Nov 25th, 2020, 03:29 PM

The Best Thanksgiving-Themed TV Episodes

By Rebecca Le Goff
One of the several Friends Thanksgiving episodes. Image Credit: NBC
One of the several Friends Thanksgiving episodes. Image Credit: NBC
If you're a television fanatic wanting to get into the Thanksgiving holiday spirit, this list is for you.

Thanksgiving may look different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn't mean we can't still enjoy the holiday alongside our favorite television characters. Just like us, they have experienced good and bad Thanksgivings, preserved in the iconic moments listed below. I encourage you to sit back, relax and watch these drama and humor-filled episodes. Hopefully, they will make your Thanksgiving day a little brighter.

Friends - Season 8 Episode 9 “The One With The Rumor”


Friends originally aired on NBC from 1994-2004 and is set in New York City. The show revolves around six friends, Ross Geller (David Schwimmer), Monica Geller (Courtney Cox), Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow) and Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) as they navigate life, adulthood, relationships and jobs.


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The Friends Thanksgiving episode titled “The One With The Rumor” is a classic. It features special guest Brad Pitt (playing Will Colbert), who at the time of filming was married to Jennifer Aniston. In this episode, Monica cooks an elaborate meal. She invites an old friend from high school, Will, who as it turns out has lost a lot of weight. Rachel, who also went to the same high school, does not recognize Will but is immediately attracted to him, not realizing that he despises her. During the dinner, it is revealed that Will and Ross created an “I Hate Rachel” club. Rachel finds out that Will spread a rumor around school that she was a hermaphrodite. She becomes infuriated with Ross until Monica reminds Rachel that she spread a rumor about him, which claimed that he kissed the fifty-year-old cafeteria lady.

I picked this episode for the list because it is hilarious and Pitt's acting is outstanding. I thoroughly enjoy when secrets from the past are revealed and the characters have to react to them. Ross having to balance his relationship with Rachel and his friendship with Will is an interesting plot point of this episode. Also, like Joey, I am a foodie and loved watching him eat such a big turkey yet still have room for pie — there is always room for pie! If you are a fan of Friends like me, do a Friends Thanksgiving marathon which also includes Season 6 Episode 9 “The One Where Ross Got High,” in which Rachel tries to make a great dessert, but fails because she adds meat to the recipe.

Gossip Girl - Season 3 Episode 11 “The Treasure of Serena Madre”


Gossip Girl originally aired on the CW from 2007-2012 and is set in New York City. The show is about a group of mostly rich teenagers that go to a prep school in the Big Apple. The main characters are Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), Serena Van Der Woodsen (Blake Lively), Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley), Jenny Humphrey (Taylor Momsen) and Vanessa Abrams (Jessica Szohr). The show focuses on Dan, who is from a middle-class family, as he experiences high school amongst the wealthy Upper East Siders. A drama, it explores how the characters deal with the troubles of high school and college whilst living with a blogger called Gossip Girl who writes gossip about them. 

"The Treasure of Serena Madre." Image Credit: Warner Brothers

There are many Thanksgiving episodes in Gossip Girl, but "The Treasure of Serena Madre" is the most dramatic. Blair suspects that her mother Eleanor is pregnant and tries to figure out if this is true or not. Chuck tells Nate that he has a video of Serena kissing his married cousin Tripp. Vanessa, who was originally meant to spend Thanksgiving with her parents, ends up at the Van Der Woodsen Thanksgiving gathering. Meanwhile, Lily and Rufus’ relationship is on thin ice. The whole group goes to one Thanksgiving celebration, during which a lot of secrets are revealed. The most shocking is Maureen finding out her husband, Tripp, is having an affair with Serena.

This episode makes my list because it is filled with drama and twists. I like how Maureen finds out that her husband is cheating on her, and it's interesting to see how that storyline plays out. I also enjoy the mystery surrounding Cece and Lily's secret. If you are a Gossip Girl fan like me, be sure to indulge in this episode this Thanksgiving. 

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


Gilmore Girls originally aired on the WB from 2000-2007 and is set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. The show is about Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) who had her daughter Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) at the age of 16. Another drama, Gilmore Girls follows the close relationship between Lorelai and Rory and their life in a close-knit town. 

"A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving." Image Credit: Warner Brothers

In this Thanksgiving episode, Lorelai and Rory attend four different Thanksgiving meals. They eat at the Kim’s, where Lorelai is forced to eat tofurkey, and they also eat at Luke’s, where they have a double date (Luke with Lorelai and Jess with Rory). Then Lorelai and Rory go to Sookie’s, where they eat deep-fried turkey before finishing the day at Emily and Richard's, where they have an elaborate meal. This episode is special because Lorelai and Rory spend their Thanksgiving with all of their friends and family.

This episode makes my list because I love Lorelai and Rory's close relationship and I wish I could attend four Thanksgiving dinners as they did. I really liked how each of the people they had dinner with has their own traditions, especially at the Kim residence because they are South Korean but still celebrate Thanksgiving. 

