U.S. Thanksgiving, a Day Too Late - Macleans.ca

U.S. Thanksgiving, a Day Too Late


Because the Hulu version doesn’t work in Canada, and especially because the Hulu version strips out the scene with Pink Floyd’s “Animals” (as well as two shorter musical snippets in Act 2), here is the most famous U.S. Thanksgiving episode.

As Ken Levine notes, Thanksgiving episodes are hard to do, maybe even harder than Christmas episodes. At least with Christmas, the writers can resort to a generic “Spirit of Christmas” theme to make any story season-appropriate: basically, any sentimental story is a “Christmas” story if it takes place in the vicinity of decorated trees.  But the “spirit of Thanksgiving” isn’t as all-encompassing, and there aren’t as many rituals to choose from, so most episodes wind up being about a) The extended family coming over and getting into some kind of argument, or b) Some kind of shenanigans with getting, losing or defrosting the turkey. And whereas writers can always rip off a Christmas movie and make an episode out of it, there aren’t many Thanksgiving movies to rip off.

However, there is one rule that seems to hold true about Thanksgiving episodes: the ones that work tend to be about Thanksgivings gone wrong. The most memorable Thanksgivings are the one below, or Bob Newhart getting drunk with his buddies while his wife is out of town — disastrous Thanksgivings, in short. The ones that are sort of in the middle are the ones that are about family gatherings where everyone fights but learns a lesson in the end (“Bart vs. Thanksgiving” on The Simpsons, a good but not great episode). And the worst Thanksgiving episodes, by far, are the ones where the characters imagine that they are Pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving. If you see live-action TV characters in funny Pilgrim clothes saying “Thee” a lot, and they’re not in a Thanksgiving pageant, for God’s sake change the channnel.

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U.S. Thanksgiving, a Day Too Late

  1. I find it somewhat interesting that both the Newhart episode ("more moo-goo-gai-pan!") and this WKRP one ("Do you hear dogs?" "I do…")are two of my favourites of all time. But don't forget the West Wing with two turkeys in CJ's office and President Bartlet pardoning the turkeys with disdain…

  2. I wouldn't forget the "Thanksgiving Orphans" episode of Cheers. It can probably be listed under the "Thanksgivings gone wrong" category. In it, the Cheers gang eats at Carla's new house, wait around forever for Norm's turkey (affectionately dubbed Birdzilla by Carla) to cook, and ultimately get into a hilarious food fight.