Like awkward family get-togethers, Black Friday (or Black Thursday, or Black 11:59 p.m.) and vodka-infused cranberries, the Very Special Thanksgiving Episode of television shows is a ’Merican tradition. The Only TV Column That Matters™ has assembled some of the best and worst from the past 50 years—you can thank me later.
WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkeys Away” (1978)
Radio-station manager Mr. Carlson stages the ultimate Thanksgiving promotion: dropping live turkeys from a helicopter onto a mall parking lot full of people because he “thought turkeys could fly.” Oh, the humanity!
That Girl, “Thanksgiving Comes But Once a Year, Thankfully” (1967)
Ann (Marlo Thomas, the original hipster squeak-toy brunette, long before Zooey Deschanel) attempts to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her disapproving not-in-laws, who think she’s a ’ho.
Too Close for Comfort, “Rafkin’s Bum” (1981)
A hobo shows up during the Rush’s Thanksgiving dinner, looking for his now-dead transvestite holiday buddy who lived downstairs. Yes, transvestite holiday buddy.
Woops!, “The Thanksgiving Show” (1992)
In Fox’s post-apocalyptic sitcom(!), the survivors find Earth’s last turkey—which becomes a giant killer turkey after eating radioactive grain. Shockingly, Woops! only lasted one more episode.
Ned & Stacey, “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” (1995)
Fake couple Ned (Thomas Haden Church) and Stacey (Debra Messing) spend Thanksgiving with Stacey’s family, which sends her into a deep depression. Ned’s hair, however, continues to look fantastic.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs” (1999)
Buffy gets her ass kicked by the vengeful spirit of a Native American killed by original settlers—until Angel shows up to save her (as usual). Foe vanquished, the gang enjoys Thanksgiving dinner un-ironically.
The Sopranos, “He is Risen” (2001)
Undesirable family members are lied to and subsequently disinvited from Thanksgiving dinner, a key capo dies on the toilet, and Tony bangs a fellow psychiatric patient on his boat. The perfect T-Day!
Gilmore Girls, “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” (2002)
Lorelai and Rory attend four Thanksgiving dinners; Rory pisses off Lorelai by announcing she’s applied to Yale. Years later on Parenthood, Lorelai fondly remembers having a nonidiot daughter.
The O.C., “The Homecoming” (2003)
Ryan and Marissa sneak out to Chino to visit Ryan’s no-good brother for Thanksgiving, Seth is forced to choose between Summer and Anna, and Sandy’s eyebrows are granted endangered-species status.
How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving” (2007)
Marshall slaps the hell out of Barney, Robin’s hair doesn’t yet look stupid, and How I Met Your Mother is still pretty funny. Oh, Season 3 …
Dexter, “Hungry Man” (2009)
In the epic fourth season, Dexter blows off wife Rita and the kids to have a scary-awkward Thanksgiving dinner with the Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) and his freaky family. Your own holidays will never seem so painful again.
South Park, “A History Channel Thanksgiving” (2011)
The boys watch a History Channel special that says aliens were at the first Thanksgiving, turn in school reports based on it, and are subsequently interviewed by the History Channel as confirming experts. All true, just replace “aliens” with “ghosts” or “Bigfoot.”
Davey & Goliath, “The Pilgrim Boy” (1962)
Recently removed from Christian-channel reruns for being racist, though God was apparently cool with it for well over 40 years.
Garfield’s Thanksgiving (1989)
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the vet tells morbidly obese cat Garfield to go on a diet. Like a good ’Merican, Garfield says, “Fuck that.”
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, “Talking Turkey” (1990)
Will’s mom visits Bel-Air for Thanksgiving, then yells at the kids for leaving all the work to the butler. Solution: Never invite Will’s mom again.
Ellen, “Kiss My Bum” (1996)
In Ellen DeGeneres’ ’90s sitcom, she teaches everyone a lesson about homelessness. In a later episode, she teaches everyone a lesson about being gay and gets instantly canceled.
Friends, all Thanksgiving episodes (1995-2003)
Never, ever a single joke aimed at Rachel vis-Ã -vis “looks like the turkeys are done.” Could it be any more obvious?
Joey, “Joey & the Bachelor Thanksgiving” (2005)
In Season 2 … huh? How did this make it to Season 2?
My Own Worst Enemy, “High Crimes & Turducken” (2008)
Superspy Edward/dull guy Henry (both Christian Slater) close a treasonous mission in time for Thanksgiving dinner with the family—but where’s son Jack (pre-Twilight Taylor Lautner)?
Desperate Housewives, “Sorry Grateful” (2010)
New divorcee Bree begins sleeping with her young handyman, Keith; when she invites his family to Thanksgiving dinner, Keith’s dad hits on her. Of all the Housewives … Bree? Blech.
2 Broke Girls, “And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving” (2011)
Max and Caroline spend the holidays working as Christmas elves at a department store and debating capitalism. Oh, and Thanksgiving is Max’s boobs … uh … mentioned once.
Hart of Dixie, “The Pirate & the Practice” (2011)
Zoe wants to visit her mother in New York for Thanksgiving, but still has more hours to put in at Hillbilly Hospital, or wherever the hell it is she “works.” How did this make it to Season 2?
The Big C, “The Last Thanksgiving” (2011)
Apart from the brilliant line “The only reason I’m even acknowledging this trainwreck of a holiday is because I’m on mood stabilizers!”, it’s a predictably downer—but not last—Thanksgiving at Cathy’s Casa Cancer.
A Very Gaga Thanksgiving (2011)
Lady Gaga produces and directs an interview/musical special about herself, eats turkey and waffles, blows glitter on kiddies and duets with a heavily sedated Tony Bennett. She hasn’t been heard from since—happy Thanksgiving to us all!