The 9 Best Thanksgiving Episodes for Your Food Coma

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Photo: NBC

By Maria Judnick

Years ago, Thanksgiving dinner meant getting dressing up in your Sunday best, going to Grandmama’s house and eating a meal fit for the pages of Gourmet served on her best china. While the caloric intake of Thanksgiving feasts has remained the same (or perhaps even increased!), the celebration looks a little different today. Great Uncle Bob might have his favorite pair of sweatpants on at the celebration since he’s too old to care about appearances, the kid’s table might consist of unhappy hipster youth staring dourly at their phones while communicating with other unhappy hipster youth similarly trapped at holiday meals states away, and the entire gluten-free (with vegan options) feast might have been lovingly planned and prepared by the good folks over at Whole Foods/Paycheck.

But, once the food’s been eaten, the political controversies have been sorted out, and you’ve once again confirmed that, no, your mother’s not getting any grandbabies this year, the traditions stay the same. You might have watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade earlier that day and, now that the turkey’s tryptophan has worked its way into your system, it’s time for some television in the den. But after the last football game has sent the men in their recliners into a deep snore and Charlie Brown has headed over to his grandma’s, what else is there to watch?

Here are some ideas to help everyone – both young and old – enjoy a good old fashioned night in front of the TV:

For the classic TV Fans:


The Brady Bunch - “The Un-Underground Movie”

Your grandma might not know how to work YouTube, but she sure can remember how much she loved watching The Brady Bunch with her kids, a.k.a. your parents. This episode, in which Greg directs a film about the pilgrims while learning valuable lessons, is sure to inspire plenty of nostalgia.

For the Baby Boomers:

Cheers – “Thanksgiving Orphans”

Everyone at this feast sure knows each other’s names. This episode, in which the Cheers staff and regulars gather at a potluck celebration, ends in this epic food fight that would make Animal House’s John Belushi proud.

For the Family Historians:

The Wonder Years – “The Ties that Bind”

With money tight at the Arnold household, Jack asks for a raise – and gets it, along with a promotion – but he also has to travel on Thanksgiving. Luckily, while traditions get upended that year, all things work out in the end, thus making your Aunt Mildred very happy.

For the Generation Xers and early Millennials:

Seinfeld – “The Mom and Pop Store”

This classic episode is Bryan Cranston’s first appearance on the show as Jerry’s dentist Tim Whatley. While plenty of hilarious Seinfeld hijinks ensue, this episode features Elaine accidentally rejecting the dentist’s advances since she can’t hear him over the loud music of his Thanksgiving party. Jon Voigt also makes an appearance.

For those Crazy, Comical Relatives You Can’t Help But Love:

Home Improvement – “A Frozen Moment”

If you feel like your family holiday has been a disaster, all you have to do is tune in to the Taylor’s Thanksgiving to remind yourself that it could be much, much worse…and also much, much funnier. In this episode, Tim “the Tool-Man” Taylor builds a Christmas Village in hopes of taking the perfect Christmas card photo. Of course, things never go quite according to plan.

For the Intellectuals and Politically Aware:

West Wing - “Indians in the Lobby”

It’s hard to pick between the two fabulous West Wing Thanksgiving episodes – “Shibboleth” and “Indians in the Lobby.” But, as much as I enjoy C.J. Cregg’s attempts to pardon two turkeys in “Shibboleth,” the classic funny moment belongs to President Bartlet as he speaks to the Butterball Hotline in “Indians in the Lobby.” Fair warning: both episodes may also inspire Round Two of Thanksgiving political discussion.

For Your Later “Framily” Get-togethers:

Friends ­– “The One With All the Thanksgivings”

Sure, there are definitive ranking systems available online for all the fabulous Friends Thanksgiving episodes. And while I’m sure some channel will be offering a mini-marathon of all of those episodes, I always go back to the Season 5 one because I’m such a sucker for the Monica / Chandler storyline.

For the Netflix Enthusiasts:

Gilmore Girls - “A Deep-Friend Korean Thanksgiving”

We wish we were as popular as the Gilmores, who manage to cram in four Thanksgiving celebrations in one day – The Kims, Sookie and Jackson, Luke, and Grandma and Grandpa Gilmore. However, we’re pretty content to just watch the massive amounts of food consumed.

For the Cartoon Enthusiasts:

The Simpsons – “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”

It’s an early season of The Simpsons and also a great episode. After Bart accidentally ruins Lisa’s centerpiece, he runs away to a soup kitchen only to return to apologize and enjoy a dinner of leftovers. Don’t have a cow, man – it all works out in the end!