Thanksgiving On The Telly

Thanksgiving is often used in many TV shows and sitcoms but seems to always be the lesser holiday behind Christmas and Halloween that gets the most exposure. However, there have been some memorable shows to watch on Thanksgiving.

Cheers – The famous sitcom about a bar in Boston where everyone knows your name ran for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993. While most of the episodes in the earlier seasons, mainly the ones where Shelly Duvall’s Diane Chambers, still took place mosly in and around the bar. However, the 1986 “Thanksgiving Orphans” found the gang having their turkey dinner at the house of Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman). Bartender Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson) and postal worker Cliff Claven (John Ratzenberger) are there along with Dr. Fraiser Crane (Kelsey Grammer) when Norm Peterson (George Wendt) arrives with a turkey frozen to cook.

Sam Malone (Ted Danson) also arrives and then the unexpected Diane arrives. She thought she was going to be a guest at the dinner party held by a professor she favors, but leaves when she realizes she’s meant to be a server like the rest of the students. As they sit around waiting for the turkey to cook very slowly, they become very agitated with each other. Norm keeps moving the TV set making Fraiser unable to see and then Sam does the same thing when Fraiser moves it back.

As they sit down at the table, tensions are high as George and his wife, Vera, got into an argument before he came over. The food dishes that everyone brought are getting cold and everyone is on edge as they criticize what others have brought. And then, every thing comes to a head as Carla and Norm get into it and he starts flicking green peas at her. And then a small food fight begins that Diane tries to stop. But Sam throws cranberry sauce at her staining her Pilgrim costume. And then, it’s on big time as the food is flying.

You tell by watching this the cast really had the time of their life. Harrelson seems almost to break character as he is too busy smiling and laughing. At one point, Danson slips and nearly falls down. But in the end, it’s a great scene. Then as they all talk about who they miss that year, Sam mentions Coach (who was played by Nicholas Colasanto in the first few seasons).

Then, in a surprise, we see Vera somewhat as she finally arrives and Norm goes to greet her. Of course, Diane has a surprise for Sam as she is going to throw the pie in his face. But he’s too quick and ducks, leaving Vera with her face covered in pie. It’s a clever way to keep Vera a mystery mostly for the series’ run.

WKRP in Cincinnati – This little show ran for only four season but early in its first season, it produced one of the most memorable episodes ever followed by one of the best TV quotes of all time. The sitcom about the shenigans happening at a radio station in the MIdwest aired “Turkeys Away” on Oct. 30, 1978. The episode revolves around the station wanting to do a promotion to give away turkeys to people.

Unfortunately, they don’t let everyone know their plan until it’s too late. Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), the station’s general manager, has arranged for a helicopter to hover over a busy shopping center where they will toss live turkeys out of the window. Well, there’s just one problem. Turkeys can’t fly. And they fall to the ground much to the horror of everyone watching, including Les Newman (Richard Sanders), the timid and incompetent news man for the radio.

But don’t worry, we don’t see anything as most of the action is relayed by Les over the radio in the vein of the reports of the infamous Hindenburg crash. He says at one point, the turkeys are “hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement.” Back at the newstation, we watch deejays Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and Venus Flytrip (Tim Reid) along with program manager Andy Travis (Gary Sandy) all listening in disbelief, which adds to the humor. Later when everyone returns, Les looks freaked out as he recounts how the turkeys revolted and went nuts. Then, we see Carlson and Herb Talek (Frank Bonner) deshelved and beat by their failed promotion.

In the episode’s closing, Carlson just says sheepishly, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” The episode works because it’s based somewhat on a real incident Wilson encountered while working at a radio station in Atlanta where they threw live turkeys off the back of a truck toward people in a parking lot of a shopping center. Anyone who’s ever worked in media or public relations has encountered a promotion that failed for any number of reasons so this comes off as something they can relate to.

Seinfeld – The premise of this episode titled “The Mom and Pop Store” revolves around George Constanza (Jason Alexander) buying a Chevrolet LeBaron convertible because the car salesman said the previous owner was Jon Voight. So he purchase it despite Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) questioning how George could be so gullible to believe that.

At the same time, Kramer (Michael Richards) takes all of Jerry’s sneakers to a shoe store that is the mom and pop store of the title. But he notices wires coming out of the ceiling when he gets nosebleeds and lies down. When they call in an electrician, the Mom and Pop Store closes because they can’t bring the store up to code. It’s closed with all of Jerry’s sneakers gone. All he’s got are a pair of cowboy boots he got from a gig in Dallas. Hearing Jerry lament like a little boy, “But I don’t wanna be a cowboy,” is one of the show’s memorable lines.

Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is working as an assitant to Mr. Pip (Ian Abercrombie) and is a fan of big band music and she is able to call into the radio to win Mr. Pip a spot under the Woody Woodpecker float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. But she loses her hearing when she goes to get the ticket and a band plays right behind her for a long time.

Jerry, himself, is also wanting to know if he’s invited to a party set the night before Thanksgiving hosted by Dr. Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston) who wants to date Elaine. And when Kramer sees Voight out on the street, he is bitten by him on the hand in a crazy incident. The episode ends with a nod to Midnight Cowboy as Jerry and Kramer discover that a resident in Parsippany, N.J. has some of their shoes purchased at a garage sale. So they get on a bus Kramer’s nosebleeds come back and Jerry comforts him as “Everybody’s Talkin'” plays over the credits.

