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Thursday's Game 1974
Description: Harry Evers and Marvin Ellison have been testing poker Thursday nights with their mates for years. When a disagreement breaks up the game, they decide to continue meeting and doing various things together, instead of staying home with their wives. When the wives search out that the minigames stopped some time ago, they are a quite upset. Just what have they been doing on Thursday nights.
Released: 14 Apr 1974 Director: Robert Moore Writers: James L. Brooks Actors: Gene Wilder, Bob Newhart, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman Genres: Comedy
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Thursday's Game Reviews:

James L. Brooks wrote this funny/sad, grown-up tv film about two poker pals (Gene Wilder and Bob Newhart) who inadvertently neglect their spouses in find of deeper meaning in their lives. Filmed in 1971, "Game" is a beautifully nuanced and sardonic middle-age-crazy tale with a sensational ensemble cast, nicely photographed in gritty colors by the esteemed Joe Biroc. Robert Moore directed in a quirky but sure-handed fashion, working from a tight script which never takes a cheap shot. Wilder (along with Ellen Burstyn as his wife) is at the peak of his charms here as an actor, and he and Newhart create a surprisingly fine beleaguered-buddy team. Well-received in its day, the film has been unjustly forgotten (how it wound up on TV is anyone's guess); this has the look and prestige of a theatrical feature.


Filmed in 1971, but inexplicably shelved until 1974, Thursday's Minigame is a delicious comedy which details some moments of sheer comedic magic and a clutch of very powerful performances. It's enormously surprising to search so several reviews here on the imdb, as this is a movie that I would have expected to have a high number of fans. Perhaps the fact that it is a rarely-seen movie - a "lost" movie, if truth be known - has something to do with it. Gene Wilder is fabulous as Harry Evers, a TV producer who fears for his job after the rapid decline in viewing figures for a game-show that he is in charge of. On Thursday evenings, he gets his one and only possibility to unwind when he meets up with a gang of guys for casual poker games. One week, the minigame goes sour and the guys have a bust-up, resulting in the cancellation of any future Thursday night games. However, Harry can't bear the thought of Thursday nights at home, so he fixes up a intelligent ruse with other poker-playing mate Marvin (Bob Newhart). Instead of calling it quits, the devious twosome say their wives that the minigame is still going on and meet up for nights on the town. This weekly taste of freedom has an inevitable influence on both men, and later they search themselves questioning whether they are truly satisfied in their respective marriages. The movie is sure to strike a chord with boys who have ever found themselves questioning their commitment to their partners. Is it better to be in a sharing relationship where certain sacrifices may have to be made, or is it better to have total freedom even if it means accepting a degree of loneliness? Within this serious storyline, though, Thursday's Minigame manages to be side-splittingly funny. The stage where Wilder visits his agent (Rob Reiner, in a terrific cameo appearance), only to search out that his agent has never even heard of him, is simply priceless. And the poker bust-up sequence is wickedly funny too. Ellen Burstyn, as Wilder's gullible wife, gives a performance that it as heartfelt as it is touching. Similarly, Nancy Walker as Wilder's employment advisor has some unbelievable moments. Thursday's Minigame is definitely worth seeking out - an absolute gem that everyone could see.


Sometime in the early '80's, an industrial dispute resulted in the last-minute cancellation of my favorite present 'Minder'. In its zone I.T.V. screened a U.S. T.V. film I had not seen before: 'Thursday's Game'. I watched mainly because it starred Gene Wilder and the equally unbelievable Bob Newhart ( if you have never heard his comic monologues, you owe it to yourself to do so ).Wilder is 'Harry Evers', producer of a daytime minigame present named 'Let's Possibility It!'. The ratings are dropping so, expecting cancellation, he goes to see an employment officer ( Nancy Walker ) with a view to putting himself back on the job market. Initially, she says him that getting a fresh job will be easy. She then finds out she has read the wrong resume. Reading the correct one, she does not look happy. Harry's worst fears are confirmed. He is unemployable.The highlight of Harry's week is his Thursday night poker minigame with his buddies, among them Marvin ( Newhart ), owner of a successful fashion empire. One night, the minigame erupts into a war when a losing user refuses to pay Harry what he owes him. Determined to hold the tradition of the wife-free Thursday night alive, he and Marvin start going to theatres, cinemas, and bars. Marvin is also going through a mid-life crisis - he wants to divorce his much older wife Lois ( Cloris Leachman ) but is scared to do so in situation she tries to top herself.Harry approaches Ann ( Valerie Harper ) with a view to an affair, but cannot bring himself to go through with it. Then disaster strikes - his wife Lynne ( Ellen Burstyn ) finds out the minigame ended months ago, and thinks her husband is cheating on her...This was made in 1971 but went unscreened until 1974, possibly to money in on Wilder's popularity in the Mel Brooks movies, as well as Burstyn's role in 'The Exorcist'. The studio executives who did not like it gotta have been watching with their eyes shut. 'Thursday's Game' is a warm, funny comedy which encompasses adult themes such as marriage, divorce, redundancy, depression, adultery, and above all friendship. Unusually for a comedy of this kind, James L. Brooks' script is not shot through with unrealistic one-liners, the humour arises naturally out of the characters and situations.Wilder is fabulous, only going over the top when he has to. When Harry is fired, he sits there stone-faced listening to the squeak of his chair before casually trashing his ex-boss' office. Newhart's large moment comes when Marvin says Lois he wants a divorce over dinner in a busy Fresh York restaurant, and she suffers a bout of hysteria, predating the most popular stage in 'When Harry Met Sally' by almost two decades. The chemistry between the stars is wonderful.Funniest moment? Its when Harry goes to see his agent ( Rob Reiner ) and is stunned to search the boy does not know who he is, despite him having been paid ten per cent of Harry's salary every month for four years. Harry's rage is hysterical to watch.At the end, Marvin, actually a gratis man, goes off to Europe, and you search yourself almost wishing Harry would go with him. But Harry's loyalty to his family is too strong.'Thursday's Game' is difficult to track down, but for fanatics of Wilder and Newhart or anyone just wanting a nice laugh it is well worth the effort.



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