“Eight Crazy Nights,” a celebration of Hanukkah-themed episodes, continues.
Night No. 4: December 10, 1994, when CBS aired “A First Christmas,” the “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” episode in which a Jewish immigrant family arrives in dusty Colorado Springs at Christmastime.
Hurray! I bet everyone’s thrilled to welcome these newcomers!
LOREN: More immigrants.
JAKE: Worse – they’re Jews.
… Or maybe not.
Itzhak is a peddler who wheels a big cart around town, trying to sell fancy pants (“Made by a man in San Francisco – Levi Strauss”) and other merchandise, but ornery Loren – who considers Itzhak his competition – keeps scaring away his customers.
Friendly town doctor Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour) wanders over to the cart and introduces herself to thick-accented Itzhak.
ITZHAK: A lady doctor? In America, this is a business for a voman?
DR. QUINN: Actually, it’s not very common. But it was my dream.
ITZHAK: Oh, you are a dreamer. I like dreamers. It was my dream to come to this country. To be here – for me – is a miracle.
Oy vey! Who writes this stuff?
BRIAN: Dude, what’s with that funny hat of yours? Is that thing supposed to keep you warm?
AARON: Nah, it’s to remind me that God is always above me.
AARON: What’s with this baby statue?
BRIAN: You mean Jesus?
AARON: Never heard of him.
BRIAN: Whoa! Really? Next you’ll be telling me you’ve never heard of Santa Claus!
BRIAN: Dude, who are you?
AARON: I’m a plot device. So are you. Our innocent conversation allows the “Dr. Quinn” producers to teach viewers – most of whom live in the red states, no doubt – about how Judaism differs from Christianity.
BRIAN: I see. So even though we just met, we should probably become best friends. That way, when the inevitable tension arises between your family and the local townsfolk, our childlike wonder can inspire everyone to put aside their difference and come together!
AARON: Now you’re getting the hang of it!
When Jake, the mayor-slash-barber-slash-bigot, suggests outlawing street peddlers, the town council gets together that night to consider the proposal. The deciding vote is cast by Timothy Johnson – the local minister, not ABC News’s in-house doctor – who elects to allow Itzhak to keep peddling his wares in town.
JAKE: Reverend, how can you vote no? These people killed Jesus!
ITZHAK: That is not true!
DR. QUINN: The Romans killed Christ.
LOREN: And they paid them to do it!
LOREN: Say, did you ever hear the way some of them Jews sing? They sound just like that! Like a howling dog!
JAKE: I hear they eat dogs!
LOREN: No – that’s Chinamen!
JAKE: Oh, that’s right!
LOREN: I’ll tell you what they do eat, though: Potatoes! They love potatoes! Hahahahahaha.
(Please note: This is the real dialogue. I didn’t change a word.)
Once the Bigot Brigade is sufficiently drunk, they head over to the Frankels’ campsite to run them out of town. Itzhak tries to stop the gang from raiding his cart – and then this happens:
After a commercial break, we find Dr. Quinn treating Itzhak at her clinic – which seems like a thin excuse to show him shirtless (not that your blogger is complaining, mind you). Itzhak tells the doc he’s taking his family and leaving this awful town, but she persuades them to spend the final night of Hanukkah at her clinic.
This time, though, the town has come to apologize for – you know – almost killing Itzhak and offer to make amends. Robert E (Henry Sanders), the black blacksmith, offers to repair Itzhak’s cart. His wife Grace (Jonelle Allen) invites them to a free supper at her café. Jake offers to give Itzhak a free haircut. Beefy saloonkeeper Hank (William Shockley) says he knows someone who’ll sell the Frankels land to build a house. “And if the owner don’t give you a fair price, he’ll have to answer to me,” Hank says.
Even Loren turns into a softie, suggesting Itzhak can peddle his wares to folks who live too far away to venture into town. “I’ll stock your wagon and you can go sell to them. And we’ll both make some money!” Loren says.
See for yourself: “A First Christmas” is part of the “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Three Season” DVD set. “Eight Crazy Nights” will resume December 14.
Here’s the prime-time lineup for Saturday, December 10, 1994:
8: “Wonderful World of Disney: 40 Years of Television Magic” (ABC), “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (CBS), “Cops” (Fox), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (NBC)
8:30: “Cops”* (Fox)
9: “The Five Mrs. Buchanans” (CBS), “Smart Kids” (Fox)
9:30: “Hearts Afire” (CBS)
10: “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”* (ABC), “Walker, Texas Ranger” (CBS)
For the week of December 4, 1994:
Top novel: “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield
Top song: “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men
Top movie: “The Santa Clause”
Top TV show: “Home Improvement” (ABC)
In the news: House Democrats faced painful choices