[Is there a better way to celebrate the manger-birth of a superpowered messiah-baby than watching television? Hell no! Join Rendar Frankenstein as he navigates Spaceship OL through the Televised Days of Christmas!]
If pop culture’s taught us anything about Christmas, it’s that it’s the season of redemption. This is the one time of the year during which even the most miserably misanthropic and criminally corrupt are susceptible to the suggestion that underneath their callused exteriors beat hearts of joy and peace and altruism. Even the most seemingly formidable of Yuletide foes have been felled by the most wonderful time of the year.
Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Grinch. Frank Cross.
If the very avatars of greed and contempt are knocked out by Kris Kringle’s right hook, what chance does a run-of-the-mill reprobate stand? Is Christmas magic only reserved for the worst examples of the human condition, or can it be sprinkled on those individuals residing in the darker grey shades of morality? What happens when a lifetime of misdirection is intercepted by holiday responsibility?
Well, when we take a look at the exchange between Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid it becomes clear that Christmas offers hope not just for sinners and saints, but antiheroes and unlikely champions as well.
The twelfth episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents tells the tale of Harold “Stretch” Sears, an ex-convict released from prison right in the midst of the holiday season. In order to satisfy the conditions of his parole, Stretch must hold down a job. His parole officer, a hottie by the name of Miss Webster, lets her idealism get the best of her and finds Stretch a job as a department store Santa Claus.
That’s right – a five-time convicted thief finally released from the clink is given the task of imbuing the youth with the spirit of generosity. Oh shit. You might think you know where this is going.
But hold that thought! Stretch actually doesn’t take the opportunity to rob the store blind (excepting, of course, a minor lapse that is chalked up as a mulligan when the items are returned). Instead, Stretch does his best to reason with the children hopping on his lap and making demands. Stretch has no problem partnering the goodwill he’s legally obligated to extend with the pragmatism he’s picked up after spending his life behind bars.
The little girl that asks for a menagerie of housepets? She’s reminded that she lives in an apartment, not on a farm. When the kids start rifling off toy after toy after toy? Well, that’s right when Stretch writes a list for the parents, thereby fostering imaginations but pointing the gift-givers in the right direction. Life is finally lookin’ pretty sweet for Mr. Sears.
That is, of course, until he goes to pick up his check and finds out that it has been deposited into an account on his behalf.
Harold Sears is once again in full-blown curmudgeon mode. He makes kids wait in line and then doesn’t entertain their questions. He tells children to buzz off, to take their moanings and groanings to their parents. All that is on Sears’ mind now is the fact that his criminal record inspires doubt in his parole officer, and as a result he is utterly cashless.
Hardly a scenario anyone’s hopin’ for on Christmas Eve, especially a career criminal. You know what they buy for Christmas? Pussy and drugs, and that shit ain’t cheap!
Anyways, all looks glum until Sears meets the Tenth Avenue Kid. This snot-nose decries all things Christmas, in the process insulting Sears and his current occupation. Having once been a wayward brat himself, Sears sees through the veneer – the Tenth Avenue Kid only hates the holidays because he’s usually screwed over. No presents under the tree. No carolers swingin’ by his neighborhood. No peace in his life.
Crafty as ever, Harold Sears convinces the Tenth Avenue Kid to make some confessions. The kid admits that he’s been eying a toy plane in the department store that is simply too expensive to obtained via legal channels. After getting the delinquent-in-training to fork over the merchandise he was planning to filch, Sears assures him that Santa Claus always hooks up those most deserving.
And so, Harold Sears combines his newfound Santa Clausian attributes with his long-ago mastered thievery skills to become a Christmastime Robin Hood. The toy plane is lifted, the kid’s apartment is broken into, and the wonder of the season is preserved for an at-risk youth.
Sure enough, Sears is caught exiting the apartment building and he has to go downtown to answer some questions. Sears, now a changed man, is ready to offer a full confession, couching it only with the fact that he brought the stolen toy to a needy child. However, Miss Webster deus ex machinas her way into the jail, assuring the jailor and the department store manager that Sears had intended to buy the plane but could not because she withheld his check. Laughs are had, warm wishes are exchanged, and everyone leaves the jail knowing that laws were broken but their spirits were not.
Harold “Stretch” Sears has done his time, spending most of his life in prison and now doing his best to stay out of it. He isn’t perfect. He isn’t evil. He’s just a guy yearning to do good after becoming accustomed to doing anything but.
When Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid cross paths, we realize that Christmas can bring out the best in the good, the good in the bad, and the beautiful in the ugly.