Thanksgiving Special: Pepper Ann – Thanksgiving Dad Review

Plot: On Halloween, Pepper Ann gets a call from her dad telling her and her sister to prepare for a surprise from him on Thanksgiving. She believes he’s going to visit for the holiday, something that makes her super excited since she doesn’t get to see much of him since the divorce. But is she getting her hopes up for no reason?

Breakdown: No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. No, this isn’t a sign of the end times. I got a Thanksgiving special out, ON TIME, and it kinda sorta doubles are more Animating Halloween stuff….a little….it is for the first minute and a half. I’m counting it.

Like I’ve mentioned several times while doing these Thanksgiving special reviews, it’s very, very difficult for them to stray from the norm. Basically any Thanksgiving trope you can think of is here. Parent rushing to get the dinner to be absolutely perfect, basically a warzone at the grocery store, not being able to find one specific item that you need for the dinner, crazy relatives who won’t stop fighting, the yearning for the kid to eat at the adult table, and finally, the one thing practically no Thanksgiving special is without – the dinner getting completely ruined but it ends up okay in the end.

However, this special does add something that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in any other Thanksgiving special – how kids with divorced parents deal with Thanksgiving.

Pepper Ann’s parents broke up some time before the series began, and their divorce is shown to impact several aspects of her life in the show. Thanksgiving is one of the key moments where family is supposed to be all together. However, that just doesn’t happen in many households with divorced parents. Either they have two Thanksgivings at separate times at both houses or they just stick with one and maybe get a visit or a call or something. I can’t speak from experience because I didn’t grow up with divorced parents, but that’s what I’ve gleamed from others.

It’s pretty cool to see a cartoon address this with not just one but two characters. You might remember that Pepper Ann’s best friend, Milo, also has divorced parents, but his parents divorced quite a while before Pepper Ann’s did so he has more experience in that area. Milo bounces from house to house on Thanksgiving – and he doesn’t spend any of it with his parents. He just wanders between his friends’ houses.

Milo is a bit jaded when it comes to family and Thanksgiving. He tries to keep Pepper Ann level-headed when it comes to her belief that her dad will visit for Thanksgiving. He doesn’t know that he won’t, nor does Pepper Ann know that he will, all he said was he had a surprise for Thanksgiving. Milo just knows from his own experiences that the parent who doesn’t get custody tends to drift away, and holidays like Thanksgiving end up getting lost more and more in the jumble as they build up a new life after the divorce. They just tend to forget and wind up sending money or gifts sometimes to make up for it.

Milo’s experiences are very sad, and I kinda wish that we had put a little more focus on his holiday bouncing around houses and not actually spending any time at home than we did with Pepper Ann. Both of their experiences are valid, of course, but, also of course, she ends up with a happy ending, for the most part, while Milo’s life with his broken up parents is still fairly sad. Like, does his mother and step-dad not care where he is right now? Does he not do anything for Thanksgiving with his family?

Pepper Ann was, sadly, mistaken. Her dad never did intend on visiting for Thanksgiving. His surprise was that he was piloting a blimp for a big Macy’s-style Thanksgiving day parade and got to wish her and Moose a happy Thanksgiving and give them a heartfelt message on TV. He also said he’d see them next week for visitation, which just begs the question….when is his visitation? Surely he had at least one visitation during the month between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pepper Ann acts like she rarely ever sees her dad anymore. How infrequent are these visits?

This special was pretty entertaining for what it was worth. It never really got that deep into drama, not like As Told by Ginger or Hey Arnold would do, but they hit enough notes for a show like Pepper Ann. Also, there were numerous jokes that were pretty funny, and I was also fairly amused by Pepper Ann’s constant fantasies of her father trying desperately to get to the dinner.

Thanksgiving Dad is good, but not great. I don’t think it’s on anyone’s must-watch lists for the holiday, I barely even remember watching it when I was a kid, but it has some unique and grounded aspects that are worth exploring, and it has good humor and heart. Check it out while you’re waiting for the turkey to cook. Or while you’re recovering from Thanksgiving dinner. Or, if you’re not in the US…..just….watch it whenever ya want. I’m not your mom.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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AVAHS – Pepper Ann: A Kosher Christmas Review

AVAHS - Pepper Ann A Kosher Christmas

Plot: Pepper Ann is lucky enough to get to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas every year – Hanukkah with her mother, and Christmas with her father. She loves them both, but becomes very stressed when she believes her parents will force her to choose between the two holidays.

Breakdown: Pepper Ann is what you’d get if you mixed As Told By Ginger with Lizzie McGuire and maybe threw in some Doug. Despite watching Pepper Ann quite a bit when I was younger, I’d struggle to think of any episodes I remembered. I always liked watching Pepper Ann so I’m not sure why its stories haven’t really stuck with me over time.

Maybe it’s just because Pepper Ann as a character can be a little on the annoying side because of how self-centered she tends to be, or maybe the stories were rarely all that interesting, or maybe the extended cast didn’t lend itself all too well to standing out among a slue of objectively better casts. No matter the reason, there’s always one reason to go back to Pepper Ann – it’s catchy as hell theme song.

I know I had to have seen this episode back when it first aired, but I honestly don’t remember it.

But, hey, thank god I finally found another special to cover that has Hanukkah in it. And Kwanzaa’s mentioned! So….yay!

Pepper Ann has it pretty good. She is able to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas since her (divorced) parents each celebrate one holiday. However, after she bungles the school holiday diversity play when trying to play representatives of both Christmas and Hanukkah, she believes she overhears her parents saying she needs to choose between the two holidays with Christmas day being the deadline.

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She struggles with the decision though never thinks to actually ask either of her parents about it directly. Each holiday has so many good things about them that she ultimately can’t choose.

