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Watch Me With Cranberry Sauce

Ah, Thanksgiving — a time for hearth and home, where families come together to rekindle old memories and create new ones. But more importantly, a time for television — if for no other reason than to drown out the sound of all the rekindling, whether it’s your mom demanding to know when you’re going to make her a grandmother or your Uncle Roy sharing his thoughts on U.S. immigration policy and the trade deficit. On days such as these, when friends and family come together to remind you why you prefer to spend time alone, there’s never a better time to be thankful for Philo T. Farnsworth’s talking picture box.

But what to watch? Hurry — Uncle Roy is about to opine on the Patriot Act.

The Networks

Your humble Watch Me writer is old enough to remember a time when the broadcast networks would never, ever, ever think about airing brand-new episodes on Thanksgiving Day, under the theory that viewers would be shaking off a day-long turkey coma about the same time Sam and Diane were beginning another round of hilarious banter. But that changed a few years ago, when NBC broadcast the ER episode where Julianna Margulies had her baby that never got mentioned again in subsequent episodes.

And now? Now every broadcaster worth his or her FCC license has new material to divert and distract us on this holiday.

CBS airs a new installment of Survivor (8 p.m.) followed by an episode of the inexplicably top-rated CSI (9 p.m.), in which the William Peterson’s band of merry crime-investigating pranksters is split up and scattered to the four winds. A brand new Without a Trace (10 p.m.) concludes the Eye Network’s broadcast day.

Over at NBC, there’s an hour-long Will & Grace (8 p.m.) — the Peacock Network figures you’ve got enough turkey on your hands today, so it’s pulling Joey — followed by The Apprentice (9 p.m.). At 10 p.m., the network airs The Seinfeld Story, interviews with the cast of the long-running sitcom to celebrate the release of the DVD and to commemorate a time when NBC aired programs that people actually wanted to watch.

ABC has A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (8 p.m.) — really, the most underappreciated of the Charlie Brown animated specials, except for maybe that one about moto-cross. Then, it’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (8:30 p.m.) — no, not the beloved animated special, but the hideous and life-denying Jim Carrey movie.

Fox turns over its evening to Spider-Man (8 p.m.), while the WB airs Samantha: An American Girl Holiday (8 p.m.). Meanwhile, on UPN, it’s a Thanksgiving edition of Smackdown (8 p.m.) where turkeys no doubt replace folding chairs as the foreign object of choice for smacking your opponent upside the head.

The Cable Channels

The cable channel approach to Thanksgiving Day programming can best be summed up three ways: marathons, movies or sports.

CNBC has a six-hour marathon of Blow Out (5 p.m. to 11 p.m. PT), the reality-series that chronicles the oft-cruel world of hair-styling. Bravo features six hours of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (1 p.m. to 7 p.m.) about the oft-cruel world of meddlesome busybodies. The Learning Channel tries to squeeze the last bit of entertainment out of the used-up Trading Spaces franchise with 11 hours of Trading Spaces: Family (4 p.m. to 2 a.m.). E! has a five-pack of E! True Hollywood Stories on Tammy Faye (5 p.m.), Katie Couric (6 p.m.), Oprah Winfrey (7 p.m.), Montel Williams (8 p.m.), and Geraldo (9 p.m.). And the Disney Channel features nine hours’ worth of Lilo & Stitch episodes (beginning at noon) to keep the wee ones at bay until the Lilo & Stitch movie airs at 8 p.m. Me, I’ll be watching the day-long Cheap Seats marathon over on ESPNClassic.

As I type this, A&E is in the midst of a City Confidential marathon that will run until 7 p.m. What’s City Confidential, you ask? I have no idea, but knowing A&E, I’m sure it has something to do with sensational crime. If your own family is driving you to create a sensational crime of your own, IFC has a day-long Dinner for Five marathon, in which celebrities much more fabulous than you and I kibitz.

