Sister, Sister: Christmas

On tonight’s very special episode of Sister, Sister, Sherman Hemsley comes to visit because he is the twins GRANDPA!! Oh how I love a very special guest star. To be clear, he’s playing Ray’s dad and Ray is Tamera’s adoptive father while Lisa is Tia’s adoptive mother. And they’re all living together in a gorgeous house in suburban Detroit so that the twins can be reunited after being adopted separately at birth.

RetroNewsNow on Twitter: "🎄WB Primetime, December 1995: — On 'Sister,  Sister,' Grandpa Campbell (Sherman Hemsley) returns for Christmas & gets a  job as a mall Santa… https://t.co/RztgM9ek16"

While the sisters are shopping, Grandpa talks to Lisa at her booth in the mall. He reveals to her that he’s deeply indebted to a loan shark. And later that same day, a mobster stops by the house. Tia pays him partially with the twins Christmas money, which is just under half of what her grandpa owes. She’s told that he better pay the rest tomorrow — or else…

Tia rushes to the mall to tell her mom what happened and discovers that their grandpa is trying to earn extra cash as a mall Santa. She then explains to Tamera that she bailed out Ray’s dad, and Tamera is like a little annoyed she didn’t consult her before giving the loan shark the money??? I mean!! There was no other option, Tamera!!

With their Christmas money now in the loan shark’s possession, the twins have to get jobs to cover the cost of Christmas gifts. Tamera works in retail and her boss is a really annoying girl from their school, Rhonda. But to be fair, Rhonda’s dress is super cute.

Tia works as Santa’s helper and uses her new job as an opportunity to update Grandpa on what happened at the house earlier. She encourages him to ask Ray for help, but Grandpa refuses because he feels like he wasn’t a good enough father to Ray growing up and he doesn’t want to be a burden now.

When the loan shark returns to the house again, Lisa pays him the rest of what Grandpa owes. Ray is almost none the wiser except the loan shark comes back to the house because he forgot to return the IOU. Damn, this guy is an ethical loan shark. I mean, comparatively speaking. So Ray goes down to the mall to confront his dad, who is still on the clock. Ray can only speak to him if he visits Santa lol. It’s all very sweet, actually.

Realizing that the twins and Lisa have spent all their money on helping his father, Ray treats them all to a very generous amount of Christmas gifts. And Grandpa repays the twins their money! He’s gotten a job training other mall Santas!

Very Special Lesson: If you ever find that you truly learn that consumer goods are not what’s important at Christmas, American capitalism will reward you with a last minute influx of cash so you can continue to feed the Christmas Industrial Complex. Or maybe it’s that hard work is rewarded. Yeah, let’s go with the latter.

Murder, She Wrote: A Christmas Secret

This episode opens with a Christmas party in which the host introduces his future son-in-law, a NEW Cabot Cove Resident. Has this man seen the violent crime rate in the otherwise sleepy town? RUN!! Get out while you still can! There’s something toxic in the water! This town should be a case study for the lead-crime hypothesis!

But no, it’s just so charming here in Cabot Cove. This guy is going to stick around, work for his father-in-law, and be a tax accountant. Ugh have I ever written a more depressing sentence? Well, maybe it’s not depressing for people who love math (not me).

Anyway, Jess has a heart to heart with the bride-to-be, Beth, who cannot understand why her fiancee, Charlie, seems a little bummed out after the Gulf War. Jess explains how post traumatic stress works and we cut to Mort inviting Charlie to go shooting. Charlie’s like cool, my gun is at the hotel. Ugh. This feels like a real Chekov’s gun moment. Why can’t we have anything nice in Cabot Cove?

Before things get too heavy, we move on to Jess and Seth arguing over whether or not they will have a white Christmas. Ah the yin and yang of Cabot Cove. One moment, you’re worried that your friends and acquaintances might not survive the week because every one of your neighbors could be a cold blooded killer. The next moment you’re overwhelmed by the hygge.

As the party wraps up, Charlie heads to his car and finds a mysterious, wrapped gift on the passengers seat. He unwraps what appears to be a Willie Nelson cassette tape. But when he pops it into the player, he discovers that it’s really a mysterious message from “a friend” asking him to meet at Sally’s Landing for some holiday blackmail.

And before you’re like “oh my! how dark!” can I interest you in a Christmas store front?

Or a great shot of Mrs. Fletcher buying some holiday wrapping?

