11 Great 'It's a Wonderful Life' TV Spoofs
by Kim Potts, posted Dec 24th 2010 10:00AM
'Psych' just did it: the holiday episode that plays off the now classic 1946 Christmas movie 'It's a Wonderful Life.' It's become a holiday staple for sitcoms, but as our countdown of 11 'Wonderful' spoofs shows, it's not just for sitcoms ... and it's not always just for the holidays, either.
11. 'Charles in Charge'
'It's a Blunderfull Life'
Original airdate: Nov. 4, 1989
It's a wonderful episode: New Jersey college student/live-in nanny Charles (Scott Baio) is trying to teach his young charges, the Powell kids, good habits in this installment, but he's undermined at every turn by their grandfather. Combined with his own financial woes (and a life insurance policy worth $100,000), the situation leads a stressed out Charles to conclude that he's worth more dead than alive, and -- cue the dream sequence -- he imagines what the Powells' lives would be like if he'd never become their nanny. The episode also has a fun little cameo appearance by Baio's 'Happy Days' co-star Donny "Ralph Malph" Most, who nabs a winning lottery ticket and proclaims, "It looks like happy days are here again."
10. 'Mork & Mindy'
'It's a Wonderful Mork'
Original airdate: May 3, 1979
It's a wonderful episode: When Mork (Robin Williams) costs Mindy a job and her dad a hot date during a dinner party, he concludes he should head back to his home planet, Ork. But when his Orkan leader, Orson, forces him to see what Mindy's life would have been like without him, he finds out, of course, that life sans-Mork was far worse than the little dinner party debacle.
9. 'Night Court'
'Hey, Harry, F'Crying Out Loud--It's a Wonderful Life...Sorta'
Original airdate: Feb. 27, 1991
It's a wonderful episode: A depressed Judge Harry (Harry Anderson) is uninterested in anything in his life until an angel -- in the form of his hero, Mel Torme -- shows up and sheds light on what the court would have been like without him: A corrupt Dan (John Laroquette) was in charge, Roz went to jail, Bull was running for mayor as Dan's puppet and Dan is about to seduce Christine, which is just what Harry needs to see to make him realize he needs to bounce back. All's well that ends well, thanks to a Mel Torme tune, of course.
'The Consequences of Falling'
Original airdate: Dec. 15, 2000
It's a wonderful episode: A great episode of the too-short-lived series even without the 'It's a Wonderful Life' angle, the season two installment finds cancer patient Harrison (Christopher Gorham) ready to skip further treatment and attempt suicide when his hospital roommate and fellow cancer patient Clarence dies. But Harrison's plan to jump off the hospital roof is thwarted when Clarence reappears -- as an angel who needs to get his wings -- and shows Harrison that, without his friendship, his pals would have faltered, with Brooke dying from anorexia and Nicole and Mary Cherry becoming hookers for pimp Sugar Daddy .
7. 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'
'The Alma Matter'
Original airdate: Feb. 8, 1993
It's a wonderful episode: When lazy student Will (Will Smith) shockingly gets accepted to Princeton, but his preppy cousin Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) doesn't, Carlton's dreams are dashed. But a visit from his guardian angel, Tom Jones, and a duet of Carlton's favorite song, 'It's Not Unusual,' puts the whole matter -- the "alma" matter, since Carlton's dad was a Princeton man -- into perspective, and even leads to bit of the classic Carlton dance.
Sample lyrics from the Carlton/Tom Jones version of 'It's Not Unusual': "It's not unusual to have Dad be proud of me/It's not unusual, 'cause I love conformity/But when I see Dad hangin' with Will instead of me/It's not unusual to see me cry/I wanna die."
Mr. Jones then shows Carlton what life would be like around the Banks residence if his stuffy, uptight presence was not felt and Will was allowed to run amuck, leading Carlton to declare that he has to spring back to life and "teach them about greed and social climbing ... and how to claim your dog as a dependent!"
'It's a Wonderful Job'
Original airdate: Dec. 16, 1986
It's a wonderful episode: This Christmas ep/'Wonderful Life' spoof came on the heels of one of the series' best episodes, the 'Atomic Shakespeare' spoof of 'The Taming of the Shrew.' In 'It's a Wonderful Job,' Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) is in a very bah humbug mood, and regrets keeping the detective agency open for Christmas when her employees think she's a Scrooge. But when she wishes she'd never kept the Blue Moon Agency open at all, her guardian angel appears and shows her that, without her, the agency would have been taken over by the Harts (as in another ABC series, 'Hart to Hart'), David (Bruce Willis) would have become rich and married Cheryl Tiegs and Maddie herself would have ended up on the brink of suicide. An attitude adjustment leads to a quick turnaround in the present, and the episode ends with a David/Maddie kiss, as they break the fourth wall and wish viewers, "And to all a good night."
