We continue our countdown of my favorite 1970s Christmas TV episodes with 1977’s “‘Twas the Pie Before Christmas” from The Bob Newhart Show.
Okay, here we go again, another example of the peculiarities of this particular countdown. As I’ve noted before, the 1970s saw a HUGE increase in excellent sitcoms, and as a result, if I was taking a PURELY meritorious approach to this list, then I’d have four episodes of All in the Family, four episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, probably two or three episodes of Family, and no episodes of stuff like Mork and Mindy or Three’s Company. The Bob Newhart Show was an excellent sitcom, so good that pretty much any episode is better than an episode of Mork and Mindy. However, I think that that would be kind of boring, so I wanted to have SOME variety in the list, and as a result, unless multiple episodes REALLY stood out by any given show, I was going to mix things up a bit.
And that’s where The Bob Newhart Show got hurt, as it had a lot of good Christmas episodes, but they were all roughly the same quality level, so I just went with a single episode, so a trio of otherwise quite good episodes missed the list entirely. The good episodes that missed are as follows:
Season 1’s “His Busiest Season,” where Bob invites his patients to his home for Christmas. It’s a terrible party, but in a hilarious twist, once the patients learn that the party is terrible, their mood suddenly shifted. They were all so socially awkward that they figured that they just didn’t appreciate how good the party was. Learning that it was a BAD party, just as they suspected, loosened everyone up and they ended up having an actually good time.
Season 2’s “I’m Dreaming of a Slight Christmas” is probably the most heartfelt episode of the series, as Bob and his wife, Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), decide to have a quiet Christmas just between the two of them, but Bob is called to the office for a patient emergency on Christmas Eve. He is then snowed in by a blizzard. Bob treks through the storm and eventually gets home late at night, almost completely frozen. The two spend Christmas together, but Bob goes right to sleep due to exhaustion.
Season 3’s “Home Is Where the Hurt Is” is not a very good episode (it’s a spotlight on Bob’s secretary, Carol, played by the great Marcia Wallace).
Season 4’s “Bob Has to Have His Tonsils Out, So He Spends Christmas Eve in the Hospital” is probably the most famous Christmas episode in the series, but I honestly don’t think it’s all THAT good. It’s good, but just sort of a general level of good.
Season 5’s “Making Up Is the Thing to Do” is not that good (Bob tries to get his separated parents back together on Christmas).
That leaves my pick, Season 6’s “‘Twas the Pie Before Christmas.” Something you have to remember about The Bob Newhart Show is that his most famous patients were all recurring characters, so you’d rarely get the three best group members all in one episode (namely Jack Riley’s rude and cynical Mr. Carlin, John Fielder’s nebbish Mr. Peterson and Florida Friebus’s demure Mrs. Bakerman). Well, this episode has all three of them in it. It opens with a printer screw-up, so Bob’s Christmas cards for the group were accidentally printed with the notice that he was raising his fee in the New Year (he meant to give the new pay rates to the group in the New Year).
The group is angry at him, and Mr. Carlin actually hires a pie “hitman,” who you hire to hit people you’re mad at with a pie. The problem is that through wacky misunderstandings, Bob keeps avoiding getting hit.
Meanwhile, Bob’s friends Jerry (Peter Bonerz) and Howard (Bill Daily) get into a fight, as well, so Bob’s big Christmas party at his place for his friends and patients appears like it will be a total bust. However, one by one, everyone is moved by the season, and shows up at the party, and everyone forgives each other. Except, of course, for Mr. Carlin, who shows up with the pie hitman, to shout at him for his incompetence and show him specifically who Bob is. Well, Carlin berates the pie guy so much that he just turns on his client, hitting HIM with a pie!
it’s such a well-constructed episode from a writing standpoint. Everything is nicely tied together. It’s one of the best episodes of the series period, let alone its Christmas episodes.