It’s Thanksgiving, which means families across the U.S. will wake up and prepare for the holiday by turning on either NBC or CBS and watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade take place in New York City.
By doing so they’ll willingly subject themselves to the most horrible, insipid, and shallow broadcast coverage of a holiday event of the year, and all because it’s a ‘tradition’.
I don’t like parades, but have nothing against viewers who want to watch this thing. If you enjoy watching people march and wave from floats moving down the street that’s fine. And kids always like seeing the balloons. They’re always the most memorable part of this thing anyway. I never understood why they just don’t make the parade a chorus line of just balloons. That would probably be a huge hit with viewers.
If you watch this parade and it helps you get into the holiday spirit, is part of your ritual to have on as you start to cook and is a relaxing start of the day that’s wonderful. But when you really look at it – aren’t the broadcasts of the parade really terrible? Come on, let’s be honest!
I wrote a rant about how awful the networks handle their coverage of the parade last year. What was interesting was that Thanksgiving morning, the time when viewers were tuning into watch the parade, that particular blog post had a huge spike in readers – a lot of readers!
So, I don’t think I’m alone in my mystified shock at how badly put together this annual broadcast is. You can read it here.
Anyway, this year I thought I would watch NBC’s broadcast and try to roughly determine how much actual parading is on display compared to the advertisements, plugs, nonsensical interviews and broadway numbers that seem to make up the bulk of their broadcast.
It doesn’t seem like this broadcast is held to very high standards and just gets a soft pass every single year. Most people will tune into it, watch some of it, and even if they say it stinks will quickly forget about it, yet turn it on again next year!
It’s really quite a disposable telecast. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone rewatch it in the summer time. The fact at how terrible it is quickly gets forgotten by short memories, the chaos of the upcoming holiday season and the only-once-a-year punishment viewers receive by it.
I haven’t even mentioned how it’s become an avalanche of advertising to the point where the parade – you know the part with the people marching down the street – has become buried under corporate logos, sponsors, plugging network shows and reminders to start shopping.
Granted, this whole thing started as a decorative and festive way for Macy’s to lure holiday shoppers into their stores, but they’re not even trying to sugarcoat that message anymore. It’s about as subtle as a mammoth Times Square billboard at this point.
So, I chose to watch NBC’s broadcast since they have the exclusive rights to the ‘Macy’s Day’ Parade, and anyone else has to just refer to their telecast as simply the ‘Thanksgiving Day Parade’. With that prideful licensed association you would think NBC, more than anyone else, will put on a killer parade show for families. Well, let’s see.
THE BROADCAST BEGINS!
Gather around kids and let’s look at the parade! And remember, we’re watching this because it’s tradition!
A very cheesy opening rendition of Dancing in the Streets performed by a bunch of random B and C List ‘celebrities’ (and those are just the ones that I recognize) and broadway performers. I am already thinking this was a bad idea and I should have let someone else do this watching experiment.
On the upside Sara Evans is listed to perform. That’s good, I like Sara. Maybe she can save this years parade coverage for me.
Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie welcome us and promise there will be plenty more ‘dancing in the streets’ before it’s over. Huh? I thought this was a parade. What about marching?
Al Roker boosts this has 50 million viewers! Can you imagine? That’s a lot of people! Let’s see what kind of show they’re going to give those 50 million sets of eyes as they officially start the parade – but first a commercial break!
Back to the parade – but first an Al Roker interview with Sullivan Stapleton from NBC’s Blindspot to tell us about the new season of his show and how he’s going to spend his day. I see people have started marching in the background.
The weather is great for a parade! No dangerous winds for the balloons. BUT FIRST let’s watch a performance of Bikini Bottom Day from the hit Broadway musical Spongebob Squarepants! Has the parade already stopped? Are people still marching? I haven’t seen any evidence of a parade yet.
