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Top 10 Thanksgiving TV Episodes Ever!

by Kim Potts, posted Nov 22nd 2010 2:00PM
Gilmore Girls
Here they are, the 10 best Turkey Day-themed primetime TV episodes of all time. 'Gilmore Girls,' 'The Bob Newhart Show' and the gang from 'Cheers' all make the list, as does the sitcom that tried to prove that turkeys could be dropped out of a helicopter and safely land in the parking lot of a Midwestern shopping center.

The Sorpanos10. 'The Sopranos'
'He Is Risen'
Original airdate:
April 15, 2001
Why it's no turkey: Yeah, yeah, it was a Thanksgiving episode in April, but 'The Sopranos' always marched on its own schedule, so let's get past that. The best moment of this T-Day-themed installment occurred at Tony and Carmela's holiday dinner table, at which sister Janice was seated, along with Aaron, the latest schmucky boyfriend she'd dragged home. Aaron, we learn, is narcoleptic, and he falls asleep mid-meal. He wakes up when the doorbell at Casa Soprano rings, and Jackie April Jr. appears in the dining room.

Upon being introduced to Jackie, Aaron looks up and asks, "Have you heard the news? He is risen," providing not only a memorable 'Sopranos' quote, but also the episode's title. In other Thanksgiving happenings: After discussing leftover turkey sandwiches with his crew, stressed out capo Gigi Cestone takes a trip to the bathroom, where, as Tony points out, he dies like "how Elvis went."

9. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
Original airdate:
Nov. 23, 1999
Why it's no turkey: Spike, Angel, whipped cream and a Native American curse have thwarted The Buffster's plans to give the Scoobies a perfect Thanksgiving, a holiday which Anya pithily sums up thusly: "To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice, with pie." Proving that even a former demon knows everything is better with pie.

8. 'The Cosby Show'
'Cliff's Wet Adventure'
Original airdate:
Nov. 16, 1989
Why it's no turkey: Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable had reason to be upset in this season six episode, in which he is sent out to the store -- four times! -- to purchase ingredients Clair needs to prepare the family's Thanksgiving dinner. She had planned to make cornbread ... but forgot eggs. She wanted to whip up eggnog ... but forgot nutmeg (actually, she just demanded fresh nutmeg, because she already had jarred spice in the kitchen). And she wanted to make a pumpkin pie ... but forgot the canned pumpkin.

So Cliff had to go out to the store, four times (the eggs he bought on the third trip broke), in a fierce rainstorm, only to finally return home and find the fam at the table, and hot cornbread waiting. Claire had borrowed eggs from a neighbor, and in one final bit of Turkey Day injustice, Cliff opened the door to put his drenched clothing outside, only to be met with sunshine.

7. 'Roseanne'
'We Gather Together'
Original airdate:
Nov. 21, 1989
Why it's no turkey: The 'Roseanne' cast and crew saved their best holiday episode efforts for their Halloween-themed gems, but this Thanksgiving installment is example of why the series remains one of the most underrated family sitcoms in primetime history. What starts out as a typical tension-filled family holiday turns really dysfunctional -- and hilarious -- as Roseanne's annoying parents meltdown when they find out Jackie's becoming a cop, while Dan is trying to deal with his divorced mother and father being at the same dinner when his mom unexpectedly shows up with a date.

Then there's the flirtation between Dan's dad (Ned Beatty) and the much younger Crystal, Roseanne's mom's nagging of Jackie and Roseanne and a dinner table crying jag that has everyone yelling and slamming turkey, while John Goodman (always brilliant as Dan), looks on calmly, sipping his Budweiser. Fun fact: Keep an eye on the kids' table during dinner; the bespectacled teen is a young Stephen Dorff.

6. 'Gilmore Girls'
'A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving'
Original airdate:
Nov. 26, 2002
Why it's no turkey:
Because it features everything we love about the Gilmore girls: their quirky fam and friends, their capacity for ingesting copious amounts of food and, of course, Lorelai and Rory themselves. In this holiday adventure, they embark on four T-Day meals, because they just can't bear to turn down an invite. Which is why they start at Mrs. Kim's Korean Thanksgiving celebration, before moving on to Sookie's -- where Jackson and his rowdy relatives are deep-frying a turkey and, eventually, various items like pickles and a shoe -- then on to a turkey dinner with Luke and Jess at the diner, before ending their Thanksgivingpalooza by supping with Grandma and Grandpa Gilmore.

Along the way, they also engage with Kirk, who's gotten a new cat (named Kirk), and, well, Cat Kirk, like Human Kirk, has issues, but Cat Kirk's issues result in a loooot of scratches for Human Kirk, who eventually sleeps in the Stars Hollow town square gazebo to avoid his finicky feline.

5. 'The Bob Newhart Show'
'Over the River and Through the Woods'
Original airdate:
Nov. 22, 1975
Why it's no turkey:
Unlike the usual family episode, 'The Bob Newhart Show's' season four Thanksgiving ep found Bob on his own when wife Emily went off to a family reunion. Bob invited his boys over to hang out and watch football with him for the day, and when friend Jerry produced a big jug o' liquor, the fellas began a drinking game tied to the high-score game, and they got sloshed pretty quickly. Drunk and hungry, Dr. Bob got the idea to order Chinese food, in a hilarious call in which he tried to pronounce "moo goo gai pan" and order up a feast under the name "Der Hartley," which he finally explains is "D.R. Hartley." Instant classic.

