The Best Thanksgiving TV Episodes of All Time


Filling your plate and relaxing in front of the TV go hand-in-hand, which is probably why so many shows have special Thanksgiving episodes. From the annual Friends shenanigans to the bitter reflections of Mad Men, some of our favorite series have tackled Turkey Day. So before you set your viewing schedule in stone, check out our picks for the best Thanksgiving TV episodes of all time. And for activities to try in between, check out 13 Fun Thanksgiving Games Perfect for the Whole Family.

Read the original on Best Life.

"Thanksgiving Orphans"—Cheers
CBS Television Distribution

A classic Thanksgiving TV episode and one of the best episodes in the sitcom's 11-season run, the Cheers holiday outing "Thanksgiving Orphans" involves the bar staff and patrons gathering at Carla's (Rhea Perlman) when their other plans fall through. And it all culminates in a food fight that's a triumph of slapstick comedy.

For more crowd-pleasing recommendations, check out The 50 Most Popular TV Shows of All Time.

"Shibboleth"—The West Wing
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Like all the best seasonal episodes of the White House-set drama, "Shibboleth" combines a more serious storyline with some festive comic relief. In the former, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his staff handle a delicate situation involving Chinese refugees seeking religious asylum (some holiday resonance there), and in the latter, it's up to press secretary C.J. (Allison Janney) to choose which turkey the president will pardon.

"Slapsgiving"—How I Met Your Mother
20th Television

How I Met Your Mother loved a long-running joke, and the gang's "slap bet" is possibly the funniest of them all. In "Slapsgiving," Slap Bet Commissioner Lily (Alyson Hannigan) makes a last-minute change to her "no slaps on Thanksgiving" rule, leading to Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) getting a palm to the face and a rousing rendition of Marshall's (Jason Segel) original song, "You Just Got Slapped."

And for more TV tracks we love, check out 40 TV Theme Songs Every 40-Something Knows By Heart.

"Talking Turkey"—The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

In the show's inaugural Thanksgiving episode, Will's mom (Vernee Watson) comes out to visit for the first time since she sent him to live with his cousins, aunt, and uncle. When she calls Will (Will Smith) and the rest of the kids out for being waited on all day, Aunt Viv (Janet Hubert) decides that they should cook the dinner. It goes about as well as you'd expect.

And for more on this beloved series, check out These "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" Stars Originally Said No to the Show.

"Homecoming"—The O.C.
Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution

While Marissa (Mischa Barton) accompanies Ryan (Ben McKenzie) back to Chino to check on his brother, Seth finds himself in the unlikely position of juggling two possible girlfriends: Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Anna (Samaire Armstrong). As is usually the case in Orange County, the adults generate enough drama to rival the teens, so this Season 1 episode is one to revisit if you want some soap with your sweet potatoes.

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"Pilgrim Rick"—This Is Us
Disney-ABC Domestic Television

We learn about the origin of the Pearson family's Thanksgiving traditions through flashbacks to one fateful holiday in this Season 1 episode. It involves a broken down car, a seedy motel, a VHS of Police Academy 3, and an obscure Thanksgiving character named "Pilgrim Rick."

"The Mom and Pop Store"—Seinfeld
Sony Pictures Television

Not in the mood for heartwarming stories about gratitude and family this year? Fair enough! On the more cynical tip, there's always this Seinfeld holiday episode, which centers around dentist Tim Whatley's (Bryan Cranston) "Thanksgiving Eve" party, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Woody Woodpecker balloon, and a car that may or may not have once belonged to Jon Voight.

For marathons you can easily pull off over the holiday, check out 13 Amazing TV Shows You Can Stream in Just One Weekend.

"Turkey in a Can"—Bob's Burgers
20th Television

Bob's Burgers has a wealth of great Thanksgiving episodes to choose from, but our favorite is Season 4's "Turkey in a Can." As usual, Bob is intent on cooking the best Thanksgiving dinner ever, but—also as usual—his family's antics and neuroses get in the way. This half hour is also a whodunnit, as turkey after turkey is found dumped into the toilet overnight. Who's doing it and why? We won't ruin the reveal for you…

"The One With All the Thanksgivings"—Friends
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Frankly, we could have included every Friends Thanksgiving outing on this list, but Season 5's "The One With All the Thanksgivings" (or "The One With All the Thanksgiving Flashbacks," as it's titled on HBOMax) ekes the others out by just a smidge. In flashbacks, we find out how Chandler and Monica's friendship started with a kitchen accident and a lie, which results in them taking the next step as a couple in the present.

For the definitive hierarchy of Friends characters, check out Every Major "Friends" Character, Ranked From Worst to Best.

"The Wheel"—Mad Men
Lionsgate Television

The first season finale of Mad Men is an absolute doozy, featuring some bombshell revelations and scenes that deserve to be on the series highlight reel—and it all takes place over the Thanksgiving holiday. Betty and Peggy both receive some shocking news that has major repercussions over the rest of the run, and Don—as he lets his trauma and secrecy poison his family—sells his curated memories of them to a client in one of his most stunning pitches.

"Thanksgiving"—Master of None

Lena Waithe became the first Black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for writing this episode of the Netflix comedy Master of None. The story moves through time as main character Dev (Aziz Ansari) spends his Thanksgivings with his friend Denise's (Waithe) family and she pushes them to understand and accept her sexuality.

"Turkeys Away"—WKRP in Cincinnati
MTM Enterprises

No Thanksgiving TV list would be complete without the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. In "Turkeys Away," the radio station's manager comes up with what he thinks is the most brilliant holiday promotion ever attempted. But he doesn't really think through what it'll look like when a crew dumps dozens of turkeys out of a hired airplane. ("Oh, the humanity!")

"The Gang Squashes Their Beefs"—It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Disney-ABC Domestic Television

It's virtually impossible for the Always Sunny gang to do anything that isn't 99.9 percent selfish, so their attempt at having a peacekeeping Thanksgiving dinner with some of their mortal enemies is doomed from the start.

"Turkey Day"—Boy Meets World
Buena Vista Television

The family comedy deals with classism in this Season 4 Thanksgiving episode, as best friends Cory (Ben Savage) and Shawn (Rider Strong) attempt to bring their families together for the holiday. The suburban-dwelling Matthews clan in particular has to face their biases head-on when they experience their first trailer park holiday with the Hunters.

"Huangsgiving"—Fresh Off the Boat
Disney-ABC Domestic Television

Thanksgiving-dinner-gone-wrong is a tried and true sitcom plotline for a reason. And Fresh Off the Boat manages to put a fresh spin on family chaos in this second season episode, when Jessica (Constance Wu) takes the reins of the meal and attempts to show up her sister.

"Happy Thanksgiving"—Parenthood
NBCUniversal Television Distribution

Unlike most of the other episodes on this list, the Parenthood Thanksgiving episode doesn't make for great drop-in viewing. The family drama builds and builds as it deepens its ensemble's relationships to each other and it's at its best in these scenarios when all the Bravermans come together.

"Thanksgiving"—Friday Night Lights
NBCUniversal Television Distribution

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a little football. Enter: Friday Night Lights Season 4 and the culmination of the East Dillon/West Dillon rivalry that's been heating up since Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) left the Panthers and became a Lion. There's also deep-fried turkey, teenage angst, and a couple of miracle plays—basically everything you want out of this slice of modern Americana. And if you're ready to dive into more holiday fare, check out The Single Most Popular Holiday Movie of All Time, Survey Says.