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It's a Wonderful Plot

Every year, as the holidays come around, I grit my teeth and prepare for the worst.

No, I actually like the holidays. And as awful as they are, I'm not talking about the crowds at the mall (mmm... nothing says holidays like a Hot Dog On a Stick and Karmelcorn with some Orange Julius to wash it all down) or even those atrocious champagne ads foisted on us once a year.

No, I'm talking about special holiday episodes of your favorite TV shows. And in particular, one plot that's reused more often than any other: "It's a Wonderful Life."

I can't recall how many times I've seen a television sitcom (and every once in a while, a drama) do their own version of that classic sap-fest that Frank Capra, aided and abetted by James Stewart, created long ago. Not that "It's a Wonderful Life" is such a horrible film, but that it's become the crutch that all microencephalic TV writers cling to when, in the head of August, they're pressed into service to write an episode for the network to air in prime time.

So now, to save TV producers the trouble, I'm providing this quick list of suggestions for them to pick up and run with come next year, when Sinister Programming Executive Warren Littlefield (and his ilk) come to them demanding an "all-George Bailey night of Must See TV!"

Seinfeld. A beautiful female angel appears to George Costanza and shows him that were he not alive, it would have been Jerry Seinfeld, not Jay Leno, who sold his soul to Satan in return for spreading Satan's word from the must-see bully pulpit of the Tonight show. George's carefully-constructed plan to have "heavenly sex" with the angel is thwarted by one of Kramer's wacky get-rich quick schemes, which inevitably backfires. Meanwhile, in a clever subplot, Elaine acts like a bitch and gets what's coming to her.

Roseanne. In a zany celebrity cameo, an angel dressed as Gilligan (Bob Denver) appears to Roseanne and shows her that if she never lived, several Beverly Hills plastic surgeons would be penniless. In another zany celebrity cameo, the Roseanne-less Conner family is played by members of the Munsters, the Brady Bunch, and the Landers sisters. (Actually, I think Roseanne did this episode, but then shelved it because it didn't offer enough zany celebrity cameos.)

Frasier. An angel appears to David Hyde-Pierce and shows him that without his presence, Frasier would've never made it past its first 12-episode order. In what might be classified as either a cry for help or a desperate attempt at another Emmy nomination, Kelsey Grammer appears briefly as a strung-out guest in a padded cell at the Betty Ford clinic.

Monday Night Football. After eating a little too much at dinner, Frank Gifford awakens in the middle of the night to discover a horrific sight -- the ghostly visage of Howard Cosell. Cosell shows him a future Christmas dinner at which Kathie Lee, Cassidy, and little peg-legged Cody share their table with that rat-bastard Regis Philbin, who has taken his place at the head of the Gifford household. The Christmas turkey is served in one of Gifford's old football helmets. Enraged by the sights shown him by Cosell, Gifford vows to let Kathie Lee's sweatshop workers off early on Christmas day and to kick Regis' ass the first chance he gets.

(Okay, so this one's a rip-off of "A Christmas Carol." Your point?)

Murder, She Wrote. In a special TV-movie, Jessica Fletcher is shown that if she had never lived, several dozen of her relatives would either have not been murdered or would have not been falsely accused of a crime they didn't commit. Hundreds of old people die of sadness as a result of contemplating life without their Jessica.

Touched By an Angel. Here's a novel idea: for once, this show doesn't rip off "It's a Wonderful Life." I'd pay a trunkload of Michael Landon memorial scrip to see that.

Millennium. Lance Henriksen gets a far-away look and says: "The killer uses his powers to show people what life would be like if they had never lived. He also uses silly-putty to pull up his favorite Beetle Bailey comic strips. He likes to eat Ore-Ida french fries." The murders remain unsolved.

Early Edition. The Early Edition arrives, showing our hero what life would be like tomorrow if he were never born.

The NBC Monday Night Movie. Sinister Programming Executive Warren Littlefield learns that were he never born, the collective IQ of the United States would be 12 points higher, Jay Leno would have never been able to consummate his pact with the prince of darkness, and all the world would be less knowledgeable about the important national trend toward baby-snatching, teen cheerleader murders, and vampire cults. Upon returning from his vision, a reinvigorated Littlefield immediately orders a new Monday night TV offering, "She Cried Mother May I Sleep With Warren Littlefield: A Wonderful Life Movie."

Wings. The entire cast is shown that if their program had never aired, everything in the world would... remain exactly the same.


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