Welcome back, my beloved Catastro-nauts, I name I made up on the spur of the moment for Monday’s post, and will continue using until asked to stop! This is Kitchen Catastrophes, I’m Jon O’Guin, and today, we’re going to take things pretty easy. In case you hadn’t noticed, or are Canadian, today is Thanksgiving. (Canadian readers, if you forgot Thanksgiving, I can’t help you, that was a month ago.) As such, I’m going to be spending most of the day at my grandparent’s house, with my aunt and uncle, my father, my mother, and my brother. And that means I started drinking heavily Wednesday night, and don’t plan to stop until after the desserts are devoured. I’m telling you, this year, it’s gonna be Black-OUT Friday!
In any case, that means I’ve got to get this to you guys early, if I’m to be sufficiently inebriated to spend 9 hours listening to my grandfather talk about how the country would be doing much better if we’d elected his candidate of choice, Horatio Caine. And before you point it out, I assure you, WE KNOW that that’s the character from CSI Miami. We’ve tried correcting him, to no avail. We assume he means Herman Cain, the former president of Godfather’s Pizza, and man who’s picked the losing side in MULTIPLE US presidential races: Advisor to the Bob Dole campaign, briefly ran against George Bush in 2000, and then lost the Republican primary campaign 4 months before the first ACTUAL PRIMARY VOTES.
What I'm trying to say is that, come 2020, find out who Herman Cain is backing, and back THE OTHER GUY.
So I started writing this on Tuesday, following a poll of my Patreon sponsors on which animated Thanksgiving Special to review. Originally, I had planned to offer them their selection of FILMS based around cooking for Thanksgiving…but it turns out there’s only like, 2 of those. So if I wasn’t going to be able to focus on the food, I figured let’s do cartoons instead, and from the options, they chose a Garfield Thanksgiving. Let’s dive in.
This is going to be a Cat-Astrophe
Are we all happy? The necessary Cat joke is out of the way? Good.
Now, fun fact about Garfield: a lot of people think it sucks.
End of fact.
*Outro music begins to play.*
HA! You WISH that was the end of the story! No, there’s more of course. To explain, If you’re unfamiliar with the comic strip that spawned multiple TV shows, movies, and nearly endless merchandising opportunities, here’s the breakdown:
Garfield is a very fat orange Tabby cat, who lives with his owner, Jon Arbuckle, and Jon’s* dog, Odie. Garfield is an arrogant jerk, and a cynical bully to both his owner and Odie. He hates Mondays, loves Lasagna and his teddy bear Pooky, and is fat. Jon Arbuckle is a boring, somewhat stupid cartoonist with terrible taste in clothing who is unlucky with women, especially his efforts to woo Garfield’s veterinarian, a dry sarcastic woman named Liz. Odie is a blank slate who does not speak, occasionally showing flashes of cunning. There is a smattering of side characters, like his girlfriend Arlene, a small cat he hates named Nermal, or various humans like the postman, waitresses, or Jon’s family.
Who are, of course, intellectual paragons.
With that paragraph, I have summarized the content of roughly 80% of roughly 28 years of the strip. At which point a month-long story arc revealed that Liz did in fact like Jon, and the two started dating. That sentence is the single biggest paradigm shift in the comic’s entire run of almost 40 years. So, in defense of the people who don’t like it, at least we can tell that people don’t read it for the PLOT.
Honestly, I remembered enjoying it in a bland sort of way for years, and Garfield’s sharp asides were always good for a quietly huffed out breath of amusement, a great success in terms of daily newspaper comic strips. Reading over the strips with a more critical eye, I wouldn’t say the jokes are BAD, per se, simply…inelegant: a lot of jokes could survive, maybe even get BETTER by paring them down.
So if you like Garfield, that’s perfectly fine. Over the 39 years the strip’s been running, that’s 14,244 jokes (stupid leap years messing up the math) so of course there’s gonna be some duds. If you don’t like it, I also understand. A tweak here or there would improve a lot of them tremendously. That disclaimer of my editorial stance out of the way, let’s jump straight into the show!
