Thanksgiving is often the forgotten holiday sandwiched in the middle of the “Hallowthanksmas” holiday onslaught. But we believe this lovely day of feasting, family, friends — and often its fair share of drama — deserves its own special moment. That’s why we’re thankful, so to speak, that so many Thanksgiving TV episodes through the years focus on the emotion, humor and sometimes shenanigans that come with gathering our clans together for Turkey Day.
Here, we’ve rounded up and ranked our favorite TV Thanksgiving episodes — some are zany and comical, others are sweet and many are a mix of the two — to help you prepare for the holiday. Our own loved ones can’t be nuttier than these families… right?
9 greatest Thanksgiving episodes on TV, ranked
9. The Wonder Years “The Ties that Bind” (1990)
The coming-of-age series from the late ‘80s and ‘90s, where an adult voiceover reminisces about his charmed youth as Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) in the ‘60s, is full of sentimental nostalgia about the good old days.
Rather than comedy, Season 4, Episode 7 gets a vote for capturing the sweet, deep spirit of Thanksgiving and the importance of quality time with family. The episode begins with reminiscing about Norma (Alley Mills) and Jack (Dan Lauria) Arnold’s marriage. Then, just before Thanksgiving, the family’s stove breaks and can’t be fixed. Norma scrambles and finds some on sale for $250 (wouldn’t that be a nice price today?), but Jack is reluctant to spend the money. He asks for a promotion at work and gets it, but his new position, despite the higher salary, involves a lot of travel — including on Thanksgiving. But hey, they got a nice new oven!
On the holiday, the kids and Norma sit down with a “turkey the size of a Buick,” all feeling depressed at Jack’s absence. Then, the Arnolds get a wonderful surprise: Dad flies home for just one hour, to share Thanksgiving dinner with his family. An emotional Norma runs into his arms when her husband gets off the plane. All is well with the Arnolds again. Awww!
Watch The Wonder Years on Hulu now.
8. Diff’rent Strokes: Thanksgiving Crossover (1979)
The hit sitcom from the late ‘70s and ‘80s really captured the warm, loving, social aspect of Thanksgiving gatherings, and mixed it well with drama — a frequent occurrence at real-life Thanksgiving dinner tables — and the laugh-out-loud series comedy led by little Arnold (Gary Coleman).
Plus, this double Thanksgiving episode of Diff’rent Strokes is a crossover episode with another series, Hello, Larry. Larry Adler, played by McLean Stevenson, is an old Army buddy of Phillip Drummond, the patriarch of the mixed-race Drummond family of New York City’s Park Avenue. The Adler and Drummond five children love hanging out together, but their festive time of harmony is disrupted when their fathers start fighting about a business proposition. But in the spirit of the holiday, all’s well that ends well.
Watch Diff’rent Strokes on Amazon Prime now.
7. Bewitched “Samantha’s Thanksgiving to Remember” (1967)
Whenever the airheaded Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) appears in an episode, we know Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery) and her family are in for a disastrous comedy of errors. In Season 4, Episode 12, Samantha’s favorite aunt comes for a Thanksgiving visit, and starts the episode by telling her great-niece Tabitha about the first Thanksgiving — not from her knowledge of history, but from her personal memories.
“You were there?” says a puzzled Darrin, Samantha’s mortal and magic-phobic husband.
“Why yes, of course!” Aunt Clara replies, as if there is nothing at all weird about being several hundred years old.
Aunt Clara decides to cast a spell and take the family back to Plymouth, so they can experience the first 17th-century Thanksgiving for themselves. Of course, nosey neighbor Gladys Kravitz was snooping at that moment, and she passes out when she awakens in another reality with the Stephenses. Suffice it to say, Darrin is not feeling thankful.
Watch Bewitched on Amazon Prime now.
6. The Brady Bunch “The Un-Underground Movie” (1970)
This episode of The Brady Bunch curiously does not mention the holiday Thanksgiving, but it’s certainly understood with the show-within-a-show film that ends with Pilgrims and Indians — played by members of the Brady clan — feasting together and gobbling in fast motion.
Oldest boy Greg’s teacher came up with the assignment for students to invent a creative way to tell a story about the colonial period. Father Mike is on board with lending Greg (Barry Williams) his old-fashioned movie camera, and funny Brady-style bickering erupts among the family: which girls get to play Priscilla, for one. Greg got an A on his assignment, which included a faux snowstorm featuring spray-painted cornflakes and mashed potato flakes. Groovy idea!
Watch The Brady Bunch on Paramount + now.
5. Friends “The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks” (1998)
With the tragic passing of Matthew Perry in October, the legendary Friends is on many people’s minds now — which is good timing for a roundup of classic TV Thanksgiving episodes, because the 10-season cult series included nine of them. Most fans, if they had to pick a favorite, probably would go with the episode from the fifth season, because it includes so many funny memories of pre-Friends events that happened with the six characters, both on their own and with each other.
