. And if you can’t get your to-do list finished, make sure you have capable people working behind your back.
Spot ‘Em: That’s Frank Cady—Sam Drucker himself—as Doc Williams, the man who thinks Ozzie would make a wonderful Scrooge after seeing him start to lose his mind over the season. Lyle Talbot, who transitioned from a B-movie career (and Ed Wood semi-regular) into frequent TV guest star, plays Joe Randolph, the guy who ropes Ozzie into Santa duty.
Also, I wouldn't be doing this thing correctly if I didn't mention that the blonde baby girl in the last picture is Tracy Nelson. Gunnar and Matthew came later. And yes, when David and Ricky got married, their actual wives became series regulars.
But Don’t Take My Word For It: Youtube lays it on us again (with the “original” commercials).
Next: The Christmas tree lot!