10 Classic Thanksgiving TV Episodes
Thanksgiving is a time for tradition — and for many, that tradition includes collapsing on the couch to watch TV after a great meal. Over the years, networks have doled out countless Turkey Day-themed episodes of both dramas and sitcoms. Here are 10 fan favorites that are worth a re-watch this year.
1. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1967)
Whether you laugh out loud when Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown, or love the feeling you get when the Peanuts gang sings together on their way to grandma’s house, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has something for everybody. In this family-friendly favorite, the Peanuts gang tells the story of the pilgrims’ journey on the Mayflower before they set out to celebrate Thanksgiving in style, only to be disappointed when the meal that Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Linus whip up isn’t quite up to snuff. In the end, the gang still enjoys a feast for the ages, and find they have quite a lot to be thankful for.
2. The Brady Bunch – The Un-Underground Movie (1970)
Thanksgiving is a time for many to gather with their loved ones, so it only makes sense that one of the best TV episodes about this time-honored holiday features one of the most famous families in TV Land. In “The Un-Underground Movie,” which aired for the first time in 1970, older brother Greg enlists the help of the other Bradys with a school project — a homemade movie about the pilgrims. It quickly becomes a debacle, as each sibling tries to take over and do things their way. In the end, they all learn a valuable lesson about working together.
3. Felicity – “Thanksgiving” (1998)
Felicity was a TV staple for many teens and young adults in the 1990s — and with episodes like 1998’s Thanksgiving, it’s easy to understand why. In this hour-long episode from the series’ first season, Felicity and her dorm-mates have their own holiday feast when they decide to stay in New York City for the holiday. While nothing goes as planned, and Felicity has to endure an awkward encounter with her sort-of ex’s current girlfriend, she ends up realizing that friends can be family, too.
4. Friends – “The One With the Football” (1996)
Friends was one of the iconic sitcoms of the 1990s and early 2000s — and well-known for its annual Thanksgiving-themed episodes. The classic series racked up an impressive number of memorable Turkey Day-themed moments — but this first season episode may still be the most unforgettable iteration. It features a not-so-friendly game of touch football, the hilariously extreme sibling rivalry between Ross and Monica, and genuinely classic Friends moments that are not to be missed.
5. Full House – “The Miracle of Thanksgiving” (1987)
The holiday season can be painful when you’re dealing with loss — and Full House managed to convey that hardship with a beautiful mix of poignancy and gentle comedy. In this first-season episode, Joey, Danny, and Jesse try to put together a perfect Thanksgiving dinner — the family’s first without the recently deceased matriarch. They come to discover that the holiday is less about what’s on the table, and more about the people who are sitting with you.
6. How I Met Your Mother – “Slapsgiving” (2007)
Many Thanksgiving-themed episodes are filled with heartwarming moments and that remind us of the reason for the season. This How I Met Your Mother classic won’t give you the warm fuzzies, but it’s memorably hilarious nonetheless. It revolves around the characters as they prepare Thanksgiving dinner — and Marshall cashes in on the third of five slaps he’s allowed to give his friend Barney throughout their lifetime. The song he sings to commemorate the event is reason enough to give the episode a watch, though the entire half hour offers up countless laughs for both fans and casual viewers.
7. The O.C. – “The Homecoming” (2003)
For some people, Thanksgiving is less about togetherness and more about awkward family interactions. That was exactly the case for the Cohens and the Atwoods in The O.C.’s first season stand-out. Somehow, a complicated love triangle, a road trip that digs up secrets from the past, and a drunk parent combine to make this one of the most entertaining holiday episodes for The O.C. and any viewer who has the pleasure of watching it.
8. Seinfeld – “The Mom & Pop Store” (1994)
When it comes to classic TV, one show that makes most viewers’ lists is Seinfeld, and when it comes to classic Thanksgiving-themed episodes, the neurotic stand-up comedian and his equally nutty friends also makes the cut. “The Mom & Pop Store” offers up typical Seinfeldian fare — misunderstandings between characters and seemingly unrelated plot lines coming together at the end. But even the casual viewer will get a kick out of the awkward Thanksgiving party the characters end up attending, and the bizarre way Jerry ends up interfering with the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
9. The Simpsons – “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” (1990)
Bart Simpson may be one of television’s most famous cynics, but he learns the true meaning of giving thanks in this classic episode. The Simpsons is known for tackling serious issues with a satirical slant, and this third season gem is a prime example of how well the show blends comedy and drama. When the younger Simpson child runs away from home after destroying his sister’s Thanksgiving centerpiece, he stays at a soup kitchen and realizes how lucky he is to have his family.
10. The West Wing – “The Indians in the Lobby” (2001)
No other show has quite figured out how to blend social commentary and purely enjoyable drama as well as The West Wing, and this Thanksgiving-themed episode — in which President Bartlett gives the West Wingers history and cooking lessons, and press secretary CJ has a meaningful encounter with two Native Americans seeking better benefits for their tribe — represents some of the best that this political drama ever offered. It both entertains and reminds us of the darker side of our national history, while making us thankful for the gift of great TV.