In this episode, the gang starts in a food coma after eating the Thanksgiving meal and groan on the couch and floor. They start reminiscing about bad Thanksgivings of yore. During the flashbacks, both Joey and Monica have a raw turkey on their heads. In one shocking flashback, Monica drops a knife on Chandler’s foot while in the kitchen, and she accidentally cuts off the tip of his toe.
She thought she brought the detached toe to the ER, but Monica was horrified to discover she brought a small piece of carrot instead. After bickering over the memory and Monica apologizing, Chandler lets an “I love you” slip, then backpedals.
Matthew Perry, thanks for the laughs.
Watch Friends on Max now.
4. Frasier “A Lilith Thanksgiving” (1996)
With the new Paramount + reboot of Frasier, many fans are revisiting the original 11 seasons of TV about adventures of Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar). One of the Thanksgiving TV episodes involves the family drama that comes from exes trying to spend the holiday together for the children. Frasier’s ex-wife, Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth), comes to Seattle to share Thanksgiving with Frasier, his family and friends, and their son, Freddy.
While Frasier’s brother, Niles, cooks in the kitchen, Frasier and Lilith sneak off to meet with the headmaster of a prestigious school they hope their son can attend. Obsessed with the opportunity, they go back a second and third time in an attempt to manipulate and bribe the headmaster at his home.
Only stealing the Crane clan’s turkey out of the oven and bringing it to the other home to rescue the headmaster, who didn’t cook his turkey on time for his guests, gets Freddy an admission offer — on the condition that his annoying parents stay far away. Meanwhile, Miles finds the oven empty, and the Crane Thanksgiving is a bust.
Watch Frasier on Hulu now.
3. All in the Family “The Little Atheist” (1975)
In one of the most hilarious Thanksgiving TV episodes, we have loudmouth, right-winger Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) and his wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), sharing Thanksgiving dinner with his daughter and liberal atheist son-in-law, who have decided to raise their unborn baby sans religious programming, letting their child decide someday.
When Gloria and Michael Stivic break the news to her father, he goes ballistic and warns Gloria that she will be “basted” by demons like the Thanksgiving turkey. Archie and Edith storm out when Michael blows raspberries at the God he doesn’t believe in, then come back after Gloria coaxes her husband to apologize on the phone.
Then, another argument breaks out when they sit down to eat. Edith and Archie step out to cool off. When Archie comes back, he fakes a smile and says, “You win,” while looking up and winking. (Sure, Archie.) This quote from Michael is the funniest of the episode: “Thank you very much, Gloria. It’s Thanksgiving, and you made me eat crow.”
Watch All in the Family on Amazon Prime now.
2. The Munsters “Low-Cal Munster” (1964)
With a family full of goofy monsters headed by the bumbling, hulking Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne), we know any holiday must be anything but ordinary. Sure enough, as Thanksgiving approaches, Herman has the misfortune of discovering that he can’t fit into the suit he wants to wear to a reunion, so his family pushes him to go on a diet. (Ugh, horrible timing for anyone to be on a diet!)
Herman gets so hungry by the Thanksgiving talk that he faints and topples backwards in his chair at the mention of pumpkin pie. Munster family members strap grumpy Herman down to keep him from eating while they go out to dine. Who can blame the poor guy for going nuts in his starvation, breaking free, and crashing a neighbor’s Thanksgiving?
“May we be truly thankful for what we’re about to receive,” the neighbors’ family patriarch says in the Thanksgiving blessing.
And then, like a lion hunting its prey, Herman Munster busts into the house, scares away the family, and inhales their feast. Hilarious, as always! (Interesting side fact: A few cast members appeared at the 1964 Macy’s parade in costume, riding in the Munster car, the year this episode aired.)
Watch The Munsters on Amazon Prime now.
1. WKRP in Cincinnati “Turkeys Away” (1978)
More than four decades after this series ended, the Thanksgiving TV episode remains one of the most iconic with the often-quoted line: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
Around Thanksgiving, the phrase and clips from the Season 1, Episode 7 scene often circulate on social media. It started with this special Thanksgiving episode in season 1, where bumbling station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) launches his own radio promotion to compete.
As turkeys are dropped out of a helicopter, Carlson stands on the street and attempts to explain the chaotic scene in a broadcast, and he wonders why parachutes aren’t opening for these “skydivers.” After the disaster, he explains his harebrained scheme with the famous line about misconceptions surrounding turkeys’ aviator abilities.
Watch WKRP in Cincinnati on Vudu.
If you love classic TV, keep reading…
And for all of our Thanksgiving ideas, click here!