Taking place firmly after gorging ourselves on horror related media in October yet before our indulgence of the various winter specials in December, November seems to be a doldrum for general media consumption. Sure, we have the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, football and the occasional viewing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (which, for the record, doesn’t quite hold up as well as Great Pumpkin or A Charlie Brown Christmas), but there’s little in terms of films and television that speaks specifically to the tenants of the holiday. Luckily, this multi-course recipe should give you your fill of everything Thanksgiving while you’re off from responsibilities and trying to avoid the annoying relatives in town.
Course #1: Light Snacking on Thanksgiving Television Episodes
While the Christmas and Halloween episodes of shows are obviously far more common there are a fair share of Thanksgiving TV episodes worth digging into. The Simpsons second season episode “Bart vs. Thanskgiving”, in which Bart messes things up for the family Thanksgiving meal and runs away shows an appreciation for what the holiday represents and served as one of the early episodes of the show to give weight to the characters. In the genre realm, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s fourth season episode “Pangs” deals with the issue of friends coming together to face off against the greatest threat to your any Thanksgiving meal; a vengeful Native American spirit that can transform into a bear. The third season Thanksgiving episode of Bob’s Burgers entitled “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal” adds it’s own personal deadpan touch to a very French farce situation of The Belchers pretending to be the family of their eccentric landlord Calvin Fishoeder while at the same time giving us the most glorious thing that we never knew we wanted; an absinthe induced hallucination of a My Neighbor Totoro parody with turkeys. Of course, if none of these tickle your fancy, you can always marathon a couple of Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes in honor of their old school Turkey Day marathons. Always a safe bet.
Course #2: Appetizing Fixings of Hannah And Her Sisters
Now I know Woody Allen isn’t the most popular guy out there right now and I’m not going to address his many awkward real life allegations and unsettling behaviors here because they have nothing to do with his strengths as a writer and director. Instead, I’ll be discussing my personal favorite of his filmography, Hannah and Her Sisters, a story of families bookended by two Thanksgiving dinners. Featuring a cast brimming with the talents of Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Max Von Sydow, Carrie Fisher and Allen himself (amongst others), the film focuses on the messy feelings of attraction between the titular Hannah & her sisters (Farrow, Hershey & Wiest) and the husbands of two of them (Caine & Allen). It’s an awkward situation, but it’s handled with a surprisingly deft hand by Allen and his players, with dialogue and subtle mannerisms that make the characters feel natural. It obviously has the framing device of Thanksgiving that make it apt for the holiday, but it also deals with the weird proclivities of family interaction and how they ultimately smooth over somewhat when faced with the ultimate fact that life goes on. All of this is summed up beautifully with Allen’s monologue about suicide, which is one of the more life affirming and eloquent I’ve ever seen on film. Just damn beautiful.
Course #3: Main Course Feast on Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Now we’re getting to the meat of our meal, the essential Thanksgiving classic that’ll entertain everyone in the family; John Hughes’ comedy masterpiece Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Steve Martin plays a family man trying to make his way from New York to his home in Chicago, but his connecting flight in Wichita is cancelled, forcing him to travel with a traveling salesman John Candy. What follows is a hellishly comedic journey across the country that’s made highly enjoyable by the pitch perfect dynamic between Martin and Candy, as well as Hughes’ usual knack for character seeping into the more over the top comedic moments. Steve’s cynical smarminess and Candy’s lovable doofus nature make for a palpable mix as the two get into one horrible situation after another. Yet, for all the hilarious hijinks involving melted cars, hotel room robberies and cursing out car rental clerks, there’s a genuine heart to the film as it examines why we should appreciate those who may not be related to us, but still have a generous and kind spirit that makes them feel like family… even if they accidentally put their hands in between two soft things that aren’t pillows.
Course #4: The Delectable Dessert of The Regular Show Thanksgiving Special
I know, I know. I already talked about television episodes, but this one gets it’s own section for a reason. I’ve already expressed my love for the laid back charm and bizarre twists of Regular Show as a whole in a previous article, but at the time of that article I hadn’t seen the glory that was the show’s Thanksgiving special. In the special, Mordecai and Rigby destroy the Thanksgiving meal that was intended for the families of all the park employees, forcing the entire park crew to scramble and try to save their holiday meal. While Benson, Skips & Pops are being chasing down the last turkey and Muscle Man & Hi-Five Ghost attempt to get sides while competing in an end zone dance off with a pro-football player (voiced by the always reliable source of comedy Terry Crews), Mordecai and Rigby, in a state of guilt, attempt to fix things by competing in a Thanksgiving pop song contest to win a giant turducken. It all seems a bit complicated, but the writers of Regular Show use their omnipresent charms to make all these storylines flow perfectly. It’s the typical silliness of Regular Show, but with more of a straight forward sense of heart as the boys compete against the corporate greed of a totally-not-Donald Trump-but-obviously-Donald Trump-millionaire’s pop star ladened soulless anthem with a genuine song about family and love that tops the very long list of great songs from the show. Sure, the climax then delves into a giant action sequence, but the sincere appreciation featured in that song will bring a smile to both fans and non-fans of the show alike because it’s just that infectious with that sense of joy. Besides, once that electric guitar comes in, you can’t help but shout along with the chorus.
Course #5: A Thanksgiving Trailer After Dinner Mint
What Thanksgiving would be complete without viewing the only promising bit of turkey related horror that actually matters (and no, I’m not counting Thankskilling because it’s a gratingly unfunny piece of crap)? Yes, the fake film trailer from the double feature event Grindhouse is not just the only thing worth watching from director Eli Roth’s filmography (come at me, Cabin Fever fans), but it’s also a loving tribute to the old school holiday slasher films of the post-Halloween era of horror from the 80s. It’s covered in all sorts of great little pieces of imagery that feels like a great trailer for what would likely be a rather lame slasher film, which is why I still don’t want Roth to ever attempt a feature length version of the trailer. It’s short, sweet and to the point with everything, from the turkey pilgrim mascot decapitation to the cooked turkey with a severed head on top to Michael Biehn’s hysterically deadpan cameo. It’s the perfect little bit of horror to end your Thanksgiving on the right note.
All of us at One Of Us hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! And before you dig into your turkey, why not share your own annual Thanskgiving watches? What did we miss from our meal that you’d like to bring to dinner next year?