Clear the table, do the dishes, hit the couch—TV is ready for you, with a slew of marathons, miniseries and specials, from ‘Borgen’ to ‘Bond’, from ‘Sherlock’ to ‘Louie’. Jace Lacob on what to watch on TV and online.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about gorging yourself on turkey and pumpkin pie--it’s also about getting prostrate on the couch after stuffing yourself … or getting away from your family for a few hours in front of the television.
Fortunately, the television networks have realized that everyone during the long Thanksgiving weekend is in search of escape of some kind, and have gone out of their way to offer a number of marathons during the next few days, from the classic—all Gone With the Wind all the time on AMC!—and the gripping (Borgen) to the tragic (a Here Comes Honey Boo Boo marathon) and the suave (Bond).
But whatever your tastes, The Daily Beast has you covered with a round-up of some of the more interesting, unusual, or compelling programming hitting the airwaves, the Internet, and your Netflix queue over the next few days to sate whatever appetite still remains after the big feast.
Borgen (LinkTV and online at LinkTV.org)
If you haven’t yet fallen under the spell of Danish political thriller Borgen, here is the perfect opportunity to watch a marathon of Seasons 1 and 2 as LinkTV will air all 20 episodes of this penetrating and intelligent series over the holiday weekend, from Thursday to Sunday. Revolving around the political, moral, and ideological struggles of Denmark’s first female prime minister, Borgen is hands down the best television show of 2012, and the women at the show’s center—Sidse Babett Knudsen’s sympathetic statsminister Birgitte Nyborg and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen’s ambitious journalist Katrine Fønsmark—deliver two of television’s strongest and most nuanced performances in a show that holds up a microscope to the political and media spheres in Denmark. The result is an unforgettable and insightful drama that will have you forgetting that you’re reading subtitles.
Bonus tip: Don’t worry if you don’t have DirecTV or Dish or if you’re away from your television this weekend: you can watch the episodes online at LinkTV.org for two weeks after the on-air marathon.
The Thick of It (Hulu)
If you’re looking for more laughs than tears from your political television series, look no further than the caustically witty (and often brutally cringe inducing) British politics satire The Thick of It, four seasons of which—including the most recently concluded—are available on Hulu. Watch as Peter Capaldi’s foulmouthed Malcolm Tucker, the prime minister’s rabid enforcer, corrals the hapless civil servants and ministerial aides! Marvel at the insanely precise and knife-sharp tirades delivered by Capaldi! Hope that no innocent children can overhear his swearword-laden verbal floods that push the boundaries of the English language! Finally, revel in your knowledge of what the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, “omnishambles,” truly means!
Tens of thousands are still without power a month after Sandy hit. That’s chilling, writes Eliza Shapiro.
It could be a very chilly Thanksgiving for tens of thousands of East Coast residents still without power nearly a month after Superstorm Sandy made landfall.
Three weeks after Sandy many areas, including Breezy Point in Queens, are still suffering. (Richard H. Cohen / Corbis)
As of Tuesday, the numbers were staggering: 18,095 in Long Island are powerless; 2,170 in New York City; 14,000 in New Jersey.
Power companies say in most cases they’ve restored the power grids, but individual customers now need to get electricians to come in and do the final repair work. In the meantime, what will Thanksgiving look like this year as the night temperatures dip into the 30s?
The vast network of Sandy relief organizations are working to make sure this Thanksgiving is as normal—or at least neighborly—as possible.
From Bergen County to Breezy Point to the East Village, organizations and volunteers are spreading the word through Facebook posts and flyers inviting anyone affected by Sandy to a Thanksgiving dinner.
Jennifer Kaufman, 47, of Washington Township in New Jersey, has connected more than 400 people willing to host those displaced by Sandy for a Thanksgiving dinner in their homes through her project, A Thanksgiving Table Share.
Sandy was personal for Kaufman. “My daughter moved into her house in Brick, New Jersey, in August. She had just finished painting the last room of the house when Sandy hit.” Kaufman’s daughter, Lily, evacuated ahead of the storm with her husband, but her home was damaged. “I couldn’t get to her because of the gas crisis,” Kaufman says. “I had all this nervous energy—she was my impetus for starting the Table Share.”
The library of Thanksgiving music may not be robust, but a handful of notable offerings do stand out. From Adam Sandler’s ode to the holiday to Nicole Westbrook’s viral ‘It’s Thanksgiving,’ we run down the best Thanksgiving tunes—and the turkeys you should steer away from.
