“They’ve ruined cranberry day!” – Chandler Bing, Season 10, “The One With the Late Thanksgiving”
Back in 2015, I wrote my “A Very Merry Television List” featuring ten of my favorite Christmas-themed TV episodes. Then, in 2019, I wrote my “A Very (Not So) Scary Television List” featuring ten of my favorite Halloween-themed TV episodes. While both of those lists are due for some updating (maybe in 2022), I decided it is finally time to write my “A Very Cranberry Television List,” so titled because, well, Merry and (Not So) Scary both rhyme with Very, and Cranberry is the only Thanksgiving-y word that I can think of that also rhymes. Plus, I get to use the Chandler line (even though that episode isn’t making my top ten…)
Now put on your Thanksgiving pants and get ready for a feast of Ten Very (Cranberry) Thanksgiving-Themed TV Episodes:
Friends, Season 6: The One Where Ross Got High
As I mentioned in my previous blogs, no one does Thanksgiving episodes like Friends. This list could just be all ten Thanksgiving episodes and I’d be done (which would be a lot easier than having to narrow down some of these choices, but here we are…). And yet, despite having a stellar Thanksgiving-themed episode to choose from every season, for me, none are better than The One Where Ross Got High. Rachel’s trifle, Phoebe’s dream, Monica and Ross’s fight — it’s all SO good. Plus, I love Jack & Judy Gellar, so that’s the whipped cream on this already pretty perfect dessert (made with beef, not eggplant). This episode would make the list solely for Christina Pickles’ delivery of the line, “That’s a lot of information to get in thirty seconds.”
Gilmore Girls, Season 3: A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving
I will be audacious enough to say that this is not only the best Gilmore Thanksgiving episode, and not only the best Gilmore holiday episode, but easily in the top ten of best Gilmore episodes of all time. And that’s because it has everything! It’s got the Gilmores in Hartford with a classic daughter/parent battle, it’s got a Kim family gathering with Lane trying to pull a fast one, it’s got antics at Luke’s including Kurt with a cat, and it has some of the best Sookie lines ever (“Am I crying or laughing?” “Laughing.” “Good!”). And, it’s the early stages of Jess and Rory, and if you’ve been here a while, you know I am and will forever be Team Jess. Actually, I’m Team Jess Deserves Better Than Rory, But If She Is Who He Wants To Be With, Then I’m Okay With That, but you know…that’s sort of a mouthful, and at Thanksgiving, you should just have mouthfuls of food. And don’t skip the rolls!
The West Wing, Season 2: Shibboleth
HE GAVE HIM THE KNIFE. (insert sobs here). Okay, if you’ve never seen the episode, that won’t make much sense to you, but trust me, it’s one of the main reasons why this episode earns a spot on this list without question. The other reason is this episode is all the things I love about The West Wing when TWW is at its best: it’s a balance of humor and drama, it shows the deep connections between the ensembles, and it’s got some badass Sorkin monologues. It also taught me that a president can’t actually pardon a turkey, which is a myth I fully accepted for most of my life.
How I Met Your Mother, Season 1: Belly Full of Turkey
This one was a near-tie, but as I’ve done in previous years, I’m only allowing one per series to appear in my list. It was either this or Blitzgiving (Season 6), but I had to give it to the original. First, having family from Minnesota, I appreciate a lot about the Marshall/Lily storyline (and the “salad” she’s forced to make). Second, I quote moments from the Robin/Ted/Barney storyline a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Third, we get a HUGE bit of information that isn’t actually revealed until Season 9, and honestly, I’m here for that payoff. Those factors are what caused this one to take the Thankstini (which I still refuse to attempt to make/drink).
Will & Grace, Season 4: Moveable Feast, Part 1 + 2
The thing I love about this Will & Grace episode is how it strikes the chord of what many people struggle with at Thanksgiving — family drama — but in a humorous and loving way. There are fights, and there’s forgiveness. There’s sarcasm, and there’s sentimentality. Plus, there’s Debbie Reynolds and Nick Offerman and Blythe Danner and Beau Bridges. And, at the core, there are the original four, who shine in their individual storylines and in their support of one another. This is another show, though, where nearly any and all of its Thanksgiving episodes could earn a spot on this list (and I rewatch them all every year).
Scrubs, Season 1: My Day Off
I have a special affinity for this episode where JD has an emergency appendectomy on Thanksgiving Day, because I myself had an emergency appendectomy on Christmas Eve (and watched this episode while laying in my hospital bed…). I also like this episode because it shows two things I think many people can relate to: first, the strange transition that happens when your college buddies become full-fledged adults and you have to rationalize when/how you all actually grew up, and second, that if/when you’re very lucky, your co-workers do have the potential to become like a second family to you.
Community, Season 4: Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations
Yes, even in its “gas leak year,” Community still has some of the best sitcom episodes around, and this episode hits many of the highlights that made the show great. Abed is being meta and referential, Pierce is being…Pierce, Jeff is learning an important lesson, the Dean wears a silly costume, there are jokes that make you gasp a little as you laugh at them — again, truly, all the things that make Community, Community. And, like many of the other Thanksgiving episodes on this list, it brought in the high profile guest stars to round out the family, particularly James Brolin and Adam DeVine.
Brooklyn-99, Season 5: Two Turkeys
Admittedly, Lockdown might be a better all-around episode, but, c’mon. Bradley Whitford and Jimmy Smits?! How am I not going to pick the episode that features two amazing guest stars (and, technically, a “The West Wing” reunion!)? Plus, I love Marc Evan Jackson, and he is brilliant as Kevin in this episode. Kevin & Holt’s relationship is one of my favorite storylines throughout all eight seasons of Brooklyn-99, so it makes sense that I would pick a holiday episode that features it prominently.
Dawson’s Creek, Season 3: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Ah, if it isn’t my favorite dysfunctional families! Everyone is estranged and navigating new relationships at this point in the series, and yet they (well, the kids) all end up together crowded around a bonfire. Jen’s mother shows up from New York and reveals a big secret, Dawson learns about changes to his parents’ relationship, and Pacey is the best one as always.
Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, Season 2: It’s a Miracle
Since I just mentioned Dawson’s Creek, I’ve got to give spot #10 to one of the cringiest episodes of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, but hear me out! Yes, this is cringe. This is Scott’s Tots level cringe, for those of you who get that reference (also worth noting here that I’m not including WUPHF.com because I don’t think it really counts as a Thanksgiving episode). But I adore fake James Van der Beek as his self-centered celebrity alter ego. The Chloe/Joan storyline is way rough in this one, but James saves it (as usual).
Okay, your turn! What television series episodes do you like to dish up an extra serving of to get you in the holiday spirit? Share in the comments or tweet me.