I mean this town goes ALL out. They even decorate the life preserver. Oh and before I forget to mention this crucial plot point, Charlie recognizes the woman waiting for him as Wanda, from the Christmas party, and he proceeds to drive away from the landing without even speaking to her.

In the next scene, we see Wanda helping with decorations at the community center. Everyone is incredibly hostile to her because she’s apparently screwing everyone’s husband. A fact we learn from Beth while she and Jess make cute little paper chains.

Jess, now decked out in tinsel herself, seems to be the only one who can be cordial to Wanda. She requests four red balloons from Wanda and Wanda is like cool but can you bring me my lunch? Um, she’s not your maid, Wanda!

Anyway, Jess is like I think I see it in that locker behind you. And Wanda abruptly shuts the locker and is like no, that’s not my lunch.

She then tries to hand Jess four green balloons, which is how we learn that Wanda is colorblind. Something tells me this fact will be important later.

Anyway, Beth heads over to Charlie’s hotel because she’s not buying the whole stressed from the war thing and she thinks something else is up. He isn’t in his room, but she plays the mysterious tape and finds an appointment in his planner for a meeting at the Light House Motel. Beth books it over there and finds Charlie greeting another woman with a kiss.

Now at this point, we’ve been seeing a lot of heavy kissing from Beth and Charlie. This looks way more like a friendly greeting to me. My hunch is that this woman is Charlie’s sister, but of course Beth does not see it that way. Hold on a second. You’re not getting sad in this Christmas episode are you? Here’s a glimpse of a happy couple with a Christmas package just behind Beth’s car as she tearfully drives away.

As Beth cries upstairs at her parents’ house, her mother tells Charlie that Beth is feeling sick. She seems to genuinely believe Beth’s fake food poisoning and begs Charlie to still attend the party at the community center with Beth’s father and her.

At the community center, Jess and Seth watch Mort lead a chorus of carolers. Too bad Adele can’t be there. She’s busy delivering baskets of food to the poor in another town. She’s missing Seth play Santa!

Meanwhile, Charlie follows Wanda into the women’s locker room to a soundtrack of a very ominous riff on Good King Wenceslas. We hear a shot (that makes Seth flinch outside of the locker room but of course he doesn’t check it out even though this is Cabot Cove). Charlie passes another Santa in the locker room and (presuming its Seth), he asks what the shot was. The Santa (not Seth, obvious) dashes away without responding. And just as Charlie happens upon Wanda’s motionless body, J.Fletch appears — presumably to check out the noise but if this arrival isn’t an easy win for the “she killed them all” camp then I don’t know what is.

Luckily, she is wearing an excellent Christmas tree broach.

The real Seth examines Wanda, and declaring her close to death, accompanies her to the hospital. Jess and Mort then seem to imply that Seth has been such a Scrooge that they fear even Christmas is not safe from toxic negativity — toxic enough for MURDER. I’m not even kidding: Mort says “doc stacked the deck against us.” Although, given that this is the ONE Christmas episode in the show’s run he might have a point. Perhaps even a town full of nosey people with poor impulse control decides not to go murdering on a day meant for peace and goodwill.

Beth then chooses this very moment to confront Charlie. He’s like do you know what just happened? And she’s like yeah but I still want to talk about you and that strange woman from earlier at right this very moment. I know cheating is bad but the dude literally just found a nearly lifeless woman’s body. Can Beth please show him a little grace? We can talk about cheating tomorrow.

Luckily, the next morning we learn that Wanda will live because, according to Seth’s medical description, the bullet “was deflected in some sort of flukey fashion” and for this reason didn’t do any major damage that couldn’t be corrected with emergency surgery.

Beth then shows up at Jessica’s house to say that Charlie’s gun was used to shoot Wanda. The cops found Wanda’s blackmail tape and Charlie confessed to going to the landing. He’s been arrested for murder and Beth wants Jess’s help. Wow, that’s stressful isn’t it! Good thing we get a great glimpse at Jess’s awesome Christmas decorations.

Jess gives Seth the signal to get lost so that Beth will open up to her. As soon as Seth is out the door, Beth says she’s worried that Charlie got the money for her ring in nefarious ways. She also confesses that she’s worried he’s cheating.

Jess goes to see Mort and asks if Wanda had any time to go to California within the past year and he’s like no way. You want to know why? One time when Jess was away, a group of delegates from Cabot Cove went to Tokyo because they wanted to build trade relations. Mort then makes a joke about opening a chain of CABOT BURGERS in Japan. What is this Cabot Burgers? I haven’t heard of it. I need an establishing shot stat!

