It’s very straightforward to take Thanksgiving for granted. The vacation comes between Halloween and Christmas, two extravagant spectacles of spooks and cheer with complete popular culture industries constructed round them (horror and Hallmark, respectively—though now I wish to see what a Hallmark Halloween film would appear to be). Thanksgiving, with none main films or songs and even TV specials past Charlie Brown, may be neglected.
That’s why I believe it is price noting that no matter Thanksgiving is missing within the popular culture division, it makes up for it relating to sitcom episodes. More so than the opposite holidays, extra exhibits have dedicated laborious to celebrating Thanksgiving than both of the opposite two main holidays. Friends, New Girl, Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Everybody Loves Raymond, How I Met Your Mother, Will & Grace—whereas celebrating Halloween and Christmas is non-compulsory for most sitcoms, Thanksgiving is the one which a lot of sitcoms rejoice virtually each season. And the Thanksgiving sitcom episode as we all know it—and adore it—was first served 45 years in the past in the present day when The Bob Newhart Show aired its second Thanksgiving episode, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
The Thanksgiving episode did not begin 45 years in the past, in no way. There are turkey-filled episodes courting again to the beginning of sitcoms as we all know them within the Fifties, on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Make Room for Daddy, Father Knows Best, and so forth. There are additionally nice ones from the Sixties that also resonate in the present day, like That Girl’s “Thanksgiving Comes But Once A Year, Hopefully.” And sure, the spate of supernatural comedies from the Sixties means that there’s certainly an episode of Bewitched whereby the Stephenses journey again to pilgrim instances. These are all high-quality episodes and, when you’re like me, a must-watch each November. But none of them are “Over the River and Through the Woods,” a riff on the Thanksgiving episode that solely The Bob Newhart Show may do—and one which’s set the formulation.
“Over the River,” an episode commonly touted as the very best of the collection and one of many funniest within the medium, took the whole lot viewers knew in regards to the Thanksgiving episode and despatched it packing to a household hoedown in Seattle. The episode does not have visiting in-laws or a attractive unfold of meals and even a single pilgrim. All that stuff, the awkward household moments and harried kitchen antics, are presumably happening offscreen in Seattle, the place Emily Hartley spends many of the episode. Her husband Bob does the extremely un-sitcom-like (however true-to-life-like) factor of stubbornly deciding to remain in Chicago as a result of his primo affected person Mr. Carlin stated he did not wish to be alone, thus giving Bob the out he was looking out for. This reframes how we view the Thanksgiving sitcom episode: like a complete lot of individuals—particularly this 12 months—Thanksgiving is not a lot about household as it’s in regards to the randos that you simply’re caught with.
Those randos embrace the aforementioned Mr. Carlin, who decides he does not want Dr. Hartley’s providers on the vacation however needs to crash in his condominium anyway; Bob’s buddy Jerry, who’s hyped for soccer and desperate to get lit; and Bob’s often cluelessly upbeat neighbor Howard, who’s now past bummed as a result of his son’s spending the day along with his ex-wife (“Howie’s in Maui”). When these 4 assemble in Bob’s condominium on Thanksgiving Day, the vibe will get grim. “I knew it was going to be dangerous,” says Bob, “however I did not know it might be this dangerous this early.”
The resolution: ingesting!
This scene, with this unlikely Thanksgiving quartet blitzed out of their thoughts and stumbling by means of setups and punchlines, is the quintessential Thanksgiving sitcom scene.
This episode has a lot extra happening, to make sure (Howard’s confusion over Emily’s Halloween masks, Carol sarcastically treating Mr. Carlin like her boss, Jerry asking Carlin “How’s your head?”), however these are the appetizers to this primary course. It’s brilliantly paced and carried out, with the 4 characters serving what’s primarily a turducken of operating gags. The totally different variations of knocks and knock knock jokes pile up in layers, forming an English trifle of riffs. There’s additionally Bob drunkenly making an attempt to order Chinese meals for the fellows after they lack the three extra ovens they (drunkenly) determine they should scorch an unthawed turkey into a meal. Drunk Bob insisting that his first identify is “Doctor” and spelling it “Dur—D-R-period” is certainly one of my favourite jokes in the whole collection.
Also enjoyable truth: adjusted for inflation, Bob ordered $450 price of Chinese meals.
This complete scene is precisely the sort of vibe that each different all-time nice Thanksgiving sitcom episode of the previous 45 years emulates, knowingly or not. Like in Cheers, Bob, Jerry, Carlin, and Howard are Thanksgiving orphans. It’s unconventional to say the least, like each Bob’s Burgers masterpiece. It makes use of the day’s communal nature as an excuse to jot down hilarious group comedy, which is how Friends would later deal with the vacation. This is the episode that proved that you simply needn’t actually journey again in time and attend the legendary first Thanksgiving in an effort to make an episode really feel Thanksgiving-y. Sometimes you simply want 4 drunk guys and one absolutely perplexed supply particular person.
And within the 45 years because it first aired, it is laborious to disclaim that “Over the River and Through the Woods” is each bit as inextricable from Thanksgiving because the ditty it is named after. If, as Mr. Carlin says, a butter dish is perpetually, then so is that this episode’s affect.