The broadcast will use this setting in front of the Macy’s store for I don’t know how many performances during this. While you would think you’re tuning in to watch a moving parade you’re going to spend most of your time watching Broadway performers twirling around in front of the store.
By the way, I’ve been in that store. Don’t be fooled by the decorations and the big ‘Believe’ sign they have on it, there’s nothing special in that place. You can buy the same crap in thousands of others places.
Coming back from a commercial we see glimpse of two balloons as Roker exclaims there’s 10,000 paraders walking and they’ll stretch for two and half miles!
BUT before getting to that we must watch Roker interview Mike Vogel star of NBC’s The Brave and his daughter. He tells us about the show, how excited they are to be at the parade and how they’re going to spend their day. I can spot parade activity in the background. Roker reminds us The Brave is on Monday nights at 10PM – on NBC.
Maybe they’re waiting for the parade to reach the NBC cameras before letting us see any of it. I did see an overheard shot of Central Park and you could see some activity on the streets.
While we wait for the big balloons to get some air time let’s watch a performance from the wonderful Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen. That’s followed by a brief treat of a glimpse of the red Power Balloon before we goto another commercial break. This is some yearly tradition….
Roker welcomes us back to the ‘biggest Thanksgiving celebration in America’! This sounds like a real big deal! Roker explains that we can watch the parade on a Verizon Youtube app with 360 degree experience. That certainly sounds better than what NBC is offering us!
Never mind this parade nonsense, let’s talk with star of NBC’s Chicago Med Colin Donnel and his wife! He tells us about his TV show and what they’re going to do today. It’s exciting to be at the parade huh? Chicago Med – Tuesdays nights at 10PM right here on NBC! I think I’m noticing a pattern here.
I don’t understand why aren’t they showing us the parade yet! We saw the guy cut the ribbon to start this thing and everyone cheered. If NBC has to wait for the parade to walk past their cameras why don’t they just start this broadcast later, or move their cameras up acouple of blocks closer to the start of this thing!
Oh geez, back to Lauer and Guthrie to introduce….yep you guessed it another performance. This time the cast from the popular Broadway hit Anastasia. I’ve gotten so bored with this now I start to look at the lousy lip syncing being done with these performances or fixate on the people in the crowd looking uninterested. I guess they must be associated with Macy’s or NBC to get these seats right in front of the store.
This constant Broadway promotion must help with ticket sales if they continue to do this every year. At least with the Fourth of July show they show the fireworks going off. They’re not happening offscreen while you’re forced to watch a troupe singing patriotic songs.
Back from commercial! There’s a Pup Patrol balloon, a few seconds of a band marching, BUT WAIT back to Roker interviewing Justin Hartley star of NBC’s drama This Is Us and his wife. Same plugging drill. Tuesday nights at 9PM.
As we throw it back to Matt and Savannah for a performance by Gwen Steffani – who happens to have an upcoming NBC special You Make it Feel Like Christmas on Dec 21st.
At least Gwen gets to sing over at Bryant Park instead of at Plug Central i.e.. the Macy’s store. So far this is the best performance, but I’m still curious if the real parade got cancelled or is it still happening somewhere.
Coming back from commercial I spot an Olaf balloon in the distance. Yep, crowds are definitely watching parade activity in the street. Roker has a quick talk with a cop on a horse. Savannah corrects herself by telling viewers Gwen’s special is on December 12th. Yeah, we want to make sure we get that right. You don’t want the 50 million viewers you have this morning to tune into NBC on the wrong night.
They continue to promote this Verizon Youtube channel thing. It’s really the only way to be able to watch this friggin’ parade! But you can see a performance from the cast of Once On This Island right here!
A shot from their ‘parade camera’ on 6th Avenue. You can quickly spy a Ronald McDonald balloon in the distance. Enough of that parade crap, here’s a performance by the Rockettes.
I can’t really say anything bad about the Rockettes. I’ve seen Radio City’s Christmas show before and they’re really the best part of it. They should just rename it and call it the Rockette show. This performance is guaranteed to continue to sell tickets for the season.
