Six Great Thanksgiving-Themed Television Episodes

by Matthew Thompson

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, I thought I’d take a look at some of my favorite television episodes based around it like I did last month for Halloween. These six episodes are a great way to get in the mood for the holiday before you sit down with the family for your Thanksgiving feast.

Sports Night “Thespis”

Sports Night Thespis

Things are not going well on the night’s live broadcast of Sports Night and some of the cast is blaming Thespis, the ghost of the first ever actor to take the stage way back in ancient Greece. As the crew deals with all kinds of technical issues, Dana is also fretting about the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner she has to make for her judgmental mother. Meanwhile Dan and Casey argue over the importance of the day’s date which leads Casey (spurred by Isaac) to make a nice gesture towards Dan. Both conversations between Dan and Casey and Casey and Isaac are strong moments for the episode. And while all of this is going on, Isaac is dealing with worries about his daughter’s pregnancy. They all intertwine in a neat way and provide that classic mix of drama and humor that Sports Night often gave us. Another cool thing is that it takes place in close to real-time with the episode spanning the first thirty minutes of the night’s broadcast.

Friday Night Lights “Thanksgiving”

Friday Night Lights Thanksgiving

It’s hard to go into too much detail about this without spoiling something given how late it is in the show’s run, but in short the season four finale of Friday Night Lights finds the Lions and Panthers squaring off in their renewed rivalry. It might not have the stakes of some of the other finales on the field, but it is still a strong episode for the show. Matt Saracen is back in Dillon (which is always good) and he is feeling the repercussions of something he did earlier in the season. Elsewhere, Tim and his brother deal with a problem of their own leading to a big decision by Tim. And then we get a Thanksgiving dinner at the Taylors’ house and some good gridiron action. It’s classic FNL and is sure to make you think something is in your eye.

Scrubs “My Day Off”

Scrubs My Day Off

J.D. is in for a treat when he is off for the holiday, but after coming down with appendicitis, he ends up spending the day in the hospital in this early Season 1 episode of Scrubs. J.D. gets to see the hospital from a new perspective on Thanksgiving and gets a better understanding for what the patients go through while under his care. It also leads to a struggle with Turk when J.D. has a hard time taking his best friend, who he’s always goofing around with, seriously as a surgeon. Elliot is dealing with the revelation that her bedside manner needs some work and of course there is some tussling between Cox and Kelso, this time over the treatment of a former chief of medicine who was recently admitted to the hospital. All of it is done with the kind of over the top humor (there’s a great running Fat Albert joke here) and heartfelt drama (like their low-key Thanksgiving get together at the end) that Scrubs was known for and made for an excellent holiday episode.

The King of Queens “Supermarket Story”

King of Queens Supermarket Story

Unlike the other episodes in this blog, there is no real drama here. Just some laughs in classic sitcom form. It’s the day before Thanksgiving and Doug, Carrie, and Arthur head to the supermarket to get some food for the holiday. Of the two main plots, Doug’s is the winner. He runs into a guy who he apparently had a falling out with, but who he doesn’t remember. Hilarious antics ensue. Carrie’s plotline about following around another woman to figure out what she would need to cook a Thanksgiving dinner has some good moments too. When I think of this episode, a couple of the smaller gags always come to mind first though. One is Richie’s inability to pick the right checkout line which is a great running joke. Another involves Arthur, Donnie Osmond, and some yams which includes a classic tag at the end.

The O.C. “The Homecoming”

The OC Homecoming

It is Ryan’s first Thanksgiving at the Cohen’s, but a call from his brother has him, and Marissa who insists on tagging along, visiting the prison and then heading into Ryan’s old neighborhood. It’s all fantastic and even features the series’ introduction of Theresa. Back in Newport Beach, Seth is out of his element as he is trying to juggle two girls who both end up at his house on Thanksgiving. And a great recurring joke is going on where everyone tries to keep Kirsten from cooking anything. Throw in a nice final scene and this episode really works all around. I actually really like the Season 4 Thanksgiving episode too and when you throw in the Chrismukkah episodes, I have concluded that The O.C. just knows its way around a holiday ep.

Suburgatory “The Wishbone”

Suburdatory The Wishone 1

It is Thanksgiving in Chatswin and Tessa is determined to spend the holiday with the mother she has never met. There are some mix-ups on the way to this anticipated mother-daughter meeting, but it ends with some incredible scenes not just between Tessa and Alex, but also involving George who only wants the best for his daughter. Elsewhere an awkward moment between Sheila and Malik pushes Lisa to her breaking point with both of them. Just when it seems things couldn’t get worse for her, help arrives from an unlikely source. “The Wishbone” is a funny episode, one filled with the kind of surreal comedic moments that helped give Suburgatory such a unique feel, but it was the way it hit these emotional beats that made this such a memorable episode. What transpires here between Tessa and her mom as well as the Shay siblings is just unforgettable. It all comes together to create my favorite episode based on the late-November holiday.

And that’ll do it. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving TV episodes or specials? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!


9 thoughts on “Six Great Thanksgiving-Themed Television Episodes

Add yours

  1. Friends has my favorite Thanksgiving specials, especially “The One With the Football” and “The One With All the Thanksgivings.” Not even that much of a fan of the show, but man they were great on Thanksgiving. Other favorites are Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, HIMYM’s Slapsgivings, and the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode “The Dressing”

    Haven’t seen any of these, but never watched any of these shows.

    1. I hope to do another one next year and will definitely include a Slapsgiving. The finale wounds are still too fresh! I wish I had seen the Friends ones. I hear they are great. Not sure if/when I will get around to watching that show.

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