Floyd Bigelow went on the trip so Wanda handled the books. When Floyd returned, the pension accounts and short-term CD accounts were a freaking mess. And he thinks that Wanda was behind it and that she was embezzling funds! Oh by the way, here’s Floyd Bigelow. We also met him at the Christmas party earlier:

With absolutely no connection between Wanda and Charlie, Jess and Mort start to wonder if maybe the tape was left in Charlie’s car by mistake. And then they’re like hey, Beth had access to that room too. But Jess doesn’t think Beth is a murderer — which is weird because like everyone in that town is a murderer. Maybe Jess has rose colored glasses and that’s the whole reason she’s able to even live there. Maybe it’s genuinely shocking to her that people die on the regular in that town.

Anyway, Jess goes to the Light House Motel to see what’s up with that strange woman and it turns out that she is his sister! But also…he has a toddler..he’s a dad! He was afraid to tell Beth that he had a child out of wedlock. I mean. It really seems like this is something that you would mention before proposing…but…Jess can’t figure out why this would be grounds for blackmail since Charlie was going to have to mention the kid at some point anyway.

And that’s when Jess remembers that Wanda is colorblind. She calls down to the hardware store that Floyd owns and asks him to bring the master keys for the community center, so that they can access Wanda’s locker. Floyd heads to the community center with a revolver.

When Floyd starts to open the locker (early and without Jess), his eavesdropping assistant Amy confronts him and tells him that she framed Charlie. And that she’s the only one who knows the truth and she looooves him. THAT IS NOT THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Anyway, Mort and Jess show up right at this moment. And in a true Murder, She Wrote anomaly, NO ONE DIES. And that, for Cabot Cove, is a Christmas miracle.

Very Special Holiday Lesson: If you’re colorblind and you’re going to leave a wrapped gift in someone’ s car — make sure to note the correct license plate.

P.S. In a very sweet moment, Jess gives Seth the toy train he always wanted as a child because they are in loooove.

And WAIT is that blond woman caroling with Mort ADELE???

Kenan & Kel: Merry Christmas, Kenan

First of all, I forgot this theme song was by Coolio and it totally slaps. Secondly, Kel introduces this episode as a “Very Special Episode,” which made me feel even more like I was in the right place. It’s always good to have your selections validated!

After the pre-show intro, we cut to Kel decorating Kenan’s family’s Christmas tree with orange soda — which reminds me, head over here to check out my orange soda donut recipe.

On Christmas Eve, Kenan places a downpayment on a bike. Kel tags along to the store and finds his dream present — and one of the best props I have ever seen — a tubaphone.

Kel Mitchell on Twitter: "Hey Wisdom it's almost Christmas! Happy Christmas  Eve! 🎄♥️ https://t.co/T03EttoHRL" / Twitter

Seriously. There’s even art of this thing. God, I love the internet.

❄🎀📯 Tubaphone Kenan and Kel 🎀📯❄ en 2021
Tubaphone by King Arlequin

While at the store, Kenan and Kel witness a mob of small children attack Santa. With the original toy store Santa no longer up to the job, the store manager recruits Kenan to be Santa for a flat rate of $100. Kel gets to be an elf…I’m not sure if he’s also being paid or just being supportive. Either could be true with Kel.

Kenan & Kel" (1996) - Episode: Merry Christmas, Kenan | Kenan e kel, Papai  noel, Noel

Turns out, Kenan is the best Santa ever. He evens speaks an obscure language called Fishlockian and is able to sing a carol with this small Scandanavian child:

Everything is going great until he promises a bike to a kid who asks for the gift for his sister — only to find out that their mom can’t afford it. So Kenan decides to use the money he intends to use for his mountain bike to buy these kids some presents.

That’s all well and good but he also decides to break into the house, dressed as Santa, to leave presents. Luckily, this doesn’t go poorly and the whole family thinks it’s very sweet instead of very creepy.

After all this, Kenan somehow has cash left over to buy Kel the tubaphone.

97 Kenan & Kel Christmas! | Dan Schneider in the 90's

Don’t worry though because the real Santa (or maybe just the store manager also doing a little B&E) brings Kenan his bike on Christmas Eve after the family goes to sleep. Kenan and Kel then close the show with the rest of the episode’s cast and the audience singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

Very Special Holiday Lesson: Breaking and entering is okay as long as you leave gifts? No wait. Absolutely don’t do that. Just leave a gift card in the mailbox instead. Bye!