4. 'Everybody Loves Raymond'
'No Fat'
Original airdate:
Nov. 23, 1998
Why it's no turkey:
There are many words that can be used to describe a delicious turkey. Succulent. Juicy. Golden. Crispy. Tender. But one word that should never be used to describe the delicious showpiece of most Thanksgiving Day dinners: gelatinous.

Yet, that was the Barone family turkey in this T-Day gem, in which the well-intentioned mama Marie (Doris Roberts) tries to save everyone's cholesterol levels by making a healthier holiday feast. No one was impressed with the Tofurkey, especially son Ray, who had secretly ordered a real turkey and all the trimmings. And, in the end, Marie herself had to admit her bird was a turkey, especially when she was caught noshing on the real thing in Ray and Debra's kitchen that night.

3. 'Cheers'
'Thanksgiving Orphans'
Original airdate:
Nov. 27, 1986
Why it's no turkey:
The Cheers gang had been boozin' and waiting all night for Normie's mammoth turkey -- dubbed "Birdzilla" -- to cook, so when pretentious Diane showed up (in pilgrim gear, no less) and began preaching the ways of a proper Thanksgiving, Carla and company could take no more. A hilarious food fight ensued, starting with a single pea flicked by Norm at Carla that turned into a full-on foodie brawl and ended with a whole pumpkin pie landing square in the puss of ... Vera! After all these years, we finally meet Normie's oft-mentioned, never-seen wife. And her face is completely obscured by pie innards. Fun Fact: The woman who played the pie-covered Vera: George "Norm" Wendt's real-life wife, Bernadette Birkett.

2. 'Friends'
'The One With All the Thanksgivings'
Original airdate:
Nov. 19, 1998
Why it's no turkey:
"It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without Chandler bumming us out," says Joey, which kicks off a delicious series of flashbacks that include Phoebe's past-life memory, Joey with a turkey stuck on his head, Rachel pre-and post-nose job, Monica pre- and post-weight loss, Chandler and Ross's 'Miami Vice' clothes and Chandler's Flock of Seagulls haircut, Monica accidentally chopping off Chandler's toe, Monica dancing with a raw turkey on her head and, last, but certainly not least, Chandler telling Monica for the first time that he loves her.

There were so many truly great 'Friends' Thanksgiving episodes -- remember Brad Pitt, Rachel's beef trifle and Chandler in a box? -- but this one is the tops, not only for the aforementioned reasons, but because 'Gilmore Girls' weirdo Taylor Doose (actor Michael Winters) plays the emergency room doc, and also because of these quotes (can you remember who said what?): "More turkey, Mr. Chandler?" "A guy's thing is not called his 'tenderness' ... believe me!" "Well sorry doesn't bring back the little piggy who cried all the way home!" "I can't believe you let George Michael slap you!" "Can you believe it? She plays for both teams," and "Of course it did, they're made of wicker!"

1. 'WKRP in Cincinnati'
'Turkeys Away'
Original airdate:
Oct. 30, 1978
Why it's no turkey:
Because it's about turkeys. Flying turkeys. Or rather, tragically, turkeys that could not fly, which became all too apparent once the WKRP folk tossed them out of a helicopter, into the Pinedale Shopping Center parking lot, in what was supposed to be a promotion for the Cincy radio station. Mr. Carlson's (Gordon Jump) big plan turned out quite differently than he had envisioned of course, which he summed up with what is easily one of the greatest quotes in all TV history: "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Did your favorite Thanksgiving episode make the list? If not, what T-Day classics did we miss?

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Will and Grace! Homo for the Holidays, Lows in the Mid-Eighties, Moveable Feast, Queens for a Day Part I and II -- so much Thanksgiving hilarity.

November 23 2011 at 3:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mad About you has to be in the top five. It was gut-busting funny,

November 25 2010 at 9:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sargeboon's comment

Is that the episode with the two Carol[l]s (Burnett and O'Connor) , playing "Jamie Buchman's" (Helen Hunt's) parents?

November 21 2011 at 7:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Jane

Author seems to prefer sugar-coated Thanksgivings. How about more realistic shows such as Good Times and All in the Family?

November 25 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Largely the 80's sucked big time!

November 25 2010 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Going way back, All in the Family had a great Thanksgiving episode when Gloria and Mike invited Archie and Edith to their house for dinner. The funniest line to me was when Archie reached for the cranberry sauce which Gloria had made from scratch, and he got that pained look on his face and asked, "Where's the REAL kind, that slides outta the can?"

November 25 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

NO! NO! The Giblets for Murray from episode Mad About You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 25 2010 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How can you not have the 3rd Rock episode with French Stewart and Jan Hooks on this list ?

November 25 2010 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember seeing the initial airing of the WKRP episode. Let's just say I had smoked a bit of illegal substance that day. I think I laughed for 20 minutes watching that show. It was the best skit I have ever seen.

November 25 2010 at 6:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You didn't mention the part of the Soprano's episode where Tony was flipping food at the sleeping guy...most hysterical tv moment ever

November 25 2010 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"thirtysomething," Season 1, Episode 6, "We Gather Together," wherein Hope, wanting to do Thanksgiving alone with Michael and Janey, deals with Elliot and Nancy bringing an unthawed bird, Gary and Ellyn combatively making stuffing, Melissa's obnoxious Canadian boyfriend and a nasty bout of the flu, until she finally succumbs in a "It's A Wonderful Life"-esque dream.

November 25 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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