Sunday, December 16, 2012

TV's Top 10 Snowbound Moments

Stuck at home during these wintry months, it’s easy to come down with a case of cabin fever.  But when the weather outside is frightful, at least we have our televisions’ glow to keep us warm.  And when the snow starts falling on the screen as well, those are the situations which often precipitate TV’s biggest laughs.  Below, my Top Ten episodes where chilly situations have made for some warm memories.

1.  I Love Lucy, "Lucy in the Swiss Alps," aired March 26, 1956

Snowy setting:  Swiss chalet

The Wintry Scene:  After a mountaintop picnic in snow-laden Lucerne, TV’s favorite foursome takes shelter in a cabin whose door is soon blocked by a drift.

Cracking Up:  When Lucy tries to sneak a snack of a sandwich left over from lunch, her three hungry cabin-mates pounce, expecting their fair quarter-shares.

Breaking the Ice:  After a round of true confessions – Fred has been overcharging the Ricardos $10 a month in rent; Ethel has been secretly returning it – Lucy and friends are rescued by a local oom-pah-pah band, which Ricky then books on his show to play the world’s unlikeliest rumba.

2.  The Mary Tyler Moore Show, "The Snow Must Go On," aired November 7, 1970

Snowy Setting:  Minneapolis newsroom

The Wintry Scene:  Mary is already nervous that Mr. Grant has put her in charge of the station’s live election night newscast.  And that’s before a blizzard knocks out the station’s phones and teletype.

Cracking Up:  Lacking election results and forced to ad-lib for hours, anchorman Ted Baxter resorts to his Jimmy Cagney impression and reading the numbers on his driver’s license. 

Breaking the Ice:  Mary discovers inner strength as a boss when an overtired Ted responds to her threat of termination and agrees not to deliver unsubstantiated returns announcing Minneapolis’ new mayor.

3.  The Bob Newhart Show, "I'm Dreaming of a Slight Christmas," aired December 22, 1973

Snowy Setting:  Chicago medical office

The Wintry Scene:  When his longtime patient Mr. Peterson is too scared to go home on Christmas Eve, psychiatrist Bob returns to the office just in time for a blackout during Chicago’s worst-ever storm.

Cracking Up:  Eager to return to wife Emily, Bob is dismayed to find that the building’s elevators have shut down – and even more forlorn about remaining at his office’s party late enough to witness a performance by dentist Jerry’s drunken barbershop trio. 

Breaking the Ice:  After abandoning his car in a snowbank, Bob trudges four miles in the cold to make it home to celebrate.  Too bad he didn’t think to load up first on the warming Irish coffee his secretary Carol was serving at the party -- where she’d also spiked the water cooler. 

4.  Laverne & Shirley, "Ski Show," aired February 23, 1982

Snowy Setting:  California ski lift

The Wintry Scene:  The relocated Milwaukee bottlecappers take to the slopes in order to meet men.  But when their chairlift gets stuck in midair, all they may end up with is frostbite.

Cracking Up:   Panicking, Laverne tricks Shirley into surrendering the peanuts she’s kept for her afternoon snack.  Then, trying to cheer themselves up, the two sing “Let It Snow” – and unfortunately it does.

Breaking the Ice:  The gals think they’ve “died and gone to Sweden” when two hunky blond mountain rescuers work to warm their frozen bodies and – thanks to quick thinking by Laverne – their lips.

5.   Taxi, "Scenskees from a Marriage," aired October 21, 1982

Snowy Setting:  New York City cab

The Wintry Scene:  Selfless cabbie Latka himself gets stuck when he’s sent to save a female coworker from a snowdrift.   Stranded and shivering, cabbie Cindy comes up with a convenient idea:  to avoid freezing, she and her married rescuer must make love.

Cracking Up:  Following the advice of their priest, Reverend Gorky, Simka vows to make similar “nik nik” with one of Latka’s male coworkers.

Breaking the Ice:  Unable to agree who should be Simka’s conquest, the couple decides to choose the way their indeterminate Eastern European home country selects its president:  by throwing a dinner party, with the last man through the door the winner.  But Alex refuses to do the deed, forcing Latka and Simka to divorce – and then immediately remarry.