She tells her parents as much, and, of course, they reveal that they were never going to make her choose between Hanukkah and Christmas. They were actually talking about Pepper Ann’s grandma choosing a doctor because they didn’t know which one to call when she was hyperventilating at Pepper Ann’s play due to a mouse.

Thus nothing was ever at risk and nothing really changed. Pepper Ann did learn a lesson about the holidays being about family, but…it’s not like she never knew this part. Family was near the top of her lists for both holidays as she was trying to weigh their benefits against each other. In fact, when we see her eating a holiday meal with her extended family, in the midst of them squabbling and complaining about ailments, she gives a small smile and writes ‘family’ down on her list in that moment, so she even realizes that family is a benefit of the holiday even when they’re behaving like that.

Meeting a few homeless people was a part of her decision, but don’t be fooled – there’s much less weight to that part than would be given in any of the aforementioned shows that I said seemed like they were inspirations for Pepper Ann.

Pepper Ann has been pestering her friends all episode to help her choose, and when Milo halts her for a second to introduce the homeless men at the soup kitchen and explain that they lost their jobs, she tucks the list away and leaves……then it’s right back to choosing.

Speaking of pestering, Pepper Ann is pestering her friends for the entirety of this episode. Pestering Nicky and Milo to run lines with her after she insists on playing both Christmas and Hanukkah in the holiday diversity play (Not only is it unfair to play two parts, but 1) How were Christmas and Hanukkah not taken before she was able to ask? All the kids chimed in to ask for a holiday, and no one said either of the two most popular winter holidays that entire time. 2) It’s REALLY unfair to have one person play the two most popular holidays.) Pestering Nicky and Milo to help her choose between Christmas and Hanukkah several times. They have their own holiday problems, but Pepper Ann always forcibly redirects the conversation back to her when they try to discuss anything else.

Speaking of Nicky and Milo, their plots are a little more interesting than Pepper Ann’s. Nicky is a very generous person, and she takes it upon herself to spend her holidays thinking more of others than herself. She’s giving up her presents for the sake of giving them to the less fortunate, she’s gathering cans for the soup kitchen, she donated her lamps to charity, she’s volunteering at the soup kitchen etc. Her parents are also donating some of her stuff without her permission, and any time anyone sends her a gift, it’s a notification that a donation has been made in her name to a charity.

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However, we slowly start see her cracking with how overly generous she’s being, especially with Pepper Ann squawking in her ear about the struggle of choosing between two holidays.

It’s pretty interesting because most people want to make a charitable effort, especially around the holidays, but it’s hard to admit when you’ve gone overboard because you’re worried you’ll come off as selfish. The resolution to this is convoluted, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Milo’s plot is that he was planning on going to Hawaii to see his dad for Christmas, but was unable to go, so now he’s spending the holidays working as a delivery elf for his mom and step-dad’s muffin basket business. He’s very bummed about not being able to go to Hawaii and even more about needing to do this degrading job, but he never loses his Milo attitude in that he’s very open and humble.

He instantly makes friends with, hangs out with and plays games with some homeless men from the soup kitchen.

All three of these plots are more fully ‘resolved’ when, out of the blue, a news station gifts Milo a free trip to Hawaii for spending Christmas at the soup kitchen, which is just mind-blowingly ridiculous for several reasons.

1) He DIDN’T spend all day at the soup kitchen. He was making a delivery to Nicky and stopped to take a break. He at least had to have been spending all morning making deliveries, and I can’t imagine he stayed too much longer. Even if he did, he would’ve been playing games with the homeless men not doling out soup.

2) It’s pointed out, but how did they not realize Nicky was actually spending all day there? Milo does give his trip to her for her work, but how lazy was the reporter to not notice this?

3) A free trip to Hawaii for going to a soup kitchen on Christmas? You might want to notify thousands of other people about that offer.

4) Speaking of which, when the gift gets passed back to Milo and Milo calls Nicky family, the news anchor not only extends the invitation to both of them since they’re family, but she further extends it to Pepper Ann who butted in to declare that she was also family. And then they FURTHER extend that to each of their extended family members. What is this news station thinking? Was the news anchor fired for this? That trip must’ve cost a fortune.

5) Pepper Ann didn’t deserve that trip. It’s nice that she went, but Milo had justification for going and Nicky earned it. Pepper Ann had a very superficial conflict in this episode, so allowing her to go to Hawaii too just seemed a little unfair.

But, hey, all of their family gets to go too so I guess it’s not too bad.

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6) How insulting must it be to be one of the people in that soup kitchen to hear that someone won a super expensive trip to Hawaii with around 20+ guests for spending ONE DAY in the soup kitchen when these people are, ya know, homeless. With the money used to finance that trip, imagine what could have been done for the soup kitchen or another charity.

I really liked how they (literally) balanced Christmas and Hanukkah here. Neither holiday is ever once given more weight than the other, and that’s sooo refreshing considering how some other Proud Family specials that shall not be named failed so miserably in doing that with Kwanzaa. If there’s any good Pepper Ann’s list actually did, it’s in highlighting all of the goodness in both holidays equally. We got to see her playing with the dreidel, eating latkes and remembering the story of the miracle of Hanukkah, and then we’d see her chopping down a Christmas tree and singing carols. It’s very well done.

They dinged Hanukkah a couple of times by showing that Pepper Ann hates blood pudding and didn’t care for getting socks as a present, but I don’t think that’s too bad. It’s either a preference or typical kid stuff (I love getting socks as gifts now. I even ask for them. Socks are awesome.)

As a holiday special, I think this one’s just okay. It won’t give you the warm fuzzies, and it’s not particularly funny, plus Pepper Ann’s a bit too self-involved and abrasive in this episode, but it was an enjoyable ride and something I’d recommend for people who celebrate either holiday or both.

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