You will get little argument around the country that this year we need the holidays and peaceful time with our families more than ever. With unrest at home and abroad, and an uncertain future facing us, networks have an opportunity to feed viewers their own brand of comfort food this Thanksgiving.
While some networks are already knee deep in tinsel, and have been dreaming of a White Christmas since before Halloween, the week of Thanksgiving is the unofficial kickoff of holiday programming for most of TV. That means a cavalcade of specials, marathons and parades, followed by hours and hours of football.
There’s no marathon bigger, or at least longer, than FXX’s “Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Part 2!)”. Across 13 days, 300 hours, fans will be able to watch 27 seasons and 600 episodes of The Simpsons. Indeed, it’ll break FXX’s own record set in 2014 with the last “Every. Simpsons. Ever.” stunt for longest TV marathon of all-time. Moe’s opens at 12:00 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, and last call comes at midnight ET on December 6.
But if you’ve overdosed on donuts, Shout! Factory TV offers a much more manageable binge: their annual Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon.
Kicking off on November 24 at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET on ShoutFactoryTV.com, the marathon will feature six of the most popular episodes of MST3K, as voted on by the fans. The episodes will feature brand-new episode intros, and the event will be hosted by series creator and original host Joel Hodgson and upcoming season 11 host Jonah Ray. This serves as an appetizer for 14 all-new episodes coming to Netflix next year thanks to a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign.
While holiday programming continues to balloon around it, NBC sticks to the original balloons a part of the original Thanksgiving TV stalwart: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, now in its 90th year, starting at 9 a.m. in all time zones.
For the second year in a row, Hallmark Channel, omnipresent this time of year, will have a float in the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The kicker? Tony Bennett will be singing on the float, celebrating his 90th birthday in conjunction with the 90th year of the Parade.
Hallmark certainly hopes Bennett will drive hungry viewers to their air, but regardless, their programming is as unassailable as their commitment to the holidays.
The network is the North Star when it comes to serving up holiday movies, which it has since October, but starting November 23, Fuller House star and Hallmark advocate Candace Cameron Bure hosts a Five Night Thanksgiving Movie Event.
The premieres, which run nightly at 8/7c from November 23 through November 27, includes A Heavenly Christmas (Nov. 26), a film in the Hallmark Hall of Fame series, now in its 65th year. The movie stars Academy Award-winner Shirley MacLaine, Kristen Davis and Eric McCormack. The five-night event culminates in Journey Back to Christmas (Nov. 27), starring Bure, Oliver Hudson and Tom Skerritt.
Another alternative comes from ABC, who hopes to start their own tradition with The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration, premiering on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m. EST.
“We’re going to be lighting up the castles all around the world, putting our thumbprint on the bigger, original holiday type stuff and specials,” said Darren Schillace, SVP, marketing strategy, ABC Entertainment. “Thanksgiving night, when everyone’s kind of motionless, is usually a great time when everyone’s looking for something fun to watch as a collective family, and we want to be riding that thing.”
Hosted by Emmy Award-winners Julianne and Derek Hough, the two-hour special will feature musical performances galore from stars like Mariah Carey (performing you know what), Boyz II Men, Kelly Clarkson, Garth Brooks and many more around the world at Disney’s parks, singing alongside a patented dollop of Disney magic.
After you’ve devoured your turkey, PBS’ Thanksgiving night gives us a wholesome dessert.
At 8 p.m. ET, Martin Sheen stars as Matthew Cuthbert in an Anne of Green Gables revival based on the L.M. Montgomery classic. If you want seconds of classic lit heroines, PBS airs the 2005 film version of Pollyanna at 9:30 pm ET.
Like Hallmark, Up TV began its Christmas programming when we still had our pumpkins on the lawn (November 5). The uplifting network promises 50 days of holiday movies and specials leading to the final day on our advent calendars, but its biggest stunt comes during Thanksgiving Week.
Beginning Friday, November 18 at 6 p.m. ET, UP TV unleashes “GilMORE the Merrier,” a 7-day, 153-episode marathon of every episode of Gilmore Girls. Hosted by Sean Gunn (“Kirk”), the nonstop action will feature prizes and sweepstakes every hour for the avid fan who will need to drink plenty of coffee with Rory and Lorelai to keep up.
Of course, there’s no reason to ever leave your couch or Stars Hollow this Thanksgiving. After you’ve binged the entire series on Up TV, arguably the biggest event of the holiday season arrives Friday, November 25, when all four episodes of the revival series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life debut on Netflix.
What could be more comforting than that?
[Images courtesy of PBS and Disney]