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The Single Person Answer to Thanksgiving May Be Bangsgiving

What started as the premise of a holiday episode of 'New Girl' may just be the latest trend. We spoke to series creator Liz Meriwether and writer David Feeney about the episode and how throw your own Bangsgiving.

by Alex Zaragoza
Nov 21 2018, 8:15pm

Credit: Fox Network

For all those gearing up for another Thanksgiving filled with drunk aunts and uncles asking about your relationship status, fear not. There's another option that gives single folks the chance to stuff more than the turkey.

In a 2014 episode of Fox's Zooey Deschanel led sitcom New Girl, the gang of relationship-less friends decided to take Thanksgiving and their horniness into their own hands. The episode, titled "Thanksgiving IV" but more warmly known as the Bangsgiving episode, opens with douche-with-a-heart-of-gold Schmidt (Max Greenfield) reminding the group of his previous warnings that “winter was coming, and for the cold and wretched days ahead I stressed our need to take lovers and take them quickly.” The group faced a dilemma as winter had arrived and not one had a partner for what is also referred to as cuffing season. Thanksgiving was there, decorative gourds and all, and they all needed to get laid. This birthed a new tradition coined as Bangsgiving.

The rules of Bangsgiving are as follows: Names of all friends attending the Bangsgiving party are placed into a hat. In this instance it was a Pilgrim's hat worn by Schmidt in an air of festive whimsy. Everyone then picks a name from the hat and has to bring a date for the friend they picked. According to Schmidt, no one may leave the party until all are banged. Though as it's quickly pointed out, people should definitely be allowed to leave if they want, otherwise the event will inevitable veer into "kidnappy" territory. As it goes in sitcoms, hilarity ensues. But also some commentary on being single in your 30s.

Series creator Liz Meriwether and episode writer David Feeney look back at the episode, and give us tips on throwing your own sexy, non-kidnappy Bangsgiving celebration.

Max Greenfield in New Girl
Schmidt (Max Greenfield) stating the rules of Bangsgiving. Credit: Fox

VICE: Tell me about a bit about the making of the Bangsgiving episode. How did it come to be?
David Feeney: Where we started was, and tell me if I’m wrong, Liz, coming off the year before, we did a Thanksgiving episode that was out in the woods, and so we wanted to do the opposite next year and make it a party. We also wanted to start three different relationships. We wanted to do what would happen if Nick (Jake Johnson) started dating Tran’s (Ralph Ahn) granddaughter. We wanted to push the ball further down field between Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and one of her teachers at school. I think we had at the end of the [previous] season the idea of getting Schmidt and Cece (Hannah Simone) engaged, so we wanted to start moving that ball down the field again, and what better way to do that than at a party!

Liz Meriwether: I feel like in season four we were kind of dealing with the fact that all of our characters were single for the first time in a long time, so I think a lot of the episodes were about dating. And then this was the episode that starts to shift things. It’s the episode where the characters were kind of done with, or at least Nick was done with, just sleeping with terrible girls. Which is really what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s interesting, because we did a Thanksgiving episode every year, right Feeney?

Feeney: Yeah.

Meriwether: So every year it kind of gets a little bit harder because you’re sort of like, well, we’ve done turkey jokes, we did an episode where they were trying to actually be in the woods making a real Thanksgiving. I will say that the Thanksgiving in season three is not my favorite episode. I’m glad we sort of redeemed ourselves with this one. I feel like it’s okay for me to say that now, you know.

You know, enough time has passed since the breakup that you can be honest with yourself and others.

Meriwether: Actually, it’s so funny because that third season Thanksgiving episode has always been one of my least favorite episodes, but recently a friend of mine told me that his daughter is really into New Girl and that’s her favorite episode. Like what?

Feeney: The one where Jess almost dies?

Meriwether: Yeah, the one where Jess throws up a weird fish. I don’t know. I don’t know what we were thinking.

I believe Jess gets Giardia from eating the fish that was dead in the lake.

Feeney: [Laughs] That’s right.

Meriwether: I ended up being really proud of Bangsgiving. I think I was a little bit… Feeney, was I kind of skeptical? I feel like I was like, wait, what are we doing?

Feeney: It was more like, are we really doing this? We’re really doing this, right? But it was one of my favorites to work on and one that I’m really proud of.

