Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hazel: The Early Years: "Hazel's Christmas Shopping"

I know what you're thinking: "Rick, the intricate long-term storytelling of Hazel demands rigorous sequential viewing. How can you jump around like this?"

I understand this concern, but, yes, after jumping ahead in season 1 for the Thanksgiving episode, I am also breaking convention and looking "early" at the Christmas episode, "Hazel's Christmas Shopping." We will get to episode 2 soon and then hit the series in order.

All kidding aside, this holiday installment is another reminder that if you enjoy the sassy Hazel Burke character, this is a funny, well-produced sitcom. It's not groundbreaking--there are plenty of misunderstandings and hijinks moving the plot along--but it's executed professionally, and the cast is on point.

This episode begins with a humorous sequence that was meant to give a little Christmas cheer...but which today would be considered sexual harassment. Hazel hangs some mistletoe so Missy can "trap" George into giving her a kiss. At first I thought it was kind of sad that Dorothy was so dependent on this gimmick to get some affection from Mr. B, but his enthusiastic reaction proves it's all in fun.

Never let it be said that there is no chemistry between Don Defore and Whitney Blake

Then he kicks it up a notch, insisting HAZEL join him under the mistletoe for a smooch. She demurs, giggling and insisting she's just the maid, but, no, Mr B DEMANDS she submit to a big smackarooni. OK, this is all in fun, too, but it's a little odd.

Get ready for your Christmas bonus, Hazel

We then move into the story, with Hazel wrapping presents and telling her friend and fellow domestic engineer Rosie how she just has one more gift to get, a dresser set for Missy. It's convenient how Rosie shows up every time Hazel needs another adult with whom she can share relevant plot details.

Incidentally, I squirm a bit when Hazel elaborates on her theory of gift wrapping. She doesn't use the store's free service because the act is part of the present itself. It personalizes it and adds to the sentiment. Uh, to anyone who has received a gift from me...ever, I apologize for my efforts, but I hope you realize the random rips, patches of mismatched paper, and general excess of Scotch tape are part of my personal touch.

And, hey, wasn't it nice for stores to wrap everything as you bought it? These days, it's a moral victory just getting it stuffed into the right plastic bag without breaking something.

Dorothy also needs a present for Hazel, and the two are set to hit the department store, each with their own (non-devious) scheme to check out the other's reactions to items at the store and attempt to get inspiration. Of course this means when Hazel steers Dorothy over to gauge her feelings of the dresser set, Dorothy thinks that's what Hazel wants.

That's real mother of pearl, folks

There are additional complications because the store only has one left, and meanwhile a serial shoplifter is robbing the joint (Seriously, the guy takes so much stuff throughout the episode, I can only assume he is planning on opening his own store). Hazel is short on funds and has to take a job working a sales counter at the place, where her blunt nature (she tells a customer not to bother with the gift wrapping because the colors the store uses are awful) cause issues. Dan Tobin plays the store's persnickety floorwalker, and he does exactly what you want Dan Tobin to do in this kind of role.

My favorite part of the episode is when local mailman letter carrier Barney stops by and sees dollar signs because George is home. He proceeds to give one of the most unsubtle tip solicitations ever until Missy finally takes the "hint."

What cracks me up is that Hazel makes a few sly comments, clearly amused at Barney's efforts. Better yet, when George pulls some money out of his wallet, she goes, "Oh, no, Mr. B, that's too much." Then he tries again, and she nods and grunts approval.

Needless to say, it all works out nicely in the end, with everyone ending up happier than when the episode began (except maybe George, who is still hunting for women to lure under his mistletoe). Hazel doesn't exactly save Christmas, but she makes it better, proving once again there's nothing she can't do. Of course, she later put her talents to good use by marrying Santa Claus and restoring his yuletide mojo:

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