This episode acknowledged the growing bond between Mary and her co-workers, and going beyond the individual work relationships that were developing to that point, really established them as her true "family", which set the foundation for the rest of the series; it also set in motion the less common (up to that time) TV dynamic of having both home and work as parts of her life that could protect and nurture her. For example, in the Dick Van Dyke Show (albeit with a male lead), the work environment was established for mostly laughs, not necessarily for comfort or support. Also, this is a very sweet, innocent Mary that didn't exist in later seasons, for good or for bad, and episodes like this are the reason that I gravitate to the earlier years for shows of true warmth - and almost blind optimism.
This Season One episode I thought really helped to define and solidify the show's main characters in a number of ways. In Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II, Mary's character is consistent with what we've come to expect: this is clearly her favorite time of the year, she can't wait to be with her family, and she has her desk so decked out with decorations, Lou expresses his disbelief. Despite her fervor for the holiday, Mary once again displays her sweet and yielding nature by giving up her time off to let someone else – a fellow employee who we assume isn't even close to her – celebrate at home instead.
More than Mary, I thought that this episode was instrumental in laying the foundation of how her male colleagues came to regard her and show her their affection. We see the burgeoning fondness between Mary and Murray in their intuitive Christmas exchange, and silently laugh along with Mary as we witness Lou's reaction to the miniscule Christmas tree that she placed on his desk for festivity. It is the final scene that really seals these relationships, when Lou, Murray and Ted show up wholly unexpectedly at the newsroom just before midnight to surprise and throw an alone-on-Christmas Eve Mary her desired office party. Who wouldn't just want to work with such great guys like Lou, Murray, and Ted!
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