Thanksgiving on the small screen

Unfortunately, in terms of thematic film Thanksgiving is woefully underrepresented. While Christmas, Halloween and even Easter can lay claim to long lists of celebratory movies, Thanksgiving isn’t so lucky.

The best offering in the Thanksgiving category may be the 2003 film "Pieces of April." Katie Holmes plays a young girl living with her boyfriend. When she invites her ultra-dysfunctional and uptight family – including her just-happens-to-be-dying-of-cancer-mother — for Thanksgiving, the action is somewhere between hilarious, tense and poignant as everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

Has she ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner before? No. Is her apartment big enough to hold everyone? No. Does her oven work? No. Does she realize that potatoes have to be cooked before mashing? Nope. Will there be a happy ending anyway? Watch it and find out.

You might go with "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," a 1987 flick directed by John Hughes, starring Steve Martin and John Candy. Martin plays a type-A businessman trying to get home from New York for the holidays. John Candy is a buffoonish shower ring salesman who steals Martin’s taxi and then just won’t go away. The film is full of transportation-related misadventures: broken down trains, incinerated cars, chromosome-impaired police officers and more. The Thanksgiving connection may be weak, but the turkeys are real.

Television offers more possibilities. The 1973 "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" runs at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening. Other Portland offerings for Thanksgiving afternoon and evening include "Miracle on 34th Street," a James Bond-athon, "Spider Man," and a solid afternoon and evening of "King of the Hill."

If you’re looking for humor (and I use that term with discretion in this case), "National Lampoon’s Thanksgiving Reunion" might fit the bill. This made-for-TBS film continues the National Lampoon model of family holiday disasters. Is it worth watching? I’ll point out that TBS isn’t even running it on turkey day and let you decide.

Without a doubt, my favorite thing to watch on turkey day is the Thanksgiving episode of "Northern Exposure," a quirky series that ran in the early 1990s and is slowly being released to DVD. Entitled "Thanksgiving," the central theme is the town of Cicely’s annual Day of the Dead Parade, held on Thanksgiving Day. The parade is capped by an annual ritual in which the town’s Indians pelt the town’s "white people" with tomatoes as a means of dealing with post-colonial angst.

In a wonderful sub-theme, the town’s disc-jockey-cum-philosopher, Chris, waxes nostalgic about Thanksgiving with his buddies in the slammer, a memory triggered when he finds a can of green beans on the grocery store shelf.

"Four hundred guys, all eating in one big room. The clink of industrial silverware and two percent milk in tin cups. And the beans! Those beans! Every Tuesday, every Thursday, those babies had a place in the corner triangle of my dinner tray."

"Me and the guys filed in from the yard, those of us who weren’t in solitary. We got to take as big a helping as we wanted. Even Warden Vigietta recognized the need to overindulge. Plastic plates brimming with pressed turkey and sweet potatoes and those green beans. One of the guys broke out a jug of applejack he’d been fermenting since the Fourth of July, and we passed that under the table, spiking our cider. Doug Hanson actually got a little whacked in the stuff. Stabbed some guy just for pinching his yams. Little Billy Bonder tried to get a round of Christmas carols going, even though it was a month early. The mellow sweetness of pumpkin pie off a prison spoon is something you never forget."

Originally run in 1992, this episode is hard to find. But if you have a friend who is an "NX" junkie, ask them for a loan. It’ll make you happy, I promise.