Ah, Thanksgiving. The time for giving thanks and for giving giving. Turkey is all around us, among other foods, but most importantly there’s always a TV on somewhere in the house. Throughout the years Thanksgiving has become a staple in producing a TV show’s episode lineup. You have Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Most of the time though, Thanksgiving is kicked to the side because it just isn’t as interesting as Halloween and Christmas episodes. Never fear though! Celia and I have compiled 10 great Thanksgiving themed episodes in no particular order. Feast below!
10: Seinfeld – “The Mom & Pop Store”
Seinfeld didn’t have many holiday themed episodes during its run but “The Mom & Pop Store” classifies as one. After falling and hitting his tooth, Jerry decides to go to Tim Whatley’s (Bryan Cranston) Thanksgiving party. In a typical Seinfeld-ian turn of events, Jerry accidentally pops the Woody Woodpecker balloon by causing an Empire State Building statue to fall upon it while the Macy Day’s Thanksgiving Parade is going on.
9: Buffy the Vampire Slayer- “Pangs”
Season four of Buffy has some of the best character development of any TV series, and I dare you to tell me differently. Sorry, I have strong feelings about season four, anyways, episode eight of this (marvelous) season is actually a Thanksgiving themed situation, the only real Thanksgiving episode in Buffy. First, the whole premise sounds like it would be awful: a Native American spirit getting revenge for the wrongs done by white settlers (yawn), but what saves this episode is, one, the writing by Jane Espenson and two, it’s hilarious! Spike, who is bound to a chair the whole time, and Anya, who is an ex-demon turned human, become part of the main cast, and Anya pretty much sums up Thanksgiving in one line “To commemorate a past event, you kill, and eat an animal; it’s a ritual sacrifice, with pie.” Thanksgiving is a holiday drenched in past, we give thanks for things that happen in the past and plus the whole holiday is stuck in the pilgrims and Indian past, so this works. The conflict arises when Buffy is stuck in the middle of the Giles and Willow argument about what to do with the vengeful Native American spirit (who turns into a bear!). Willow says don’t slay, and Giles is totally for the slaying. It’s basically the politically [in]correct argument we all have with Thanksgiving now: do we eat delicious food to celebrate the almost genocide of a group of people, or do we not eat and somehow mourn about something that happened ages ago, but was really really wrong? I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that this episode is worth watching if not for the amazing writing then just for the hilarity that ensues.
8: Dexter - “Hungry Man”
Depending on how you view the series, Dexter has seen a lot of ups and downs. One of the few universally loved ups is the season four arc with John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer. In “Hungry Man,” Dexter has Thanksgiving with the serial killer and his family. What enfolds is one of the better scenes of the series and an awesome line reading of “I should have fucking killed you when I had the chance” by Michael C. Hall. No matter what happens at your family’s Thanksgiving, it cannot be worse than this.
7: Friends – “The One with Chandler in a Box”
Fun fact: Every season of Friends had a Thanksgiving episode. Season four’s “The One with Chandler in a Box” is one of the few that is really remembered after all these years simply because Chandler was in a box for majority of the episode. In the previous episode, Joey finds out that Chandler kissed his girlfriend and now, in an attempt to get justice, Joey makes Chandler stay in a box throughout Thanksgiving. Hilarity of course ensues. There’s also the great sub-plot of Monica dating her ex-boyfriend Richard’s son while she wears an eye patch.
6: Everybody Loves Raymond – “No Fat”
In its third season Everybody Loves Raymond was beginning to find its placement in terms of audience, time slot, and ensemble. In “No Fat,” Marie discovers that her cholesterol level is dangerously high so she decides to cook a tofu turkey for Thanksgiving along with more fat free food. Everyone is forced to enjoy it (or at least try to enjoy it) for Marie’s health. The episode bears resemblence to a Friends episode with a similar turkey outcome/reaction, but this episode is a little bit more touching.
5: Mad Men – “Public Relations”
The first three episodes of Mad Men‘s fourth season show Don Draper at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, respectively. All are holidays one should be spending with family members or friends. None of this applies to Don Draper of course as his spiral into destructive depression only begins in “Public Relations.” Watch below to witness how the man spends his Thanksgiving away from his family.
4: Cheers – “Thanksgiving Orphans”
If there is someone out there who has seen every episode of Cheers then I give you major props, you deserve it. Now, as far as Cheers goes this is probably the only one I can safely say I’ve seen more than 12 times (cause it’s taped on a VHS that my father plays all the time), either way listen to this. So the gang has been a drinkin’ (it’s a bar) and they are all sort of expecting this great turkey dinner that Norm is making, the bird is referred to as “Birdzilla,” so it’s going to be huge. Anyways, you know have how you always have that one uncle or aunt or cousin or whatever who starts going off about how to do this and how not to do that and when are they going to eat, yeah well in this case it’s Diane and people become sick of it. Naturally a food fight starts, and it’s great. Seriously one of the best televised food fights ever, it destroys the meaning of Thanksgiving (if Thanksgiving has any meaning) and it’s funny.
3: Rugrats – “The Turkey Who Came to Dinner“
Everyone remember the Rugrats, it’s a great cartoon and it’s told from the point of view of babies, which is so neat really. Anyways in this Thanksgiving episode everything that could go wrong does, but it has all the classic Thanksgiving things we know and maybe love. It has turkey, football, and even story time. Anyways, the set up is this, turns out the family doesn’t actually have a turkey to cook, and all the dads want to do is watch football, and Angelica keeps whining about a parade. It’s sort of a mess. Eventually Grandpa comes through and manages to win a live turkey, problem solved, right? Wrong. The babies notice the turkey has a thing for Spike (the dog) and decide they don’t want to eat turkey, so they form a human (baby) chain around the turkey and instead of turkey everyone eats cereal. So the moral, babies will save turkeys and it doesn’t matter what you eat it’s who you are eating it with. Classic.
2: The Sopranos – “He is Risen”
Many family dinners were had on The Sopranos, even better ones than the Thanksgiving dinner during “He is Risen.” Although the dinner itself isn’t very memorable, the episode’s title remains one of the show’s most memorable quote. Why? Because it’s repeated around five times during the series’ run. Other than that, the dinner is full of usual Sopranos sub-text dealing with Meadow, Jackie Jr., and Tony.
1: Friends – “The One with All the Thanksgivings”
Yes, another Friends episode. One of the most famous and well-known episodes of Friends, “The One with All the Thanksgivings” is a classic. It brings out the best of Friends like fat Monica, creepy Ross, Chandler being scared, and Rachel’s nose. Not to mention Joey (and later Monica) wearing a turkey on their heads. Witnessing the flashbacks of Chandler making fun of fat Monica, causing her to become healthier so she could get revenge on him (by accidentally cutting his pinky toe in half) is fantastic in every way possible. It’s always nice to see great looking people look really bad when they were younger as well.