Meriwether: I don’t love puns. I don’t love [the pun] “bangsgiving.” That’s not my favorite thing, and Feeney loves that.

Feeney: That’s not true at all, but the title was “Bangsgiving” until the very end and then you saw the title page and you just said, “No.”

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Nick (Jake Johnson) brings a special guest to Bangsgiving. Credit: Fox

So you wanted to have a party episode around Thanksgiving. But put me in the writer’s room. Was it like, “Okay we want to start these relationships. Hey! Why don’t we have a sex party!” How did that come to be?
Feeney: [Laughs] That’s amazing.

Meriwether: [Laughs] I know. It didn’t even occur to us that that’s odd. Early on in the season we decided that we wanted Nick to date Tran’s granddaughter. In re-watching [the episode] last night, it’s so funny that Nick picks himself but doesn’t tell anybody and brings Tran.

Feeney: I think his line is like, “I picked my own name, but I didn’t want it to be weird, so I just brought Tran.” And Schmidt’s just like, “You brought an old Asian man to my sex party so it wouldn’t be weird?”

Meriwether: This interview is just us laughing at our own jokes. I’m sorry. I think I was legitimately worried that it was gonna seem like a weird sex thing, and I feel like I may have made you guys put it— although I don’t know if this is true—but that thing in the cold open where it’s like, “I feel like all of the guests should be allowed to leave.” [Laughs]

Feeney: That was good though! I think that made it fun, because I like that Schmidt is so ardent about “no one can leave unless they have sex,” which is such a weird concept. Of course someone has to say, “I think they should be allowed to leave.” That concern added to the comedy, I thought.

Yeah, I have it jotted down here that Nick points out that the plan sounded a bit “kidnappy.”

Meriwether: [Laughs] Yeah, I feel like that was possibly a note from me, but I could be wrong about that. It seems like something that I would be worried about.

Feeney: That was good though! That got us two extra jokes, I think. So that was good.

If anybody did decide to do a Bangsgiving, what are some things to generally follow in picking a date for a friend?

Feeney: Let’s see. My God. In picking a date for a friend, I think figure out the kind of people they like, maybe talk to them about that. I mean that’s the best thing about Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) in this episode. Coach knows exactly what Jess wants, but she’s afraid to do it because of her professional relationship with Ryan (Julian Morris). So it’s like, “Oh please, you like him. You should do that.” So it’s knowing who you want, and if your friend is upset about lunch ladies, don’t bring him a lunch lady. [ Editor's note: In the episode, Winston, played by Lamorne Morris, admits to having a fear of lunch ladies after one made him eat a whole tray of tater tots.]

Meriwether: Do you think that actually happened to Winston when he was 18? I feel like that was a joke, right? Like he didn’t actually have that tater tot moment when he was 18.

Feeney: I think he did. That came from my life. The teacher that Winston mentions was the librarian when I was in fifth grade, and it wasn’t tater tots, but I dropped the entire card catalogue and she just made me put them back one by one while she was screaming at me, and it just always made me terrified of libraries.

Meriwether: [Laughs] I didn’t know that!

We’re learning so much about each other!

Feeney: That’s where that came from.

Meriwether: I would say that it’s very hard to set your friends up, but I think in some cases your friends can do things that you wouldn’t have the guts to do, which I think is what Coach does in this episode. I think he knows that Jess really does want to date Ryan, and so he’s brave enough to do it in a way to push her to follow her heart. Usually, setting your friends up on dates is tough, but it can also sometimes lead to friendships? You know what? Now that I’m thinking about it, Thanksgiving is all about different people meeting each other, right? [Laughs] The Native Americans and the Pilgrims. It’s all about coming together with people you wouldn’t normally talk to, strangers. So I really feel like this episode gets to the essence of the holiday.

New Girl
Jess (Zooey Deschanel) trying not to seduce her colleague. Credit: Fox

I think at this point in the series the characters are all in their 30s, and it gave some insight into what it’s like being single in your 30s, especially around the holidays. Was that something you considered in the planning of the episode, or just happen organically?
Meriwether: I feel like the whole first part of that season was just about dating in your 30s and how you have to take more risks than you normally would. By risks I mean open up your field. Open up who you’re looking for, a little bit. I think in your 20s everything can be organic, and it’s just like people hanging out and that’s how you meet people. But I feel like in your 30s, you end up going on blind dates, you end up getting set up, you end up on the internet, doing all those things. I think this goes to that. I had some experience with being single in my 30s so that was probably some of what had happened with me. Feeney has never been single in his life, so I don’t know.

