Writer: Dave Arnold
Director: Dave Arnold
John Campbell, songs written by Will Ryan
Theme: Being thankful
Review Written by:
Ben Warren, Staff Writer
Rating (out of 5):
On a snowy Thanksgiving day, Whit, Connie,
Eugene, and a few of their friends end up stuck at Whit's End. To pass the
time, they tell a zany story of the Scrunch and his plan for Thankstaking.
A director named Louis Leterrier directed the 2008 summer
Incredible Hulk. In an interview promoting the film's DVD release, the
director said "we'll have 70 minutes" of extra footage. "70 minutes!" the
interviewer responds, shocked. Leterrier went on to explain frankly how some
footage was taken out not because the movie was too long but because it wasn't
very good. Whether this turned out to be factually true or not, isn't the point;
today's Adventures in Odyssey episode,
A Thankstaking Story boasts
being "the longest episode in its series" but one wonders whether, like
Incredible Hulk, the cut version is the better one.
Not only is A Thankstaking Story
the series' lengthiest episode, it also took me the longest time to complete.
Well, duh, right? Well, actually, the show took me nearly a month
to listen to. Why? I must confess that I made three attempts and each time
pressed "stop" around a third of the way into the episode. Something bothered
me. My mind wandered. At first I loved it, then I hated it, and then loved it
again. And then I got annoyed and turned it off. The episode is both infuriating
and satisfying, impressive and disappointing, all at the same time. It will
please many fans while enrage others, much like other divisive episodes such as
Do Or Diet,
or Wooton's Broken Pencil Show
have in the past.
Essentially, I found several lines and scenes too random or distracting to be
considered funny: "Oh yea, and I freelance as a rock singer in the summer
months", "... I need a new press agent", "light the lamp, not the turkey! Light
the lamp, not the turkey!"...etc. I know what they trying to do. I appreciate
what they were trying to do. But the jokes didn't work each time. This isn't to
say that the jokes aren't funny on their own--they certainly are--but they
shouldn't be taking away from the larger story.
I think A
Thankstaking Story needed trimming here and there, and could
have benefited from an additional draft for some necessary polishing. As I
mentioned earlier, the radio version is better for several reasons, cutting
the unnecessary fat that disrupted the show's flow. My advice would be to
listen to the radio version first, if you can, and then go purchase the
extended version to hear the bonus scenes. For my own curiosity, I have
compiled a list of what was omitted from the radio version:
1) Originally, Connie's search for her cellphone goes on for
much longer; Eugene makes fun of her for using it in the restroom. I found
no reason for this scene to be here aside from further emphasizing how whiny
and discontent these characters were before becoming thankful in the end.
2) Jay and his Uncle are very disappointed when they find out
Whit doesn't own a TV. We also find out that that Whit's End doesn't have
any fresh food around. This bit may have helped to explain how miserable
these characters are, but again, it only prevents us from getting to the
main story sooner.
3) Connie and Wooton have one or two additional lines
pointing out that the whole "world has frozen over". The cut version,
however, shows that we do not need these extra lines to emphasize how bad
the weather is.
4) Wooton's hilarious Elvis song is left out. It is
completely unnecessary in advancing the story, not to mention a little
difficult to understand, but it is still a great Elvis impersonation. Be
sure to hear it.
5) Near the end of the episode, the villains answer a cell
phone. This pokes fun at Eugene's earlier comment about Connie using her
cellphone in the washroom. It only made sense to cut this one out since that
earlier scene was cut out too.
6) There's an additional scene where "scrunch and his bunch
steal every McGloo lunch". While this scene ties in well with the original
Dr. Seuss story, I think that simply "freezing the world over" and banning
"prayer" is enough to ruin Thanksgiving.
7) Katie Poo-Magloo explains the significance of the pilgrims
and the five kernels. It's a nice scene, however, there are already better
moments before and after that explain the significance of Thanksgiving .
8) Near the end, the scrunch and his bunch have about ten
random lines that are neither important or kneeslappers.