Thanksgiving means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry
The special opens with Jon being forced awake by his loud pets, a scenario seemly built to make me relate to him immediately. Seriously, until we gave our roosters away, I was often ready every morning to commit murder, or at least amateur animal processing.
Odie would be 15 seconds from death in this image, if he lived in my house.
Odie is, for the moment, Garfield’s ally in procuring nourishment, but once the meal is served, their alliance dissolves. Garfield turns on his compatriot, preparing to kick him from the high table, which…honestly, how does Odie keep getting onto the table? Like, sure, he’s a small dog, but my grandparents own a Jack Russell Terrier they love, and it’s NEVER allowed on the dining room table. A quick check on Google suggests dogs eating AT the table is somewhat acceptable in France (because of course France would be weird about it), but ON the table is just weird.
In any case, Garfield is immediately distracted by a calendar, stating that today he has an appointment at the vets, which distracts me, because that should be “Vet’s”, possessive, not “vets”, plural. Unless he’s taking Garfield to a VFW Chapter Meeting. Garfield has a bit that plays on the idea of food that’s “bad” for you being “good” to eat, and therefore the “good” food the vet will recommend will be “bad”, and that’s not good. It almost works, but I think it’s hurt by the fact that Lorenzo Music (Garfield’s voice actor and ‘Best Goddamn Name in the World’ winner) has a slow, measured cadence that makes a quick patter sequence like this a little weak.
Garfield figures “Hey, if I tear off the calendar day marker, it’ll say Thursday, and Jon won’t take me to the vet.” He takes this moment to finally complete his delayed assault of Odie, using the dog’s mouth as a disposal for the evidence of his misdoings. Hurting a one-time ally, and destroying the evidence of one’s own sins? A Machiavellian master-stroke.
Pictured: Raw Political Cunning.
This reveals that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which Garfield describes as “the day where people celebrate having food by trying to eat as much of it as possible”, which is definitely the best line so far. He rushes to Jon to show him the good news. Jon, in a rather notable show of competence, immediately identifies “Yes, TOMORROW is Thanksgiving,” showing that, even when his calendar says otherwise, Jon does still know what day it is. He and Garfield go shopping, buying a simply offensive amount of food for a bachelor living alone with two pets, and, on the car ride home, Jon reveals that NOW they’re going to the Vet, showing that for all Garfield’s diabolical cunning of before, his machinations were for naught.
Honestly, this Jon Arbuckle, compared to his comic counterpart, looks like a literal Einstein: A dizzying intellect that mortal minds quail to comprehend. Though this also means he loaded his car with groceries, and then intends to let them sit there for the duration of the vet trip, with perishables like coleslaw getting warm. (Side note: Coleslaw? For Thanksgiving?) So, you know, maybe he’s not so smart.
They go to the vet, wherein the plot is established. Liz agrees to a date for Thanksgiving , but states that Garfield must go on a diet. Liz has perhaps the best lines of any character in the show, with no less than two great zingers over the course of the scene. When asked about the weather: “That’s a rather personal question, don’t you think?” And then, when finally agreeing to the date with Jon: “I just can’t stand to see a dumb animal suffer.” The scene has a couple problems: Jon’s refusal to take “no” for an answer is a little…iffy in today’s dating climate, and there’s another sequence where they try and do a “Garfield makes a bunch of quick jokes” that just feels sloppy.
At least their sight gags are serviceably well-done.
The next 4 minutes are…mostly forgettable. Garfield goes on his diet, and Odie has to enforce it. It feels like a knock-off Tom and Jerry bit. There is a nice sequence where the talking scale “mistakes” Garfield for Orson Welles based on his weight, leading to its own destruction and a plaintive last cry of “Rosebud.” Gotta have something for the parents.
The next morning, Jon, in his pajamas, utters the sentences “I have a dinner date with Liz” and “She’ll be here in…3 hours” basically right next to each other. Which is I think a really subtle joke about how early we eat Thanksgiving dinner. He then says, “Well, I should probably take the turkey out of the freezer.” which, if you’ve cooked Thanksgiving turkeys before, you’re already laughing your ass off.