I’m also going to share my favorite Kenan & Kel bit from All That: “Mavis & Clavis”:

And also this really cute reunion video:

Boy Meets World: Turnaround

Let’s start with the good things about this episode: It’s the Mr. Turner years (arguably the show’s peak). Bad things about this episode: Cory is a real jerk!

The premise of this episode is that the girls must ask the boys to a dance (but it’s “turnaround” because I guess Sadie Hawkins was trademarked?) and anyway is this even a thing that still happens? It’s like very binary and heteronormative and, as Topanga thankfully points out, “destructive gender-biased thinking and we have to get beyond that.” But she’s going Christmas shopping with her dad so she can’t go to the dance anyway.

While fantasizing about being asked to the dance by the most attractive girl in the class, Cory accidentally says yes to a girl, named Ingrid, who is not conventionally attractive. And then he reacts by being a realllll jackass about it. Luckily, his dad catches him trying out shitty monologues for backing out of his date and tells him that he needs to go with the girl he already promised to go out with.

Ranking Every 'Boy Meets World' Episode Ever! – The Twizard

Eric (before the incident that turned him into a very different character) explains to Cory a more selfish angle — if he ditches this girl then no girl will ever go out with him because they’ll all know he’s a total dipshit.

Oh and by the way, Mr. Turner is teaching Pygmalion. I forgot just exactly how on the nose this show could be. Shawn, who is apparently listening in class for once, decides that he needs to give her a makeover just like “in the Pig Play” (so yeah he’s only kind of listening).

Boy Meets World Reviewed: Episode 2x12 "Turnaround"

Meanwhile, Mr. Turner is a little stressed cause he’s hoping the hot lady teacher (who I think we’ve only seen this one time) will be his chaperone date (since when do chaperones have dates?) and honestly I’m not sure why we’re supposed to care? Who was this plot aimed at? Babysitters? I think if the kid is old enough to watch Boy Meets World, then you can just sit at the kitchen table and paint your nails for thirty minutes.

BMW – 212, “Turnaround”; December 16, 1994 – thatsavvy

Based on horrible, horrible representations of women in magazines, Shawn decides that the newly made over Ingrid (who—spoiler not spoiler alert— it turns out is very conventionally attractive) is STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He decides to reinvent her personality as well. (Excuse me, I need to take a vomit break). Now she must say she’s from Sweden (where her extended family lives).

Boy Meets World" Turnaround (TV Episode 1994) - IMDb

Oh my God this is truly, truly painful. I hope Gen Z saves us from this millennial shame. I’m really not proud of how the older millennials and younger Gen Xers (or to be fair the older Gen Xers and Boomers writing these shows) portrayed teen years in the 90’s.

But thankfully KARMA makes itself available, God bless, and Ingrid ditches Cory because she is now too cool for him. Ugh wait karma in this show is A LIE because the most attractive girl from earlier asks Cory out as soon as Ingrid ditches him. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?

Marnette Patterson/"The Turnaround" - Sitcoms Online Photo Galleries

Ohhh wait it’s a trick. And honestly I’m kind of relieved? That’s weird. I feel bad that I’m relived because this is also AWFUL. But the girl (played by Marnette Peterson who you might recognize from That 70’s Show or Camp Nowhere) ditches Cory as soon as they get to the dance. She had ask Cory to the dance as a decoy because she’s dating someone she isn’t allowed to date. It’s still bad, but I just didn’t want Cory to win after he was such a jerk, so I’m going to table the whole backstory of the minor characters here and just move it along with the rest of the recap.

In other unhealthy relationship behaviors, it turns out the hot teacher was always going to ask out Mr. Turner (she told all of the other teachers not to ask him out) and she was just stringing him along because it amused her.

Boy Meets World" Turnaround (TV Episode 1994) - IMDb

Sadly, Ingrid couldn’t hack it with the popular crowd. She decided to actually jump into the pool at the gym when everyone else was just talking about it. Actually, that does sound cool. But what do I know? Anyway, she comes crawling back to Cory for comfort. GOD THIS IS SO SAD. I WANT HER TO HAVE REAL FRIENDS.

But Cory apologizes (low bar). Ingrid says she didn’t feel bad at first for ditching him because she realized he was just using her (fair) but now that they both acknowledge that the other is a human being, she also wants to apologize.