9) Finally, Chris's wrap-up is slightly different in the
original version, and includes a hilarious sound bite: "Nathan Joooooones!"
There you go. As you can see, most of these scenes
What about the actors? For the most part, everyone did a great job. In fact, it
would be quicker and easier to say who didn't do a great job. Today's
winner is Katie Leigh for her performance as Connie Kendall, who seemed to be
losing her marbles. Seriously. Her temper tantrum over the lost cellphone ("Hot
Chocolate! How can anyone think of hot chocolate at a time like this?") was
probably one of the most uncharacteristically ridiculous things that has ever
left Connie's mouth. Yes, I expect many fans to disagree and point out other
instances where Connie Kendall has overreacted. But this was too much. Why is it
that Connie sounds more and more like a young child with every episode that
passes? Thankfully, though Katie Leigh may have failed playing Connie, she did
an absolutely brilliant job as Katie Poo-Magloo.
In addition to Katie Leigh, Andre Stojka, Jess Harnell, and Will Ryan all
wonderfully flaunt their voice talents in today's episode; however, the real
stars were Nathan Jones and John Campbell who kept listeners involved when the
script and nutty dialogue could not. Campbell, who supposedly teamed up with
Will Ryan, provided four wonderful tunes ("Good News", "We are the Bad-guys", "Maglooville
was a tiny Village" and "Everyday is Thanksgiving Day".) I also particularly
enjoyed the sound effects Nathan Jones used including the "pop" sounds given to
citizens of Maglooville.
And yet, amidst the cringe inducing chaos, there is something very brilliant,
daring, and wonderfully original about today's show. Sure, it loses you. But
then, right when you're lost, it brings you back with humorous lines and moments
that are downright perfect. A lot of hard work went into this. Dave Arnold is a
great writer, and there is a lot of detail in today's show, including references
only 10% of the audience probably understood. I dare say that this is the best
Christmas show we've heard in a long while, even though, ironically, this isn't
one. But there were moments throughout that brought me back to the heartwarming
Christmas shows like "Silent Night"; so much so that Harlow's "Merry Christmas!"
seemed appropriate. If you listen to this episode while getting ready for school
or cleaning your room, you won't get the full effect. Instead, when the snow
begins to fall on a cold winter night, make some hot chocolate, dim the lights,
lie down either on your bed or by a toasty fireplace, and lose yourself in the
soft strumming of the ukulele, the wonderful Thanksgiving Day ditties, Whit's
spellbinding delivery, Harlow's surprising last minute entry, and Katy
Poo-Magloo played by Katie Leigh. These last 5 minutes, especially, feel warm
One must have a "willing suspension of disbelief", which challenges typical
Odyssey reality, in order to fully enjoy A
Thankstaking Story. These types of shows include the weaker and sillier
Called On in Class,
as well as the classic
Someone to Watch Over Me--
my personal favorite. So how did this one do? If you disliked this episode
because you thought it was too silly or fantastical for your liking, then I'm
afraid you don't know Odyssey very well. Whit has been combining imagination
and silliness ever since everyone huddled together in Whit's End to hear
Gifts for Madge and Guy. This one never feels
over-the-top because they keep everything in story-form. The only quibble I have
is that this episode aired too soon after
Wooton's Broken Pencil Show,
which also features a chaotic script.
A Thankstaking Story verges
on greatness but is brought down by the occasional incomprehensible digressions
in its narrative. It is a beautiful, sometimes headache-inducing, mess. It is
like watching a great TV movie with distracting and poorly timed commercials.
Don't get me wrong, A
Thankstaking Story certainly deserves its four stars, but depending on the
version, time of the year, the mood you're in, or your age, it may deserve
something completely different. Yes, this episode sadly exposes the fallibility
of my rating system. Today it gets four. Tomorrow it may only get one, and the
following day perhaps five. I suppose it all depends on how thankful the
listener feels. And there are definitely terrific moments in this one to be
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