A Very Sitcom Thanksgiving

Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Anticipating tomorrow’s most delicious and thankful of holidays, I thought, like last month’s Halloween entry, I’d center today’s post on some of my favorite sitcom episodes dedicated to the turkey-filled holiday that is Thanksgiving!

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OUR MISS BROOKS (1952-1956, CBS)

Episode 46: “Thanksgiving Show” (Aired: 11/20/53)

While seeking an invitation out to Thanksgiving Dinner, Miss Brooks finds herself saddled with a gaggle of guests and a tiny turkey.

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This is what I wrote in my post on the best episodes from Our Miss Brooks‘ second season: “The entire cast winds up at Connie’s for Thanksgiving. Like in Friends, any time the ensemble of a series ends up together in the same room, it’s normally a superior effort. A funny show, this was one of the most memorable from the season.” It’s a classic OMB episode — perfect for Thanksgiving or any occasion!

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (1962-1971, CBS)

Episode 46: “Turkey Day” (Aired: 11/27/63)

Thanksgiving has a hitch when Elly bonds with the turkey so the family can’t bring themselves to kill it, while Mrs Drysdale hires some Indians to take a Thanksgiving picture, putting Granny on the warpath.

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This is the iconic ’60s sitcom in its prime — unbelievably silly, but ultimately truthful and riotously entertaining. As usual, Irene Ryan slays as Granny, and though the treatment of Native Americans would be considered inappropriate today, the events transpire with believability and everyone is in rare form. So go cook yourself up some billiards and watch “Turkey Day.”

BEWITCHED (1964-1972, ABC)

Episode 119: “Samantha’s Thanksgiving To Remember” (Aired: 11/23/67)

Aunt Clara sends herself, Darrin, Samantha, Tabitha and Gladys Kravitz to 17th century Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day. Darrin is accused of witchery and put on trial.

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Before Bewitched was released on DVD, several special episodes were presented on VHS; this was one of them. Not only is this an incredibly original episode that sees the cast time-travel back to the first Thanksgiving, but we’re blessed with the presences of Gladys Kravitz and the always entertaining Aunt Clara. This is one of the series’ classic and most memorable episodes.

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW (1972-1978, CBS)

Episode 83: “Over The River And Through The Woods” (Aired: 11/22/75)

When Emily leaves town, Bob spends a depressing Thanksgiving with Jerry, Howard and Mr. Carlin, getting drunk, watching football and ordering “Moo Goo Gai Pan.”

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This is often cited not only as one of the best Bob Newhart episodes, but also as one of the best sitcom episodes of all time. Newhart is excellent at playing drunk — in fact, he’s one of my three favorites. (The other two are Lucille Ball and Kirstie Alley.) Carlin’s on hand too, so you know this episode means business! If you favor Chinese food on your Thanksgiving, this installment is for you!

ALL IN THE FAMILY (1971-1979, CBS)

Episode 120: “The Little Atheist” (Aired: 11/24/75) 

At Thanksgiving, Archie and the Meathead argue over the religious upbringing of the Stivics’ baby.

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Things started to go downhill on the once excellent All In The Family when the Stivics moved next door. However, this episode from Season Six is quintessential AITF. Not only are all the characters brought together in one room, but there’s a loud and important discussion about something organic that rises from the action. It’s funny, it’s not too preachy, and if this sitcom is one of your favorites, you’ll definitely want to pop this one on for Thanksgiving!

WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1978-1982, CBS)

Episode 7: “Turkeys Away” (Aired: 10/30/78)

Mr. Carlson decides to take a more hands-on managerial approach by doing the greatest Thanksgiving promotion in radio history — dropping live turkeys from a helicopter.

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Interestingly, this is another episode that is considered a sitcom classic. As you can see, this episode not only aired during Season One, but it also aired in October — a full month before Thanksgiving. The series had a difficult time in its first season, initially put in a bad time slot, it was cancelled, and then resurrected midseason and given a second chance. Fortunately Season One is on DVD, but because of music rights issues, the remaining seasons have not been released.

CHEERS (1982-1993, NBC)

Episode 104: “Thanksgiving Orphans” (Aired: 11/27/86)

While Diane flits off to her professor’s house, the rest of the gang gathers at Carla’s for a Thanksgiving dinner of frozen turkey and overdone peas.

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One of the things I love about Cheers is that the ensemble is often contained in a single location. Usually it’s the bar, but in this episode, it’s Carla’s house — where they spend a long and acrimonious evening. The food fight that ensues is brilliantly executed and one of the most memorable moments of the season. Oh, and the shout-out to Coach was warm and appreciated! Another must watch classic.

