This Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for family, friends, food, and fun Thanksgiving episodes of television.
Thanksgiving-themed holiday episodes have become a staple of American television – so much so, that Hypable’s own overseas writers have admitted to learning about the holiday via its often absurd sitcom shenanigans.
Thanksgiving episodes tend to be a feast of emotional fodder, as families of all shapes and sizes come together to try and remember why they’re actually grateful for each other. And in its own way, television has been acting as the great unifier throughout the last half-century or so, making families out of all its viewers as they laugh, cry, and emotionally connect with the lives of characters they watch on screen.
We invite these characters into our homes as friends each week, and on Thanksgiving, with these holiday specials, it feels like they’re inviting us into their celebrations too. We remember why we love them, and despite our quirks and exasperations, on Thanksgiving, we remember why we’re grateful for each other.
Celebrating Thanksgiving episodes of TV
From vampires to slap bets, from friendships to football, here’s 13 of our favorite Thanksgiving-themed television episodes that keep the spirit of the season alive.
’The Vampire Diaries’ – Season 6, episode 8 – “Fade Into You”
It’s Friendsgiving in Mystic Falls! And Stefan is soooo not invited. In the newest addition to our Thanksgiving must-see programming, the Salvatore brothers hit the road in the hopes that Bonnie’s magic bear will help them break her out of her purgatory prison. And speaking of awkward family dinners, Bonnie’s Thanksgiving company is a serial killer psychopath with serious daddy issues, and meanwhile, back at Caroline’s place, long-lost siblings reunite only to have their father try and kill them.
’Friends’ – Season 5, episode 8 – “The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks”
Every one of the ‘Friends’ Thanksgiving specials is a treasure, but season 5’s ditty is a delight in how it brings the best bits of our favorite sitcom all together. As the group remembers their worst Thanksgivings to date, we’re reminded of how far they’ve all come, and why we know we never want to let our favorite fictional friends go.
’Gilmore Girls’ – Season 3, episode 9 – “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving”
The Gilmore girls are too popular for their own good when they find themselves invited to four different Thanksgiving dinners. Rory lets slip she applied to Yale, Lane gets her first kiss, and Kirk gets a cat.
’Will and Grace’ – Season 3, episodes 8 and 9 – “Lows in the Mid-Eighties”
When the gang runs into a young dancer who doesn’t realize her fiance is gay, we get treated to a series of flashbacks showing how our fabulous four grew into who they were supposed to be. When co-eds Will and Grace decide that it’s finally time to do the dirty deed while at her parents’ house over Thanksgiving break, a terrified Will phones his wise, teenage acquaintance Jack for some advice. In a fun twist, we also find out how Karen ended up with her husband, and how she met her true soulmate, Rosario.
’New Girl’ – Season 1, episode 6 – “Thanksgiving”
It’s Thanksgiving, and the guys just want to dude-out with football, beer, and Best Buy Black Friday deals, but when Jess spots an opportunity to impress her long-time Justin Long crush, the loft gang gets roped into a Thanksgiving-dinner extravaganza. Hijinks ensue: the frozen turkey ends up in the dryer, the roommates stumble upon their dead neighbor, and Schmidt yells at Cece for touching his walnuts without washing her hands.
’This Is Us’ – Season 1, episode 8 – “Pilgrim Rick”
Not everyone can pull off wear a pilgrim hat. Especially when the connections of a particular one are so deeply tied to a family’s late father. This Is Us delivers an episode grounded in tradition that provides some more fuel to the fire (sorry) in Jack’s run as Best Dad Ever campaign. In the present, the Pearsons welcome newcomers to the the family table and realize that by constantly turning inward to the original family unit, they wind up isolating themselves from people who care about them from afar.
’Grey’s Anatomy’ – Season 2, episode 9 – “Thanks for the Memories”
At Seattle Grace, Thanksgiving means being grateful… for surgeries. When everyone sneaks out of helping Izzie with the Thanksgiving preparations by running off to the hospital, she’s left to cook dinner by herself (even though she doesn’t actually know how to cook!) Fortunately, Burke is on hand with his surgeon’s hands to take care of the trimmings. Meanwhile, George’s family kidnaps him to go turkey hunting, and Georgie inadvertently saves the day when he performs emergency surgery to remove a bullet from his dad’s butt!
’Gossip Girl’ – Season 2, episode 11 – “The Magnificent Archibalds”
Thanksgiving with Cyrus is a magical thing, and it’s a fun romp to witness Blair and Cyrus go at each other’s throats before their eventual truce and beautiful stepfather/daughter friendship really begins. Family ties on the Upper East Side are never easy, but as we watch Jenny and Nate’s relationships with their fathers fall apart, Blair begins to realize that two is better than one when it comes to love.
’Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ – Season 4, episode 8 – “Pangs”
While some fans may prefer to ignore the existence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 4, it produced some incredible episodes. “Pangs,” the Thanksgiving episode, serves up a twist on the classic hostess who just wants everyone to have a nice time, but can’t seem to achieve it trope. There’s the vampire who can’t be trusted, a terribly disruptive spirit who turns into a bear, and food that will be ready in good time. Now f everyone would just SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET MAYBE THE SCOOBY GANG COULD HAVE A NICE HOT MEAL.
’Modern Family’ – Season 3, episode 9 – “Punkin Chunkin”
It’s the Dreamers versus the Realists this Thanksgiving, as the spouses insist that their Pritchett partners don’t believe in them. They settle the score on the football field with a rousing rendition of Punkin Chunkin.”
’The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ – Season 1, episode 12 – “Talking Turkey”
Will’s mom comes to town in this classic Fresh Prince episode. Charging the children with making the holiday meal, she quickly realizes that there needs to be some changes in the house! When you’re done watching for the wholesome family moments, try your hand at mastering the Humpty Dance!
’Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ – Season 1, episode 10 – “Thanksgiving”
Amy wants to impress Holt by bringing the entire precinct together for Thanksgiving dinner. But Jake, who hates the holiday, is happy to drag Holt away from the table to investigate some missing evidence. But as Jake escapes the pain of remembering uneasy family memories from his past, Holt reminds him that this Thanksgiving is about creating new ones with his new family. Also, Terry needs to meet his calorie count for the day and Amy’s food is NOT helping.
’How I Met Your Mother’ – Season 3, episode 9 – “Slapsgiving”
A major (salute!) milestone in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ canon, Slapsgiving is a holiday we can never forget. From the slap countdown to Marshall’s original “You Just Got Slapped” medley, we’re reminded to be grateful for family and friendship.
And speaking of bringing people together, we’ll leave you now with Marshall Erickson’s stirring holiday rendition of “You Just Got Slapped.”
Happy Thanksgiving fellow Americans! And for your own safety, please remember to adjust your waistbands before leaving the house this Thursday.