Christmastime brings with it an infinite catalog of joyful carols to soundtrack the season. The Fourth of July boasts a proud number of triumphant patriotic songs. Even Halloween has “Monster Mash.” Now, quick: name your favorite Thanksgiving carol.
Yes, when it comes to songs to score our annual bountiful buffets, it’s slim pickings. So what’s a music-minded Thanksgiving enthusiast to do? A quick dig through the canon of Thanksgiving music surfaced these notable songs of the season. Here’s a rundown of which are worth a listen and which are turkeys.
1. ‘It’s Thanksgiving’ by Nicole Westbrook: FAIL
It’s the dance floor-ready ode to Turkey Day that you never wanted. From the auditory assailants behind Rebecca Black’s reviled viral sensation, “Friday,” comes “It’s Thanksgiving.” The song, from 12-year-old aspiring starlet Nicole Westbrook, was written and produced by “Friday” mastermind Patrice Wilson. Like “Friday,” the lyrics are embarrassingly blunt. The chorus features a roll call of all the holidays leading up to Thanksgiving followed by a musical recitation of the dinner menu—“Turkey, hey! / Mashed potatoes, hey!” By the time the turkey-leg microphone is whipped out, we’re ready to cancel dinner.
2. ‘The Thanksgiving Song’ by Adam Sandler: WIN
It’s not packed with quite as much wit as his endearingly un-P.C. ode to Hanukkah, but Adam Sandler’s homage to Thanksgiving is as close to a classic song about Turkey Day as we have. (Which, really, says a lot about the difficulty of translating the holiday to music—it’s been centuries since the Pilgrims and Indians first broke bread, and the only truly identifiable song about it was a ’90s comedy bit by a Saturday Night Live star?)
Angelo Carusone, who is spearheading a campaign to get Macy’s to stop selling Trump merchandise, says The Donald’s un-American comments about birtherism, global warming, the 2012 election results, and other issues make him incompatible with the store’s avowed philosophy.
Here I was, safety scissors in hand, standing in front of Macy’s main entrance on 34th Street. Scaffolding and decorations heralded the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which would begin in less than 48 hours. But, this gathering wasn’t about claiming a superb location alongside the parade route; this was about Macy’s business partnership with Donald Trump.
Macy's Parade and Donald Trump. (Getty Images (2))
This all began on Oct. 24. Trump had just hijacked two media cycles with his latest birther stunt, an offer to give $5 million to charity if the president of the United States complied with his demand for college transcripts. Although it seemed more like an attempt to use charity as a weapon and a promise to withhold money from charity if Trump didn’t get his way.
The stunt had focused my attention; and while poking around I came upon an August 2012 signed letter from Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren addressed to Donald Trump. Just below Lundgren’s signature, a postscript proclaimed: "Don’t give up the real estate business yet but we are developing a meaningful fashion business with your brand!"
That line gave me pause and got me thinking about Trump’s “brand.”
Trump’s brand is consequence-free bullying and chicanery; mean-spirited antics designed to ride a media cycle so he can promote himself or his Macy’s product line at the expense of others. It’s not the kind of thing that you build a fashion business on top of, and it certainly isn’t consistent with my experience as a longtime Macy’s customer. And here was the CEO of Macy’s promising to further develop that brand. I felt compelled to take action. So I started a petition at SignOn.org, which is a free-to-use online organizing platform.
Then the election results came in. Trump took to Twitter and repeatedly called for the overthrow of the American government. His demands for revolt coincided with the launch of Macy’s big Christmas advertising campaign. Trump is featured in the ads playing a skeptic on Kris Kringle’s identity. Macy’s decision to portray Trump in this role raised some eyebrows given that he spent years promoting the racially charged birther conspiracy. The result was that Macy’s relationship with Trump became front and center, and the petition took off.
The petition took off because of the incompatibility between Macy’s brand and Trump’s brand of bigoted bullying.
More Americans than ever will use them.
More Thanksgiving dinners will be purchased this year using food stamps than ever before. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 42.2 million Americans will be on food stamps when Thursday rolls around. For perspective, that’s equal to roughly the populations of California and Connecticut combined. That’s a 70 percent increase since 2007, and the cost to feed all of those people hit a record $72 billion last year. According to the Food Stamp Challenge, the budget of a person on food stamps is $1.25 per meal.