Oh wait it turns out someone DOES think it’s cool that Ingrid jumped in the pool. (See, I knew it was cool.) So. Yeah. She ditches Cory again. I wish I could tell all these children it’s totally fine to just skip the dance and not subject yourself to people who treat you like shit. This blatant social climbing is a lot. It does get better than your teen years, thankfully.

Very Special Holiday Lesson: This is clearly the worst holiday episode ever. I’m glad I coincidentally scheduled it first, so it only gets better from here people!! At least the holiday photo screen freeze at the end is kind of cute:

BMW – 212, “Turnaround”; December 16, 1994 – thatsavvy

Also, since Cory got ghosted at the Christmas dance, I feel that this is the perfect opportunity to tell you that I have revived a series I did back in 2014 called “Boy Meets Sweet Valley High.” I used to make them with a printer and a scanner like a real 90’s kid, but now I’ve gone high tech. Please follow me on insta @boymeetssvh

New Sweet Valley High Series In Development At The CW

I’m honestly SHOCKED it took The CW this long to reboot Sweet Valley High. I have to think it’s the pandemic’s fault because 90’s reboots have been all the rage for a while now. And yet here we are in late 2021 and we’re only just now getting a Sweet Valley entry into the reboot craze.

Sweet Valley High (TV Series 1994–1998) - IMDb

According to TVLine, the Sweet Valley adaptation will be helmed by Gossip Girl‘s producers and writers — which is probably the right vibe for this content.

If you never caught the original tv series version of Sweet Valley High in the 90’s — think 90210 subject matter for a 7th Heaven audience with the production value of Clueless (the TV series). The Wakefield Twins are played by real life twins, Brittany and Cynthia Daniel.

If the original series is any indication, there’s a lot of room for creative liberty. One first season adaptation of the second entry in the book series, Secrets, takes a plot about winning queen at a school dance and turns it into winning the opportunity to be an anti-drug spokesperson.

In the episode, a student worries that she’s not going to be a good anti-drug spokesperson for the school because she did drugs one time (and only one time) and was a passenger in a car accident (I repeat, passenger) while under the influence. This caused her parents to move the entire family to Sweet Valley.

She’s worried she’s not “the right person to be telling people not to do drugs.” But idk Magic Johnson told everyone not to have unprotected sex after he got HIV and I feel like he was a pretty good spokesperson for that. But maybe they don’t watch basketball in the town she moved from. MAYBE this is something a Gossip Girl writer could put a better spin on.

Oh I also forgot the part where the prize of being anti-drug spokesperson includes touring the country with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler — so shaming this young, one-time drug using teen girl makes even less sense in that context.

Also apologies in advance to whoever visits this page and finds broken links when/if The CW picks up this show and wipes all other Sweet Valley productions from the free web.

Very Special Movie: In The Spirit

I first saw this movie as like an eleven year-old. My parents had me kind of later in life and I have this theory that they forgot the content of certain movies they showed me (see also Jumpin’ Jack Flash where my mom scrambled for the remote and hit mute every third word so that a seven year-old me wouldn’t learn the f-word from Whoopi Goldberg). Anyway, In the Spirit is rated R so don’t show it to your 11 year-old though to the best of my memory it’s probably more along the lines of a PG-13. It’s fully possible that I have the same memory issues as my parents because I haven’t seen this in years. Maybe it’s a hereditary thing. (Oh yes, I’m revisiting this paragraph from twelve and a half minutes into the movie and, yes, it is definitely rated R.)

Anyway, eleven year-old me did find this movie HILARIOUS and I was already a big Marlo Thomas fan from watching reruns of That Girl. (Seriously, everything about Marlo Thomas is just wonderful.) The movie also stars Elaine May and Peter Falk and features Olympia Dukakis and Melanie Griffith in supporting roles. So there you go, if this movie sucks or you find it offensive (fair warning that this movie is from 1990 so there’s a lot of derogatory words thrown around for sex worker) or just think the writing is crap, it has a good cast and you can’t argue with me on that.

There’s even a cute little fake-interview promo that the cast filmed because this production is nothing if not zany:

So as it turns out, I actually do not feel like reviewing this movie. I mostly just want to remind the world that it exists. It’s a new age-suspense, buddy-comedy, amateur-sleuth kind of thing with a weird voice over narrator! Who wouldn’t love that? (Critics, evidently.) Anyway, the last time I saw this movie anywhere in the digital age was YouTube five years ago and I fear that it could disappear again. So I’m going to drop the link below. Get it while it’s hot:

Live In Front Of A Studio Audience | The Facts of Life: “Kids Can Be Cruel”

Similar to The Jeffersons and All in the Family from a couple of years ago (and also Good Times which I somehow completely missed), we’re getting another live performance of a couple of classics: The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes. I tried to originally write one post on both of these episodes, but I had too much to say (surprise, surprise) so I’ll be writing a separate post for Diff’rent Strokes.

