The night before Thanksgiving is a magical place
A late night origin story
Growing up, the only time I was able to catch a new episode of The Late Show with David Letterman was the night before Thanksgiving.
It was the rare occurrence of a weekday that wasn’t a school night and I had enough energy to stay up and watch TV. Though I was already tucked into bed, I had the privilege to surf television channels after my usual bedtime and catch the shows I couldn’t see any other time of the year.
This became a tradition each year for me. At 11:35pm on Thanksgiving eve, my wood-paneled console TV was tuned to channel 3 to catch David Letterman.
In 2009, The Late Show started broadcasting their Thanksgiving show the night before the holiday, my optimal viewing time.
In most of the Letterman Thanksgiving shows, Dave would bring his mom on from Indiana via satellite to guess what kind of pie she was making for Thanksgiving. The Top 10 would be Thanksgiving-themed. Dave would ask the guests about what they were doing for the holiday. It all felt...cozy.
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed holiday focused movies and television and loved celebrating holidays, I was thrilled that I could watch something themed to Thanksgiving so late at night, getting the last drop of celebration in before I went to sleep.
Looking back, there was something about watching that show — at that time of night, at that time of year, in that place, in that context — that made it a unique experience and a specific aesthetic. It was the three factors: you’re staying up late, it’s the night before Thanksgiving, and you’re watching The Late Show. There was only one time a year I could feel the same way.
Though Letterman’s show is now retired, I have now made it a point to catch Late Night with Seth Meyers for their Thanksgiving show, as Seth has made it a tradition each year to bring his whole family on as his guests for the evening.
Believe it or not, this specific case of appointment viewing television is the reason I fell in love with the late night talk show, and in turn how Aw, Would You Look At The Time came to be.
That specific feeling of watching The Late Show the night before Thanksgiving made me realize the power that time has over media and art. These were not amazing pieces of television, but watching them each year in such a specific environment—alone, late at night, buzzing with holiday excitement—spoke louder than the show itself and developed its own separate expression.
I wanted AWYLATT to take advantage of how specific times of the day, times of the year, and times of life affect the way we appreciate art. When I say that AWYLATT is “a late-night talk show in the truest sense of the phrase,” I mean it as a little nod to that part of my life, when watching a show late at night once a year was something so uniquely special.
Appointment viewing media is less common these days, which is okay. Its absence has made our lives a little more manageable in some ways. I do believe, however, that creating art through the lens of time can add another layer of depth and emotion to art and take a new life in another person's mind, the way that good art was always designed to do.
I’m curious about what the night before Thanksgiving means to you.
For many, it’s the night you’re in a bar in your hometown, running into people you casually knew from high school. The Miller High Life is still not that bad, and after the 2nd pint you romanticize what life might be like if you moved back home and started your own business in that empty storefront on Main Street. You then look around and second guess that thought. Even though you’d be able to unironically enjoy country pop playing on that weird app-controlled jukebox any time you want, you know that by springtime you’ll realize why you left in the first place.
For many, it's the night you’re prepping and cleaning for the guests who will be arriving earlier than you expect. You put the extension piece on the dining room table and added two more chairs. After the final sweep, you light a candle that smells vaguely like fresh laundry. Everytime you walk by the kitchen, you take a longer glance at how tidy the stovetop looks, illuminated by the light underneath the mounted microwave.
And of course, for others, there are bad feelings attached to the night before Thanksgiving. Feelings of dread or anxiety. Sadness, maybe even anger.
Do we want to relive those feelings? I don’t think so.
So if that is you, I wish for you to find that tiny tiny feeling you can summon on a specific time of night, on a specific time of the year, that you can control.
Heck, it can even be just watching TV for an hour before you go to bed.