6 Best Thanksgiving TV Episodes Ever

There’s a lot to look forward to in November, including Starbucks’ Christmas-flavored lattes, the end of election bullshit, and for me, and excuse to call a knee length sweater, leggings, and Ugg boots a legitimate ensemble. Also, it concludes the World Series hiatus that most of my favorite television shows seem to take. I get really, really irritated when my TV shows do not air when they’re supposed to. It’s like, the world wants me to go out and actually socialize with real people! Please–Monday through Thursday from 7:00-10:00 I have a very stable and committed relationship with the sectional in my living room and my expanded Cox cable service. And let me tell you–the three of us are soulmates.

This week in particular is pretty exciting because most of my beloved TV friends have prepared Thanksgiving specials for our viewing pleasure. The problem is, most of the time these specials are ruined by over-sentimentality or a rogue plot that disregards every story arc writers have spent that season developing. There are a handful Thanksgiving episodes, however, that managed to almost perfectly balance holiday sentiments with character development all while contributing something significant to the TV show’s storyline. Check them out after the jump.

Modern Family: Punkin Chunkin

Modern Family is one of the only television shows that consistently makes me laugh out loud. No, not a haphazard “lol” or even amused smile. This show makes me belly laugh to the point of tears, even when I’m sitting on my couch alone. I wish I looked like Sofia Vergara, and I wish Eric Stonestreet was my gay BFF. And I’m definitely glad that Ed O’Neill got a chance to redeem himself from the one of the most long-running terribly annoying television shows of all time. I hated Al Bundy, and I hated the asshole coach from The Little Giants, but I’m way down with Jay Pritchett.

Of course Modern Family would make an awesome Thanksgiving episode, completely with a pumpkin slingshot, a crazy Phil Dunphee scheme, a guest star, and a warm and fuzz closing monologue by Cameron. Would you expect anything less?

Seinfeld: The Mom and Pop Shop

Like any individual born before 1982 (or people who are just dedicated to syndication, like yours truly), I’m a big Seinfeld fan. I like that Jerry too breaks up with people for insignificant reasons. I like that my friends often compare me to Elaine. I overlook the fact that the only sexy recurring character on the show is David Puddy.

However, the thing I like most about this show is the amazing pick-up abilities one can gain by having a few of the show’s classic catchphrases at your disposal. Here’s a little tidbit that you may or may not already know–husband-hot guys (you know, the ones who are handsome and rugged in a non-obvious and slightly nerdy way) ALL LOVE SEINFELD. Not all Seinfeld fans are husband-hot–like how not all rectangle are squares–so if you’re a male, read this, and happen to like Seinfeld, I still probably won’t go out with you. But for you ladies: next time you see an adorkable dude that you deem sponge-worthy, drop a Strategically-Placed Acronym (an S.P.A.) or use the word “re-gifter” casually in a sentence. This, effectively, is my “bend and snap.” Works EVERY time.

The storyline for each character in Seinfeld’s Thanksgiving episode is pretty memorable (George with Jon Voight’s car, Kramer trying to save the little shoe repair store, Jerry trying to figure out whether he’s invited to Walter White’s Tim Whatley’s party or not, and accidentally piercing the Woody the Woodpecker float) but my favorite scene is definitely when Elaine, deafened by dixieland music, unbeknowingly turns down a date from a guy she has a crush on. That would be such a bummer! I bet that something like this MUST have happened that time I was on the elevator with Nick Collison.

The O.C.: The Homecoming

Of all short-lived television shows with tons of potential but awful titles, The O.C. is the one I cherish most. This is probably because the season one DVD box set I acquired Christmas of 2005 made me the most popular girl at Jenks High School for about a week. Seriously, I had seniors and football players calling me up wanting to borrow them. They drove to my house and bribed me with hangout time to get me to bump them ahead on my rental wait-list. I think my social life peaked right then.

