TV’s Best Thanksgiving Episodes

Even for the most adamant haters of Thanksgiving (see: Chandler Bing), one can always take comfort in enjoying the crème de la crème of television episodes centered around this typically dysfunctional holiday. From Ally McBeal to Will & Grace, TV has consistently given us all plenty of reason to be thankful for this day of food-induced malaise. What follows is a breakdown of the best of the best–the most classic (albeit classic is a relative term, considering Thanksgiving wasn’t really peddled on 50s and 60s dramas or sitcoms)–TV episodes centered around Thanksgiving.

Still from "Troubled Water," a Thanksgiving episode from Ally McBeal
Still from “Troubled Water,” a Thanksgiving episode from Ally McBeal
Ally McBeal, Season 2, Episode 5 (1999): Only in its third season, everyone in Ally’s (Calista Flockhart) office has already had affairs by this time, making for an extremely awkward Thanksgiving when she invites them all over to her apartment for a Friendsgiving.
A Felicity Thanksgiving
A Felicity Thanksgiving
Felicity, Season 1, Episode 9 (1998): In the first (and arguably the best) season of the WB’s (RIP) drama-laden Felicity, the eponymous heroine (Keri Russell) of the show decides to stay at NYU instead of going home for Thanksgiving in order to console her friend, Julie (Amy Jo Johnson), though the day turns out to be more selfish than she thought as she addresses her latent jealousies over her RA, Noel (Scott Foley). Plus, Jennifer Garner (married to Scott Foely at the time) makes a cameo as Noel’s girlfriend.
Luke and Rory have a powwow at the Thanksgiving table
Luke and Rory have a powwow at the Thanksgiving table
Gilmore Girls, Season 6, Episode 10 (2005): The season five through season six era of Gilmore Girls was a somewhat strange time, what with the strained relationship between Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and then Luke (Scott Patterson) and Lorelai, but somehow, writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino managed to make the show as captivating as ever. The Thanksgiving episode of season six was no exception. Tenseness and jealousy pervade the narrative, with Luke hesitant to tell Lorelai that he has a daughter and Lane (Keiko Agena) dealing with the ire of Zach (Todd Lowe) after their fellow band mate, Brian (John Cabrera) writes a song for her.
Betty Draper attempts to acclimate Sally to their new family
Betty Draper attempts to acclimate Sally to their new family
Mad Men, Season 4, Episode 1 (2010): After the new formation of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Don (Jon Hamm) is interviewed by Advertising Age, only to come across as a total asshole. With Thanksgiving around the bend, he is also dealing with his recent divorce from Betty, who is having some Thanksgiving issues of her own (though not the weight kind that would later arise). Ultimately, Don ends up spending this “family” day with a prostitute.
Thanksgiving politics at the Soprano household
Thanksgiving politics at the Soprano household
The Sopranos, Season 3, Episode 8 (2001): Tony’s (James Gandolfini) increasing beef with underling Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) reaches a crescendo after Tony tells Carmela (Edie Falco) to lie about having Thanksgiving so that he and members of another family he hates, the Apriles, don’t show up.
Blair's bulimia phase rears its ugly head during Thanksgiving
Blair’s bulimia phase rears its ugly head during Thanksgiving
Gossip Girl, Season 1, Episode 9 (2007): Gossip Girl was at its best in season one (just like Felicity) and this flashback narrative was part of the reason why. Addressing the history between Blair (Leighton Meester) and Serena (Blake Lively) and Serena and Nate (Chace Crawford)/Dan (Penn Badgley), as well as Blair’s prior issues with bulimia, this is one of the more dramatic classic Thanksgiving episodes around.
A harvest motif
A harvest motif
Dawson’s Creek, Season 3, Episode 8 (1999): A tumultuous time as usual in the lives of Joey (Katie Holmes), Pacey (Joshua Jackson), Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Jen (Michelle Williams), this Thanksgiving finds them all trying to avoid specific parties, only to have it wildly blow up in their faces (kind of like the Ally McBeal Thanksgiving episode).
Friends-giving
Friends-giving
Friends, Season 6, Episode 9: Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) makes what Ross (David Schwimmer) later calls a cake that “tastes like feet” because she put the wrong ingredients in it and Monica (Courtney Cox) and Ross’ parents come over only to have a barrel of secrets unloaded on them.
Jack attempts to tell his unwitting mother he's gay
Jack attempts to tell his unwitting mother he’s gay
Will & Grace, Season 2, Episode 7: Jack (Sean Hayes) decides it’s finally time to tell his mother he’s gay–and what better day than Thanksgiving to do so? With the help of Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing) and Karen (Megan Mullally), he just might have a chance.