Feeney: That’s kind of true. But what was good about the way that Liz did frame the season at the beginning was that there’s a big wedding at the beginning of the season. Because that’s what’s happening in your early 30s as well, right? People start getting married off. That pressure is there. Even if friends aren’t putting pressure, that pressure is kind of there. People start getting married and then it’s like, wait a minute, should I be getting married? I need to get on this.

Meriwether: The holidays are really hard when you are single, because it’s a lot of events and family events and having dates. I think that’s part of the wish fulfillment of the show. We probably all wish we could have a Thanksgiving with our friends instead of going home with our families and being the single one, which I’ve also done in my life.

Another thing that comes up in the episode is how to get over a crush. Jess is told to “bang one out” to get over Ryan. You think that still holds true? You think that is the best method?

Meriwether: I feel like “bang one out” is a terrible idea. It’s sort of like going to Vegas and being like, “I’m just gonna win back what I lost.” If you have feelings for somebody and you hook up with them in order to get it out of your system, you’re lying to yourself in a huge way.

During the opening scene at Bangsgiving, we hear the sensual, soulful sounds of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” It’s like, “Ooh! They’re setting the mood!” What other songs do you think need to be included in a Bangsgiving playlist?
Meriwether: I mean, you don’t want it to be too sexual. I feel like that would be awkward. I feel like soul music is great. You gotta keep it up, but a little bit hint of something.

Feeney: Yeah, it should get slower and slower as the night progresses, I think.

What are the necessary elements that set the mood for a bangin’ Bangsgiving? I would think it would be hard to eat a lot of turkey if you’re trying to be cute and sexy.
Meriwether: I was gonna say that! I feel like it was really smart that they had a buffet. I know that we did it because we needed everybody to be in different places so we could do scenes. I think it was good for us, but I think in real life having some kind of buffet situation is great because you’re not stuck talking to your date that you don’t like. So [a buffet] might be fun.

I feel like the food is not center stage at Bangsgiving. I think you just want some basics out in a buffet style. I would just have a lot of alcohol probably. And then possibly a lot of dessert for after everybody leaves and things didn’t go well.

You touched on a few of the possible pitfalls of arranging a Bangsgiving, but is there any others that you think that I, a single 34-year-old woman, should try to avoid?
Meriwether: I feel like, just do it. Just jump in. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s Thanksgiving. I feel like there’s a holiday spirit that comes with holidays. I feel like you just have to do it and then it’s either a really good story or you meet the love of your life, or you forge a connection much like the Native Americans and the Pilgrims.

That turned out really well.
Meriwether: You forge a connection that ultimately leads to one group of people dying and giving up all their land.

So what you’re saying is it can’t go wrong?
Meriwether: I mean, if your options are Bangsgiving or going out to the woods and getting giardia from a pond fish, I think you should so Bangsgiving.

I feel like there should be something in the middle.
Meriwether: There probably should. Yeah, there probably should.

But you know what? Those are the options you presented, and those are the options I’m going with.
Meriwether: I mean, I feel like it would be such a fun way of spending the holiday.

Feeney: Yeah, it’s great! Just make sure you don’t pick your own name. There’s gotta be some rules. You can’t pick your own name.

We see Friendsgiving is the big thing with younger and not-so-young single people to celebrate a holiday where all your drunk aunts and uncles are like, “Why don’t you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend?” Do you think this has the potential to be a trend? Like Bangsgiving is the new Friendsgiving.
Meriwether: I mean, if you write this article the world is our oyster. [Laughs] I feel like when it aired it didn’t start a trend. I think this is our best chance of that happening.

Feeney: This is the beginning of the trend right now! Let’s cash in!

I’m taking the responsibility of making this a thing very seriously. I will try my best.
Meriwether: Listen, I’ve been to plenty a family holiday single. My heart goes out to anyone going through that. I think the key is change the topic from whether or not you have a boyfriend to something lighter, like politics. Or just drink a lot. I mean, there’s some options. You can hide in the bathroom. You can hide in a room and watch the Bangsgiving episode.

Feeney: That’s a great idea! That’s the tradition right there.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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