Commentary

Video Stuffing With All the Trimmings: Updating a Thanksgiving Memory

Readers of this and my other scribblings here at Mediapost may know that I am a hopeless mediaholic -- have been from an early age. I am the son of a former ad agency creative director who kept his drawing board in my bedroom. An appreciation for anything media related was burned into my soul. In fact, for me as a child, Thanksgiving was wholly associated with video.

In the New York market in the '60s local TV stations like WPIX devoted Thanksgiving Day and the day after (Who knew from 'Black Friday' back then?) to cartoons for kids and classic film musicals and comedies. This is where I got my own passions for visual creativity, pace and wit: Fleischer Brothers cartoon shorts of Betty Boop and Popeye (the good black and white ones), Laurel and Hardy, Busby Berkeley and, to my mind, the gods of Thanksgiving the Marx Brothers.

Thursday and Friday of that week were spent glued to the tube supping on "Duck Soup," "Footlight Parade" and "I Yam What I Yam." Forty years later, what do we get on Thanksgiving TV but live hourly reports from correspondents at the Willowbrook Mall on crowd levels. "They are here in force hunting for bargains, but the big question this year is, are they buying? Back to you, Michelle."

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In an on demand world where I can pile up my Netflix queue with classic flicks to watch on my iPhone or iPad, the specialness of the Thanksgiving media gorging is gone. I will watch my Marx Brothers and Betty Boop 'videos' this year to the total befuddlement of my family. But I can do that any time now. Screens are everywhere, so gone are the days when we fought over watching the "big game" or "March of the Wooden Soldiers." The downside of all media being at your fingertips is the loss of these media moments.

But now there is the Web. The Internet has given media maniacs like me an endless banquet of video on which to sup. We couldn't get much farther from that great era of media scarcity in which I was raised, when we fought over a single family TV screen and the New York market was considered blessed because we had three local outlets competing with the three major networks. I know. Six TV channels to choose from. I was spoiled.

But trying somehow to project the spirit of video-gorged Thanksgivings past onto the new era of viral video and billions of monthly streams, let me share some of my recent favorites and seasonal curiosities.

First of all, the video of the week must be the Cookie Monster campaign to host SNL. With a Facebook page dedicated to the 'grass roots' push, Sesame Street's worst Thanksgiving meal guest wants to follow Betty White's path to an SNL gig. And he made a demo tape. Complete with musical guest, Weekend Update and a MacGruber send-up, CM makes his case.

And to cleanse the palate with a much darker take on the holidays, there is the always dependable Sarah Silverman. Her Funny or Die bit is a typically uncomfortable memory of her unwittingly ordering a turkey assassination followed by an even weirder counter-memory from her father. Ah, family.

And finally, to bring us back to the world of video advertising, let's end with a viral hit that parodies another viral ad hit. The new promo for The Sun newspaper riffs on the landmark Old Spice The Man You Want Your Man to Be series.

Now get the hell off of the blog and go visit your family.

Happy Thanksgiving, Busby Berkeley, wherever you are.

1 comment about "Video Stuffing With All the Trimmings: Updating a Thanksgiving Memory".
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  1. John Fredette from Alcatel-Lucent, November 24, 2010 at 6:02 p.m.

    I am torn. I remember the specialness of event watching. Danny Kaye introducing The Wizard of Oz with the warning that the first part is black and white and the part in Oz is in color. We still had a B&W set so it was all B&W for us but the WW of the W was still scary even if we did not see her in all her green glory. There was also Peter Pan with Mary Martin in all her too apparent wire suspended flight. The 1953 Christmas Carol was a favorite but Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol is the one closest to my heart. Then of course there was also Rudolph. CGI will never replace true stop action puppetry for me.

    My niece and nephew watch Sponge Bob whenever they want. They never have that sense of having to watch something at a particular time or miss it for a whole year.

    But they also have such an incredibly broad range of options as we all do. I think the trade off is worth it. They've lost some specialness but they have more options.

    We never knew what it was like when all entertainment was live and the circus coming to town was a MAJOR event. That excitement must have been incredible but that really was a world of limited entertainment options.

    Progress brings trade offs. I am happy with the memories I have and I am sure my niece and nephew will cherish the memories they are making now.

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