Every TV show leans on tropes to fill out their season. For the standard dramatic hour, it’s brilliant doctors/lawyers/cops with a complicating flaw. For animated sitcoms, it’s copying The Simpsons or copying the copies of The Simpsons. And for critically acclaimed premium cable, it’s so many naked breasts.
That’s why network shows pioneered the holiday episode. If you’ve got 23 episodes of funny! to do from fall to spring, it makes life a lot easier when Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and even Groundhog Day give you jumping-off points.
Now most shows do their holiday episodes with plenty of standard cheer. It’s like, why [...]
Nothing says "Merry Christmas, family!" like wearing a very ugly, very tacky sweater featuring a snowman with a carrot-and-coal penis (modeled above by handsome Fallon blogger Josh Lay). Let your parents know that they didn't raise you quite right by wearing this wonderful piece of poor taste to the holiday dinner table! Our friends over at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon have been giving away similarly terrible sweaters this month as part of their "12 Days of Christmas Sweaters," but they ended up with some extras and were nice enough to offer this specimen of wrongness to us. And we want to give it to one of you!
Like Newhart's comedy, this special takes a little time to ramp up to greatness. The first few scenes are your regular Christmas special cliches: gifts awkwardly exchanged, one member of a couple being more giving than the other, etc.
But once Bob gets into his routine about Christmas parties, the special becomes really funny. Newhart sells well-trodden the tropes of awkward parties and guilt as new and fresh.
Mary loves Christmas. But with Mary's big fancy job, there comes sacrificies. Such as Christmas. And it's really, really depressing.
While The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a sitcom, this episode is just sad. Not a tear-jerker. Just sad. Mary gets used by everyone around her while she gives up little bit of Christmas after little bit of Christmas. Here's almost every scene in the special:
MARY: I love Christmas! CO-WORKER: We had to burn Santa Claus alive so there would be news. Go cover it. MARY: I… I understand. CO-WORKER: By the way, you're going to die alone. MARY: I know.
30 Rock has always been good at playing through old sitcom tropes and reforming them into something new. Here, of course, we have the old "let's put on a Christmas special" story. Only this time, it's so Jack can avoid spending Christmas alone with his (maybe not so bad) mother.
In fact, the revelation about why Jack's Christmases were so bad is creepily touching. A lazier show would've kept him and his mother fighting until a cheesy hug-it-out moment. Rather, Jack stays in character and quietly respects his mother for (spoiler alert!) sleeping around to get him toys.