Happy! Yes. It would be wrong not to be, or footnote an expression of gratitude with a qualification. Happy. Don’t expect a litany, though; some years I’m sure I’ve gone on and on about the things for which I’m grateful, but now that feels like conspicuous public piety, like praying loudly in a restaurant. You can bottom-line it all with one simple truth: it could be worse. The sidecar to that point: it will be, one way or another. But even then: it could be worse. It can also be better. That’s the push-pull of every day. Today we just sit and gaze at the plate and inhale and grasp the cutlery and think: another year on the right side of the dirt. Everything else is gravy. Who cares if there’s a lump or two.

Personally, I’m thankful we’re going somewhere else for Thanksgiving, because hosting the event raises the stress-level at Jasperwood, at least until everyone’s seated. Cleaning, getting out the leaves for the table, setting the table, setting it wrong, which I always do, having the annual dispute about the water pitcher - it’s very nice, crystal, a gift, but if you add ice, then you can’t pour, because the ice just falls out into the glass. Let me just fill ‘em from the fridge, for Miles Standish’s sake, and be done with it. But no: formal events require a water pitcher. An annual point of contention, never to be resolved. Then the hour of Milling Around until the guests come. Then the blessing, which must include some civic pride. Since we often have guests of guests, you never know how that’ll play. I keep it non-partisan, but sometimes concise exclamations of American Exceptionalism rendered without reservation can alienate people who carry around a tote-bag of national sins, like pepper to sprinkle on a cake. ‘Tis a pity, that. Tough.

Anyway. I said I would have some “Thanksgiving media,” whatever that means. I mean this:

How did old TV shows handle Thanksgiving? Well, “Bewitched” sent the family back to Pilgrim days, where Darren got arrested for being a witch. Samantha got him off with some clever rhetoric about seeking scapegoats for one’s own follies, humiliated the man who believed in witches, then used witchcraft to get Darren off the hook. If they were trying for an anti-anti-Communist subtext, they kinda sorta muddled it towards the end. But it made me realize that no one could express that state of constant near-panic over having a witch-wife like Dick York.



Then I watched the Beverly Hillbillies Thanksgiving show. I hate the word, but this is . . . iconic:


Unca Jed blessing the turkey. Then he thanks the Lord for all the people at the table:



Say, isn't that - hey, what's this?



Is that Eb trying to look down Elly Mae's dress? And here’s the one you don’t see coming at all:


That’s right: it’s Thanksgiving in Hooterville - actually, at the Petticoat Junction hotel. Three shows collide in one. Surely this is the only example of a TV show that had a cosmology spanning several shows. It’s natural that Jethro would be hittin’ on the Petticoat Junction dotters, or Granny would be sparkin’ at Sam Drucker, and so on.

It reminded me of something I blathered during a conversation on the ship last week regarding the brilliance of “Green Acres” - the show’s creator came out of old radio. (Thought of this because I was listening to a Burns & Allen show in the car, and the writer was an Acres / Hillbillies writer.) The old comedy shows were a familiar stroll through a cast of characters, set-pieces loosely strung together. The plot mattered less than the weekly visit with the characters. That’s the point of “Green Acres,” and to a lesser extent “Hillbillies” - the bones of the shows are pure old radio. Sitcoms changed when a new breed of writers came in and gave story equal billing; then, in the seventies, story was eclipsed by the ensemble. Which brings us to:



The image yesterday was indeed the first frames of “WKRP in Cincinnati,” a sitcom I will always associate with living in dorms and never seeing as much as I thought I should. It was the sitcom with a great reputation that no one seemed to watch. Or could: they kept moving it around so no one knew it was on. You’d watch it, think “I should watch this more,” and then you’d forget. It spawned a few late-night conversations after the bar closed - Loni Anderson or Bailey? (This is obvious, and even shows up in the WKRP Wikipedia entry. No one took up the Loni Anderson case. It seems more open-and-shut than the Ginger vs. MaryAnne dispute, which has been reevaluated over the years; I mean, really. Ginger was a Woman of the World. MaryAnne could have been an utter prude.)

Fun notes: Les Nessman, or rather the actor who played him, appeared in the remakes of WKRP, the remake of Wonderful World of Color, and the remake of Perry Mason. The fellow who played Andy Travis has a webpage, and according to the “News” section, appeared in a version of a musical that would be directed by someone who was nominated for an Oscar! And he wasn’t in it. That’s gilding the dandelion somewhat. But we wish them all well. It’s a tough job. Loni Anderson, btw, is from this part of the world, and was “voted Valentine Queen of Valentine's Day Winter Formal” at Roseville High school.


Anyway, I watched the Turkey episode, which TV Guide called one of the greatest sitcom episodes of ALL TIME, and . . . it’s somewhat spoiled if you know what’s going to happen.

For modern audiences who have no attention span: the 30-second version.


Never saw it before, but that’s the thing with these cultural moments: you don’t have to. You just have to know what happened, and what’s the most famous line. Say it, and people assume you get the reference. As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly. I’ve known that line for years. Spoken it. Rephrased it in parody form. I have no idea whether I actually saw the episode before last night.

Finally: some old radio. This is “Answer Man,” dealing with questions about Thanksgiving. The format will be familiar to anyone who might know it only in Bob and Ray parodies; a question is posed, the answer is given without hesitation, and the pace is relentless.

Did you know that states celebrated Thanksgiving on different days in the Forties? I didn’t. Why? Have a listen.

Enjoy! Have a grand day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.





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