Giving Thanks for TV
I love the holiday season, and I love my family. The thing is, having them together in one serving is, to put it politely, overwhelming. Which is why it's great that some thoughtful Hollywood executive, surely from a nutty family like mine, came up with the holiday film release, allowing errant children like myself escape when family life gets a little too crazy -- I mean cozy -- for comfort. Barring that, the next best thing is TV -- that is, if it's not taken hostage by the football fans in the family. Here are a few alternatives for the pigskin-weary:
NBC airs the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, live from New York City while CBS carries the All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade, both at 9:30am. As you're sliding the turkey into the oven, setting the table, or digesting on the couch, you can catch Thanksgiving-themed episodes of Saturday Night Live on Comedy Central. The marathon begins at 9am and continues through the rest of the day. The E! entertainment network dishes up back-to-back episodes of E! True Hollywood Story starting at 10am. Keeping with the family spirit of the holiday, the marathon features behind-the-scenes antics of vintage sitcoms like All in the Family, Good Times, The Brady Bunch, The Cosby Show, and Growing Pains. And what better way to round out the evening than by learning what Mick Jagger is thankful for? A profile of the Rolling Stones legend airs in an ABC special, Being Mick, at 9pm.
Okay, so you might want to watch some football. The Texas Tailgaters Show airs at 10am followed by the Texas vs. Texas A&M game. The Nebraska-Colorado game follows, all on ABC. Tired of turkey? Then tune into the Iron Chef Marathon on the Food Network. Hmmmm, sea urchin. World-class chefs compete to transform a theme ingredient (black pork, octopus, eel) into a multi-course meal in an hour. The battles begin at noon and continue all day. By evening, some of the networks put aside their regular programming to air movie specials: Fox carries the Adam Sandler pic, Big Daddy, while CBS goes with The Rugrats Movie, both starting at 7pm. For the more intellectually minded, Michel Martin hosts a marvelous hour of short documentaries that address a common theme, examining it from a variety of thoughtful perspectives in Life 360. This week's episode focuses on the building and maintenance of bridges, airing at 8pm on PBS. In this week's Adventure Divas, filmmaker Holly Morris and crew travel to Iran, at 10pm on PBS. And the tweens in the house -- the kids too young to go out on their own or to dig the Rugrats -- might want to check out N'Sync: The Atlantis Concert, which airs on CBS at 9pm.
It's football, golf, or basketball, somewhere on the networks till 7pm, when NBC takes a break to air Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. And who can resist that dandy Johnny Marks score ("It's a Holly, Jolly Christmas," "Silver and Gold") and the grandfatherly voice of Burl Ives in the 1964 animated classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? It airs at 7pm on CBS.
Over on cable, TBS provides a guilty pleasure in Invincible. Billy Zane stars as a bad guy gone mystic in this good versus evil fantasy that's high on Matrix-like martial arts. Zane plays Os, a former shadowman -- one of a league of evil angels who've existed since the beginning of time and whose sole purpose is to cultivate the downfall of man. An epiphany at the hands of the White Angel (think Glenda the Good Witch on steroids) infuses Os with the power of love and transforms him into a mentor to four humans whose destiny is to conquer the shadowmen. The hackneyed dialogue is at first dreadful, then turns amusingly goofy. (It's all about the perspective.) The Joey Heatherton-like wig they've got Zane in before he turns good guy is an added treat. Invincible airs at 6 and 10pm, with encores on Nov. 25 at 3pm, and on Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 1. Check listings for showtimes.
If you like cowboys and rodeos but don't care much for the ripe smell of livestock or sawdust, then there's the Professional Bull Riders World Challenge, which broadcasts live from Austin. Twenty-one of the world's best bull riders compete for prize money and glory starting at 3pm on NBC. More feature film specials air on Sunday evening with Fox offering Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, and The Santa Clause (starring Tim Allen) airing on ABC. Both start at 6pm. On cable, the Learning Channel offers a special edition of its Emmy award-winning series, Junkyard Wars, titled The Junkyard: Mega Wars. Ordinarily, two teams compete to build a machine from a common junk heap that can out-speed, out-climb, or out-float the competition. In this variation, teams from the U.S., England, and Russia compete to build a machine that can do all three tasks. The Junkyard: Mega Wars airs from 7 to 9pm on TLC.
And finally, Comedy Central serves up families skewered in its Dysfunctional Family-Themed Movie Marathon. Films include Rushmore, Hairspray, Pecker, Free Money, and Mo' Money. The marathon begins at noon. Check listings for additional air times.