Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
As the episode begins, Mary is talking excitedly on the phone at her office desk, planning her Christmas visit with her mother. Right afterwards, her boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner) informs her that she’ll have to work on Christmas Day. Later, another colleague manipulates Mary into working for him on Christmas Eve too. Virtually alone in the building that night, Mary is frightened when someone calls and hangs up without speaking. She hears the elevator coming and footsteps down the hall. She quickly calls her friend, Rhoda (Valerie Harper), to say a murderer is approaching. Then she arms herself with a Santa figurine and prepares to throw it as the door bursts open to reveal Lou, Murray (Gavin MacLeod) and Ted (Ted Knight), arriving to whisk Mary off for a holiday celebration.
The Andy Griffith Show (1960)
On Christmas Eve, town scrooge and store owner Ben Weaver demands that Andy jail a local moonshiner, even though it means the poor sap will be separated from his family at Christmas. Andy tries to dissuade Ben, but he’s a stubborn old coot. So Andy, ever wise, jails the whole family so they can spend Christmas together. At the jailhouse, the family – together with Andy, Aunt Bee, Barney and Opie – have a lovely holiday feast. Old Ben spies this through the window and his grinch heart melts. To join in, he gets himself arrested and brings a suitcase full of presents.
The Honeymooners (1955)
In a “Gift of the Magi” inspired episode called “Twas The Night Before Christmas”, Ralph hocks his new bowling ball to buy Alice a Napoleon orange juicer (you squeeze the oranges on the emperor’s head and the juice squirts out of his ears). For Ralph, Alice buys him a new bag for the bowling ball she knows he loves so much.
In “Death Takes a Holiday”, written and directed by Mike Farrell (who played BJ Honeycutt), Father Mulcahy organises a party for local orphans and Winchester learns something about the season. But the central story finds Hawkeye, Honeycutt and Houlihan struggling to keep a gravely wounded soldier alive at least past midnight so his family won’t forever associate the holiday with his loss.
The Brady Bunch (1969)
Mrs Brady (Florence Henderson) loses her voice just days before Christmas, imperilling her chance to sing solo at church. At the mall, little Cindy (Susan Olsen) tells Santa she doesn’t want any toys or games (unlike the greedy kid in front of her in the line). All she wants is for her mum to get her voice back.
Rising Damp (1975)
Following a lonely Christmas spent with only Vienna as company, Rigsby is visited by the milkman, Fred, wanting his money, and postwoman Gwen, who delivers a card – sent by himself – but declines to kiss him under the mistletoe. Alan and Brenda return from spending Christmas with his parents and both, separately, give him bath salts as a present. Philip comes back with his girlfriend Lucy, assuming they would be alone in the house. He tells Rigsby he has a present for him in his room and Rigsby wrongly believes this is Lucy. As she is black he imagines she has just arrived from Africa – rather than Northampton – and tries to teach her the British custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Gwen and Fred return – she is now prepared to kiss Rigsby under the mistletoe but Fred gets in first!
George’s father, Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller), creates “a Festivus for the rest of us” – an alternative to the commercialised tradition of Christmas. During Festivus, family and friends are allowed to air their grievances to one another, and they compete in showing off feats of strength. Instead of displaying a Christmas tree, there is a simple aluminium pole that stands undecorated.
The Simpsons (1989)
The family goes Christmas shopping in “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” and Bart sneaks away to get a tattoo. He requests the word ‘Mother’, but Marge interrupts the inking process at ‘Moth’ and takes Bart to a tattoo removal clinic, where she spends the family’s Christmas money. With the holiday in peril, Homer heads to the dog track where he bets on a dog called Santa’s Little Helper. The dog finishes last, is abandoned by his owner and eventually follows Homer and Bart. When they return home, the family thinks Homer has brought the dog as a gift.
Steptoe and Son (1974)
Harold (Harry H. Corbett) wants to go to Switzerland for Christmas whilst Albert (Wilfrid Brambell), as usual, prefers Bognor, though he is persuaded to go provided they sail, rather than fly. However he has no passport and when Harold finds his birth certificate in order to get him one, it turns out that Albert is the illegitimate son of the muffin man and the picture of his supposed father is really Gladstone. At customs, Albert’s new passport is accepted but Harold’s is a year out of date, so Albert happily goes on the holiday alone, unaware that Harold has actually cooked a scheme allowing him to spend Christmas with his girlfriend – in Bognor.