The former New York Times restaurant critic and author of the new book ‘Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well,’ tells us how to make a Turkey Day classic—basic cranberry sauce—and encourages us to try something new—roasted cauliflower with anchovy bread crumbs. Plus, he gives Katie Baker some tips on how to cook an epic feast.
Basic Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce should be sweet but not cloying, and tart without causing pucker and anguish. It should have a jelly-like quality, but should owe more to the appearance of jam. The key element to making cranberry sauce is to understand that cranberries are high in pectin, a carbohydrate that exists in many fruits and which is released by the berries when they are heated and the cells of the fruit break down. In the presence of sugar, which we add to cranberry sauce to offset its tanginess and acid, which is why the berries are tangy in the first place, the pectin molecules bond to one another, forming a kind of gel. The longer you cook a cranberry sauce, the more pectin is released and liquid is evaporated, and the stiffer the result will be.
Science! Sometimes it’s helpful. So is spice. Some like a clove or two added to their cranberry sauce. (I am not one of them.) Others, a whisper of ginger and a small handful of nuts, for texture. Of this, I approve.
1 12-ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
3⁄4 cup sugar
3⁄4 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
Zest of 1 orange, or to taste
1. Place cranberries in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and pour over these the sugar and orange juice. Stir to combine.
2. Cook until sugar is entirely melted and cranberries begin to burst in the heat, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir again, add zest, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer, turn off heat, cover pan, and allow to cool.
3. Put cranberry mixture in a serving bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours, or until you need it.
Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs
The amahzing star of ABC’s ‘Happy Endings’ previews the Thanksgiving episode, discusses her brief ‘Saturday Night Live’ stint, and explains what she has in common with Hillary Clinton.
The cast of Happy Endings really like each other.
On the "Happy Endings" episode "To Serb With Love," Jane and Alex's parents plan a huge party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the family mattress business. Jane struggles for a joke to make her humorless dad laugh for her toast, while Alex quietly informs Dave that she hasn't told her mom and dad that they're back together. Max, feeling left out now that Penny's relationship with Pete is going so well, looks for a new BFF to replace her. Christopher McDonald and Julie Hagerty guest star as the Kerkoviches. (Carol Kaelson / ABC via Getty Images)
They like each other so much, in fact, that Star magazine reported that their clique has become so impenetrable that guest stars complained to producers and have blacklisted the show. “If you aren’t in their group, you’re completely ignored,” a “spy” told the tabloid. Megan Mullally, who has appeared twice as the mother of Casey Wilson’s character Penny Hartz, allegedly told producers “never to call her again.”
“We were all laughing so hard,” Wilson tells The Daily Beast, dismissing the gossip item. “We spend so much time together, and we really do get a kick out of each other,” she says. “I’m sure it’s like when you have a twin or something who always knows what you’re talking about.” But scaring people off set? Not true, Wilson maintains. Mullally is even coming back for another episode.
Still, it’s not hard to see how a rumor like this could take off. The premise of Happy Endings, which airs Tuesday nights on ABC, is simple: six close-knit friends hang out a lot. Sound familiar? The comparisons to Friends are apt—perhaps no sitcom since the NBC hit closed up Central Perk boasts a cast with as much zany chemistry as the six Happy Endings leads.
Wilson plays Penny Hartz, the perennially single girlie girl with a clumsy streak and penchant for delivering dramatic monologues and coining catchphrases. (Penny’s theatrical pronunciation of “Amahzing” and optimistic trumpeting of the “Year of Penny,” in particular, subconsciously make their way into viewers’ daily conversation.) Penny is so unlucky in love that, in one episode, she painstakingly transforms a cute, but unstylish, duckling into a well-manicured dateable swan. She does such a good job that when the guy’s ex-girlfriend bumps into him, she’s so impressed that they reunite and get engaged. An example of her hilarious histrionics: While crying over a cosmo, she complains, “My disgustingly fat manicurist is literally trying to kill me.”
A little bit Carrie Bradshaw with a sprinkle of Lucy Ricardo, Wilson’s endearingly daffy performance as Penny quickly earned her fan-favorite status. For the 32-year-old actress and writer, the critical accolades are a touch redemptive. Prior to booking Happy Endings, Wilson spent two seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, but was let go from the show in 2009. Rumors swirled that she was fired for being overweight. “The issue isn’t that I’m too fat, it’s that I’m too phat. Can I get a WHAT-WHAT!” she said at the time.