On a personal note, The Facts of Life was my FAVORITE show as an eleven year old because I went to school with a lot of mean girls and it was depressing as shit. When the girls on The Facts of Life were mean, it was played for laughs, and they always learned a lesson so I knew they weren’t actually shitty humans. And I actually think my love of that show was the verrrry tiny seed that grew into this blog because every episode of that show was a very special episode.

The Facts of Life' Is the Ultimate '80s Comfort Food Sitcom | PopMatters

Our hosts for tonight’s episodes are Jimmy Kimmel and the great Norman Lear (who by the way looks amazing at 99). What’s interesting about both of these episodes is that the characters are all played by adults who probably grew up watching these shows when they originally aired — a fact that I find very charming.

Now let’s get into the episode. Lisa Whelchel sings The Facts of Life theme song (an Alan Thicke classic) in an Eastland uniform and is joined on set by Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn (who looks super cute with gray hair). I don’t know where Nancy McKeon is, but I guess she’s continuing to skip all the reunions. The originally cast briefly waves to the audience and then we start the show.

Kathryn Hahn is playing Jo in this episode and it’s WONDERFUL casting. I love Kathryn Hahn in just about anything but boy is this casting a gift that I did not expect. She’s definitely doing a caricature though while the others seem to at least be trying to play it straight. Jennifer Anniston as Blair is also kind of magical, but she seems a little too smart to be Blair. I’ll also add that Ann Dowd is playing Mrs. Garrett in both of these episodes and she completely nails Charlotte Rea’s Mrs. Garrett voice. Gabrielle Union and Allison Tolman do such a good job as Tootie and Natalie, respectively, that I wasn’t distracted by the fact that I was watching Gabrielle Union and Allison Tolman. I just kinda accepted them as the characters, which I’m surprised I was able to do because they’re obviously not the right age for these parts lol.

In this episode, the girls are preparing boxed picnic meals that the boys from their sister (brother?) school will vote on as a fundraiser. It’s supposed to be anonymous, but Blair told her crush (played by Will Arnett) what was in her box so that they could have a picnic together. Natalie, however, was less direct and simply packed her box with her crush’s favorites. She’s also gushed about him in Blair’s Slam Book (think Burn Book for all you millennials out there who didn’t watch 80’s reruns in excess). Unfortunately, Blair tells Natalie’s crush (played by Jason Bateman) about Natalie’s notes and her boxed meal, so he rejects her before the bidding even starts. He does it in a very nice way (he has a steady girlfriend) but Natalie takes is super hard.

Everything goes according to plan for Blair, until Natalie seeks her revenge by urging Carl (a nerdy young man played by Jon Stewart) to outbid Blair’s crush. She does this by calling Carl and pretending to be Blair. Ick.

Jennifer Anniston’s Blair seems way meaner than I ever remember Lisa Whelchel’s version being. This is most apparent when Blair confronts Natalie in the kitchen for her revenge prank. It feels like I’m watching Alex from The Morning Show yell at Natalie and I’m uncomfortable. And honestly, I’m shocked to say this because Natalie feels way crueler in this episode than Blair, but Allison Tolman just seems way less intimidating than Jennifer Anniston.

Then ALL the girls get a talking to and Mrs. Garrett says they’re all lacking in compassion — which definitely seems unfair because Tootie and Jo didn’t even do anything. Having figured out what was really going on through a discussion with the other boys, Carl enters the kitchen and returns Blair’s dinner box to her.

Jo then volunteers to take the box and eat dinner with Carl (cause she didn’t want to have dinner with anyone and bid on her own box — like honestly as a grownup Jo is by far my favorite character). But a very guilty Natalie, tries to take the box from Jo. And then Jo is like um no why would he want to eat with someone who was mean to him?? And then Blair finally decides to do the right thing and takes the box back, so that she can have dinner with a very nice person. Turns out they have a lovely dinner when they both realize they love modern art!

Honestly, this was an insane premise. Mrs. Garrett, this is kind of on you for thinking high school kids wouldn’t get up to some serious shenanigans with picnic box bidding. That said, Natalie had the cruelest intentions of all. Dark stuff, man. Dark stuff. This is definitely NOT my favorite episode, but I thought the cast did a nice job with it and I am glad they picked an episode from earlier in the show’s run.

