Happy Day Before Thanksgiving, readers!
As I had said in one of my Christmas-themed articles last year, there was one anthology show that flew under the radar and lives in the obscure section of Steven Spielberg’s closet of accolades and hits. The show aired from 1985 until 1987 on NBC (it ended its run after its contract with the network expired). Like other anthology shows, it featured different, unconnected stories each week, but unlike the others, the episodes were whimsical and rare was it that an episode had a sad ending. Spielberg’s team, many of the names familiar if you’ve watched his movies from that time period, and his production company all had hands in the show, and the fact that it was never a rating success may have been what did the show in by the end of its second season. But, unlike now, where a show with low ratings gets pulled and leaves unaired episodes in its wake, this show was able to complete its two seasons and fulfill its contract.
The show boasted an impressive list of guest stars, familiar faces to those that watched the show. I always love talking about my favorite episode “Remote Control Man,” whom my friend Vic Sage (and his accomplice, The Projectionist) from Retroist was nice enough to talk about during a Saturday Frights podcast (posted June 14, 2016), in which they were looking for requests. I figured mine was a longshot choice (not being of the horror type of show, or at least, the horror type of episode), but the podcast went for the change of pace from their norm to discuss it.
During the show’s first season, there was a Christmas episode (“Santa ’85”), which captured the magic of the holiday season among the changing times. I wrote about that last year. And during season two, there was a Thanksgiving-themed episode that was equally whimsical.
That episode, you ask? It was simply titled, “Thanksgiving.”
The episode guest stars a young Kyra Sedgwick (pre-Kevin Bacon marriage) and David Carradine (pre, um, let’s not discuss what happened to him – this is a family holiday, after all!). Let’s just say Carradine was in Kung Fu and two really terrible films, Future Zone and Future Force, and RiffTrax alludes to something about him during their riffing of those movies…
Sorry, family time, family holiday!
“Thanksgiving” was the ninth episode of the show’s second season, and aired on November 24, 1986, so it aired almost exactly thirty years ago. Thanksgiving in 1986 was on November 27th (noted on the calendar in the episode, and verified by me). At least you know that you’ll always get an article with accurate dates and such. It is those little details that make my articles what I want them to be…or I’m just really obsessive compulsive and I’m actually making my articles equally obsessive compulsive.
Back on track…
It’s the day before Thanksgiving (how timely, since this is being posted the day before Thanksgiving!) in the dry desert town in which our two main characters, Calvin and Dora (a man and his stepdaughter) live. As we are introduced to them, Calvin is busy spray-painting Fool’s Gold, while Dora looks out the window and listens to a country song. She notices the date on the calendar: tomorrow is Thanksgiving!
Is it me, or does Kyra Sedgwick not necessarily look 18? I doubt if she actually was 18, she would have looked slightly older anyway. And for someone who is from New York, she plays alot of Southern gals. Also, I just looked. She was 21 at the time of this episode airing.
I know, I keep getting sidetracked.
She decides to (apparently bravely) ask Calvin about getting a turkey for Thanksgiving, but Calvin immediately shoots her down and compares her (apparently unfavorably) to her “poor, crazy mama.” He wants her to do her chores, which includes working on the hole he is digging for a well.
So he didn’t like her mother? Or the prospect of her death and leaving Dora in his care?
But Dora would rather practice the song she was listening to on her guitar…until Dream Crusher Calvin cuts the strings on her guitar.
That gets Dora jumping to do her chores.
What a jerk.
So this Dynamic Duo of sorts gets to working on the hole for the well, when they get an unexpected surprise from the hole…a tug. So Calvin decides to send down a ginormous flashlight, which also gets pulled in.
And for his offering…
He gets a piece of REAL gold, not that crappy third-rate Fool’s Gold he was making inside the house. Fool’s Gold is kinda cool, but this guy is a money-grubbing jerk of a slave driving stepfather from hell, so in his hands, it is third-rate. He gets so excited about the possibility of gold if he offers more to whoever or whatever is down there, he goes into town. This leaves Dora alone to do her chores.
She hasn’t exactly started yet, so why not delay it a little longer?
