I chose this episode of Growing Pains for the Christmas challenge because of one thing: I had it on DVD. In looking at the episode title alone, I had no idea if I had seen it before or what it was about (yes, I realize how funny it is to say that when I own the season set). But I will say, if I did see it, it’s been a very long time because I didn’t remember any of it.
For the first season Christmas episode of a family comedy, it was rather dark. The entire episode consisted of young Ben, waiting to receive his Christmas Eve present and doubting the existence of Santa Claus. So of course, he’s rather surprised to see Santa’s own hat fall down his chimney.
Was Santa really here? Why no. In fact, it was one of his dad’s patients, Walter Bodewell, who was on the roof wanting to commit suicide. The rest of the episode, which had some but few laughs, was Jason’s attempt to convince Walter to stay alive.
For a while there, I was pretty displeased with the episode. But then they pulled out the big guns: a puppy. That’s right, Ben’s surprise gift was a puppy, which he gave to Walter after hearing Walter so happily discuss his own pet growing up. Ben promised, “I’ll give you my puppy if you don’t kill yourself.”
And so it was. But it wasn’t all sorrow for poor Ben. Another puppy appeared (I don’t know how), and Ben still got his happy ending. He even heard the real Santa on the roof in the episode’s final moments.
It was rather strange to watch. The entire episode felt more like I was watching a play more than a TV show, just in the way that it was set and acted (and shot, for that matter). But you still got the warm fuzzies in the end as you watched the Seaver family open their Christmas Eve gifts.
Recommendation: While I don’t think this is an episode I’d recommend tossing in the player every year, it was a nice one to watch. You’ll need to be in the right mood. Think, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a cute kid and puppies. That kind of mood.