Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving, TV Style: From 'Cheers' & 'The Gilmore Girls' to 'Mad About You'

Two weeks from now, most of us will be attending or hosting Thanksgiving dinners, mixing all manner of family and friends, including some folks who shouldn't be combined regardless of how much wine is served with dinner. In anticipation of this uniquely American holiday, my mind, of course, turned to TV and some of the Thanksgiving episodes from my favorite TV shows.

For me, THE quintessential Thanksgiving TV episode has to be the Cheers one which ended in a messy food fight with cranberry sauce dripping off of Diane Chambers’ face and splattered across her over-the-top, Pilgrim outfit. Later, just as viewers were about to see what Norm’s wife Vera looked like, she got clobbered in the face with a pie thrown, ironically, by Diane. Who isn’t tempted to start a food fight on Thanksgiving from time to time?

WKRP: The other “classic” Thanksgiving episode is, without question, the WKRP turkey drop one. Even though I was a kid when I saw this in repeats, I still remember practically every detail:

The location was the Pine Dale Shopping Center. Les Nesman was on the scene declaring that “the greatest turkey event in Thanksgiving Day history” was about to happen. Then the people and cars in the shopping plaza's parking lot were bombarded via helicopter with non-flying live turkeys. The episode was capped by a rumpled, traumatized Mr. Carlson saying, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

Mad About You: Jamie and Paul Buchman hosted their first Thanksgiving dinner for their parents, family and friends as they were assaulted with an array of pointed darts of passive aggression coming at them from all angles as they tried to awkwardly blend the styles and traditions of the two families. For example, when Jamie and Paul said the dinner would be “buffet style,” their parents scoffed and opted to go “another way” when they weren't in the room, setting the table more traditionally. Paul's father insisted that there be canned cranberry sauce (as opposed to the homemade sauce Jamie was making). Paul's mother brought a sweet potato dish and said the one that Jamie made -- the one without the marshmallows -- could be stowed away in the freezer. The clincher was when the dog had hopped up on the counter and ate the turkey they'd prepared.

Image credit: AMC via Best Television Shows
Once and Again: This show, starring Sela Ward, focused on the impact of divorce on families with children. In its first season, Ward’s not-quite-divorced-yet Lily had Thanksgiving dinner at her house with her kids, her sister and her parents, who brought with them her estranged husband Jake -- whom Lily had explicitly NOT invited -- while her boyfriend Rick was lurking outside the house on the sidewalk waiting for her to come out. Rick appeared miserably lonely while his own children were spending the day at his ex-wife’s house, where she'd invited colleagues from work and her current boyfriend to spend the day. There was fighting and screaming and some lies were tossed about . . . just your garden variety American Thanksgiving.

Mad Men: The first episode of the fourth season, which recently concluded, contained what’s soon to be a classic Thanksgiving scene: Betty Draper Francis forced her daughter Sally to eat some of Betty's new mother-in-law’s sweet potatoes, which Sally promptly spat out onto her plate (gagged on them, really). Betty dragged Sally out of the room while Sally yelled from off camera for her mother to stop pinching her. Meanwhile the deeply depressed Don was in his darkened apartment insisting that the prostitute he hired repeatedly hit him in the face. (Jezebel has a good video clip – second video down -- of the scene in question.)

Gilmore Girls: Remember the year when Lorelai and Rory just could not say, “No” to Luke, the Kims, Sookie or Richard and Emily and wound up attending four Thanksgiving dinners in one day? The odd collection of dinners included one tofurkey, one deep fried turkey, an argument about vases and flowers followed by stilted conversation and an openly hostile shouting match held across a well appointed table.

thirtysomething: In season one, Hope was reluctant to host Thanksgiving dinner for all their friends. She wanted to spend a quiet holiday with just her, Michael and their baby. But Michael persisted and whined that they should have a Thanksgiving dinner. The compromise was that Hope would allow him to have the dinner, but she was going to do something else, like sort through photos. Then Michael and the baby got sick, quickly followed by Hope. However their friends pulled together, something, kind of -- Elliot and Nancy took their kids out for fast food -- and wound up piling into Hope’s bed at the end of the night, one big, happy, messy, sick family.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving TV episode?

Image credit: AMC via Best Television Shows.

1 comment:

Cooley Horner said...

I LOVED "A Lilith Thanksgiving" from "Frasier." Frasier and family fly to Boston to spend the holiday with his ex-wife and son, and while there, Frasier and Lilith try to get the kid enrolled in a high-falutin' private school. A series of unfortunate events unfolds at home (Martin and Niles keep accidentally hurting little Frederick) and at the interview (Frasier and Lilith keep putting their feet in their mouths), making it HILARIOUS, and there's a great cameo by a then-practically-unknown Jane Lynch at the end.