It’s Thanksgiving, a day to pause, breathe deeply and reflect on the good things in your life. The usual stuff makes my list – comfortable shoes, dental insurance, lite mayonnaise. But this year, I find myself thinking about the visual cornucopia of glorious TV at my fingertips. I’m thankful for that more than anything. The amount of high-quality television programming a remote control or touch screen away is stupefying, in a good way – like that third long sip of fortified wine. At some point you just give in and let the images and sounds dance around your head as you lie on the couch, staring at the screen in the basement, hoping there’s more Mad Dog in the screw-top bottle and extra batteries for the remote.
As you look to celebrate all you’re thankful for, I suggest thanking television. TV won’t talk politics over giblet stew, TV doesn’t judge one’s decision to wear Crocs, and TV would never make snide comments about one’s thinning hair, expanding waistline and a semi-rational fear of monkeys and dolphins (just wait until they start communicating – no one will be safe).
To help cultivate your own appreciation of how good television programming can change your life – and a few programs to actively avoid like a creepy neighbor with turnip stains on his Jets sweatshirt – here’s a short list of some of the best – and worst - that makes me thankful I have TV.
Atlanta – I’m thankful for this 10-episode new series on the FXX network. The show follows two cousins trying to get ahead in Atlanta. Earn and Paper Boi live their lives at what one might call a “casual” pace, and their decisions may be rooted in what Red Staters may describe as “clouded” judgement. This makes for 30-minute episodes that careen from angst and emotion to guffaws and snickers. These guys are funny – even when participating in the less savory aspects of life in and around Atlanta. Keep an eye out for the 10-year old pizza boy and look for Darius, one of the best characters to arrive in a long time. (On demand on FXNow app and SlingTV)
Stan Against Evil – Something is very wrong in Willard’s Mill, New Hampshire. John C. McGinley plays a crank former sheriff dealing with a nasty curse that ends up in dead law enforcement officers and lots and lots of blood. This 8-episode series premiered a few weeks ago on IFC and is worth every second. Where else can you hear the line, “I’m supposed to kill my wife because Hitler told me to do it on TV?”? From demonic pigs to satanic priests to lazy coworkers and Bobby Orr’s hockey stick, “Stan Against Evil” is so much better than any creamed pearl onions served at your sister’s. (On demand on IFC)
Westworld – Cowboys? Check. Corporate greed? Check. Suppressed memories and violent fantasies? Check and Check. Robots – oh hell yes! This new HBO series builds upon the 1973 Michael Chrichton film starring Yul Brenner where wealthy customers come to a western theme park populated with life-like robots who provide all means of escape. But instead of riding the tea cups and eating churros, the park’s patrons murder, defile, steal, maim and terrorize the programmable inhabitants. Watching the androids, one by one, remember their past encounters will send chills down your stuffing-laden bellies. (Sunday nights at 9 PM on HBO and online at HBO Go)
But just as too much turkey, candied yams and Uncle Coot’s prison yarns will surely dampen your Thanksgiving spirit, so too will a few TV shows that are nothing to give thanks for. Avoid indigestion, put down the gravy boat and skip these:
Kevin Can Wait – In the distant future, the monkey-dolphin-human hybrid inhabitants of planet earth will uncover troves of Kevin James films and TV programs, and in their high-pitched squealing and repetitive clicks, they’ll wonder what type of god this Kevin James was. Top-rated TV shows, hit films, photos with Adam Sandler – they’ll be convinced Kevin James was the greatest TV and film star of our sad, laugh track-inebriated culture. Do not contribute to this charade. Avoid CBS Mondays at 8:30 PM. I beg you. Our survival as the dominant species may depend on it.
Pro Football – Pro football is boring. Neutral Zone Infraction. Holding. Twelve Men on the Field. More Holding. Offsides. Personal Foul. Extra Holding. Punt after punt after punt. When you can record a three-hour football game and distill the entirety of excitement into seven minutes, you know that’s bad TV. Of the three games on today, I’ll bet you a fistful of Jell-O mold that none warrants more than an, “Oh, he should have fielded that kick” level of excitement. But then again, Tom Brady isn’t playing today so he’s exempt from this entire conversation. Tom Brady is better than the whole bunch of those losers. Tom Brady just gets it.
Local TV News Promos – “Have vultures taken control of a local school?” “Are your house plants trying to kill you?” “Do monkeys plan on ruling the world?” Watching the local news is an exercise in panic, suspense and dashed imaginations. The deep, gravelly voice suggests the world itself may indeed be ending, but as the 7 News Night Team begins its broadcast, you learn that no, local carrion-starved birds haven’t seized control of PS 218 and that Ficus plants make a terrible pork loin garnish. As for monkeys’ plan for world domination, that’s no joking matter. In fact, burn this newspaper after reading, just in case.
Enjoy Thanksgiving and be grateful we have so many entertainment options to choose from. It’s important to give thanks for the nice things we have – who knows when or our monkey-dolphin overlords make us read books instead. Can you imagine?