That winter, the romantic comedy Bride Wars, the screenplay of which Wilson co-wrote, was slammed by critics. Ever since its truncated first season was launched as a mid-season replacement in 2011, Happy Endings has been considered a “bubble show”—a series with ratings so low that it’s at a near-constant risk of cancellation. But despite less-than-stellar ratings, the show has built a passionate following and been cited as TV’s most underrated comedy by many critics. And Wilson couldn’t be having more fun acting on it.
Forecasts for holiday sales show us what’s driving the American economy, and what might be holding it back.
The holiday season for retailers will be a lot like the holiday season for us gift-givers: good but not great.
Bargain hunters crowd Macy’s in New York on “Black Friday,” Nov. 25, 2011, the traditional start of the U.S. holiday shopping season. (Shen Hong / Xinhua / Landov)
Starting in October, as retailers ramp up their holiday hiring and plan for ever-earlier Black Friday (and Black Thursday) openings, trade groups and analysts put out forecasts for holiday sales. The most widely watched and cited is the one put out by the National Retail Federation. The trade group that represents shopping centers has its own forecast. The professional services firm Deloitte has a widely distributed survey, as does the management consulting firm Bain & Company.
The National Retail Federation projects an increase in holiday sales of 4.1 percent, which would be a drop from 2011’s 5.6 percent growth. It is, however, the highest forecast NRF has issued since the recession and comfortably beats the 10-year average growth of 3.5 percent.
Retail sales, both as an indicator over time and as a snapshot during holidays, provide a unique window into the strength and sentiment of the American consumer. Consumer activity accounts for about 70 percent of American activity. And consumer activity is disproportionately concentrated into the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The holiday shopping season can make or break retailers’ years.
The forecasts, which are based on a combination of survey data measuring consumers shopping plans, past retail sales, and economic indicators, provide a glimpse into what’s motivating the American consumer. The National Retail Federation’s forecast paints a picture of shoppers encouraged by broadly positive economic conditions but unsettled by politics.
One broad economic trend that’s driving the NRF’s optimistic forecast is housing. Kathy Grannis, the director of media relations for the NRF, said in an interview with The Daily Beast “If you’re under water, you’re not buying discretionary products like electronics and apparel.” And since home values are climbing steadily, that translates pretty easily into higher sales.
This works through two related channels: the first is the “wealth effect”—the empirical positive relationship between the value of an individual’s assets, which in the case of most Americans is their home, and their consumption spending. The second is what Carl Steidtmann, chief economist at Deloitte, calls “the wealth effect becoming real”: refinancing that allows homeowners to reduce their mortgage payments, which translates directly into higher cash flow for consumers. With refinancing activity booming, the optimistic sales forecasts make more sense.
The risible holiday anthem ‘It’s Thanksgiving’ has garnered more than 9 million You Tube views and triggered a fatwa from teens on Twitter. Singer Nicole Westbrook and producer Patrice Wilson—the brains behind Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’—talk about making the much-maligned hit.
Since being unleashed Nov. 7 on YouTube, “It’s Thanksgiving,” a risible music video produced by Patrice Wilson and sung by 12-year-old starlet Nicole Westbrook, has racked up more than 9 million views … and loads of vitriol.
It’s been branded the “New Worst Song Ever” by ABC’s Good Morning America, and so inflamed a generation of tweens, they’ve issued a fatwa against it on Twitter. On YouTube, it has far more “dislikes” (135,000-plus) than “likes” (18,000-plus). Some haters even feel it deserves its rightful place in the annals of trash-pop infamy alongside Kevin Federline’s “Popozão,” The Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out,” and “Friday,” by Rebecca Black.
The latter song by Black, which accumulated more than 40 million YouTube views, also was produced by Wilson and subscribes to his viral formula of a cutesy teenage girl chirping a happy-go-lucky anthem over ersatz beats.
“A month before Thanksgiving, I thought, ‘You know, there’s no Thanksgiving song out there!’” Wilson tells The Daily Beast. “And my team mentioned the Adam Sandler ‘Turkey Song,’ but we wanted a big anthem.”
The music video for “It’s Thanksgiving” opens at a house party with JoJo doppelganger Westbrook singing its infectious chorus: “Oh-Oh-Oh … It’s Thanksgiving. We-We-We are gonna have a good time. With the turkey—HEY!—mashed potatoes—HEY!—It’s Thanksgiving.” Later, she raps a few bars before engaging in a slew of sight gags, including singing into a turkey leg, getting served ribs, and Wilson randomly popping up in a turkey costume.
