We continue our countdown of my favorite 1970s Christmas TV episodes with 1970’s “Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II” from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, of course, is one of the most acclaimed TV sitcoms of all-time, a show that helped change the face of sitcoms in the 1970 by virtue of being a sitcom that was actually, well, you know, SMART.
It didn’t hurt that the show starred Mary Tyler Moore, one of the most charismatic and popular actors of the era. She plays Mary Richards, a young woman who is reeling from a bad breakup with her fiancée who has to go get a job in Minneapolis. After she loses a receptionist job at a TV station, she instead gets an assistant producer job at the same station, working under the main producer, Lou Grant (Ed Asner). She befriends the show’s writer, Murray (Gavin MacLeod) and the buffoonish anchor, Ted (Ted Knight).
She rents the floor of a house from a woman named Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), and quickly befriends the other tenant, Rhoda (Valerie Harper). The show’s first Christmas episode (and only TRUE Christmas episode) occurred in the first season, and was written by the great James L. Brooks (I’ll write more about the interesting origins of the episode later).
Mary is shocked to learn that she will be expected to cover the newsroom on Christmas Day. She figures that she’ll at least be able to celebrate on Christmas Eve with Rhoda, but then a co-worker guilts her into taking his Christmas Eve shift, as well, so she is all by herself on Christmas Eve.
Of course, in the end, Lou, Murry and Ted surprise her with a midnight Christmas party. It’s adorable, and everyone gives a strong acting performance, but at the same time, the conflict is pretty low stakes (couldn’t she have just had her party with Rhoda at midnight anyways?), which is why I don’t have it higher on the list.