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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 12

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar- Day 12

The holiday season is a time of good tidings and goodwill toward one another. But can that goodwill go too far? Can we possibly get so wrapped up in the holiday and our own pursuit to feel good about ourselves that we actually harm other people, people obviously crying out for help? Oh, yes, it can happen. Toxic Goodwill is a thing, my friends, and this 60+ year old TV show was one of the first to tackle the subject.

Warning: Spoiler Alert! You've probably seen this one a million times so I cannot spoil anything for you, but if you don't remember it well and want to watch it before I start running my mouth, make it happen. It's only 25 minutes. I'll be here when you get back.

ICFH 2022 Advent Calendar December 12- The Andy Griffith Show: Christmas Story (1960)

It's Christmas Eve in Mayberry and Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) decides that since schools let out for Christmas break, and jail is like school, teaching folks how not to do bad, the jail should shut down for a Christmas break too. He frees the entire criminal element of Mayberry. Before he and Deputy Barny Fife (Don Knotts) can get to the big Christmas Eve Party, Old Man Ben Weaver (Will Wright) brings in Sam Muggins (Sam Edwards) for making moonshine to give away for free, thus cutting into Old Man Weaver's alcohol sales. (Evidently Old Man Weaver has a store of some kind that trades in everything from dolls to sporting equipment to liquor.)

Old Man Weaver wants Muggins locked up for honing into his seasonal alcohol sales and he swears he'll keep an eye on the jail to ensure Muggins spends the holiday behind bars.

Since the party is spoiled, Andy decides to move it to the jail but not before incarcerating Sam's wife and two children as accessories to the crime of moonshining since they all knew what Sam was up to. Old Man Weaver has a slight stroke. He seems slightly bothered that a woman and two small children are now behind bars for Christmas too, but he seems more bothered that Sam will be with his family for the holiday.

The festivities crank up and unknown to all, Old Man Weaver is peeping at the holiday soiree and singing along. You can see he wants to be a part of it, but he doesn't know how to make that happen. He's already been a super dick to the Muggins family. He has to play his hand wisely.

Opie busts in and hollers there's a theft being perpetrated outside. Andy and girlfriend Ellie Walker (Elinor Donahue) are among those who rush out to see what's going on. Old Man Weaver is stealing the bench from in front of the jailhouse to put in front of his store. He refuses to return it and Andy has no other option but to bust him. Ellie interferes in the apprehension of the old man and suggests Andy should have a heart and give him a break. It's Christmastime. Andy agrees, gives the bench to Old Man Weaver and tells him to stick it wherever. (So to speak.)

A while later Barney brings Old Man Weaver in for parking in front of a fire hydrant and then tearing up the citation Barny issued him. They argue. Andy thinks it is ridiculous to spend two days in jail over a two dollar citation but Old Man Weaver insists. AGAIN Ellie interferes and gives Andy the two dollars and wishes Weaver a Merry Christmas.

Old Man Weaver is crushed. The best he can do is stand on a trash can and watch the family festivities from the cold back alley. When he falls and makes a ruckus, he does everything he can to get thrown in jail for disturbing the peace. Andy goes out alone and finally figures out the old man has no family and really wants to be part of the holiday fun.

When they return to the jailhouse, Old Man Weaver comes bearing gifts and accepts a plate of food and the shared holiday cheer. (I assume that in some snipped scene Andy no doubt shot Ellie a look for her to keep her nose out of the old man's business.)

This is probably one of the most beloved and heartwarming of all TV holiday specials. At the time it was made, it celebrated all that was good and wonderful about the holidays, warming us with the sweet memories of Christmases from our own past.

Seen through modern eyes, this is obviously a study of seasonal depression and a cry for the better mental health care of our older citizens. Yes, Andy is very aware of the needs of his immediate circle of friends and family, as well as the people in his care behind bars, but he fails to see the cry for help and comfort of the older generation. This is made all the worse through Ellie's "Toxic Goodwill." She believes good deeds, two dollars and a quick "Merry Christmas" will fix anything during the season. (People still perpetrate this lie over the holidays.) It is only when Andy is away from Ellie's meddling that he can identify the larger truth in Old Man Weaver's rambunctious recklessness. (I'm sure this was just one of her many flaws Andy considered when he finally dumped her by the end of Season One.)

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