From 'Friends' to 'Bob's Burgers:' The 10 best Thanksgiving TV episodes of all time

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Halloween and Christmas are well represented on the movie front, but for whatever reason, there is a relative dearth of movies centered on Thanksgiving.

TV is a different story. For a variety of reasons, including “sweeps” rating periods, of which November was one. That’s why you often saw big guest stars on Thanksgiving-themed episodes, or major plot developments — birth, death, whatever else in between.

People don’t really watch TV the way they used to — when’s the last time you set aside a Thursday night to watch … whatever is on Thursday nights now? And ratings are more closely measured more often, so they don't rely as heavily on sweeps.

Nevertheless, Thanksgiving remainsa good nondenominational holiday, so episodes don't generally leave out entire groups of people. And there’s also the whole giving-thanks thing.

As a nice little holiday argument starter, here’s a list of the 10 best Thanksgiving-themed TV episodes. Yes, some shows areon here twice. That’s the beauty of TV — you can go back to the well more than once.

“Friends” — “The One With the Rumor”

"Friends" was a show that loved Thanksgiving, making 10 (!) episodes centered around the holiday. In this one, Brad Pitt shows up for Thanksgiving dinner as an old, formerly overweight but now handsome friend of Ross and enemy of Rachel (so much that he and Ross started the I Hate Rachel Club). In fairness, Rachel used to bully him. Secrets come out and comedy ensues. The kicker: Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel, were married at the time.

How to watch: Stream on HBO Max.

“Friends” — “The One With All the Thanksgivings”

Hot take: This is an overrated series. But it did holiday episodes well and the characters are all first-rate complainers. (Well, maybe not Joey.) This combines those things when Ross says his divorce and eviction make it the worst Thanksgiving ever. So everyone looks back on their own worst Thanksgiving. This is the one most famous for the Mr. Bean-like bit with Monica with a turkey on her head.

How to watch: Stream on HBO Max.

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“Modern Family” — “Three Turkeys”

The title tells you what happens. But the journey is the reward, as they say. Getting to why they end up with three turkeys is what’s fun and it involves the usual “Modern Family” elements: mistrust, doubt, subterfuge and absurd misunderstandings. It’s funny, as Homer Simpson says because it’s true. Well, a turkey in a suitcase may be a bit much. But the sentiment feels genuine. Speaking of Homer Simpson. …

How to watch: Stream on Hulu and Peacock.

“The Simpsons” — “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”

There are several times in the history of the show where you think, that’s it, Bart’s finally gone too far. This was one of the earlier ones. He argues with Lisa, her handmade cornucopia centerpiece winds up in flames and he runs away from home. After selling his blood and being interviewed at a homeless shelter, he learns the value of family — and his family learns his value while he’s gone. Turns out kind of sweet, actually.

How to watch: Stream on Disney+.

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“The Sopranos” — “He Is Risen”

You can argue that a few of the picks on here aren’t strictly Thanksgiving episodes. But Thanksgiving is a key theme. Here, Ralph shuns Tony by not having a drink with him (there’s more history, but that’s another episode). Then he tells Carmela to un-invite Ralph to Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a portent of much worse things to come between the two. But there is a dinner, and it’s a hoot. Janice invites her born-again songwriting partner — who is narcoleptic, falls asleep while they’re eating and says, “Have you heard the good news? He is risen” whenever a guest arrives.

How to watch: Stream on HBO Max.

“Succession” — “I Went to Market”

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What is it about great HBO dramas and dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinners? There’s a lot going on in this episode — the usual backbiting and scheming — but again, dinner is the centerpiece, and it is a cringe-worthy feast. It’s especially nice when these richer-than-rich monsters go around the table to talk about what they’re thankful for. And by “nice” I mean “awful,” but in the best way.

How to watch: Stream on HBO Max.

“Fresh Off the Boat” — “Huangsgiving”

Have you ever felt family pressure when hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Maybe, but probably not like Jessica feels it in this episode. Her mother makes her customary 5:30 a.m. call to announce who will host dinner, Jessica or her sister Connie. Jessica wins the honors and things start falling apart. (Best part, maybe: Jessica and Louis decide to serve individual Cornish game hens, which when they arrive are still alive — and have names.) Things get a little more serious, but it’s a good episode if you’ve ever wanted to outdo an older sibling. Which, if you’ve got one, you have.

How to watch: Stream on Hulu.

“Bob’s Burgers” — “Turkey in a Can”

Perhaps no show, with the possible exception of “Friends,” loves Thanksgiving like “Bob’s” does. You could pick any of them — I can’t believe I’m leaving out the beloved “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal,” in which landlord Mr. Fishoedor bribes the Belchers into posing as his family, except for absinthe-drinking Bob. In this one Bob finally scores the turkey of his dreams, only to have it wind up in the toilet. As does the replacement turkey. And so on. And no one can figure out why. So great.

How to watch: Stream on Hulu.

“Bob’s Burgers” — “Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled”

Bob hugs a turkey in a Thanksgiving episode of 'Bob's Burgers.'
Bob hugs a turkey in a Thanksgiving episode of 'Bob's Burgers.'

A snowstorm forces Bob to ferry Linda’s sister Gayle to their house on a sled, a trip complicated not just by the blizzard but by Mr. Business, Gayle’s annoying cat. Meanwhile, Bob tries to coach Linda on cooking the turkey over the phone (talk to it, make it feel good, he urges). That goes about as well as you’d think. So many of these episodes find comedy in disaster. No doubt that’s why we love them.

How to watch: Stream on Hulu.

“WKRP in Cincinnati” — “Turkeys Away”

This is thegreatest Thanksgiving episode of all time, which is saying something, considering it first aired in 1978. It has one of the great lines of sitcom history — “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” — and a disaster for the ages. Which is, of course, related to the great line. The station manager, Mr. Carlson, decides to drop turkeys onto a shopping mall parking lot. Live turkeys. See the great line above, or news reporter Les Nessman’s live report: “The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!” It’s awful. It’s hilarious. It’s just the best.

How to watch: Rent or buy episodes on Apple TV or Prime Video.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 'Friends,' 'Bob's Burgers' and other epic Thanksgiving TV episodes