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SERVING NORMAN LEAR'S 'COLD TURKEY' FOR THANKSGIVING

Dick Van Dyke preaches in Norman Lear's COLD TURKEY Year: 1971 Rating: **1/2

While Halloween and Christmas themes/names are easy to find, Thanksgiving is more difficult unless just happening upon the one and only feature film that TV-producing icon Norman Lear ever directed, fitfully titled COLD TURKEY and, with the abundance of extreme facial close-ups by a barrage of actors and actresses mostly known either then or later for the small screen, it's more of a TV-movie in nature...

The plot is simple, silly and farfetched, and a bit too complicated for its own good, taking over halfway through to pick up: A billion dollar Tobacco company's willing to pay $25 million to any town that quits smoking for a month... 

From Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY

And it was all corporate sneak Bob Newhart's idea, answering the major plot-point question of "How will we know they'll all quit smoking in private?" with, "They took an oath... to God..."

So the parody leans towards a right wing anti-government group, said greedy corporation and last but not least, the Christian religion despite our hard-working hero Dick Van Dyke is the local preacher, who, semi-backed by chain-smoking/put-upon wife Pippa Scott, convinces the town to take up this offer...

Opening Credits from COLD TURKLEY

Mostly for an extreme makeover on the town itself, which is its very own character in the dilapidated buildings and rural landscape ruins that could aesthetically befit... something other than comedy, which COLD TURKEY (that actually has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, or turkey) lacks despite the comic-leaning cast...

Also including Lear's very own present and future employees Jean Stapleton as a crazy housewife who alters food for cigarettes, and her equally grouchy husband Vincent Gardenia, another from Lear's breakthrough ALL IN THE FAMILY  (plus Paul Benedict from the spinoff THE JEFFERSONS)... 

From Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY

The punchline is how crazy/frantic the entire Middle American small town gets, resulting in a montage of people running amok, yelling, punching and hating each other and themselves feeling leftover paranoia from the 1950's Blacklisting era, with mentions of both Eisenhower and Communism...

So overall COLD TURKEY suffers an overabundance of pointed satire without enough individual jokes to move (and keep moving) the top-heavy premise: But Lear's no Mel Brooks, and for the following decade (this was made in 1969 yet released in 1971) he was able to find betters ways to satirize Atypical Typical Americans.

Dick Van Dyke in COLD TURKLEY
A sneezing Jean Stapleton in Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY
Future Jeffersons neightbor Paul Benedict in Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY
Pippa Scott as the preacher's wife in Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY
TV icon Bob Newhart in Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY
From Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY
TV icon Bob Newhart in Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY
POSTER From Norman Lear's COLD TURKLEY

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