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10 Awesome Thanksgiving TV Episodes to Stream

These shows will make you feel good about the holiday

Thanksgiving is arguably the best holiday on television. The big meal and all the traditions that revolve around it provide ample fodder for both comedy and drama. And as a viewer, it’s always comforting to see your favorite characters coping with their families, and laughing along with their friends on this very unusual day. Here are 10 classic holiday episodes from the last 30 years to put you in the Thanksgiving spirit.

Will & Grace/NBC

Will & Grace, “Lows in the Mid-Eighties” (Season 3, Episodes 8 and 9)

Who doesn’t love an origin story? Will & Grace’s original run was usually good for a quality Thanksgiving special, and this two-part episode from Season 3 is the best of the bunch. A classic movie and sitcom trope from the late ’90s and early aughts was to have adult, thirty-something members of society look back on their college years in the 1980s. Bright colors, headbands, high tops, and hair metal dominate these embellished flashbacks. Will & Grace uses the template to explain how the titular characters came together: first as college sweethearts who are visiting Grace’s family for the holiday, and then a few years later, after Will’s coming out, as friends.

This episode also begs a question: For a new generation of adult thirty-somethings, will popular culture update this trope with flashbacks to the late ’90s and early aughts? Will we regularly be laughing at chunky belts, choker necklaces, half-zip sweaters, and rap rock? If the hottest movie in theaters right now is any indication, the answer is yes.

Stream it on: Hulu
Chris Fuhrmeister

Netflix/Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls, “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” (Season 3, Episode 9)

Thanksgiving is all about food, and the holiday-themed episode of Gilmore Girls, “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” is the best representation of the series, especially for two women who love eating as much as they do. And, hey, the Gilmore girls look good in autumn tones (it’s a very fall show).

The episode gets to the heart of what Thanksgiving is all about — this idea of celebrating with family and friends, and obligations. That’s why Lorelai and Rory get roped into not one, not two, but four Thanksgiving dinners, and each one offers a different vignette. They know to expect religious music and tofurkey at the Kims. They experience Sookie’s first married Thanksgiving with Jackson, who, because of a compromise, cooks up a deep-fried turkey feast, much to her dismay. They essentially double-date at Luke’s Diner. Lorelai gets into an argument with her mother during dinner. There are two passionate kisses. It’s the unpredictable nature of Thanksgiving in a nutshell.

Stream it on: Netflix
— Nadia Chaudhury

The West Wing/Netflix

The West Wing, “Shibboleth” (Season 2, Episode 8)

It seems likely that about 35 percent of Americans will be happy with President Donald Trump, no matter what, but for the rest of the country, there’s the fictional Josiah Bartlet administration to serve as a distraction from the daily news cycle. The typical West Wing episode follows a pretty simple formula: President Bartlet and his staff deal with some sort of international incident or domestic policy drama, but all the while there are laughs and tender personal moments sprinkled through the action.

The main storyline here features Bartlet trying to determine whether a group of Chinese refugees are truly seeking religious asylum or if they are attempting to game America’s immigration system. Your heartstrings will be tugged when the president gifts his family’s antique carving knife, which was passed down from his grandfather and then to his father, to Charlie, his personal aide. Two live turkeys occupying press secretary C.J. Cregg’s office as she determines which should be pardoned on Thanksgiving provide the comic relief.

Stream it on: Netflix
— CF

Amazon Video/Roseanne

Roseanne, “We Gather Together” (Season 2, Episode 9)

If you’ve never checked out this game-changing sitcom before, the Season 2 holiday episode is a great place to start — it’s a perfect example of Roseanne’s unique mixture of slice-of-life drama and big, crowd-pleasing comedy. “We Gather Together” covers parts of the holiday experience that are rarely explored on sitcoms, namely, the complicated, ever-evolving relationship between adults and their parents. It’s a treat to watch Roseanne Barr, Laurie Metcalf, and John Goodman’s characters navigate a big family holiday with such humor and grace.

Stream it on: Amazon Video
Greg Morabito

Hulu/A Different World

A Different World, “Faith, Hope & Charity” (Season 6, Episodes 9 and 10)

The sixth season of this coming-of-age sitcom, which is set on a historically black university campus, sees the sweethearts Whitley and Dwayne finally married and hobbling their way into adulthood. Coming to grips with their newfound roles as husband and wife, this two-parter features their respective mothers flurrying in with their birds and their own disappointments in hand — Whitley’s precocious mother (played by the iconic Diahann Carroll) comes with a Virginia farm-fed turkey and a hired actor playing her too-young fiancé, and Dwayne’s aunty-as-hell mother (played by the wonderful Patti LaBelle, people’s anointed Queen of Thanksgiving, Supreme Master of Sweet Potato Pie) comes with a “double-D cup, honey” turkey, and her exasperation for Whitley (aka Miss Thing).

