27 of TV's best Thanksgiving episodes
Gilmore Girls (season 3, episode 9): “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving”
In true Gilmore fashion, Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) commit to more than one Thanksgiving dinner prompting the mother-daughter duo to rush between their multiple engagements with stops for Lane’s (Keiko Agena) tofurkey, Luke’s (Scott Patterson) traditional diner dinner, Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) and Jackson’s (Jackson Douglas) deep-friend turkey, and Emily and Richard’s (Kelly Bishop and Edward Herrmann) formal affair inspiring comedic chaos.
How I Met Your Mother (season 3, episode 9): “Slapsgiving”
Slapsgiving” continues in the tradition of one of the most hilarious long-running gags on the hit sitcom. Marshall (Jason Segel) won a bet against Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and as his prize, he gets to slap Barney five times. Meanwhile, Ted (Josh Radnor) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) are trying to get over the awkward post-break-up-but-still-friends phase they find themselves in. (Read our oral history of the episode here.)
Cheers (season 5, episode 9): “Thanksgiving Orphans”
While it takes place outside of Cheers’ usual bar locale, “Thanksgiving Orphans” remains a classic. The core cast gathers around the table to trade barbs over a Thanksgiving meal gone wrong and offers viewers a look at a family of friends together for the holiday.
The West Wing (season 3, episode 8): “The Indians in the Lobby”
As President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) rings up the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line for tips, CJ (Allison Janney) spends the day before Thanksgiving with a group of Native Americans who say they will stay in the lobby of the White House in protest over the land legislation they’ve already waited 15 years for.
This Is Us (season 1, episode 8): “Pilgrim Rick”
In flashback, Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), Rebecca (Mandy Moore), and the Big 3 get stranded on the way to Rebecca's mom's house and begin a tradition of their own, one that involves a killer hat and convenience store hot dogs. And, in the present day, the family attempts to keep the tradition alive — even without Jack.
Friends (season 5 episode 8): “The One With All the Thanksgiving Flashbacks”
The gang looks back on all their terrible Thanksgivings through the years. Chandler (Matthew Perry) remembers his parents telling him they’re getting divorced over dinner. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) recalls getting his head stuck in Monica’s (Courtney Cox) turkey. Classic. Monica relives the horror of meeting Chandler for the first time when he called her fat and the following year when she accidentally cut off his toe. Monica puts a turkey on her head to cheer Chandler up and he ends up accidentally telling her he loves her.
Chuck (season 1 episode 10): “Chuck Versus the Nemesis”
Don’t you just hate when your former best friend crashes Thanksgiving dinner to romance your fake-spy-girlfriend? Chuck (Zachary Levi) spends his Thanksgiving watching his girlfriend Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski) debate running away with his nemesis Bryce Larkin (Matt Bomer) — as if the holidays aren't already stressful enough.
George Lopez (season 2, episode 9): “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Honey”
Thanksgiving dinners can get awkward around the dining room table, and George (George Lopez) certainly set himself up for one such encounter after he invited his mother’s one-night stand from 35 years ago, Lalo (Cheech Marin), and his partner Charles (John Michael Higgins). George thinks Lalo might be his father, but Benny (Belita Moreno) and Lalo confirm that they did not actually sleep together, making it impossible for him to be George’s father.
Modern Family (season 6 episode 8): “Three Turkeys”
Phil (Ty Burrell) and Luke (Nolan Gould) are in charge of prepping the turkey for the main dish — what could go wrong? Claire (Julie Bowen) supplies a secret back-up turkey while Jay (Ed O’Neill) and Gloria (Sofia Vergara) decide to serve up a cozy Thanksgiving together after their vacation gets canceled. Naturally, none of these schemes go according to plan.
That ‘70s Show (season 1, episode 9): “Thanksgiving”
Eric (Topher Grace) gets antsy when Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly) brings her flirty college friend home for Thanksgiving and ends up kissing Eric. Donna (Laura Prepon) is none too pleased when she finds out, while Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) frets over the impending arrival of Red’s mother. The kids end up forgetting to pick her up (a blessing in disguise) before Donna and Eric make up. Essentially, it’s your typical '70s Show holiday.
What I Like About You (season 4, episode 9): “Ground-Turkey-Hog Day”
Vic (Dan Cortese) goes on a Thanksgiving date with an ex after she beats Val (Jennie Garth) in a charity date auction. Lauren (Leslie Grossman) goes to meet her married online boyfriend and finds out it’s Val’s ex Rick (Edward Kerr) so it’s up to Holly (Amanda Bynes) and co. to keep Val occupied as her romantic life goes up in flames. In a Thanksgiving miracle, Vic and Val finally kiss and decide to postpone the annulment of their marriage.
Fresh Off the Boat (season 2, episode 8): “Huangsgiving”
Every family has certain traditions that have to be observed every Thanksgiving. For Jessica (Constance Wu), it’s a 5:00 a.m. phone call from her mother telling her whether she or her sister Connie (Susan Park) will host Thanksgiving. The pressure is on when Jessica is chosen to host Huangsgiving and goes into overdrive.
Bewitched (season 4, episode 12): “Samantha’s Thanksgiving to Remember”
No sitting around full of turkey and stuffing for this crowd, instead Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) takes everyone back to see the pilgrims via some witch-y time travel and Darren ends up on trial for witchcraft.
