Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Thanksgiving will be different for many of us this year. As COVID cases swell across the country, traditional family gatherings this Thursday are much more likely to happen on Zoom than in person. If you love your family, just be safe. TV is here to help keep you grounded.
Our family Thanksgiving television routine doesn't vary much from year to year, nor is it particularly groundbreaking. This holiday is all about family, football and food. The TV is on early, and remains on after the festive meal. Feel free to follow along with our schedule at home…
9:00AM Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (NBC)
Remote Controller - My wife and kids
I was not a huge fan of the parade growing up, but my wife and daughters gave me an appreciation for this event. Debbie grew up watching the parade with her family in the morning, and Rachel and Emily have loved it since they started watching TV.
My father-in-law and I once took my daughters and niece to see the giant balloons and floats for ourselves. I was awestruck, and I wasn't even a kid. That trip to the city will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sure the performances are cheesy and we end up judging which new pop act did the best job lip synching on a float. Once I was able to laugh at the parade, I was able to enjoy it. Quality early-morning family time.
Noon National Dog Show (NBC)
Remote Controller - My dog
This is another one I've come full circle on. Our dog Molly (@mollyheinthepup on Instagram) is a full fledged member of the family and chooses the next program to watch.
I'm thinking Best In Show as we watch the different classes of dogs get escorted around the ring by owners who often resemble their pooches. We selfishly pay close attention to the Toy Group.
The dogs are adorable, and John O'Hurley does a great job covering all the action as only J Peterman can. Another bonding moment in the Hein home.
1:00pm 1st NFL Game featuring Detroit (NBC)
Remote Controller - Yours Truly
Are you ready for some football? Time for Lions vs. Texans and some mini hot dogs! As boring as the annual Detroit game always is, my wife's mini hot dogs more than make up for it.
4:30pm 2nd NFL Game featuring Dallas (FOX)
Remote Controller - Still me… sort of
Dallas versus Washington a great rivalry, but these teams stink this year. That's okay because I'm busy carving up a turkey, so the channel has been known to change from time to time.
Full disclosure – I only eat turkey and corn bread on Thanksgiving. No interest in all the other stuff. Thankfully my daughters are more adventurous eaters.
6:00pm A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Apple TV + & PBS
Remote Controller - Family
If you've got Apple TV+ or PBS (and a DVR), Snoopy will show you how to get your popcorn ready. The Washington/Dallas game will be over by halftime. This Peanuts classic puts a smile on everyone's face. Plus it's time to eat.
8:20pm 3rd NFL Game - Steelers vs. Ravens (NBC)
Remote Controller - Me
I grew up in Mount Lebanon in the late 70's rooting for my home team - the Pittsburgh Steelers. There's no better way to work off that big meal than to plant myself on the couch for a hard hitting game against the Steelers arch rival.
Everyone gets their turn at the remote as we get the most out of our TV on Thanksgiving Day. Even during this awful pandemic, some traditions can still be carried out courtesy of your living room screen.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Saved By The Bell (PEACOCK)
Wednesday, November 25 (Series Reboot)
TV’s latest sitcom reboot comes from the halls of Bayside High with a sequel series set in the present day. Six new students are the main focus this time around, but rest easy, the old gang is still somewhat here.
There is lots of goofing at the expense of the original six. Zach is now Governor of California, Jessie is a guidance counselor, and A.C. is the gym teacher/football coach. Following the Fuller House template, their kids are all part of the high school mix.
30 Rock vet Tracey Wingfield runs the show and the zingers come pretty quickly. The only question is whether or not the new six will generate the affection the original six still hold over fans from the 90's.
The Flight Attendant (HBO MAX)
Thursday, November 25 (Limited Series Premiere)
Penny leaves Leonard and Sheldon to fly the friendly skies in this new dark comedy/mystery. Kaley Cuoco plays Cassie, who works international airline routes with a wise-ass crew and is always up for a good time. After a night in Thailand with a stranger, she wakes up from a blackout next to his bloody corpse and wants to know what the heck just happened.
Cuoco is the executive producer of the show and gives a solid lead performance. The show is a mystery at heart, but there are funny moments as it moves pretty quickly. Most of the focus is on her character, deservedly so.
There are lots of overseas plot twists and turns to keep things interesting and the pacing is very good. I'll stick to the end to see how this international mystery is solved.
Virgin River (NETFLIX)
Friday, November 26 (Season 2 Premiere)
My wife and I like watching romantic shows together, even if they're cheesy. As I've discussed in this space before, we really enjoyed the first season of this beautifully shot Netflix hit. We are seriously thinking about traveling to British Columbia (not the fictional setting of Northern California) to see the breathtaking scenery firsthand.
Virgin River picks up right where Season 1 left things off. Mel is back in L.A. after leaving when she heard about Charmaine's baby. Jack is trying to do the right thing but knows who the love of his life really is.
The challenge of this second season is keeping the flame alive between Jack and Mel and not paying too much attention to the supporting characters. When they focus on Jack and Mel's relationship, I'm all in. But love stories featuring Doc, Preacher and new "troubled" teenager Lizzie are nowhere near as compelling. Even Doc and Hope's love story can wear a little thin.
We enjoyed our trip back to Virgin River, and I have a feeling we will be heading back for Season 3 when that inevitably rolls around.
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.
Stay healthy and safe. Happy Thanksgiving!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.