Wait, what’s that in the air? Do I detect higher than usual levels of Yule? That can only mean one thing. The 12 Days of Christmas Episodes! And to start this year, is there anything that screams Christmas more than William Shatner? Many things, really. But if Shatner were to scream “Christmas’, you know he’d tear his shirt and drop to his knees and stretch out the “a” for at least eight seconds. Today we’re talking about his most famous work, by which I mean the cop show, T.J. Hooker.

T.J. Hooker – “Slay Ride” 

Original airdate: December 17, 1983

First, let me advise you to check out the T.J. Hooker opening credits. They will make your day. I feel like this show was on in my house when it originally aired, but I don’t have any specific recollection of watching it. Seeing this episode didn’t trigger any memories, so it’s basically new to me. I should note that I don’t especially care about William Shatner. Despite being a nerd, I never cared for Star Trek, and his late period embrace of irony always seemed to have the wrong number of levels to it. Either one too many or one too few, every single time. This particular episode doesn’t have him at full ham yet, but you can see him leaning in that direction with some of the line reads. It’s also pretty well known that he wore a girdle on this show and that vanity carried over into the opening scene where he’s disguised as Santa Claus and doesn’t wear any padding.

Another thing I need to note is that one of the main characters is a cop named Jim Corrigan, which is the same name as the human host for the DC Comics character The Spectre. It was very distracting.

So, Hooker is undercover as trim Santa to surveil a possible drug deal at a Christmas tree farm. But then the Santa who’s supposed to be working that corner confronts him and gets in the way. Meanwhile, Corrigan and Stacy Sheridan (Heather Locklear) are in the car and ready to move in, but another car containing an angry couple and their baby blocks them in. Once everybody is unblocked, there’s a gun fight and the Foley work on this thing is nuts. Every gun shot sounds like a cannon. A couple of the criminals get away so Hooker commandeers a civilian’s vehicle and chases them in a very long sequence. In fairness to them, there’s some decent stunt driving before the getaway car flips. Still, the ringleader, Marino, gets away.

Hooker heads to a bar to be sad and I think maybe this is a regular location because there’s a lot of dialogue about how the regular bartender is off and a lady is filling in and she’s heard all about Hooker. There does not seem to be any point to this except to showcase the substitute bartender’s cleavage. Sheridan, Romano, and Corrigan bring in the guy whose car Hooker took and trashed and Hooker promises they’ll pay for the repairs and gives him his own car for now. The man seems genuinely sad, to the extent that I thought this would be followed up on. It is not.

Romano and Corrigan, as a result of doing their jobs, missed out on some sort of double date with “the Beale sisters” who would be “oiled up under the mistletoe”, and there is nothing more revolting than imagining these two just, synchronized humping two oily and unnamed women. But they figure they can move that by a night, which means bailing on Sheridan’s planned dinner. Somehow, everybody canceling on her means she has to go to the story to get more food, where she runs into the couple who blocked them in earlier. They are criminals who planned to meet with Marino before the bust went down and now they rob the store and shoot the cashier. Sheridan manages to get an ambulance and save the man’s life. A Christmas miracle!

The crime couple meets up with Marino and the two men get tired of Sue Anne worrying about her baby, so they leave the baby at the church. The minister calls Hooker because he’s involved with every police incident in this unnamed city. Sheridan gets obsessed with the baby because women, am I right?

Hooker and Roman go hassle one of Roman’s known associates, a stripper named Carlita. And this is amazing. First off, the strip club is called “Popeye’s”. Second, obviously a network strip club is going to be a stretch. So what we see here is a bar with a small stage. A woman (Carlita) in a Santa hat and a top made of tinsel boas dances. At no point does she take off anything, and her tinsel top covers here entire torso from shoulder to waist. She couldn’t be wearing more clothes. The audience sits politely and does not tip, but gives her some opera applause at the end of the song, at which point another fully-clothed woman with a Santa hat takes her place and Carlita sits at the bar. It is a strip club where women wear all their clothes and nobody gives them money. Also? My second Christmas-themed strip club in two years. Hooker and Romano question her, but the real point of this scene was that somebody thought this was sexy. (IMDB lists the fully-clothed stripper in the “Goofs” section, as if they were supposed to put a topless woman on network TV in 1983 and then plum forgot.)

Sue Ellen leaves Marino and her husband, Troy, to go pray at the church where they left her baby. Luckily, Sheridan was there to walk around with the baby and try to convince the priest to let her have the child. Marino and Troy show up to bring back Sue Ellen, Sheridan calls in to the precinct and the only cops in town show up for a standoff that leads to Marino driving off and Troy taking a bullet in the leg.

Hooker is in hot pursuit with the second very long car chase of the episode. Two things to note here besides the fact that this episode was released in 1983 and the car chase is still going on. First, there are three shots of cars going over a hill and getting air. Second, Marino is escaping in a wood-paneled station wagon and Hooker really has a hard time catching him.

Bad guys go to jail and the penitent Sue Ellen is the system’s problem. Sheridan realizes that she can’t adopt the baby because children need two parents. Hey, single parents? Take a hike! The cops all spend Christmas together and at one point Hooker calls his estranged family from a phone booth.

Somehow I left out the scene where Hooker and Romano go eat at a mission where they check in with an informant and complain about the quality of the food that they are taking from the mouths of the needy.

This episode is not good, but it’s weird and for that reason, I recommend it.

 

Best Line: “These beans aren’t good for your heart!” – T.J. Hooker, being weirdly critical of the food at the mission

 

Holiday Tropes

Christmas Decorations – Most of the interiors have some sort of Christmas decorations, including the dive bar and the police station. I don’t think either of those are locations that traditionally decorate but they have not only lights and tinsel, but snowmen. The bar and the police station have plastic snowmen with big smiley faces and they are jarringly out of place.

Nativity Scene – There’s a nativity set up inside the church right in front of the pulpit when Sue Ellen comes to pray. It’s an awkward tableau.

Santa Claus – Three of the four cast members wear a Santa suit during the episode. You also get another Santa and two strippers in Santa hats.

Learning a Lesson – Every baby deserves two parents. It’s not a great lesson, but presented as wisdom.

Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – This is a weird one. There’s a lot of Christmas in it, but not much cheer. And it’s not that it’s a downer episode, it’s just that the Christmas setting is so incidental. I guess it’s nice that Hooker calls his kids, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’m going to give it a 4, and that’s partly because the strip club made me laugh so hard and that’s a form of cheer.

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