FRIENDS (1994-2004, NBC)

Episode 57: “The One With The Football” (Aired: 11/21/96)

The gang plays a game of touch football on Thanksgiving, as Joey and Chandler argue over who gets to date a Dutch model and Ross and Monica argue over winning in a case of sibling rivalry.

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This series did nine Thanksgiving episodes over its ten seasons. (One of the years featured a post-Thanksgiving episode.) They were ALL successful primarily because Thanksgiving brought the ensemble together, and the action is contained to limited sets. I often chide the series for its choppy and sloppy storytelling, but when they’re all six united — it’s excellent. This is one of the best.

Episode 130: “The One Where Ross Got High” (Aired: 11/25/99)

Monica’s parents come for Thanksgiving, unwise to her relationship with Chandler. Meanwhile Rachel cooks, Phoebe lusts, and Joey and Ross are anxious to leave.

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I’m featuring another Friends episode because this one is TOO good. In fact, this might be one of the best episodes of all time; it certainly is the best from Season Six. In addition to the Monica/Chandler story that moves their arc forward, we have three other stories — making for four. Normally that’s too many, but again, when they’re all in the same location, it works. The comedic climax is brilliant.

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (1996-2005, CBS)

Episode 180: “The Bird” (Aired: 11/24/03)

At Thanksgiving with the McDougalls, Pat puts an injured bird out of its misery, much to everyone’s despair. Soon, the families take sides during the live-action pageant of the First Thanksgiving.

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Raymond also did a lot of Thanksgiving episodes. But most of the series featured events that brought all the regulars together in the same room, so it wasn’t as much of a novelty as it was for Friends. That being said, this episode added a whole new dimension by bringing in the McDougalls. Everyone shines in this episode — especially Engel as Pat. Brilliant writing too — the best of this (uneven) season.

 

Have any favorites of your own? Share them below. I know there’s plenty more!

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Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow for the second half of my worst Xena episodes list!

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6 thoughts on “A Very Sitcom Thanksgiving

  1. I found this at a strange time, so please forgive my replying 14 months late. I also loved that Bob Newhart episode, and it’s probably the best episode of its season if not the whole series.
    Was one of these Friends episodes where Rachel made her “trifle”. I remember she made it w/ 2 cookbook pages stuck together, so it turned out really strange, but Joey loved it (“Meat good! Custard good!”) :) That was a funny show. I didn’t enjoy the first Friends Thanksgiving episode as much (“The One Where Underdog Got Away”) due to Rachel’s selfishness and her being the cause of their predicament (“Got the keys?!”), but this one made up for it.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I love “Over The River And Through The Woods” too and [SPOILER ALERT] it is my favorite of the fourth season, as well. (Although Season Four has quite a few stellar installments.)

      Yes, Rachel makes her ill-advised dish in “The One Where Ross Got High,” probably the funniest episode of the transitional sixth season and my favorite of the series’ annual Thanksgiving outings. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the best episodes of FRIENDS — coming sometime in 2016/2017.

  2. Really late comment, but looked at this because of today. I have a few questions about other Thanksgiving episodes.

    What are your least favorite Thanksgiving eps of Friends and ELR?
    What are your thoughts on Cheers’ Ill Gotten Gaines and Frasier’s A Lillith Thanksgiving?

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Hi, Charlie! Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

      Among the wonderful things that have come since starting this blog — and crafting these posts in 2013 (my first year) — has been both an elevation in my abilities as a persuasive writer and the expansion of my sitcom knowledge as a result of increased exposure. So I partly regret doing this series of holiday posts from the site’s first year because I’ve seen so much more since writing these entries, and also, because there are no specific parameters within these lists, I find them inconsequential and unsatisfying beyond their initial publications. Were I to decide to revisit and redo this concept (for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) — near the end of my final year as a blogger — I would set said parameters around all the material featured on this blog; this would help give the lists some needed context and appropriate “officialness.”

      To your questions — I’ll preempt all thoughts on FRASIER, FRIENDS, and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND until they’re given the royal treatments here in 2018, 2018, and 2019 respectively, but I will note now that in the case of the latter two series, I find the Thanksgiving episodes generally among each show’s best because they usually get their entire ensembles in the same place at the same time — often a “recipe” for success. So you’ll probably see most of them here. (And spoiler alert: I do have a basic fondness for “A Lilith Thanksgiving,” but we’ll see how it stacks up when viewed alongside the rest of FRASIER’s fourth season!) Please stay tuned…

      As for CHEERS’ “Ill-Gotten Gaines,” I find it in keeping with the first half of Season Eleven’s heretofore unseen wave of unappealing mediocrity, and I don’t consider it a notable installment. (‘Tis best to stick with “Thanksgiving Orphans” — a classic!)

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