Let’s Go To The Mall!: A Black Friday Watchlist
Happy Black Friday! In honor of America’s arguably strangest holiday, we bring to you a watchlist of our favorite TV shows and movies that are centered around retail stores, shops, malls and the odd and lovable characters that work and shop there.
South Park - “Black Friday” (Season 17, Episode 7)
Having worked in retail on Black Friday, this episode’s over-the-top take on mall security guards preparing for the biggest shopping day of the year was equal parts hilarious and (maybe a little too) relatable. “Black Friday” is part of a three-episode arc parodying Game of Thrones, and even though I’ve never watched the ubiquitous fantasy series (yeah, yeah, I know), I still got a kick out of Randy Marsh’s turn as the grizzled security guard watching over the madding crowds.
Raising Hope – Throughout the series, protagonist Jimmy Chance works at Howdy’s Supermarket alongside an oddball cast of characters including the hapless manager Barney, total creeper Frank, and Jimmy’s love interest, the smart and capable Sabrina. Although not many episodes focus solely on Jimmy’s work life, the ones that do will ring true to anyone who has spent time working retail, especially in a small town where everybody knows everybody.
High Fidelity – This is the film that made me want to work in a record shop, despite having 0 qualifications and totally pedestrian tastes in music. In retrospect, maybe I was just jealous of retail employees (especially Barry, played by ball of kinetic energy Jack Black) that could straight up insult annoying and clueless customers. Although I don’t know how well Cusack’s “nice guy” shtick has aged, High Fidelity is still a touchstone film for music nerds and disgruntled retail workers alike.
Elf - Okay, so this one feels like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. I know Elf isn’t really *about* working in retail, but Buddy the elf’s overnight decorating marathon at the Gimbel’s department store is one of my all-time favorite sequences from a holiday film. And even though department store shopping during the Christmas season in real life is a huge headache, this movie manages to capture how fun and festive it could be if we all had Buddy-level Christmas spirit.
Mallrats - Arguably Kevin Smith's funniest movie, and inarguably his only film set almost exclusively at a mall. Jason Lee has his first starring role (yeah, technically he's the 2nd lead to whichever of the London twins it is that has top billing, but he steals the movie) as Brodie, a titular mallrat. In a way, the mall experience in Mallrats is the antithesis of Black Friday, as it's not really about shopping (other than Brodie trying to pick up his comics and having an encounter with the late, great Stan Lee in one of his earliest cinematic cameos). But it's the mall experience I most often had, going to high school in a small town - wandering around, contemplating life, and escaping from the outside world.
How I Met Your Mother - "Slap Bet" (Season 2, Episode 9)
AKA, the one where the gang learns that Robin used to be a teen mall pop star ("Robin Sparkles) in Canada. I love this episode for a lot of reasons. When I was younger I had a huge crush on Debbie Gibson, one of the two teen mall pop stars of the 80's (the other was Tiffany). That hat Robin's wearing in the GIF? That's a Debbie Gibson hat. I definitely did not NOT see her in concert (not at a mall). Even leaving aside the "Robin Sparkles" stuff, "Slap Bet" might be the funniest episode of the series both because of the slap bet itself, and because it started a tradition of slap bet episodes in the series, each hilarious in its own right.
Dawn of the Dead - I'd love to be cool here and say I'm picking the original George Romero film, but I have to confess that I've never seen it. This is the Zack Snyder remake (and it's the least Zack Snyder-looking film ever) written by James Gunn and starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Ty Burrell (and the rest) as a gang of survivors holed up in a shopping mall during the zombie apocalypse. I'm not much of a zombie fan (outside of Shaun of the Dead) but this is one of the standouts.