Dora eats a sandwich while writing a letter to send down to the “Hole People” as she calls them. That’s when she gets her next great idea, after looking at the ham siting on the table…she’ll make a ham sandwich and send it down with a dictionary. She places the items in the bread bag and sends it down the well.
Soon, the bag comes back with “payment” in the form of jewelry.
At the risk of further sidetracking, that exchange reminds me of that one line in Troop Beverly Hills in regard to Wilderness Girl badges – “Oh you don’t buy them, you earn them.” “Oh, like jewelry!”
The “Hole People” are thrilled with the “crude code book” and offering of what they figure out is ham, so they ask if their giver has anything else to offer.
They have typing skills, color printers, and patriotic typeface color down in The Hole. They also now know English.
Dora goes into the kitchen and finds chicken in the refrigerator, which is about the closest to a turkey she would likely get for Thanksgiving…but she sends it down anyway!
Oh hey, it’s Sci Fi Friday. I wasn’t a fan of either show when this was airing, but I love seeing this little snippet of the awesome past, pre-Syfy (or Siffy, as I call it).
She decides to sing into the hole to hear her echo, when she gets a tug…and the picnic basket, full of treasures as compensation for the item the scholars down there have determined was chicken. They want to know if there is anything else they can offer, but that’s when Calvin returns.
Calvin figures that he has exactly what the “Hole People” need…tons of flashlights!
So he sends a barrel of orange flashlights down into the hole, but what comes back angers Calvin…they’re all broken, and the natives are demanding more chicken.
They’re restless…and they crave chicken. Flashlights don’t taste like chicken, so they’re not amused.
I have volunteers that demanded cookies from me one time so they would put together a large mailing. I answered their request, because they said it like good employees. Sweet compensation is always deserved, when approached the right way!
Calvin may have been snubbed, but he’s not deterred from getting to the bottom of the “Hole People” and their demands…so he suits up in the name of wrestling away some of their gold from them.
He looks ridiculous, but he apparently thinks he is going into some kind of danger. Yep, he’s gonna get gassed by the mysterious “Hole People.” But he’ll get his gold, don’t you worry!
Dora lowers him into the hole, and contemplates cutting the support cable and letting him flounder down in the hole. She’s had it with his cruel treatment, which apparently has only gotten worse since her mother died. She has her opportunity to do him in, and doom him to living among the “Hole People.”
But Dora is soon met with the familiar tug on the rope. This time, it is a much heavier tug and the truck that contains the rope that lowered him on the platform into the hole almost can’t handle the weight of what is coming back up. Dora nervously asks Calvin if he is alone, and very slowly, the platform returns with a very still Calvin on it.
Dora decides to check her stepfather, who is a little too eerily still for her liking, despite what she plotted to do in the heat of the moment just a short time earlier.
The “Hole People,” on the other hand…
Dora’s examination of her stepfather’s ridiculous suit reveals that he is, in fact, not in there…but all the riches the “Hole People” could offer her are.
Which leads me to believe something terrible happened to Calvin.
And the note confirms my belief.
The “Hole People” think Dora offered “turkey” to them.
And that, my friends, is the Thanksgiving Eve Dora Johnson’s mean stepfather was eaten alive by Cannibalistic “Hole People.”
You know, I could say something about this parting shot, but…family time, family show, family holiday. I’ll be nice.
Episodes of Amazing Stories (sans opening and closing credits) are available on archive.org, but if you prefer tangible media, both seasons are on DVD (albeit really expensive if you want season 2, but as of this writing is temporarily out of stock on Amazon). Season 1 is a more realistically-priced $19 and change. This episode is on the season 2 set. Amazing Stories is no longer on Netflix, nor is it streaming on Amazon. That makes this show particularly hard to get (at least, not if you want to attain it on the cheap), so that makes an archive of TV-recorded episodes all the more likable.
However your slice (or is it carve?) it, this is nice, harmless, anthology Thanksgiving…with kind of a dark twist that still manages to find the funny. You’ll be happy for Dora when this is over.
So we’re at the day before Thanksgiving, which means we actually have one more Turkey Day surprise coming…tomorrow!