Anyway, we’re then treated to a lovely post show with Kim, Lisa, and Mindy! They all commended Ann Dowd’s performance! I agree with them!

Cheers: Ill-Gotten Gains

The plot of this episode is a major bummer. Woody catches his wife’s father cheating and has to decide what to do about it. YIKES. Luckily, we’re here for the B-plot, so let’s ignore everything about what’s going on with Woody.

Rebecca is hosting a friends-giving and she’s invited the whole Cheers crew. Unfortunately, she might have given everyone in her family food poisoning the last time she cooked Thanksgiving dinner. This leads Sam to suggest hosting a potluck at Cheers instead. Rebecca was going to make grilled cheese for everyone (less risk of food poisoning) but with Sam hosting, they can have a turkey.

Norm can’t remember whether or not his father-in-law is dead, so he repeatedly asks Vera who won’t respond to him because WTF. Then a pissed-off Vera decides to spend Thanksgiving at her family’s house without Norm. So Cliff suggests that Vera call her parents’ house to see if her father answers. Only when Cliff hands Norm the phonebook, he can’t remember Vera’s maiden name! Okay well now that I’ve typed it out, it sounds awful. But it was very funny when George Wendt said all the lines.

Anyway, Thanksgiving at Cheers is probably Norm’s ideal Thanksgiving. Sam’s even allowed him to bring his barcalonger into the bar — though he did have to sign an agreement stating it would be removed by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Rebecca has decorated the bar for Thanksgiving…which is interesting because Thanksgiving decorations are not like a thing, are they? Anyway, she’s used Halloween decorations that the store was throwing away. But she’s got a pretty good explanation for it: “The witches came over with the pilgrims and then the pilgrims burned them all at the stake.” This explains the skeletons as well (ick) and she doesn’t mention it but I will, the ghosts too. Honestly, it tracks. That’s airtight logic, Rebecca.

She intends to borrow plates from Melville’s because they’re closed for the holiday. And she’s also cooking the turkey in their oven on the sly. Fraser then suggests she borrow the candlesticks while she’s at it. And Sam mentions that she better take some silverware because they don’t have enough plastic sporks.

No one wants to listen to Cliff’s stories for an entire meal, so Sam tells him that he’ll be sitting at the kid’s table as the “adult supervisor” — a role he takes very seriously and seems a little flattered by. Meanwhile, Norm eats his meal in the barcalounger.

As the gang toasts John Alan Hill for “donating” all of their borrowed items, he appears in the bar. Evidently, Melville’s has a silent alarm. But strangely, even John Alan Hill is generous on this day of giving thanks. So he lets the Cheers gang eat in peace (but makes them promise to sanitize the Melville’s items before returning them).

Very Special Thanksgiving Lesson: Honestly, I didn’t think Rebecca’s grilled cheese meal sounded bad. But I guess the lesson here is that you really gotta be mindful of those silent alarms.

Murder, She Wrote: The Dead File

Hello! Today is the 29th anniversary of this episode. And I’m low-key obsessed with it. Why, you ask? Because our friend, Jessica Fletcher, has been turned into a controversial comic strip character. And she’s a fox (which of course we already knew) but a literal fox in this case. Oh and Harvey Fierstein is in this episode. What I’m trying to say is, it’s perfect.

The fox is accusing NYPD officers of doing corrupt shit — so actually this comic strip could be a public good — but unfortunately Jessica isn’t involved in the comic strip and can’t verify the information. Of course, everyone thinks she’s behind it — I guess because she’s a writer — but she’s genuinely not involved. She sincerely asks a lieutenant if he’s stealing drugs from evidence and he just straight up doesn’t answer — which feels like a YES to me — but it’s MSW so he’s probably falsely accused.

It looks like Jessica Fox is also exposing a Wall Street scandal. And Jessica Fletcher will now be sued for libel (which makes noooo sense) along with the artist and comic strip syndicator.

With actual money on the line now, Jessica tracks down the artist, Mr. Hatter. And that’s how we finally get to see Angela and Harvey on the screen together!

That’s when Mr. Hatter explains that he didn’t draw the comic strips that appeared in the newspaper. And his syndicator cannot figure out how the artwork got switched. He shows Jess his real comic strip which involves Jessica Fox solving innocent little barnyard animal mysteries. It’s all quite wholesome (aside from the murder).