Original airdate: Dec. 8, 2005
It's a wonderful episode: It's not a merry Lexmas when Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) is mugged and shot. While in a coma, Lex -- who'd been considering some dirty political moves against Senate candidate Jonathan -- is visited by the ghost of his mother, Lillian, who shows him what his life could be like if he got out from under the thumb of his father: marriage to Lana, a son named Alexander and another baby on the way, and the friendship and respect of the Kents. But a cruel twist is interpreted by Lex to mean his happy alt life isn't meant to be, and he ends the Christmas seasons with a renewed commitment to ruining Jonathan, at any cost.
4. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
Original airdate: Dec. 8, 1998
It's a wonderful episode: This clever twist on the 'It's a Wonderful Life' theme finds Cordelia concluding that everything that's wrong in her life has been caused by Buffy. "I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale," says Cordelia, and her wish is granted by the demon Anyanka. Cordelia is once again queen bee(otch), but she's also living in a very different world without Buffy, a world where she could be killed at any minute, and, because of how dangerous the town has become without the Slayer, a world where there's a curfew and little joy. Buffy, meanwhile, without her friends, has become a selfish, reckless slayer, and it's only a bit of diligent research and then quick action on the part of Giles that that thwarts Anyanka's plan and restores Sunnydale to normal. Relatively speaking, of course.
3. 'Quantum Leap'
'It's a Wonderful Leap'
Original airdate: April 1, 1992
It's a wonderful episode: In this time-leaping ep, Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) is a 1958 New York City cab driver named Max Greenman, who's trying to win a contest and get his own taxi medallion. Along the way, Sam meets Angelita, who claims to be an angel who knows about Sam's leaps. In addition to its 'Wonderful Life'-y spin, the episode also had larger implications for the series, as it suggested that Sam's leaps were a front for God's efforts to travel through time and correct the mistakes made by angels. Fun aside: One of Sam/Max's taxi passengers was a young Donald Trump, and during their conversation, Sam plants the idea for the Trump Tower.
Original airdate: May 3, 1991
It's a wonderful episode: In the 'Dallas' series finale, J.R.'s (Larry Hagman) machinations have finally caught up to him, and, alone and dejected, he decides to commit suicide. The appearance of all-white-clad guardian angel (or is he?!) Adam provides ol' J.R. with a look at how life at Southfork would have gone without him, and, among other disturbing things in the alt universe, Gary loses Ewing Oil and sweet Bobby becomes a compulsive gambler without J.R. around to challenge him. As J.R. awakens from the trip through the it's not such a wonderful life universe, he's greeted again by Adam -- now dressed in red -- who urges him to shoot himself. As Bobby enters the house, he hears a shot ring out, runs to J.R.'s room and exclaims "Oh, my God!" at what he finds. PS -- The ending so alienated 'Dallas' fans that, five years later, a made-for-TV sequel movie, 'Dallas: J.R. Returns,' explained that J.R. had fired his gun ... at a mirror, not himself.
1. 'Married ... With Children'
'It's a Bundyful Life'
Original airdate: Dec. 17, 1989
It's a wonderful episode: The title alone is a pure delight, as is the anti-all's-well-that-ends-well take on the 'It's a Wonderful Life' theme, a stance that is completely befitting lovable loser Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) and his fam. It's Christmastime, and for the Bundys, that means lawn snow sno-cones (flavored with green mouthwash and cherry cough syrup) and dinner at Denny's, while daddy Al is left behind to string the Christmas lights. While doing so, he gets shocked -- literally, by the lights, and figuratively, by the arrival of his guardian angel: Sam Kinison. The filthy comedian is trying to earn his wings by showing Al what life at Casa Bundy would have been like without him, and, well, it's pretty sweet. The kids are successes and wife Peg (Katey Sagal) is happily married to a handsome man. "I'm sorry Bundy, I've failed you," the angel Kinison says. "I was supposed to show you why you should live, but I can't think of one darn reason." Says Al, "Look at them. They're happy, not a care in the world. You think I'm gonna let that happen after all the grief they put me through? I want to live!"