THANKSGIVING, FOR A LOWLY Canadian like me, is not really a big deal. I’m trying to recall Thanksgiving specials from Canadian television, but then I was like “Canadian television? Hah hah hah.” I’m joking, sort of. American Thanksgiving, though! It merits its own week of turkey-themed TV. In practice, American and Canadian Thanksgiving aren’t really so different. We have less nationalistic sentimentality attached to our holiday, and I sense there’s less of an obligation to visit one’s parents, but the concept remains: we count our blessings by accounting for where we are in life.
The True Meaning of Thanksgiving translates pretty directly to all sitcoms, regardless of the individual show. Characters gather and assess their current situation, their relationships, their economic and emotional growth. It provides an opportunity for sitcoms to play with multigenerational dynamics, and, consequently, our 30-something ladies sometimes regress a bit. As the women on both New Girl and Mindy Project aren’t yet married, we cannot see them as entire and complete individuals in their own right. Further, without children of their own (and, really, even with), they are still the children of their parents. (Betsey’s family! Also, we’re all officially shipping Betsey and Jeremy so very hard, right? When did Jeremy get to be such a sweetheart?) Thanksgiving means families. And families are complicated.
Prior to the airing of New Girl and Mindy Project last night, I watched the New Normal Thanksgiving special, which boasted a scene of divorced parents hooking up, together again. The same happened on New Girl. Is this a sitcom commonplace? Is this a Thanksgiving commonplace? I appreciated seeing older characters explore their sex drives (especially Jamie Lee Curtis, who was a definitive fox as Jess’s mom), but isn’t this plot device a little bit gimmicky? Is this the only way to cast the parents of our characters? As somehow expectedly divorced and gruesomely combative, yet not so combative as to still give and get the warm holiday fuzzies by straddling one another?
On a recent Parks & Recreation, Ben’s divorced parents were forced to interact at his engagement party. The outcome was messy and hysterical, but at least the show didn’t try to have it both ways. There was a sense that Ben and Leslie would absolutely not turn out like Ben’s parents, that there would be no inheritance of such feuding. Ben and Leslie would be different.
On New Girl, it seemed the opposite. Jess’s mom enters the apartment with a gleeful flourish, donning a pilgrim’s hat, to signal that, yes, Jess definitely got it from her mama. As she says to her mother later: ...read more