Season 2, Episode 11: “Twas The Nightmare Before Christmas”, As Told By An Oral History From The Writers’ Room

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R. J. MCBOWLAN, HEAD WRITER: We wanted to do a Christmas episode that wasn’t like any others. We had thought about doing a “Christmas Carol” version with the ghosts of the pasts of all the ladies, but then I thought, let’s go edgier! Let’s add some really scandalous moments.

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CRISPIN DALY, STORY EDITOR: I thought, how would Blanche react to Christmas? Just like she always does, by acting like a sex-crazed maniac! It was just so simple. And you know what they say in comedy: double-down. So Blanche gives the other gals a calendar called “The Gentlemen of Blanche’s Boudoir Calendar.” Because she’s such a slut! It’s hilarious that such an old lady can be a slut. Can you imagine?

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MCBOWLAN: Yea, I really didn’t think NBC would go for it, but they did, so we decided to up the ante: Why not include some sociopaths, too? Also, we thought: we’ve never seen Rose’s place of employment, and we had access to the set from Murphy Brown, so we went for it.

ANGUS BERKOWITZ, WRITER: I was on a walk from my trailer around the lot one day, and I found these guys auditioning for the role of “Coach Lubbock” for this upcoming show Growing Pains, and I could tell by the looks of them, it wasn’t going to happen. I lured them over to the set with the promise of craft services and a WGA card.

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DALY: Yea, we thought, why not have the gals encounter some threatening sociopaths? I mean, all in good fun. Despite being older women harassed by crazy men, it was all good. One guy got up in real close in Bea Arthur’s face. She took it like a champ. The other guy played a pathological liar, and today that man is….none other than Sam Anderson!

BERKOWITZ: Who, actually DID end up getting a role on Growing Pains.

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MCBOWLAN: Yea, our original script had the girls begging for their lives after being held at gunpoint by that crazy Santa guy for the whole episode, but then the network “came down on us” for being too dark. Fine, I says. So we keep it going for a moment, and Sophia comes up and figures out the guy has a toy gun. See, no harm done!

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DALY: I can’t believe we had that airport set built just for the one scene for them to miss the plane. We had to salvage an old beauty parlor and a Weight Watchers from Glendale to get that set. Why couldn’t we just have them mention that they missed the plane?

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MCBOWLAN: It’s that old show-business saying: show, don’t tell. That, and you have to have enough footage to last twenty-two minutes.

BERKOWITZ: Yes, you always used to say that.

MCBOWLAN: One of the best things I learned about sitcom writing. That, and make sure there’s a Magical Negro if you want to have a touching episode.

DALY: And what a magical Negro this was! I forgot this guy’s name. He was a real hoot on set. Talked about his grandkids and gave the ladies pennies for their thoughts. By the way, I can’t remember whose idea was to have it snow in Miami.

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BERKOWITZ: I loved the line where he told the women they seemed like family the way they were hootin’ and hollerin’ about. The original script had the gals invite him to sit with them and enjoy Christmas. But then test audiences said they wanted it to be just the gals and not to have an outsider mess up the dynamic. That’s why we had him offhandedly mention his granddaughter, so the women could look after the diner while he went to be with his family.

DALY: But why would he even have the diner open on Christmas Eve if no one was even there? And would he really leave his establishment with random customers?

MCBOWLAN: Yea, you always questioned reality too much. As long as Sophia could emotionally abuse someone and Rose can act like she is developmentally disabled, we got a laugh. I mean, we got a laugh from the laugh track. I mean, that engineer schmuck hit a laugh track button.

BERKOWITZ: By the way, I can’t remember whose idea was to have it snow in Miami.

MCBOWLAN: It was left over from the ski lodge episode of Perfect Strangers.

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