Joey was on the show as early as the third season? Wow. And sigh. And it's not the performer's fault that I dislike this episode so much, though the character's cloying persona is a little grating. It's the fact that Nell is so singular about making Joey's first family Christmas after being taken in by the Kaniskys a SPECIAL one that she treats everyone else in the house like reindeer droppings.
I understand the desire to have family together, and the Kanisky household needs some healing because the holiday hasn't been the same since the mom died. The show makes this clear near the end by having the characters say as much, but it doesn't let Nell off the hook, in my view.
This is the classic example of why fans hurl accusations of shark jumping at programs that add cute moppet characters during their runs. The viewers are already worried the focus of the series will shift to the newcomer, but in "A Kanisky Christmas," within the story itself, the main character shifts HER focus to the newcomer and isn't repentant about it. Even a brief interlude when the Kanisky Kids point out her hypocrisy for yelling at them about family while she hangs up on a long-distance call from her mother can't deter Noel from her Joey obsession.
Everyone has an excuse for being absent on Christmas Eve. Samantha is babysitting. Good for her, she is helping someone else enjoy the evening. Julie has a date from a guy she has wanted to ask her out for months. Good for her, but who asks a high schooler out for a date on Christmas Eve? Kari has a ski trip planned with a bunch of friends. Again, not necessarily normal for kids her age, but it's her life. The Chief has that thing called...oh, what is it, duty, as in, work, as in, he is Chief of Police and has to work. That's kind of important. I assume there's crime in this area, though the only hint of that we see is Nell flinging loaded stockings all over the place.
Nell doesn't accept any of these excuses, whining about not just family being together--that would be tolerable--but about how JOEY needs a great Christmas and JOEY needs to see Santa and JOEY is gonna grow up and make a video for "Nothin' My Love Can't Fix" that MTV will play way too often. She pouts. She whines. She hurls the family's Christmas stockings to the ground. Joey has an excuse for being so petulant, but Nell is a grown woman!
There's not enough Dolph Sweet in this episode, but you can say that about most every Gimme a Break. The funniest moments to me come from the daffy line readings of resident friend of the family (and moron) Officer Simpson (Howard Morton) and the dyspeptic readings of John Hoyt as Grandpa. There's a funny bit of business Nell Carter does when the "sanatation engineer" comes to the door for a Christmas bonus.
I will say this for "A Kanisky Christmas": It is all about the holiday, so it is a true Christmas episode, and it does try to redeem itself with a happy "surprise" ending that reunites the family. So if you can overlook Joeymania more than Nell can, you might find some Xmas cheer in this one.