As for marathons of older programs, FX starts airing King of the Hill repeats at noon and continues long past the witching hour. You can watch People Die Horribly Around Andy Sipowicz, otherwise known as NYPD Blue (all day) on Court TV. From noon until 8 p.m., TBS rides the Everybody Loves Raymond wave, before Seinfeld tags at 8 for the next two hours. And Mad TV takes over Comedy Central’s airwaves from noon until 9 p.m., with Wayne’s World providing a two-hour breather at 4 p.m.

(Speaking of repeats, TV Land has Thanksgiving-themed episodes of Happy Days (8:30 p.m), All in the Family (9 p.m.), and Cheers (10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.), but sadly not the Love Boat episode where Gopher and special-guest Charo learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving.)

(It is quite possible that I just made that last part up.)

VH-1’s dual obsession with awful things counting those same awful things down continues apace: 40 Awesomely Bad Metal Songs (12:30 p.m.) leads into Awesomely Badder Videos (2:30 p.m.), Awesomely Bad Girls (3:30 p.m.), Awesomely Badder Hair (4 p.m.), Awesomely Badder Fashion (5 p.m.), 40 Most Awesomely Bad Dirty Songs… Ever (6 p.m.), and 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs… Ever (7 p.m.). Look for Most Awesomely Creatively-Bereft Cable Networks to air sometime next Thanksgiving. MTV mixes things up with three different marathons: Pimp My Ride (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.), The Real World (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.), and Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County (4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.).

On the movie front, Cartoon Network features a pair of animated feature-length flicks: The Iron Giant (3 p.m) and The Prince of Egypt (5 p.m.). The Sci-Fi Channel airs movies in which hideous plastic creatures attack hideous plastic humans: Octopus (11 a.m.), Octopus II (1 p.m.), Crocodile (3 p.m.), Crocodile 2 (5 p.m.), and Peter Benchley’s Creature (7 p.m.).

The USA Network showcases a few of Steven Spielberg’s greatest hits (so long as “greatest” is defined as “box-office successes”): E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (noon), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (2:30 p.m.), Jurassic Park (5 p.m.). and Mission: Impossible (8 p.m.). OK, so Spielberg didn’t direct that last one, but if the Tom Cruise character would have had just a few more daddy issues or been played by a CGI-based alien, he probably could have.

In keeping with its corporate policy — “we paid for the broadcasting rights to the James Bond movies, so we’re damn well going to air them until your as sick of them as we are” — Spike TV gives us You Only Live Twice (noon), The Living Daylights (3 p.m.), Licence to Kill (6 p.m.), The World is Not Enough (9 p.m.) and The Man with the Golden Gun (midnight). Meanwhile, American Movie Classics digs deep into its treasure trove for a pair of “classics” less than 15 years old: Die Hard 2 (5:30 p.m.) and True Lies (8 p.m).

Lifetime airs Return to Me (3:30 p.m.), which my wife and I have re-named “Give Me Back My Dead Wife’s Heart,” followed by Steel Magnolias (5:30 p.m.), which I have re-named “Change the Channel Before I Gouge Out My Eyes.”

After an Abbott & Costello marathon (highlighted by Buck Privates at 2 p.m. PT and The Time of Their Lives at 3:30 p.m. PT, Turner Classic Movies trots out Gone With the Wind (5 p.m. PT), which does not star Abbott & Costello, but would probably be improved immeasurably if it had. (“We got a lot of generals with crazy names here in the Confederacy. Who’s leading the 121st Regiment, What’s commanding the Seventh Brigade and I Don’t Know is Marching on Gettysburg…”)

TNT offers a pair of NBA games — the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. the Indiana Pacers at 5 p.m. PT, and the New Jersey Nets against the Los Angeles Clippers at 7:30 p.m. PT. Come for the dunking, stay for the terrifying brawls. Speaking of brawls, the Backyard Brawl pits West Virginia and Pittsburgh against one another in a College Football Game (5 p.m. PT) on ESPN. ESPN2 has a Women’s College Basketball Game (5 p.m.) ‘twixt Tennessee and Texas, which will presumably be brawl-free.


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