Wait, didn’t I tune in to watch a parade??? The parade begins to hit 34th street. Maybe NBC has a camera there.
They love to give out parade statistics. There’s about 3 million spectators at this thing – and none of them have had to endure this grueling broadcast. NBC’s coverage of this thing is the best advertisement for everyone to just brave the crowds and weather and just go watch this thing in person. At least you’d get to see some of it!
FINALLY parade coverage! The parade reaches the Macy’s storefront. Oh, wait it stops for a marching band performance. Well….I guess we’re getting closer to parade coverage. Really that was a heck of a lot of filler before we got to see marchers.
One of the best and unintentionally funny parts about the parade are the hosts’ ridiculous commentary they provide. They always try to do these humorous remarks about the size of balloons and stuff. I always think of how someone wrote up some of the copy that is read that goes out to viewers. “Hey Savannah, according to the National Turkey Federation 44 million turkeys are consumed on this day.” I wonder if the hosts ever shake their heads after having to read some of this stuff.
There’s host of Bravos’ Top Chef Padma Lakshmi. A lip synched performance by Patti LaBelle, followed by a marching band doing a number. Are they having trouble focusing on the balloons or something???
Hey kids wake up, there’s a Scraps balloon! Over an hour into this broadcast and finally we get to see a balloon close-up.
Scraps’ arrival provides me with the funniest moment of the parade as Savannah gives us this bit of tantalizing trivia “Scraps’ tail is about as four times as long as a whooley mammoth was tall.”
This remark is followed by about a minute of awkward silence. I imagine the hosts and crew are looking at each other thinking, “Who the F wrote that bit of copy?” Lauer comes in to save things by informing us to tune into NBC tomorrow to watch a hockey game.
Another lip-syncing performance by Wyclef Jean. Watching the dancers around these singers provides a bit of fun. They awkwardly clap or move with frozen smiles on their faces. I’d guess they’re instructed to look happy no matter what!
A Ronald McDonald balloon and car arrive reminding kids to go eat that crap. Commercial break.
The Sesame Street gang arrive. They’re waving in every direction. They sing. If you want a good Sesame Street Christmas experience I recommend Christmas Eve on Sesame Street from 1978. I loved that show when I was little.
The Diary of A Wimpy Kid balloon comes into view. A marching band performance, followed by a little girl singing. Not sure who she is. I admit I’m starting to fast forward through this thing.
The Hello Kitty balloon! Savannah tells us Hello Kitty is usually “as tall as five apples, but today comes to the Big Apple as tall as three apple trees stacked on top of each other”.
More unintended laughs. Savannah is a riot! Turning on the close captioning might make this funnier.
As we go to a commercial break we’re reminded to stay tuned after the parade for the National Dog Show on NBC, sponsored by Purina.
The Lewis the Duck float. I have no idea who this is, but they mention this duck family is about to check into a Hilton suite, so it’s not hard to figure out who this duck is repping. Andy Grammar sings standing on this duck float.
At this point wouldn’t folks have enough of this parade coverage? Across the country there must be millions of kids grabbing their iPads bored out of their skulls or trying to convince their parents to turn something else on.
A high school band performs. I don’t understand how they can keep stopping the parade momentum with all these performances. Doesn’t this back everything up? Talk about terrible New York traffic.
Oh let’s see, the Red Power Ranger balloon. Jimmy Fallon sings a Prince song. I’m a bit confused….uhhhh ok. Isn’t he a talk show host or a comedian or something? This is very strange. He’s part of the NBC family you know? There’s a Pikachu balloon.
Commercial. A cheerleadering performance. Savannah tells us they’re all excited to create “a life memory for themselves by participating in the Macy’s Day Parade”. Oh, there’s Miss America waving!
