Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy sitcom Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. I look forward to the holiday, never writing about it. Every sitcom I’ve ever worked on, we’ve had the obligatory Thanksgiving episode. How many variations can you have on the big family dinner going awry? I think I’ve written the “turkey gets burned”, “relatives clash”, “nutty friends invited”, “can’t find a restaurant”, “kids break something”, “Guess who’s Coming to Dinner variation, “Meet the Parents variation”,“football gambler loses big”, “tofu turkey substitute”, “someone accidentally gets dragged seven blocks by the Mr. Potato Head balloon”, “mom’s a terrible cook”, “relative accidentally not invited”, “someone is allergic to something in the stuffing and has a funny seizure”, “power outage”, “thawing frozen turkey last minute”, “food fight”, and “the pilgrim re-enactment” episode fifteen times.

Hopefully, none of these things will happen to you this turkey day. And if they do, at least you’ll have your MODERN FAMILY spec script halfway written.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for reading this blog.


Andy Ihnatko said...

Happy thanksgiving, Ken! I'm thankful for your fantastic postings.

Is there a degree to which the familiar solutions to recurring story problems are in fact the best choice? It's as though once we know these characters and like them, we really do want to see them share a bad Thanksgiving.

Roger Owen Green said...

thanks for writing this blog!

Robin Raven said...

Thanks for writing this blog and many other things that have made me happy. :)

Johnny Walker said...

Happy thanksgiving!

Howard Hoffman said...

And thanks for diligently waking up every day at promptly 5:45am PT - even on Thanksgiving and all holidays - to write, format, illustrate and post these great missives, because writing them the night before and setting a timer to post them automatically would deeply disappoint me.

You're truly amazing and we're unforgivingly thankful for doing that for us.

Tom Quigley said...

Gives me a chance to list my all-time favorite sitcom Thanksgiving episodes:

5. THE BOB NEWHART SHOW in which Emily goes out of town for Thanksgiving weekend, leaving Bob, Jerry and Howard in the apartment with no Thanksgiving dinner, so they get drunk and order takeout from a Chinese restaurant. Best line: as an inebriated Bob Hartley is ordering Mu Gu Gai Pan, he slurs into the phone "More Gu to go."

4. THE SINGLE GUY -- the series starring Jonathan Silverman which aired from 1995 to 1997. I had a small part in its only Thanksgiving episode, playng someone dressed as a pilgrim. The most noteworthy thing about the episode was that I can say I did a show with both Ernest Borgnine and Davy Jones of the Monkees.

3.CHEERS -- the Thanksgiving dinner at Carlas's new house featuring "Birdzilla," the turkey that never was done. Of course the highlight of the episode was after Diane returned from what she discovered was a catering job at one of her professor's Thanksgiving meals when she thought she had been invited over for dinner. Emotions boil over at the table and the inevitable food fight ensues, culminating in the only time we may have had the chance to get a look at Vera, who as she enters the house gets hit in the face with a pie.

2. MAD ABOUT YOU -- "Giblets for Murray". A family Thanksgivng meal at the Buchmans becomes a French farce as various turkeys suffer an inglorious fate during Paul and Jamie's attempt to entertain on the holiday for the first time. I worked on this show too (off-camera), and for the record, they used seven turkeys in filming it, with another couple ready in backup for reshoots. Craft Services worked overtime that week.

1. WKRP -- the classic winner, hands down. I need say no more.

Ken, hope you and your family and friends along with all your coworkers from CHEERS and FRASIER over the years have a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving (and please, no nostalgic food fights!)!

ScottyB said...

You guys weren't working hard enough, Ken. Here's a few:

1. Actual Pilgrims show up during dinner, demand to be fed.
2. Injuns show up during dinner demand their land back.
3. Local gun shop runs a 2-for-1 Thanksgiving musket special. Hilarity ensues.
4. Everyone skips the food and just drinks a lot all day.
5. "Survivor: Cannibal Island, 'Thanksgiving Eats' Edition"
6. True reality: "Cranberry Harvesting Is Dangerous".

There ya go.

Mac said...

Thanks for the blog. I've just watched a video (at of a guy showing you to deep-fry a turkey, but first a fireman demonstrates how, if you get it wrong, you'll create a colossal raging fireball that will take out you and your loved ones. The finished turkey looks delicious, well worth the risk.

Mike Bell said...

My favorite: "Soviet Block with the assistance of Cuba invades USA through Mexico and everybody hides in the hills" No, wait...that's "Red Dawn."

Nat Gertler (Sitcom Room alum) said...

The curse of writing a Thanksgiving episode is knowing that no matter how well you do, you will not craft a moment as memorable as "As G-d is my witness, I thought that..." oh, you al know the rest.

Figgy Pudding said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. And to Chone, too. Thanks for doing this blog every damn day!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I remember "Giblets for Murray" very well. Always thought it was based on the FAWLTY TOWERS gourmet duck episode (which is no knock on either of them).


Mark P. said...

Could you tell us about the Christmas episodes on Frasier (Miracle on Third or Fourth Street) and MASH (Dear Sis)? Did they take longer than usual to write? Did you set out planning to make them more emotional than typical episodes, or did they just turn out that way?

Harkaway said...

Better late than never, I was just directed to a very informative (for readers of this blog) entry on the writing of the classic WKRP Thanksgiving episode.

Check it out at The Classic TV History Blog:

Turkeys Away: An Oral History

Unknown said...

Hilarious. For some reason, I remember always looking forward to the Friends Thanksgiving episode on actual Thanksgiving. I never considered how annoying it might be to write, although it did strike me as odd that they were spending Thanksgiving with their friends instead of their families.