As I write this, I am eagerly awaiting the vacation my husband and I are about to take. In mere hours we’ll be on a plane, headed away for some time off. The anticipation got me thinking about some of the special “vacation” episodes that have aired in various sitcoms. As sitcom people are supposed to be regular people, it’s understandable that they’d want to get away every now and then. Sometimes their vacations take place off camera and are only referenced in passing. And then there are the vacations we get to see, when the characters leave home and head off to some scenic location for an episode or two.
As fun as it is to go on vacation, it doesn’t always work for sitcoms that are normally filmed on-set. Take Full House for example: In Season 6 of the series, the Tanners go to Disney World in a two-part episode titled “Meet the Mouse.” As fun as the concept of seeing the squeaky-clean family take a trip to Disney World might seem, the episode just felt awkward. The various plots felt forced, as though the writers were trying to cram the Disney World theme into every crevice of the overly cheesy (even for this show) story. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Magic Kingdom but it just didn’t work for the show and the episode felt like one giant advertisement for Disney World. Add that to the fact that Full House is definitely a set-show. Perhaps it’s due to the way the dialogue is written, the way the series is shot or the way the actors are used to performing, but the format of the show just didn’t flow well with the Tanners out on location instead of in their San Francisco home, where the series normally took place.
Friends managed to avoid the awkwardness that Full House had in it’s vacation episodes. In season 4, the gang (everyone except for Phoebe) headed to London for Ross’ wedding. In the two-part episode, there were a few scenes filmed at various London locations, but for the most part, the episode was shot on sets. As a result, even though these sets were all London locations, we still felt like we were on familiar territory. With the exception of the street scenes (most of which involved Joey and Chandler), the format of the show didn’t have to change to accommodate the new surroundings. In that way, the episodes were able to benefit from the temporary break from the usual Friends apartment sets and we were able to enjoy them as much, if not more than we would the regular episodes.
I think Friends’ London episodes were a rare exception in sitcoms. I didn’t care much for the Everybody Loves Raymond, “Italy” episodes, preferring to see the family back in the comfort of their Long Island home. I also recall the “England Show” episodes of Married With Children, in which the Bundy’s go to England, being funny but a bit over-the-top and goofy. So with that, I’d say that in general, I think sitcoms should avoid vacation episodes. Sure, we the viewers probably love taking vacations but unless the writers are able to incorporate the vacation story into the overall theme of the show and film it in a way that matches the format of the series, its probably best if the characters take their vacations during the series’ hiatus.
Amazing Race 12 (CBS) 8:00ish pm
Cherry on Top of the Sundae That’s Already Melted - (New!) The remaining six teams head off to Croatia for a challenge that involves rowing boats.
Holiday in Handcuffs (ABC Family) 8:00 pm
ABC Family is premiering their original movie about a woman (Melissa Joan Hart) who kidnaps a guy (Mario Lopez) and drags him home to her family for the holidays.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS) 8:00 pm
The Platinum Rule (New!) – When Ted plans to date his doctor, his friends try to talk him out of it by recalling some of their own bad experiences.
Samantha Who? (ABC) 9:00 pm
The Break-Up (New!) – Now that Heroes is done for the season, I can actually watch Samantha Who when it airs! In this episode, Samantha tries to move too fast with Kevin and judging by the title of the episode, I’m guessing this causes some problems.
Journeyman (NBC) 9:00 pm
Home By Another Way (New!) – Ted goes back in time and visits a party that took place at the newspaper office just after a bunch of people were laid off. Back in the present, Katie tries to get over what happened with the crazy pedophile guy.
Bones (Fox) 8:00 pm
The Man in the Fallout Shelter (rerun) – It’s a rerun but there isn’t much else on, unless you’re a fan of Deal or No Deal. In this episode, while Brennan investigates the death of a man whose body turns up in a fallout shelter, some of the lab crew ends up quarantined in the lab during Christmas.
House (Fox) 9:00 pm
Merry Little Christmas (rerun) – This is a holiday episode of House that aired last year. House tries to find out what’s wrong with a 15-year-old little person while butting heads (hilariously) with the girl’s feisty mom.
Kid Nation (CBS) 8:00 pm
We’ve All Decided to Go Mad! (New!) – This is the season finale of the new reality series. The kids get to take part in three challenges in the hopes of winning a gold star worth $50,000.
Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants (The CW) 9:00 pm
Welcome to the Pageant (Series Premiere!) – In this new reality series, mom’s and their daughters participate in beauty-pageant challenges in the hopes of winning $100,000 and a set of tiaras. This show sounds like a total train-wreck that will either turn out to be horribly addicting or just plain horrible.
The Office (NBC) 8:00 pm
A Benihana Christmas (rerun) – Directed by Harold Ramis, this hour-long episode of The Office is sure to get you into the Christmas Spirit. After Michael is dumped, Andy takes him to lunch at Benihanas. Meanwhile, a feud breaks out in the office and the party-planning committee is split, resulting in two office Christmas parties.
30 Rock (NBC) 9:00 pm
(New!) – Everyone gets together for a Christmas party. Liz’s parents visit, as does her brother (played by Andy Richter), who has memory loss that’s caused him to believe he’s a high school senior.
Saturday Night Live Christmas (NBC) 9:30 pm
Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey host this special about some of the funnier Christmas-themed sketches.
It’s a Wonderful Life (NBC) 8:00 p.m.
It’s a classic and a must-watch around the holidays. The story centers on George Bailey, a good man who, after a series of unfortunate events during the holidays, begins to think it would’ve been better had he never been born. His guardian angel gives him his wish and George soon realizes that while he may sometimes feel like he lives a small life, he’s really had a huge impact on the course of the lives of the people he loves.
A Dad for Christmas (Lifetime) 7:00 p.m.
In what sounds like a seriously corny made-for-TV Christmas movie (and let’s face it – those are the best kind, right?), a teenager takes off with his newborn son to hide at his grandmothers and prevent the baby from being put up for adoption.