How I Met Your Mother - Season 3 Episode 9 “Slapsgiving”


How I met your Mother originally aired on CBS from 2005-2014 and is also set in New York City. The show is about a group of friends, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel), Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) and Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan). How I Met Your Mother is a sitcom that is told through the eyes of Ted Mosby in the year 2030 when he tells his children, Luke and Penny, about how he met their mother. 

"Slapsgiving." Image Credit: CBS

This Thanksgiving episode is a stand-out because it is Lily and Marshall’s first Thanksgiving as a married couple. Lily wants to make this Thanksgiving special and tries to make everything perfect. Barney and Marshall made a bet the year prior giving Marshall permission to slap Barney five times, which Marshall takes advantage of. Ted and Robin attend Thanksgiving dinner but it is awkward as they are no longer together.

This episode is on my list because I like the story behind "Slapsgiving," along with the inside joke between Ted and Robin and how they deal with attending a Thanksgiving dinner post-breakup. I also like how they include the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving. If you enjoy humor about the realities of relationships like me and find it amusing that Lily tries to achieve a perfect Thanksgiving — because let's face it, there is no such thing as a perfect Thanksgiving — then this episode is for you.

That ‘70s Show - Season 1 Episode 9 “Thanksgiving”


That ‘70s Show originally aired on FOX from 1998-2006 and takes place in the fictional town of Point Place, Wisconsin. The show is a sitcom that is set in the 1970s and revolves around a group of friends, Eric Forman (Topher Grace), Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson), Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) as they deal with high school and relationships. 

"Thanksgiving." Image Credit: Fox

This Thanksgiving episode is set in the year 1976 and it is Fez’s first Thanksgiving as he is a foreign exchange student. Eric’s sister Laurie brings a friend from college to the celebration. Her friend tries to seduce Eric, which does not please Donna, who likes Eric too. For the Forman family, Thanksgiving is not a favorite holiday and they dread it even before it arrives. Eric’s mother does not get along with her mother-in-law and is not excited about her visit. Meanwhile, Eric’s dad, who is looking for a job, is offered one by his neighbor and friend but refuses to accept it because he feels it is charity. Although the Formans do not look forward to Thanksgiving, the whole group of friends celebrate it together.

This episode made the cut because for every holiday, there are those who love and hate the festivities, and it is important to show both sides. I like this episode because it highlights the stress that can occur when having in-laws coming to a Thanksgiving dinner. In general, I really enjoy period TV shows and if you do as well and are not a fan of Thanksgiving, you can join in on the Forman’s misery.

The O.C. - Season 1 Episode 11 “The Homecoming”


The O.C. originally aired on FOX from 2003-2007 and is set in Orange County, California. The show is a drama about a teenager from Chino, California, named Ryan Atwood (Benjamin McKenzie), who commits the crime of stealing a car and is abandoned by his mother. He then goes to live with his public defender Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) along with his wife Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan) and their son Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) in the wealthy area of Orange County, California. The O.C. follows Ryan and Seth and their love interests, Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson). This show is by the same creator as Gossip Girl, Josh Schwartz, and both feature a teenage boy from a middle-class family who enters the world of the wealthy. 

"The Homecoming." Image Credit: Fox

In this Thanksgiving episode, Ryan gets a call from his brother, Trey who is still in prison. Ryan and Marissa drive down to Chino to visit Trey but the visit does not go well. Kirsten and Sandy cook a Thanksgiving meal and invite their friends. Seth has two love interests, Summer and Anna, and because he cannot choose, he invites them both to Thanksgiving without the other knowing. Once the two girls see each other, they both leave out of anger towards Seth.

This episode made my list because The O.C. is one of my favorite shows and I particularly enjoy this episode because of the hilarity of Seth running back and forth between Summer and Anna. I also like this episode because it portrays the reality of Ryan's struggle to find a balance between his new family and his old family. If you like a good dramatic Thanksgiving then you should watch "The Homecoming."

New Girl - Season 1 Episode 6 “Thanksgiving”


New Girl originally aired on FOX from 2011-2018 and is set in Los Angeles, California. The show is about Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), who moves in with Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris). The sitcom follows the lives of the main characters as they go through life and relationships. 


In this episode, Jess invites Paul, a co-worker from her school, to join the gang’s Thanksgiving. Everyone in the group likes Paul except for Nick. Jess’s best friend, Cece, realizes that she is attracted to Schmidt while he cooks. This episode is hilarious because Jess bought the turkey too late and does not know how to thaw it. When she tries to put the turkey in the dryer, it catches on fire.

I included this episode in my list because like Jess, I am a terrible cook and find solace in that I am not the only one. I like this episode because it is very comedic and I find it amusing that Jess invited her co-worker Paul to Thanksgiving as a first date. If you want to watch a laid-back Thanksgiving episode, then this one is for you.

It is very difficult to be spending Thanksgiving socially distanced from our families and friends this year, but don't give up faith in the holiday just yet. Whether you watch these episodes alone or with your loved ones through features like Netflix's Teleparty, let them act as reminders to be grateful for everything we have. And of course, enjoy the laughs, plot twists and wholesome moments that come with them.

Happy Thanksgiving!