“Oh Jonathan! What a lovely day. This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”
And with those words, Jennifer Hart (Stefanie Powers), who by this stage in season 2 of Hart to Hart (1980) should know better, dooms the Harts to another festive season littered with murder and mayhem.
But who can blame her for feeling happy?
She’s married to a handsome, caring ridiculously wealthy man, Jonathan Hart (Robert Wagner), they’re driving home in one of their fabulously expensive cars with a gorgeous pine tree in the back, on their way to one of those postcard-perfect Christmases that only TV shows can afford.
(My aim is to get wealthy enough one day to afford a Christmas that lavish; a laudable life goal if ever there was one right?)
What can possibly go wrong?
Well plenty as it turns out.
A quick stop to meet a hired detective (who fancies himself a high end cloak and dagger spy; cue much conversational hilarity and non-plussed looks from Jonathan) at a deserted drive-in theatre, charged with investigating a series of intellectual property thefts at Hartoy Inc, almost instantly becomes a murder investigation when a toy snake he has with him, which is laced with real venom, bites him (best not to question this) and he dies, naturally quite dramatically on the car horn.
Yep you totally jinxed things Stefanie!
Aware that the leaks are being masterminded by a devious, ruthless criminal mind – no, they’re not but let’s pretend they are shall we? – Jonathan and Jennifer decide to look into things themselves, cleverly disguising themselves as the Hart’s hillbilly relatives Vernon and Edna Swan-Dunbar to avoid detection by Hartoy Inc’s employees who would know them on sight.
Of course everyone is totally fooled, despite the goofy accents and over the top costuming, and everything is going swimmingly well with excessive exposition about a new top secret toy Robbie the Robot who mark my words will prove critical to the plot later on.
Alas Eric, the head of design and yes the evil mastermind behind the theft of HartToy’s intellectual property (he’s giving it all to a rival toy company the cad) – a man with a curly hairstyle so riotous and unkempt it just screams “villain” – overhears via the intercom who Vernon and Edna really are, and decides that yes they must die too.
“We have to give them everything they ever wanted for Christmas plus a little more.”
(Eric the evil designer, who oddly leaves out the almost obligatory “bwahahaha”)
But death by toy snake will not do for the Harts! Oh no!
What they need, in this order, are an exploding version of the board game Do Re Mi (which doesn’t do much for attempts by poor Max the butler played by Lionel Stander to meditate), a sabotaged car that stops out in the middle of nowhere leaving Jonathan and Jennifer totally exposed so a toy plane with real bullets and actual bombs can dive bomb them.
Somehow all of Eric’s nefariously cartoonish exploits are witnessed by no one at all, including hapless CEO Sam Gerard and it’s not until Max goes undercover that the Harts discover Eric is behind it all, along with the CEO’s personal assistant (who has faked an entire love affair with her boss; yep that’s how dumb he is) and they foil his master plan, dressed as Santa and an elf this time (naturally), keeping Robbie the Robot for Hartoy and stymying the plans of Jonathan’s rival toy making businessman.
It’s all solved in enough time for the talented amateur detective twosome to get home in time for the Christmas eve festivities which has everything you’d want in a Hart to Hart Christmas:
* Max dressed as Santa off to volunteer at the local orphanage
* Freeway the dog playing with his new toy
* A strategically timed kiss
* The uttering of the words “You are so beautiful” by Jonathan to Jennifer
* And Robbie the Robot coming alive right on cue.
A very merry Hart to Hart Christmas indeed.
Of course it’s all ridiculously cheesy and over the top but what Hart to Hart episode isn’t?
That’s why we love it after all!
What makes the obvious plot work is the presence of Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers whose unstoppably potent chemistry as Jonathan and Jennifer Hart makes a whole host of scenes that shouldn’t work, play beautifully as tongue-in-cheek hilarious pantomime.
One of the things I loved most about the Harts – their devotion to each other and sense of being a team come what may – is on full display here and an utter very Christmasy delight.
A guilty pleasure maybe but pretty much every Christmas special worth it’s eggnog is exactly the same.
At least in the Harts version of the festive special you get cartoon villains, the protagonists playing dress up, and Lionel Standers as Santa.
And that is just fine by me.