6.  Newhart, "No Room at the Inn," aired December 20, 1982

Snowy Setting:  Vermont bed-and-breakfast

The Wintry Scene:  Former New Yorkers Dick and Joanna are excited to spend their first Christmas in New England, and even more thrilled that their inn will be packed with customers from the Silverbird Ski Club.  But soon the Silverbirds, and all flights in and out of Stratford, are grounded.

Cracking Up:   The cooped-up Silverbirds squawk about a ruined vacation, and heiress housekeeper Leslie pines for the family she can’t celebrate with.  But things get really dire when a prophetically named traveler named Joseph enters with his pregnant wife, who proceeds to go into premature labor.

Breaking the Ice:  Providing excitement at last for the 24 Silverbirds – all of whom turn out to be physicians -- Joseph and his wife welcome their Christmas Eve delivery.  As Dick notes, Christmases don’t get much more authentic than this – particularly when more stranded motorists show up seeing shelter:  Alan Wiseman and his two brothers.

7.  Family Ties, "Birth of a Keaton," aired January 31, 1985

Snowy Setting:  Columbus, OH public television station
The Wintry Scene:  The Keatons have airtime to fill during the annual on-air pledge drive at Steven’s workplace WKS – without Steven, who is trapped at home in the snow.
Cracking Up:  That’s not a high note that pregnant Elyse hits while singing an otherwise mellow Irish folk tune – it’s a labor pain.
Breaking the Ice:  With the roads impassable, Elyse faces the prospect of giving birth right there at the station.  But her doctor arrives just in time, and the Keatons welcome  baby Andy.  And the bonus:  with all the on-air drama at WKS, $70 grand in pledges has come rolling in.

8.  Designing Women, "Stranded," aired December 7, 1987
Snowy Setting:  Tennessee motel room
The Wintry Scene:  When their co-workers get the flu on a business trip to St. Louis, it’s up to Atlantans Anthony and Suzanne to drive in and save the day.  But in an ever-worsening blizzard, they’re forced to spend the night together in a motel’s sole available room.
Cracking Up:  After initially spending hours in the Sugarbaker delivery van, shivering despite wearing extra layers of Suzanne’s pink marabou robe and pantyhose, emasculated Anthony barges in and begs the designing diva for a share of the bed.
Breaking the Ice:  In their cozy refuge, the unlikely duo becomes fast friends, their sudden mutual interest in Suzanne’s wigs and manicure making the rest of the gang  realize later that something strange indeed has happened amid the snow.

9.  The Nanny, "Schlepped Away," aired March 9, 1994
Snowy Setting:  Queens, NY apartment
The Wintry Scene:   The Nanny named Fran succeeds in convincing Mr.  Sheffield to take the entire clan on a Caribbean holiday.  But, after getting lost in the white stuff en route to the airport, they’re soon marooned at her parents’ much less exotic abode.

Cracking Up:  The adults in the group jump at the chance for some wine – but then learn to their chagrin that the Jewish Fine household has only super-sweet wines flavored “red” or “purple.”
Breaking the Ice:  Ultimately won over by the Fines’ warm ethnic ways, the whole Sheffield mespuchah engages in a time-honored tradition, noshing on tongue and stuffed derma in front of Wheel of Fortune, before departing for the tropics.

10.  Everybody Loves Raymond, "Snow Day," aired January 14, 2002
Snowy Setting:  Long Island, NY house
The Wintry Scene:  Ray and Debra’s golf getaway is scuttled by snow.  But even worse, a power outage forces them to gather around the hearth with Ray’s meddling parents, brooding brother Robert, and their intended airport ride, Robert’s ex-girlfriend Amy.
Cracking Up:  Papa Frank is atypically charming as he teaches the youngins his old-timey dance moves.  But relations soon sour when Debra blurts out her surprise about enjoying an evening with her in-laws.
Breaking the Ice:  Frank admits to having taken umbrage only because he always thought it was he and Debra against the rest of the family, who are, after all, “looneys.”  Then, as if to prove his point, the four members of the younger generation break into a fevered dance to their own favorite tune, “Jungle Love.”

Happy Holidays, and to all, a White Christmas!

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