By Erin Canty
I threw out my back this week. Thanks to too much ibuprofen and the unexpected effects of generic Icy Hot patches, I had some ridiculous dreams. In the craziest one, I was making Thanksgiving dinner for the entire cast of Smash. They just twirled about, singing, “Let me eat your CAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRBS!”
But this medicine induced nightmare got me thinking: If I could create my own Thanksgiving Dinner Dream Team, drawing from the best in Black TV characters, who would make the cut? Which characters possess the perfect amalgam of rapier wit, book smarts, pithy anecdotes, and a culinary skill or two to fit in with the fam on Turkey Day? After a rigorous brainstorm and two more patches, I present to you, my selections.
President David Palmer, 24. Before his assassination, President David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) was diplomatic, assertive, and politically savvy. He was a complex man, balancing terrorist attacks, a duplicitous wife, and attempts on his life with a certain aplomb. Even in dubious situations, you couldn’t help but admire his quiet strength. Some have even suggested he laid the groundwork for America’s first Black president.
Whether or not that’s the case, Palmer would certainly fit right in at Thanksgiving, gracefully brokering a marriage equality debate at one end of the table, and the pumpkin-vs.-sweet-potato-pie-peace accord at the other. But after that crazy bio-terrorism attack, he can’t be trusted with turkey carving duties, so I’ll put him on green bean casserole duty just to be safe. There’s no room for shaky hands at the big dance, Mr. President.
Julia, Julia. Premiering in 1968, Julia was the first primetime series to feature an African-American woman in a non-traditional role—meaning she wasn’t stuck in the kitchen or cleaning up after anyone. Instead, Julia Baker (Diahann Carroll) was a widowed nurse raising a small son. Despite the heavy subject matter, Julia was actually a comedy, though it bucked tradition and ran without a laugh track until syndication.
The titular character and the show itself never rocked the boat. It was never out to be the gritty, urban, representation of Black life many were hungry for, and the lack of an African-American male lead was troubling. But as a character, Julia was strong, feminine, independent, and offered a major step in the right direction.
So come Turkey Day, it’s likely Julia would be a welcome guest—affable, generous, and an excellent mingler. Just don’t ask her to clear the dishes.
Bruh-Man, Martin. This will probably be my most controversial choice, as Bruh-Man (comedian Reginald Ballard) has little to nothing to offer a traditional Thanksgiving meal. A recurring side character, he was often found sneaking into Martin’s apartment through the fire escape, taking Martin’s food, wearing Martin’s clothes, and inserting himself everywhere he didn’t belong. When inquiring minds would ask what he was up to, he’d respond, “Nuttin’… just chillin’.”
Why invite Bruh-Man to the party? Easy. He’d clear the house of plates and food, which would make cleanup a breeze. Plus, every large family meal requires a little laughter, and no one provides comic relief like a chubby guy doing the slow bop through your kitchen.
(Scroll to 6:54 to see Bruh Man at Martin and Gina’s Thanksgiving.)
Our fictional feast wouldn’t be complete without a few little ones. The kids table is made up of young people who wouldn’t manage to drive me crazy before dessert. Part spunky, part tiny professor, and all attitude, these kids would have me pining for a paper turkey placemat of my very own.
What characters (Black or otherwise) from the small screen would you like to host for Thanksgiving? All answers are welcome in the comments… but if you say “the cast of Smash” I’ll have to assume you’re poisoning the food.
Previously on Black in Time: The Top 5 Best Black TV Theme Songs