When your plate is finally cleared and you’re starting to regret going for that fourth helping of mashed potatoes, that’s when it’s time to make your way to the couch, get comfortable and enjoy one of Thanksgiving’s greatest traditions: TV. The tryptophan might be coursing through your veins, but these TV shows are guaranteed to keep you awake and entertained. The only problem? With so many to choose from, finding the episode that best captures the spirit of your Thanksgiving can be a trying task.
So I took it upon myself to help y’all out. Grab that last piece of pie, throw on your sweatpants and enjoy.
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
What’s more classic than a Charlie Brown holiday special? That was a rhetorical question because the answer is clearly nothing. Lucy’s recurring prank may not be the most ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving activity, but Charlie’s impromptu meal — set up in classic fashion by Snoopy and Woodstock — and its aftermath captures the true essence of the holiday. Charlie Brown’s ‘feast’ of toast, jelly beans, popcorn, and pretzels served on a ping pong table might be a disaster, but the final shot of Snoopy and Woodstock breaking the wishbone of their own turkey is an enduring image of friendship and family.
The Sopranos: “He is Risen”
The Sopranos. The true embodiment of Thanksgiving. This episode from season three of the classic HBO drama features all the trimmings of a classic thanksgiving: handing out turkeys, overeating, big families, a heart-attack on the toilet and the occasional whacking. Ok, so maybe it’s not really the true embodiment of Thanksgiving. Tony’s decision to disinvite Ralph Cifaretto from Thanksgiving seems to be inconsistent with the spirit of the holiday, but hey, Ralphie did kind of try to kill him. But behind it all The Sopranos is a show about family, and Tony’s struggle to keep his own together perfectly expresses the principles of why we celebrate in the first place. Bonus: Tony’s reaction to his father-in-law’s declaration that “he is risen.” High comedy.
Mad Men is pretty much never going to feature the kind of Thanksgiving you’re used to. That’s probably because Don Draper is only capable of showing gratitude during whiskey-fueled brainstorming benders or while wearing high riding swim trunks in the California surf. Don’s Thanksgiving escapades include witnessing his secretary give birth (without his family), hanging out with a hooker (without his family, clearly) and stealing his brand new employee’s ad campaign while his ex-wife conspires against his current wife (without his family or his integrity). If Mad Men ever displayed loneliness more glaringly than on Thanksgiving, I must have missed it. Watching Matthew Weiner’s melancholic depictions of a (sometimes) joyous holiday definitely won’t give you that warm-and-fuzzy feeling, but it’s sure to make you more grateful for what you have.
Friends has way too many great Thanksgiving moments to name them all: Joey wearing stretch pants, The “Geller Cup,” Ross’s heroic display of geography and Monica accidentally cutting off Chandler’s toe. While the setup varies from season to season, Friends Thanksgiving episodes consistently remind us that your best friends are you family, too.
Finally, I leave you with two honorable mentions left out due to their relative obscurity and limited dissemination (I’m not sure if these still exist on the web):
Rocco’s Modern Life – “Turkey Time”
Hey Arnold – “Arnold’s Thanksgiving”