Imagine if Law & Order had a Christmas themed episode where instead of searching for killers they were searching for a Jesus statue that went missing from a church. We can only theorize that Detective Briscoe would say something like, “Great we’re now going to have to find Jesus.”
However, something close exists, a Christmas episode of the mother of all television police procedurals – Dragnet. It will not be the controversial episode about the perils of giving children guns for Christmas, although Mayor Bloomberg would like that. Instead, we have the chance to see on Saturday evening on WPXN 31 at 10:30 p.m., Dragnet’s The Christmas Story episode – a real forgotten classic. In a break from locking up murders, juvenile delinquents, and con men, Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner search for a missing statue of the baby Jesus stolen from the nativity scene at an impoverished church – and they need to find it in 24 hours so the church can properly celebrate Christmas.
Four versions of the episode exist, the first being a 1952 radio version, the second and third being a 1953 television version – one in color and one in black and white, the fourth is the 1967 version which will air Saturday night. They were all written by Richard L. Breen and may be the only episodes that were in all three incarnations of the Jack Webb produced Dragnet.
In the end, the statue is returned by the person who took it – a boy who wanted to thank Jesus for the gift of a red wagon, by taking his statue for a ride. Sure the episode is camp, somewhat hokey and sentimental, but aren’t most Christmas episodes?