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And I'm Thankful That Sweeps Coincides With Thanksgiving

Turkey and television are inextricably entwined. As a wee lass, I camped out in front of the set watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and vibrating with holiday anticipation. I wanted to gambol through the festive streets of New York City, warbling songs with a backup complement of marching bands and giant balloons and soaking in 100-percent holiday spirit.

Imagine my disappointment when I moved to Troy, New York and discovered that the only dancing I was going to be doing in the streets was around urine puddles left by the transient population. But I digress.

Thanksgiving was for television -- for my mother's anguished "Oh, God!" when I clicked on the set at 8 a.m. for parade coverage, for the drowsy armchair quarterbacking every male in my family committed while the womenfolk cleaned the dishes and speculated on the effort it would take to dress and carve the football watchers, for the traditional post-pumpkin pie viewing of The Sound of Music, wherein Julie Andrews would twirl through the Alps while my family sang, "The hills are alive with the sound of gunfire..."

Yes, television fostered some warm family memories for the holidays. Even as a jaded adult Vidiot, I look forward to November viewing with gleeful anticipation. Not only is it sweeps month, but it's sweeps month and Thanksgiving! What more could you want?

Well, if you're me, you could want more Thanksgiving episodes that don't deliver some homily about the real meaning of holidays to a group of people who aren't related to each other. I'm looking in your direction, O Subgroup of Sitcoms About Wacky Friends and Coworkers. I'm calling you out, O Workplace Dramas Where Principal Characters Have No Private Lives. I understand that people don't always spend Thanksgiving nestled in the bosom of their family; I've spent the last three Turkey Days on the West Coast because nothing -- not even boundless familial love and the prospect of doing the postprandial dishes -- can prod me into flying back East on the worst travel day of the year. I also understand that sometimes, the familial bosom leaks venom. Or you're an orphan. Or you have created a family of people who, while important to you, are not the ones who are related to you.

But let's hear it for more Thanksgiving episodes that celebrate the fragile peace around a table, when Dad is heroically straining not to say anything about Junior's earring and Sis has promised not to wear her NARAL pin in front of deeply pious Grandma. Let's see the small dramas that play out in the kitchen every year -- whose stuffing do we use, Mom's or her daughter-in-law's? Will Grandpa go nuclear if we suggest using a store-bought pumpkin pie? How does one make vegan gravy for one's college cousin anyway?

Usually, we get episodes from otherwise respectable television shows where the "traditional" notions of family holidays are shredded by the intrusion of all-too-real events like divorce, estrangement, or long-simmering arguments. Many Thanksgiving episodes, in fact, seem bent on one message -- I hope you smug turkey munchers enjoy your stuffing while others have to work or endure dysfunctional family gatherings or have their loneliness rubbed in their face by Rockwellian dolts like you.

I'm deeply derisive of most holidays and their attendant hysteria. In fact, I believe I recently uttered, "Oh, shit, it's Christmas soon." I am in no way a holiday junkie -- these things tend to creep up on me, and after some tired grumbling about the vultures at Hallmark, pass without further comment or effort on my part. A favorite Yuletide tradition at Das Schmeiser Haus is to upbraid me for my eye-rolling Scrooge tendencies. But I'm a sucker for Thanksgiving. It's the only national holiday we have that bothers to contemplate what might have been -- starvation, scalping, and another depressing example of colonization gone horribly wrong -- and reminds us to be grateful for what we ended up with instead. Given that the nation's biggest holiday, Christmas, has become paired with relentless consumerism, it's nice to have a holiday that only asks us to sit down for a meal with our folks and find something to be thankful for in our lives.

Family dinner and gratitude deserve better than episodes about the unfairness of tradition and familial interaction. Just once, I'd like to see more shows look at families like you would mashed potatoes (lumpy and imperfect, but decent nonetheless) rather than a flock of turkeys (genetic mutants whom one deals with once a year). That would make me very thankful for November sweeps programming.

Oh -- and if the programming whizzes at NBC could see fit to suspend their all-new ER in favor of "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Bloopers," I'd be super-thankful for that too.


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