“On the 4th day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”
All In The Family “The Draft Dodger.”
Thinking back, All In The Family (1971-1979) was a show that gave this amazing balance of situation comedy, satire, and these brilliant moments that were practically silent with seriousness or thoughtfulness. As if the “audience” that canned-laughed during the gags were suddenly canned-silenced, as though witnessing something great in a small moment, and well into its seventh season, the Christmas special, “Draft Dodger” is an example of this smart blend with the added edition of trying to make it jive with the tone of the holiday season and actually succeeding.
The characters interacting off each other is, of course, one of the typical strengths of the show which is emphasized here, particularly between Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) and Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton). Normally Archie’s relationship with Edith is rather condescending a bulk of the time on the show, but during this episode, while that is still there as well, there is some great moments of surprising warmth and decency from Archie, given his abrasive self-assurance and anti-politically correct attitude that also says a little something. Near the end, which I won’t give away, Edith herself comes across as quietly the best character in the episode in the way she manages Archie.
There is also a good moment between two of the guest characters that was particularly powerful: David Brewster (Renny Temple), the Meathead’s (son-in-law’s) old high school friend who moved to Canada to escape being drafted into the war (Vietnam in this case), and Pinky Peterson (Eugene Roche), Archie’s old friend who lost his son in the war and was invited by Archie to spend the holidays. You expect right from the beginning there is going to be this awkward moment between the two, but in all actuality Pinky’s reaction to David was surprisingly not awkward at all, which was a nice experience. This in turn, through Pinky, someone that Archie is close to as a friend and whose opinion he admires and identifies with, has through both these characters, experienced one of those discombobulating paradigm shifts that challenge a person’s core beliefs, an element this show is very good at addressing seriously where it is needed, and a core part of Archie as a figure of satire.
At the same time while this serious moment is happening in the final act, they still manage to provide moments of a break from the serious tone for the viewers, and bring it back to the humor without sacrificing the drama.
This is a favorite Christmas Special because it addresses one of the core points of the holiday, which is the ideal of peace, setting aside personal politic sand grudges, and establishing a bridge of mutual dialogue, if sadly only temporary, of acceptance no matter the conflicting views. This episode spoke that theme in a realistic, refreshingly non- saccharine and adult way, that few Christmas specials were ever able to really match with with the same maturity and entertainment value that All In The Family did,
and because of this, I highly recommend giving it a watch.