With Christmas upon us, everyone's thoughts turn towards the holiday. It's hard even for those not celebrating Christmas to be immune to the season, with stores bustling, selling huge amounts of merchandise, and decked out with various festive decorations.
This extends to our favorite television programs, with a great many of them, especially on the broadcast networks, going for a Christmas-themed episode. Hollywood may be full of Jews, but even (some) Jewish characters put up a tree these days. Or maybe not just these days, since the very Jewish Irving Berlin wrote the classic song "White Christmas."
There are a lot of ways to do a Christmas episode, though some have become cliche. Here are some of the most obvious scenarios, and if you're writing for a television show, please try not to do them any more. Unless you have a new, fresh twist on an old idea. Which, admittedly, maybe be hard to judge when writing it.
These come in quite a few different forms. Some are parodies, others copy the film's story, and some barely touch on more than a couple of themes. Often, episode titles make the connection obvious.
The most commonly used one, of course, is It's a Wonderful Life, in which a character falls into a coma or has a dream, and imagines what life would be like were a different choice made, or circumstances varied. Glee did it this year, albeit for only one act. But many, many other series have done it in the past.
It's a nice idea, getting to see familiar characters in a different light, acting ways they normally would not. And yet, it has been done to death. Some shows have tried moving this bit away from Christmas, but is still obvious what is being done. Unless there is a good reason, plot-wise, to show this, or one hundred percent effort is put into making it the best it can be for pretty much the entire length of the installment enough is enough.
A close second is A Christmas Carol, in which a grumpy puss decides to be nice. Everyone hates a Scrooge, but they love a tale of redemption. The change won't last, of course, so it's merely comfort food, rather than serious development. The story is classic for a reason, and these episodes do resonate with us. But they've been done. Move on.
How many times have you been watching a holiday episode when the plot takes the characters to a dire place? Maybe their gifts have been stolen, maybe someone is missing, or maybe there's just a grinch in their midst who is ruining everyone else's good time. Whatever the setup, things are bad, and the characters cannot do anything to help themselves or others.