As for the episode–Ryan visits his renegade brother jail, then he transports a stolen car and almost get beat up by a Hispanic gang. Ryan’s girlfriend Marissa meets his ex-girlfriend and gets insanely jealous. Geeky Seth gets tangled up in a highly improbable love triangle, and it ends with both girls dumping him. Kirsten’s best friend starts sleeping with her father, and she doesn’t want to deal with it so she gets hammered and passes out before dinnertime. Sandy tries to set up his trust fund embezzling best friend up with his lawyer co-worker who actually has the hots for him. Oh yeah, and the turkey burns so they end up eating Chinese takeout. Pretty much every single soap opera cliche occurs during one forty-five minute period. It. Is. Awesome.

How I Met Your Mother: Slapsgiving

I know How I Met Your Mother is pretty polarized–but I happen to be one of those people who loves it. I like the fragmented timeline. I love the condescending Canadian jokes. And it’s just so cute how hard Neil Patrick Harris tries to convincingly play a straight guy!

In this episode, Thanksgiving meal gets ruined by two guys terrorizing each other over a slap that came about due to a bet over the possibility that their friend might have starred in a pornographic film. Also, two friends/former flames sleep together for no reason other than they were alone and didn’t know what else to do. These events are pretty much exactly what transpires with people I know every single weekend, but it’s kind of cool that they made Thanksgiving the background for these shenanigans.

And just incase you were wondering–yes, both Marshall and Ted are absolutely husband hot.

FRIENDS: The One Where Ross Got High, The One With All The Thanksgivings, The One With The Rumor–okay, all of them.

FRIENDS is kind of hard to comment on because everyone just knows it so well. It’s so cemented in all of our consciouses that it’s borderline impossible to say anything novel about the show at this point in time. Everyone I know has seen nearly every episode upwards of three times. We all are very familiar with the archetypes created by each of the six main characters. There was nothing particularly inventive about the humor, dialogue, or format of the show, yet it’s regarded as the gold standard of sitcoms. You’re lying if you say you don’t enjoy watching this show, but you feel kind of weak admitting that you actually love it.

But of course, a list of Thanksgiving episodes wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to FRIENDS, whose Thursday night airtime and strategically-scheduled guest stars made their holiday specials special indeed. Plus you know, there’s that whole Chandler-moving-to-Tulsa thing, and you know, I am the Tulsa Tuesday girl.

From the Gellar Cup to Joey becoming the face of VD, Snoopy floating away to Chandler spending the holiday in a box, each Thanksgiving episode was a real treat indeed. The most iconic FRIENDS Thanksgiving episode of course is the one where they all tell stories from the past, and we find out why Monica lost all of that weight, why Chandler is missing a toe, and how Joey got his head stuck in a turkey. Season six when Rachel makes half of an English trifle and half of a shepherd’s pie for dessert is pretty memorable as well.

But without a doubt, the greatest FRIENDS Thanksgiving is the episode where Brad Pitt visits and reveals that he and Ross started a rumor in high school that made the entire state of New York believe she was a hermaphrodite. The I Hate Rachel Club wins at that.

Cheers: Thanksgiving Orphans

I was a weird nine-year-old, and used to watch Cheers on Nick at Nite every evening after the Brady Bunch. I blame my fascinated with old-fashioned basement bars; tall, dark, and handsome men; and my insistence that everyone shout “Chelsea!” when I enter The Library on Boyd Street on this fact. But come one–Ted Danson just had it back then, you know? By the way, Sam Malone was not husband hot. He was the kind of sexy that makes you want to abandon all responsibility and pounce.

I also think watching this show so much in my early years is what made me develop an aversion to uptight blondes who take themselves too seriously. Diane Chambers is definitely that boring chick at every party who makes condescending comments and laughs snootily every time something exciting or rambunctious happens. F&$# that girl. If you’re that girl, know that you’re only invited to functions out of obligation. No one actual wants you to show up.

In this particular episode, the Bar Association congregates outside of their bar, a bitch shows up in a stupid Puritan costume, and a food fight ensues. No doubt, this is exactly what the pilgrims and indians envisioned.

Chelsea frequently and fervently live-tweets prime time television shows. Follow her on Twitter at @xCawoodstock.