There are some common themes that span across most TV shows’ Thanksgiving-themed episodes: Dysfunctional families reach their breaking points, characters with control issues lose their minds in the kitchen, and special guest stars pop in to play rarely-seen uncles or brand-new love interests.
The episodes below, several simply titled “Thanksgiving,” follow those trusty formulas, but they also kick things up a notch. Some take empathetic looks at how people of different cultures celebrate the holiday, while others plant the seeds of some of the greatest love stories on television. And, in a few, you can see showrunners and writers creating their own traditions by forcing themselves to outdo their past holiday episodes’ storylines with every new season.
Whether the TV will serve as a place to gather with your loved ones over your second helpings of mashed potatoes or a sacred refuge to drown out their annual interrogation about whether you’ll ever have children, there are plenty of content options to put you in a festive mood.
Grab some snacks and settle in with your favorite fictional families: Here, Variety breaks down the best 25 Thanksgiving episodes to watch on your turkey day.
An honorable mention has to go to “Friday Night Lights'” plot-packed fourth season finale, “Thanksgiving,” in which the Taylors host an extended family dinner; Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) deep-fries a turkey; the Riggins’ boys have to face the consequences of stripping cars; and the Lions pull out a TV fantasy football win, which includes a more-than 40-foot field goal.
And the Hall of Fame honorable mention of great Thanksgiving TV moments goes out “WKRP in Cincinnati” for its legendary “Turkey’s Away” episode that aired as the seventh installment of the CBS comedy’s first season in 1978-79. The episode immortalized one line of dialogue in pop culture forever: “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”