Anyway, Mr. Hatter agrees to kill off the Jessica Fox character, which would seem like the end of all this. Except then the lieutenant comes back to see Jess and shows her a blackmail letter. Some of the letters in the note were cut out of the Cabot Cove Gazette.

Jess finds the letter perplexing, but she explains that she hasn’t been in Cabot Cove for three weeks. Even more importantly, she was in Italy on the date the newspaper shown in the letter cutout was published. So she goes back to Mr. Hatter and blames him for everything — saying he could have purchased the paper from a stand at Grand Central that carries one-week old issues of Cabot Cove Gazette — which like yeah, right I’m sure it does…

But Mr. Hatter shows her the strange comic strip in the day’s paper and points out explicit stylistic differences between the printed copy and the versions he showed her in his studio. His whole team backs him up, stating that the printed copy is most definitely a forgery.

The whole thing explodes into a very public argument between Mr. Hatter, Jess, and the people who want to sue them. So Jess decides they should all sit down and try to figure out who has motive to print all this stuff in this dirty laundry sort of way. And Mr. Hatter is kinda like well, I do have a lot of enemies.

The next morning, Mr. Hatter’s letterist (I’m not sure the correct term for someone who draws letters in comic strip so I am going with letterist) heads to work at 3:45 am (evidently, he likes to get an early start) and is hit over the head by an unknown assailant. Hopefully, he’s knocked out and not dead, but I’m not sure because we cut to Jess interviewing a potential suspect.

This guy, Mr. Whiting, says that Mr. Hatter used to be his assistant and stole the idea for the comic strip from him. And then all of his artwork disappeared in a mysterious fire. He says Mr. Hatter is just trying to get attention/money for his work and urges her to sue him. And she’s like no, I’m trying to avoid lawsuits, thanks. Plus she doesn’t think Mr. Hatter would make his characters look bad because they mean so much to him. Kind of a thin argument. But she says it’s exactly how she feels about the characters in her books.

Unfortunately, we do get confirmation that the letterist is dead. The detective on the scene doesn’t notice the damaged award (that was totally the murder weapon) until Jess points it out.

At this point, the detective openely accuses literally everyone around her of the crime — including Jess! (To be fair, I’ve frequently wondered about Jess’s proximity to all these murders myself…)

Meanwhile, it finally occurs to Jess that she should look for the source of the information in the comics. This leads her to a tabloid writer (who has been lurking around this whole time and for some reason she never checked up on him until now). She accuses him of being involved in blackmail and he claims that his files were stolen.

This leads Jess back to Mr. Whiting who says he was too busy having an affair to kill anyone. And then Jess is abruptly like okay, cool so if it’s not you then I know who it is. This leads us back to the studio in the middle of the night.

Jess notices that a plant has been rotated and discovers that this was done to hide a bloody artist’s glove. So she calls every single person that the letterist worked for and found out that he wasn’t scheduled to be in the studio when he was — meaning the murder wasn’t premeditated. There’s also no evidence on the glove except for the letterist’s blood. So Jess replaces the glove and calls Mr. Hatter.

That night, she catches one of the artists going back to remove the evidence. He explains that the letterist caught him drawing the libelous comic strips, so he faked his suicide.

Jess then explains that she really had no evidence on him whatsoever, but luckily he took the “message for Mr. Hatter” as bait. And most importantly, I need to point out that the detective has been making the below face for like two solid minutes:

But you know what, maybe that is the correct reaction to whatever the hell just happened in this episode.

Fictional Book Covers: Mapleworth Murders

I now have a multi-part series on fictional book covers. I honestly didn’t see that coming. But I really like them! And actually this one is sort of like an off-shoot of my previous two. Mapleworth Murders is a parody of Murder, She Wrote (which you can watch for free on Roku) and features a lead character who imagines herself as the protagonist sleuth she writes about in her novellas — not unlike Tom Selleck’s character in Her Alibi.

Peppered throughout the series are book covers featuring the Mrs. Mapleworth mysteries.

Anytime our lead, Abigail (played by Paula Pell), finds herself in a jam, she imagines what Mrs. Mapleworth would do to get out of a bad situation. The fantasy never matches up with the reality and the results are hilarious.

There are also a lot of great guest stars from the greater NBC family, including multiple SNL alums, Terry Crewes, Jack McBrayer, and Paul Lieberstein.

Honestly, I think I need to figure out how to be a book cover designer. I think I’ve uncovered deep passion here.