South Park – Before Trey Parker and Matt Stone went off the rails and got too political, they turned out some of the best Thanksgiving-related episodes ever. The first is during their initial season with “Starvin Marvin,” where they accidentally get a young Ethiopian boy sent to them as they were going to sponsor a child to get a sports watch. Not understanding his language, they call him “Marvin” or “Starvin Marvin.” At the same time, the turkeys have turned homicidial and are killing people around the town.

When Mr. Garrison alerts authorities of what has happened when Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny bring Marvin in for show-and-tell, agents take Cartman away by accident. This results in Cartman stuck in Ethiopa where he discovers Sally Struthers is hoarding all the food from the local people. Yes, the fat jokes about Struthers have been around since the late 1980s/early 1990s but Parker and Stone give it a nice edge. And then, a war breaks out between the turkeys and South Park residents.

Then, there was the “Helen Keller: The Musical” episode in which Timmy is cast as Helen in a school production. When they want to include a prima donna turkey performing tricks, Timmy strikes a friendship with a disabled turkey that has a downward crooked head and neck. This was during an era in which Timmy was taking up more time as he had become a fan favorite but there’s something sweet about him calling the turkey “Gobbles.” And then, there’s a Soylent Green reference as well as a joke referencing The Right Stuff as Butters seems to run down the hall to walk into a room making a big announcement the way Jeff Goldblum did.

King of the Hill – When it comes to Thanksgiving, you know the Hills would celebrate. During the fourth season was “Happy Hank’s Giving” with the Hills and the rest of the cast stuck at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The Hills are trying to go to Montana to spend the holiday with Peggy’s family but Hank’s behavior is one of the best as he is trying to take a handheld bottle of propane on a flight. The episode greatly flows giving the entire cast their own great moment, from Dale (voiced by Johnnt Hardwick) trying to find a place to smoke to John Redcorn (voiced by Jonathan Joss) and Dale’s wife, Nancy (Ashley Gardner) trying to get it on.

There’s something that kills me about Hank (voiced by Mike Judge) putting a key to an airport locker on his key chain that just makes me laugh. And then, it’s hilarious the way he screams in horror when he sees airport security blowing up the turkey he was taking when the dogs are alerted to its scent. And at the end, they all end up celebrating the holiday at the food court when they all become stranded. It’s a nice touch how everything comes together.

Another prominent Thanksgiving episode was in 2002 with “Goodbye Normal Jean” as Hank initially becomes upset when Bobby (voiced by Pamela Adlon) starts to take Home Economics. However, when Bobby seems to have a knack for making food, Hank becomes more interested as Bobby seems to cook better meals than Peggy (voiced by Kathy Najimy). The rivalry between Bobby and Peggy over Hank’s approval is a clever look at Oedipus/Electra Complexes.

Friends – While this sitcom about Gen Xers living in New York City has aged very poorly, they still managed to churn out some of the best Thanksgiving episodes. There’s “The One with the Football” in 1996 during the third season where they play football in which Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) manages to distract Chandler (Matthew Perry) by showing her breasts. His reaction is the best.

Then, in 1998, as the relationship between Chandler and Monica (Courtney Cox) intensifies, we see flashbacks to when they were younger. Chandler doesn’t celebrate the holiday since his parents announced they were separating when he was a kid over Thanksgiving dinner. He decked out in a Flock of Seagulls haircut and goes with his college friend, Ross (David Schwimmer) with the Gabe Kaplan Jewfro look to the Gellars. Rachel (Jennfer Aniston) and her original nose and Monica (who was obese at the time when she was in high school) are there and Monica gets upset when she overhears Chandler call her fat.

The next Thanksgiving, Ross and Chandler have adopted a Miami Vice style but Chandler is surprised to see Monica has lost some weight. She lost the weight to get back at Chandler and spends the time messing with him until she drops a sharp knife on his foot, causing a toe to be cut off. In the present time, Chandler is upset that Monica was doing all that to mess with him and leaves. Later, Monica shows up at the apartment with a turkey over her head wearing a fez hat and big sunglasses that freaks out Joey (Matt LeBlanc). He finally tells Monica he loves her and their relationship grows from there.

And then in 2001, there was “The One with the Rumor” when Aniston was married to Brad Pitt. The premise is Pitt is Will Colbert, who went to school with Monica and Ross. However, he was bullied by Rachel during that time and Will doesn’t like having to share Thanksgiving with her. And despite him being handsome, Rachel doesn’t notice that Will is constantly shooting daggers at her. At the time, Aniston and Pitt were considered Hollywood Royalty as they had been dating since 1998 and was married for about a year.

However, this was before Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where Pitt would have a reported affair with Angelina Jolie while filming and he would later marry her. Pitt and Aniston would seperate in 2005 and later divorce. While it does seem funny watching the two not get along in the episode, it’s kinda uneasy in hindsight considering less than four years later they’d be divorced. In the end, Pitt earned an Emmy nomination for his guest role.

What are some of your favorite Thanskgiving show? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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