“It’s all about having good, clean fun,” says Wilson, with a chuckle. “There’s no ribs on Thanksgiving but I had ribs in the song, so it was a fun little twist. The turkey outfit was a last-minute decision suggested by someone on my team, so we ran out and rented it the day of the shoot. And one of my directors, Chris, suggested Nicole hold the turkey leg like a microphone.”
“This is my first time singing into a turkey leg,” adds Westbrook. “I’d never seen anyone do it, but I guess it’s just like singing into your hairbrush … but with a turkey leg.”
The former New York Times restaurant critic and author of a new book tells us how to cook an epic turkey feast.
With November upon us, and Thanksgiving looming a mere three weeks away, it’s time to talk turkey. Professional chefs and amateur cooks alike will be poring over recipes, debating the finer points of dressing vs. stuffing and sweet potatoes vs. mashed, and agonizing over whether to serve pumpkin pie or pecan (correct answer: both). Crises are sure to arise. But this year, just in time to combat the pre-Thanksgiving jitters, former New York Times restaurant critic (and current national editor) Sam Sifton has released the ultimate guide to making a feast for the ages. Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well—offering a wealth of favorite recipes and written in the erudite, sparkling style that won Sifton plaudits during his critic days—tackles the perennially thorny issues of how best to cook the bird, how to set (and seat) a proper table, and the secret to a really great gravy. Here, Sifton shares some Turkey Day tips, gleaned from years of holiday expertise and a stint on the Times Thanksgiving crisis hotline.
(Tetra Images / Corbis ; (inset) Getty Images for GQ)
How many years did you spend manning the Times Turkey Day hotline?
I guess I did it for two years—it runs together, of course, because once you do it once, people are asking you about Thanksgiving all year long. I found it to be a really enjoyable experience, a pretty cool duty. It’s always been an important holiday to me, and I think it’s a hugely important holiday in America, because it’s our one shared, secular feast. We have other national holidays that are not religious in nature—the 4th of July, for instance—but the 4th of July … doesn’t have that kind of sacramental feel that most Thanksgivings do. And that really became clear for me when I was sitting at my computer taking e-mails and tweets and calls and messages from readers literally all over the globe, looking for help. And the help was sometimes modest—they didn’t know to make a gravy that wasn’t lumpy—and sometimes quite severe: how do you cook a turkey in Mumbai?
You mention that in the book—the tandoori turkey.
I was amazed they were able to get the turkey … [I told] them to think of it as a big chicken. That’s really all it is from a cooking point of view. And so having done this for a couple of years, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to have a kind of Hoyle’s book of rules—not for card games but for the holiday itself. And so I thought if maybe I could lay down some very basic rules and recipes for Thanksgiving, it would allow anyone—whether new to the country or familiar with the holiday—to create a meal that, in my mind, would be correct [and] would live up to the ideals of Thanksgiving … set down in our collective imagination by that Norman Rockwell painting Freedom From Want.
There should be a big, beautiful burnished golden bird and there should be copious numbers of side dishes and the table should be set and that the children should be spit-shined and polite. And it against that image that so many of us come up short and worry. And the overwhelming message that I took from my time on the helpline was that people worry about this holiday. And I wanted to alleviate some of the stress that accompanies the making of this feast.
We do worry about it—and it’s silly, because we do it every year. And yet we still worry.
While sparing Cobbler, a 40-pound turkey from Rockingham County, Va., President Obama gave a shout-out to the predictor-in-chief, Nate Silver. "He predicted these guys would win,” Obama said.
What’s it like to be an Ethiopian-born, Swedish-bred chef cooking the most American of holiday meals? He talks to Katie Baker.
Kent Sepkowitz explains why the ‘the tryptophan in turkey means sleep’ trope persists, despite debunkings.
Sujay Kumar on how to avoid embarrassing Tebow comments and questions about what ‘Redskins’ really means.
From Adam Sandler to Green Day, Kevin Fallon runs down the best Thanksgiving tunes—and the turkeys.
The former New York Times restaurant critic on how to make easy and delicious cranberry sauce and roasted cauliflower with bread crumbs.
Holiday spending is projected to grow, but not as much as last year. Matthew Zeitlin looks at the numbers.