Just Enough Information: The Ruggles was one of the earliest family-oriented television sitcoms, broadcast live on ABC from 1949 to 1952. The show starred character actor Charlie Ruggles as company department manager Charlie Ruggles. His family consisted of wife Margaret, coed daughter Sharon, son Chuck, and the younger children, twins Donna and Donald. Playing without an audience or laugh track, the show did it’s business with the type of gentle, low-key humor which unfortunately didn’t have a snowball’s chance outside of the rare air of early television.
The Christmas Episode: “Christmas Eve”. Original Broadcast: circa December 1949 (probably).
It’s one of those cozy nights in the Ruggles’ house, and the twins are collaborating on a letter to Santa, making sure to include everybody. “Bring Daddy a checkbook so he can write some more money.”
Martha gets the idea that they’ve had so much over the course of their lives together, maybe they should share a bit of it with someone less fortunate. Chuck and Sharon really latch on to the idea, and Sharon in particular remembers Elaine, a high school classmate who lost her father in the not-too-distant past and wasn’t well-to-do enough that she got to go to college. While Charlie isn’t against the idea, he’s a bit concerned that Sharon knew all of this during the rest of the year and didn’t do anything with it until just now. He reminds Sharon and Chuck that you shouldn’t neglect your duties throughout the year and try to make good during the holidays. Not that he’s against the idea, you understand, just that he wanted to register how he felt.
Eventually, Charlie, Chuck, and Sharon make the trip out to Elaine’s house. Chuck makes a few poverty (almost-)gaffes, while Sharon doesn’t seem to be entirely comfortable. Charlie finally gets the kids back on mission, about how they’re thinking about the less fortunate at this time of the year and…
And that’s when Elaine cuts them off with a list of a few people in the neighborhood who she thinks are in dire straits, which Charlie tactfully decides is a great idea. They do manage to offer to share their Christmas Eve dinner with Elaine, whose mother is out of town, leaving her alone for the holidays. So she invites all of them over to her house, and the Ruggles in turn invite the dinner they were preparing. Everybody has a happy holiday.
Absolutely charming. There’s no way they’d make another like it today.
Our Holiday Lesson For Today: This is a good one, too, from father Charlie. “Happiness is within one’s self. It isn’t what we have or how much we have that counts. It’s how much of what we have that we enjoy.” The gift, Charlie reminds us, is enjoying what you’ve been given and sharing with others.
But Don’t Take My Word For It: The Internet Archive has a stream, except as I’m writing this the site isn’t cooperating 100%. I’ll leave the link just in case everything goes wonky again and hope that it all comes together eventually.
Next: Ray Bolger!