A Trolls balloon. They have an animated special that debuts tomorrow night on NBC. Another lip sync performance from the Shimmer and Shine float. No idea what this is either. I’m getting really numb here. I wonder if Roker left.
The Charlie Brown balloon. Savanna tells us Charlie never gives up his grin “which today stretches fourteen smiling feet long”. Who knew?
Back from commercial and kids are singing and Al is back now sitting with Matt and Savannah. There’s a Kentucky Fried Chicken float reminding everyone that turkey is for today, but our greasy unhealthy chicken is for the entire year round! Amazingly country singer Dustin Lynch performs while Colonel Sanders waves to the excited crowd.
The Air Force plays and marches! Some red plane balloon. I think he’s from that Cars universe of movies.
Sara Evans! Here’s the one person I was looking forward to seeing since seeing her name in the opening of this thing. Imagine my surprise seeing her standing on an Entenmann’s float! What the hell???
She sounds good – or at least the track she’s lip syncing to sounds good. I don’t think her being surrounded by people dressed as doughnuts dancing with rolling pins does much for her career though.
To add further insult, they talk over the last bit of her performance to tell us what crap they got coming up next! Sara deserves better! I hope this appearance at least helps her sell some songs, everyone is shilling this morning so she might as well get a piece of the action too.
Is this parade almost over yet? I’ve lost all patience. I don’t know how families stick around watching this whole thing? The only way I think you can endure this is just using it as background noise, like those sounds of the ocean that help you fall asleep.
More performances. A Ninja Turtles float to promote their new upcoming show. A Sour Patch float with of course a performance to go along with it.
The Pillsbury Dough Boy. A Domino Sugar float. A Jolly Green Giant float. It’s shameless. How about a Bud Light float? They can make a Spuds MacKenzie balloon.
It’s funny when people complain about the commercialization of the holiday season, yet they’ll sit watching this infomercial the entire morning. I wonder if NBC gets any complaint letters about this or do people feel it wouldn’t be right to criticize this broadcast because it’s become this sacred ‘tradition’.
Ah a Grinch balloon that’s hauled out to remind us next year hitting theaters will be a new version of the Grinch story – ’cause we need that.
98 Degrees sing. A singing Christmas tree float (it’s just people sitting around a tree on a float singing). And here’s Santa Claus pulling up the rear. Whoopee.
Terrible. What a grueling experience to sit and watch this.
It amazes me how in the year 2017 that a television broadcast can be so poorly done. It’s so jammed full of plugs and shilling it really is quite embarrassing. They shouldn’t even refer to Matt, Savannah and Al as hosts, they’re more like salespeople. There’s not even any new decent camera angles or ideas they’ve come up with. It’s like the folks who put this together stepped out of 1955!
And it’s not like there’s not enough stuff to fill time with during this morning event! There’s more than enough going on! Just reactions of kids in the crowd could fill up half the show. They don’t need to organize these poorly choreographed numbers to pad this broadcast out. They don’t even seem interested in capturing the experience of the parade for viewers.
I bet a kid with a cell phone camera in one of the buildings overlooking the parade could provide better content to holiday viewers.
I haven’t seen CBS’ coverage – and boy am I not going to bother – but I can’t imagine it being much worse than NBC’s.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe they’re not allowed to set up right in front of Macy’s, so viewers will miss out on these endless musical numbers NBC shows. So, at least their viewers are spared that at least!
I think if anyone wants to actually watch the parade unfold with less interruptions they’re better off watching it stream. Maybe that Verizon Youtube thing provides a better parade experience.
I can’t help but wonder how many out of those 50 million viewers actually enjoy this broadcast or do they just blindly accept this poor television production and continue to tune into it based on that ‘tradition’ mindset that has been drilled into everyone?
Some of my other looks at the broadcasts of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
This short compilation from USA Today provides more genuine parade coverage than NBC gave to viewers for it’s entire morning broadcast. Plus, no inane commentary or gratuitous shilling of products