This episode is all about parents wanting the best for their children, who never grow up in their eyes, and their kids wanting to prove that they have it all under control. When family comes together, much of the sore spots are hoped to be ignored, but in this pair of episodes, we see them being faced head-on.

Stream it on: Amazon Video
— Pelin Keskin


Cheers, ”Thanksgiving Orphans” (Season 5, Episode 9)

Although the Sam and Diane drama certainly kept viewers tuning in, the secret to Cheers’ success was that James Burrows & Co. created a family unit out of this ragtag group of barflies and barkeeps. And in this seminal episode, the Cheers clan actually gets the rare opportunity to act like a real family outside of the bar, during a Thanksgiving afternoon spent at Carla’s house. Several members of the crew end up here by accident — Diane comes after a Pilgrim-themed party goes bust, while Sam hits up Carla’s house when his date bails on him. There are plenty of surprises and zingers spread out across this episode’s 22 minutes, and by the end of the meal, everyone is covered in Thanksgiving dinner from head-to-toe. “Thanksgiving Orphans” is peak ’80s television.

Stream it on: Netflix
— GM

Netflix/Master of None

Master of None,Thanksgiving” (Season 2, Episode 8)

If nothing else, holidays are opportunities to reflect on how you and your loved ones have changed from year to year. Riffing on the idea of holidays as markers of time, this Season 2 episode of Master of None tells the coming-out story of Denise (Lena Waithe), over seven holiday meals. “Being gay isn’t something black people love to talk about, Denise tells her friend, Dev (Aziz Ansari), during the 1998 holiday. “Some black people think being gay is a choice, and when they find out that their kid is gay, they try to figure out what they did wrong.”

You see all of Denise’s big life changes during these meals, as well as the big shifts that her mother, played by Angela Bassett, goes through. It’s a masterfully-crafted, touching, and at times very funny episode that really raises the bar in terms of what to expect from Master of None and Netflix’s original programming in general.

Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari won the Emmy Award for best comedy writing for this episode. Hopefully, when the show returns for its third season, Waithe will get another chance to tell a personal story in this vein again.

Stream it on: Netflix
— GM


Seinfeld, “The Mom and Pop Store”

Seinfeld isn’t big on sentiment and Americana, so this episode is a perfect way to treat such a wholesome holiday. Jerry is a troublemaker and manages to wreak havoc at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade by popping the Woody Woodpecker balloon, ruining Mr. Pitt’s dream of helping to guide the balloon on its route. Jerry and Kramer discover the mom and pop behind a mom-and-pop shoe-repair store — can you imagine anything wholesome? — are actually scam artists.

There aren’t any iconic food moments, but the events that transpire at Dr. Tim Whatley 77th Street apartment, the one that overlooks where they inflate all those huge balloons for the parade, make for one of the best episodes of the series.

Stream it on: Hulu
— CF

Hulu/Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off The Boat, “Huangsgiving” (Season 2, Episode 8)

This episode begins with a classic Thanksgiving showdown scenario: grown-up sisters engaging in hostilities as they each attempt to prove to their mother that they can host a better version of the holiday. Jessica and Louis have a good game plan, with homemade cranberry sauce and Cornish hens replacing a big turkey, but, as is often the case during big family events, things go awry. Louis drinks too much the night before and is too hungover to provide much help with the cooking. The hens are delivered live instead of dead and butchered. Fresh cranberries, as it turns out, are way too tart. Thanksgiving — “Huangsgiving,” as Louis is calling it — is hard.

Fortunately, everyone resolves their differences, and once the turkey is finally cooked, Jessica and Connie’s mother declares it to be “dry but edible.” Can’t ask for much more than that.

Stream it on: Hulu
— CF

The Office, “” (Season 7, Episode 9)

There aren’t many episodes worth watching The Office after the third or fourth season, but this Season 7 episode is a rare highlight toward the end of the show’s run. Viewers learn that in addition to being an excellent paper salesman, volunteer police officer, beet farmer, and bed-and-breakfast operator, Dwight Schrute can put on a great hay festival. Nothing like a hay maze, broom making, and a petting zoo (quickly followed by a goat roast) to bring on the autumnal vibes.

Oh yeah, and Ryan invents a social media service that allows users to send notifications to their friends via every communications service imaginable. It’s sort of hard to believe this service doesn’t actually exist.

Stream it on: Amazon Video
— CF

And for more ideas for what to stream on Thursday, check out Eater’s guide to Thanksgiving movies.

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