If not, don’t worry, the show explains it less than a minute later: Frozen turkeys need to thaw for A DAY before you cook them, and roast for at least 3-4 hours. And what follows is a cavalcade of evidence that Jon has been secretly surviving off of TV dinners his entire adult life. He didn’t prepare any stuffing, he covers himself in butter instead of the turkey, and when faced with the 5 hour cooking time, he assumes he can just increase the oven temp to speed things up. He puts a mixture of veggies in a pot, without prepping ANY of them, and just throws some water on them, assuming that will turn into food, magically.
Liz arrives after a few more displays of Jon’s incredible incompetence, and, after seeing how unhappy Garfield is on the diet, decides to take him off of it and instead proscribe exercise, stating she’s prefer him fat and happy than how depressed he is now. Garfield, in his joy, realizes he has to ensure this dinner goes better than all signs are showing it will, since now HE’ll be suffering too. The two end up calling Jon’s grandmother to salvage things. Jon’s Grandmother is easily the second-best, if not THE best, character in the special, a raucous old biker, who wants Jon to get laid, and Garfield to be fatter.
There's no kill like overkill, I suppose.
While Jon bores Liz to sleep buying time for Grandma to work, grandma pulls out some…remarkably specific tricks. Like, her recipe for sweet potatoes includes measurements, and her solution to the barely-thawed turkey, turkey croquettes, follows the actual progression such a recipe would use (Shredded turkey meat, white sauce, mix to combine, ball up and bread, and fry.) She’s a welcome relief, as she’s legitimately energetic and active, as compared to the passive cynicism and ineptitude of the rest of the main cast. She makes some dumb jokes pretty enjoyable. “Garfield, what happened to this turkey? It looks like something the Cat dragged in! HA. HA. Pardon the expression.” Or “Have you ever seen my instant cranberry sauce?” Covers his eyes, pours a can of sauce into a bowl. “Too late, you blinked.”
She slips out the back once everything’s ready, telling Garfield to threaten Liz for her, and Liz, Odie, Garfield and Jon all enjoy a big thanksgiving dinner. Soft jazz plays, a woman sings about the importance of family, yada yada. Liz congratulates Jon on the meal, he invites her for the next year, she agrees, and kisses him on the cheek. Odie and Garfield are stuffed fat, Jon is happy, and Garfield’s off his diet. All in all, a great success.
Of all the Thanksgiving specials I’ve watched, this one was the least…pushy, I would say. Every other special I checked out heavily leaned on the whole “LET’S TALK ABOUT THE PILGRIMS” mentality. And those can be…let’s say a little out of touch with a modern understanding of how the whole situation went down. This one has some slight tonal issues (I mean, Jon’s arc in this is basically “harass a woman at her job until she agrees to a date, and then lie and claim another woman’s work as his own to impress her.”) and not every joke is particularly strong, but overall, It’s pretty solid. I like the little moments of competence for the ‘adults’ Jon and Liz: Jon immediately sees through Garfield’s trick, and Liz has a bit where Garfield attempts to convince her he’s suffering from vitamin deficiencies. She doesn’t believe him, but she acknowledges that if he’s trying that hard, he must be really unhappy. The recipes, both good and bad, are pretty realistic, with Jon’s idiocy about the bird, and grandma’s instructions for sweet potatoes and Turkey croquettes.
All in all, it’s a pretty solid 24 minutes of Thanksgiving. There’s sarcasm, over-reacting, decent food, and warm feelings. Speaking of warming one’s spirits, it’s time I warm up for the big day with some spirits of my own. Where’s my Whiskey at?
MONDAY: SHIT, I’VE BEEN DOING SO MUCH COOKING, I HAVE TOO MANY OPTIONS! LET’S STEP OUT OF THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT FOR A WEEK OR TWO, AND BOUNCE DOWN TO JAPAN, WHERE WE CAN GET “PANCAKES”.