We continue our countdown of my favorite 1970s Christmas TV episodes with 1976’s “Christmas” from What’s Happening!!.
We’re now sort of getting into what I would say is the real meat of the countdown, episodes that truly featured some of the hallmarks of a great Christmas episode, typically centered around two major areas – family and sacrifice.
Obviously, most stories about Christmas inherently feature families, but the great ones also tend to involve sacrifice, even if we’re just talking about something as little as choosing to do something for someone else instead of yourself. You know, Gift of the Magi-type stuff.
In this Season 1 episode of What’s Happening!!, Raj and Dee plan to spend Christmas by themselves again this year, as their mother always has to work Christmas Eve and Christmas, as those are the best days to rack up great pay working private events for rich people. However, she sadly never gets to spend Christmas with her kids. Well, this year, their estranged father has shown back up in their lives, and since they won’t be with their mom, he asks them to come over to his apartment where his new girlfriend can cook for them. They agree.
Of course, the twist is that Mama got Christmas off this year specifically to be able to spend time with her kids. When she learns that they are going to be at their father’s place (with his new girlfriend), she decides to sacrifice her happiness and pretend to still be going in to work. It’s a real significant sacrifice on her part, and it really sells the story well.
“Luckily,” their dad’s new girlfriend burns the dinner she was cooking. Dee and Raj remember that their friends’ families had sent them some food to eat when everyone thought that they were going to be on their own, so Raj convinces everyone to go back to their place to get the food and bring it back. This, of course, leads to everyone thinking that there is a burglar in the house, since the door is unlocked, an it leads Mama to think that someone just broke into the house, since she’s supposed to be all alone.
Her ruse is discovered, and in a nice turn of events, they all just share Christmas dinner together, and it is very pleasant.
This was a heartwarming tale, and Mabel King really sold the heartarce of Mama Thomas in the episode.
What’s Happening!! had another Christmas episode in Season 3 that was sort of fun, but not really all that great.