From Gossip Girl to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The 10 best Thanksgiving TV episodes

Friends, Frasier, and The Mindy Project have also contributed to the genre

Clémence Michallon
New York City
Wednesday 10 November 2021 17:03
Friends: Monica wears turkey on her head in 'The One With All the Thanksgivings'

Thanksgiving will soon be upon us. While some appear to be mentally skipping most of November to head straight into the holiday season (red Starbucks cups, anyone?), others might want to get in the mood ahead of this year’s celebrations.

Shows such as Gossip Girl, Modern Family, and Frasier have all dedicated episodes to Thanksgiving over the years.

Here’s a selection below, to be enjoyed between now and 25 November.

Gossip Girl – “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!”, season one episode nine

The Gossip Girl episode ‘Blair Waldorf Must Pie’

Few shows did Thanksgiving episodes as well as Gossip Girl. And because this is Gossip Girl, a show that ended a fair few seasons too late, the first Thanksgiving episode was also the best. In this inaugural instalment, families fight, friends quarrel, and – of course – secrets are revealed. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – “Talking Turkey”, season one episode 12

Vivian realises that the children in her Bel-Air mansion don’t do enough to help around the house, so she tasks them with cooking Thanksgiving dinner. “Excuse me? Didn’t I just mow Central Park yesterday?” a young Will Smith protests, bewildered. Nevertheless, the kids get to work. Cranberry sauce goes flying, the stuffing is dry, and the yams are burning. Relatable.

The Mindy Project – “Thanksgiving”, season one episode six

Aaah, The Mindy Project. If any series was going to pull off a great Thanksgiving episode, it was this perpetually smart, funny show. In “Thanksgiving”, The Mindy Project’s eponymous character tries and fails to have the “are we exclusive” conversation with the guy she’s been seeing, only to end up spending the celebration with a former date and his new girlfriend. Uncomfortable? Yes. Hilarious? Ditto.

Master of None – “Thanksgiving”, season two episode eight

This Emmy-winning episode takes place over the course of six Thanksgivings, focusing on Lena Waithe’s character Denise and the story of her coming out to her family. The result was a powerful, unforgettable 34 minutes of TV. Not for nothing did The AV Club deem “Thanksgiving” “one of the best episodes of this ambitious series, and … one of the best coming-out stories ever seen on television”.

Friends – “The One Where Ross Got High”, season six episode nine

In this episode, Rachel tries – and very memorably fails – to make a trifle as everyone gathers at Monica's for Thanksgiving dinner, Phoebe develops a crush on Jacques Cousteau, and Ross is revealed to have once smoked pot in college (much to the dismay of his parents). This all leads to a magnificent tirade by Ross’s mom, Judy Geller. Just magnificent.

Modern Family – “Three Turkeys”, season six episode eight

It’s Thanksgiving in the Dunphy household, and Phil is in charge of cooking dinner. He thinks he’s got things handled thanks to the tips provided by Nigella Lawson (whom he lovingly calls “my crumpet”), but of course, the wheels come off quickly. Meanwhile, Jay and Gloria try to have a Thanksgiving of their own (a plan doomed to fail), and Mitchell and Cam get into a standoff with their daughter Lily. The chaos escalates. Hilarity ensues. It’s Modern Family at its best.

Frasier – “A Lilith Thanksgiving”, season four episode seven

Bebe Neuwirth stars as Frasier’s ex-wife Lilith, who needs Frasier’s help on Thanksgiving day to get their son Frederick into an upscale private school. In 1996, The New York Times’s John J O’Connor praised Neuwirth’s performance as Lilith, commanded Kelsey Grammer and the rest of the cast for working “small comedic miracles from week to week”. He noted that the “farce” of Frasier and Lilith trying to pose as “well-adjusted, responsible parents” “plays well”. But he was disappointed to see the episode devolve into a “mean-spirited stereotype” with the portrayal of Frederick as a “smart kid with the glasses who always made a convenient target for ridicule and even bullying”.

Seinfeld – “The Mom & Pop Store”, season six episode eight

George buys a used car, Elaine tries to score her boss Mr Pitt a spot in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Jerry loses all his shoes due to one of Kramer’s schemes. Just another Thanksgiving in the Seinfeld-verse.

Gilmore Girls – “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving”, season three episode nine

Rory and Lorelai resolve to eat four Thanksgiving dinners, bouncing from one Stars Hollow gathering to the next, spending time with Lane and Mrs Kim, Sookie and Jackson, Luke and Jess, before a grand – and tense – finale at Emily and Richard’s. The episode is in turn sweet and dramatic and cozy, in classic Gilmore Girls style.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch – “Love Means Having to Say You’re Sorry”, season four episode nine

While Sabrina desperately tries to patch things up with her boyfriend Harvey after he caught her kissing someone else, her aunts Hilda and Zelda try and fail to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. So they conjure up a couple of pilgrims, who naturally proceed to accuse them of being witches whenever they use electricity – or magic.

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