Everybody Loves Raymond (season 3, episode 10): “No Fat”
After a visit to the senior health fair, Marie (Doris Roberts) decides she and Frank (Peter Boyle) are eating healthy and Deborah (Patricia Heaton) concurs. The two start scheming a “no fat” Thanksgiving while Raymond, Frank, and Robert (Brad Garrett) watch in horror as their Thanksgiving dreams turn into a nightmare involving a jiggling tofu-turkey.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (season 1, episode 10): “Thanksgiving”
Some people celebrate Thanksgiving with family, others with friends, or you can have all your coworkers over. Amy (Melissa Fumero) serves up Thanksgiving dinner for the precinct and everyone gets a taste of her terrible cooking before Holt (Andre Braugher) and Jake (Andy Samberg) ditch to take down a perp.
The Office (season 7, episode 9): “WUPHF.com”
Two words: hay maze. With Thanksgiving around the corner, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) recreates his childhood memory of his uncle’s Hay Place in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. Determined to overcome his childhood disappointment of never being crowned Hay King, he loses Angela (Angela Kinsey) to her future husband (and Oscar’s future lover) Senator Robert Lipton (Jack Coleman) in the process.
The Bernie Mac Show (season 3, episode 22): “Thanksgiving”
Vanessa (Camille Winbush) decides she wants to become a vegetarian after her teacher Mr. Diggs (Don Franklin) tells her about growing up on a farm days before Thanksgiving. Bernie (Bernie Mac) is none too pleased to attend Mr. Diggs’ vegan Thanksgiving for Vanessa’s sake and naturally gets jealous, not to mention hungry. Mac enlists Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) to smuggle turkey into the meat-free dinner and Jordan ends up sharing his stash with Mr. Diggs' son who has never had meat in his life.
Seinfeld (season 6, episode 8): “The Mom and Pop Store”
While this episode may be the only one not to feature a family-filled day of stuffing and turkeys (you'll have to see "The Butter Shave" to get your bird fix), this Seinfeld classic features the second-most Thanksgiving-y thing: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) wins Mr. Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) a spot holding Woody the Woodpecker in the parade, everyone is invited to Tim Whatley's (Bryan Cranston) night before Thanksgiving party except Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), and George (Jason Alexander) buys Jon Voight's car. In true Seinfeld fashion, each event comes together in the end in the cringiest way possible. Be especially thankful for guest spots by Jon Voight himself and Bryan Cranston.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season 9, episode 10): “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs”
Some people gather around close family and friends at Thanksgiving, but that’s just not the It’s Always Sunny gang’s style. They invite the various enemies they’ve made over nine seasons of bad behavior including standouts like Liam and Ryan McPoyle (Jimmi Simpson and Nate Mooney), Hwang (Shelly Desai), Gail the Snail (Mary Lynn Rajskub), and Cricket (David Hornsby) in the hopes of making amends for their years of bad behavior.
The Mindy Project (season 1, episode 6): “Thanksgiving”
Mindy (Mindy Kaling) goes to her best friend Gwen’s (Anna Camp) for a Connecticut Thanksgiving, where she awkwardly runs into Dennis (Ed Helms), her blind date from the pilot, and things quickly go downhill from there. The whole mess culminates with the two BFFs getting in a massive fight and Mindy jumping on top of Dennis.
The Brady Bunch (season 2 episode 4): “The Un-Underground Movie”
Greg (Barry Williams) is making a movie about the first Thanksgiving, but the Bradys don’t appreciate his vision and complain. Greg decides he’s had enough before the family realizes the error in their ways and make the movie in full Pilgrim garb just as Greg wanted.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
It’s the holiday classic for the ages. Charlie Brown (Todd Barbee) and Sally (Hilary Momberger) are supposed to go to their grandparents, but end up getting hoodwinked into inviting the likes of Peppermint Patty (Christopher DeFaria), Franklin (Robin Reed), and Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens).
Master of None (season 2, episode 8): “Thanksgiving”
While exploring the past of chosen family members Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Denise (Lena Waithe), Master of None’s “Thanksgiving” episode follows Denise's journey of coming into her own as a queer woman, and dives into her relationship with her biological family, including her mother Catherine (Angela Bassett), in a powerfully emotional story. The episode earned an Emmy win for Waithe and Ansari's writing and an Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series nomination for Bassett.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (season 1, episode 12): “Talking Turkey”
Will (Will Smith) comes to Bel-Air for a new life, but he gets a taste of home early on in its run when his mother comes for a visit. The beloved comedy's first season centers on Viola Smith (Vernee Watson-Johnson) spending Thanksgiving with her son and family armed with lots of opinions. When Viola criticizes how lazy the kids are, hilarity ensues when tasked with cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Felicity (season 1, episode 9): “Thanksgiving”
During the first season of Felicity, the college-set series brought Friendsgiving to TV. Telling the story of a different kind of family celebration, Felicity (Keri Russell) and her new friends came together to seek solace by avoiding the issues waiting for them in their hometowns. While Felicity's celebratory meal had its share of drama — and a few curveballs — the episode demonstrated the power of friendship and how it can be vital during the holidays.
New Girl (season 2, episode 8): “Parents”
Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel) took inspiration from the beloved film Parent Trap in its great season 2 Thanksgiving episode. All the family dysfunction has a seat at the table, from a scheme to get Jess' parents back together to the battle of the Schmidts, and guest stars that include Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Reiner, and Rob Riggle, it's no surprise that the half-hour is a fan favorite.
Parenthood (season 2, episode 10): “Happy Thanksgiving”
The Braverman clan is enormous, and its holiday hour showcased the relatable chaos of a huge family gathering. The awkwardness of brewing issues to the anxiety of getting the meal just right with everyone on edge with their own personal issues, the episode covered a lot of ground that viewers were familiar with. Pandaemonium aside, the Bravermans were a strong family unit and a great reminder of why we choose to return home.