Between Halloween’s bounty of horror movies and Christmas quickly closing in on us, Thanksgiving doesn’t always get its due when it comes to Turkey Day-centric media. Sure there are some Thanksgiving movies worth watching every year (both Planes, Trains, & Automobiles and Knives Out are streaming free on Pluto TV right now BTW), but it certainly can’t stand up to the avalanche of Christmas movies coming your way as early as Black Friday. That’s why I’m a longtime champion of the Thanksgiving TV episode, especially when it comes to classic sitcoms. Between every Friends Thanksgiving episode and How I Met Your Mother’s “Slapsgiving” series, there’s no shortage of stories about turkey gone dry (or in Bob’s Burgers’ case, far too wet).
So, in no particular order, here are my top five Thanksgiving episodes that you should stream this year while you're laying on the couch in a post-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy haze.
Friends — Season 5, Episode 8: ‘The One With All the Thanksgivings’
Friends has a cornucopia of fantastic holiday episodes, including several Thanksgiving plots, but, obviously, the wishbone must be awarded to “The One With All the Thanksgivings,” which gives us a series of delectable flashbacks between teenage Monica and college freshman Chandler rocking several very unappetizing haircuts. When Ross claims he’s having the worst Thanksgiving ever, the gang gathers to one up him with their terrible Turkey Day tales. We get Joey’s iconic turkey head, a flashback from Phoebe’s past life, and, most importantly, some early Chandler and Monica lore. You can stream all 10 seasons of Friends — including Season 5, Episode 8 — on Max.
Modern Family — Season 9, Episode 7: ‘Winner Winner Turkey Dinner’
Everyone’s a winner in Modern Family best Thanksgiving episode (which is really saying something, considering the show was the master of Turkey Day). Jay is gearing up to give his annual Thanksgiving day toast, in which he singles out the family member who has made him proudest — typical toxic Jay behavior. This year, though, everyone has accomplished big things, and cheated in the process. Cam cheated in a high school football game, Mitchell staged a robbery to avoid embarrassment, Claire takes a major shortcut in her turkey trot, and Phil is unable to overcome an obstacle in his career as a magician. Winner Winner Turkey Dinner has costumes, action, and a small child giving a long, inaccurate speech about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. All the ingredients you need for the perfect Thanksgiving episode. You can stream all 11 seasons of Modern Family — including Season 9, Episode 7 — on Peacock and Hulu.
How I Met Your Mother — Season 3, Episode 9: ‘Slapsgiving’
It’s Marshall and Lily’s first time hosting Thanksgiving as a married couple, Robin is dating an old man (he’s 41), and Ted is worried he and Robin can’t be friends again after their breakup. Oh, and looming over it all is the threat against Barney, because Marshall has declared his own holiday, “Slapsgiving.” Yes, it’s time for Slap Bet part trois, and just so happens to also be one of the best Thanksgiving episodes of all time. In case you haven’t seen the origin of the Slap Bet, here’s the gist: Marshall and Barney make a Slap Bet over a big secret of Robin’s back in Season Two, naming Lily the Slap Bet Commissioner. When Barney cashes in on winning the bet and slaps Marshall prematurely, Lily determines the appropriate compensation for Marshall is five slaps, to be doled out against Barney as he sees fit. And thus, Slapsgiving was born. In addition to the threat of violence between pals, there’s plenty of regular Thanksgiving drama, dinner, and even a song to enjoy, too. You can stream all nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother — including Season 3, Episode 9 — on Hulu.
Bob's Burgers — Season 4, Episode 5: ‘Turkey in a Can’
The Belcher family is hosting Linda’s sister Gayle (and her cats), Teddy and Mort for Thanksgiving this year, so to celebrate, Bob embarks on a mission to try a fancy three day bringing method on his turkey. But there appears to be a saboteur in his own home, because every night, his beautifully brined turkey gets tossed in the toilet. It’s a classic Thanksgiving whodunit featuring a flirtation between Bob and his deli guy, and it totally takes the biggest turkey leg as the best Bob’s Burgers Thanksgiving episode (although all 11 of them are worth watching). You can stream all 14 seasons of Bob’s Burgers — including Season 4, Episode 5 — on Hulu.
New Girl — Season 4, Episode 9: ‘Thanksgiving IV’
Yet another sitcom serving up delicious Thanksgiving episodes nearly every season, New Girl’s peak Turkey Day tale comes around in Season 4, when the whole loft (even Cece) is single headed into the holiday season, and Schmidt takes it upon himself to rebrand the day as “Bangs-giving.” Everyone picks out dates for each other, and Jess winds up stuck with her school’s sexy new British teacher, whom she has been struggling to avoid. Winston falls for a lunch lady, Schmidt goes after one of Nick’s exes and Coach is scared that his date is stronger than him. It’s a classic New Girl holiday episode, chaotic, cutesy and occasionally cringe-inducing (in the best of ways). You can watch all seven seasons of New Girl — including Season 4, Episode 9 — on Peacock and Hulu.
Bonus: Seinfeld — Season 6, Episode 8: ‘The Mom and Pop Store’
I can’t in good faith include this excellent episode up against the more official Thanksgiving stories — i.e. the sitcoms that actually tackle the whole turkey dinner part of the holiday. However, Seinfeld’s sort-of Thanksgiving episode is an absolute hoot, with Turkey Day on the horizon, George buys a convertible he believes once belonged to the actor Jon Voight, Elaine tries to win her boss a spot in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Also, Bryan Cranston is there! You can stream all nine seasons of Seinfeld on Netflix.
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