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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WEEKEND REWIND: Top 10 Thanksgiving Episodes

As I did recently with Halloween episodes, I am updating my Holiday episodes rankings this year as things have changed since my list during the 2010-11 season.

Close Calls
15) Home Improvement #160 "Thanksgiving" (November 25, 1997)
14) Brooklyn Nine-Nine #10 "Thanksgiving" (November 26, 2013)
13) Everybody Loves Raymond #10 "Turkey or Fish" (November 22, 1996)
12) WKRP in Cincinnati #7 "Turkey's Away" (October 30, 1978)
11) How I Met Your Mother #53 "Slapsgiving" (November 19, 2007)

10) New Girl #32 "Parents" (November 20, 2012)
One of the best episodes from New Girl's stand-out second season was the episode that introduced Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis as Jess' divorced parents. Jess still acts like a little girl in her failed attempts to bring her parents back together, Parent Trap style. Meanwhile, Rob Riggle guest stars as Schmidt's cousin, also named Schmidt. This episode featured all the madcap zaniness that the show has only had at times in the last two seasons, but had non-stop in season two. And Reiner and Curtis are excellent.

9) The Middle #8 "Thanksgiving" (November 25, 2009)
The Middle has had a Thanksgiving episode every single year and they've all been pretty good but the best one is still the first one which is an early exploration in the relationship between brothers Axl and Brick. It also was one of the first indications that the show would have a sweet spirit as the rest of the family tries to fix things and make Thanksgiving after Frankie cancels it when everyone seems like they'd rather be doing something else.

8) Friends #202 "The One with Rachel's Other Sister" (November 21, 2002)
This is the first of three Friends episodes in the list as the show was famous for its Thanksgiving episodes. Two of the three are different from the last time I made this list, though, because I've re-watched some of them since and have different opinions. One of my favorites now is the season nine episode and that is all thanks to Christina Applegate's star turn as Rachel's self-absorbed sister, Amy. She is absolutely hilarious in one of the best guest star appearances of any Friends episode and the show rightly gave him some excellent material. I wish she had appeared more than twice during the show's run.

7) The Goldbergs #30 "A Goldberg Thanksgiving" (November 19, 2014)
The newest entry to the list is last year's Thanksgiving episode of The Goldbergs, which has found the right tone from its screechy early days to a more sentimental (but not mushy) sitcom and love letter to the 80s. In a plot similar to other family sitcoms, the mom is upset about Thanksgiving traditions not being honored while the dad is struggling to connect with his kids. Both are resolved in a sweet but funny way.

6) Friends #9 "The One where Underdog Gets Away" (November 17, 1994)
The first Friends Thanksgiving makes the list because it captures the early days of Friends, which feel very New York and very mid-1990s. The gang gets locked out of their apartment after going to see a runaway balloon from the Macy's parade and all their Thanksgiving plans including Rachel's "shoop shoop" ski trip get cancelled. They end up reluctantly having Thanksgiving together, the first of many. As anti-Thanksgiving Chandler puts it at the end of the episode, he's thankful that everyone else's Thanksgiving sucked so they could all be together.

5) The Wonder Years #53 "The Ties that Bind" (November 14, 1990)
In one of many tear jerking episodes of The Wonder Years, Jack has to work on Thanksgiving and it's greatly upsetting his wife, Norma, though she tries to make the best of it with the kids. This pull leads to a very sweet final scene where the family meets Jack at the airport and they can have a brief but sweet Thanksgiving together.

4) Cheers #104 "Thanksgiving Orphans" (November 27, 1986)
The famous "food fight" episode of Cheers features a Thanksgiving at Diane's gone disastrously wrong. The whole gang tries to make the best of the Thanksgiving but it ends up in a food fight and we almost get a glimpse of Norm's never-seen wife, Vera, except that she's covered in a pie in the closing shot.

3) Mad About You #55 "Giblets for Murray" (November 17, 1994)
You may notice that my top five episodes are the same as the last time I did this list. Some things don't change. Mad About You had one of the best Thanksgiving episodes in a mad-cap episode that featured constant running down to the corner store as Paul and Jamie try to please all the members of their extended family coming for Thanksgiving. In one of their many attempts to get a new turkey after Murray the dog eats one, this episode has a great sight gag as a panicked Jamie throws the turkey out the window. It's one of the broadest moments of the entire series and very funny.

2) Friends #57 "The One with the Football" (November 21, 1996)
As I said before, Friends had many great episodes but the best by far is the one where they all play football in the park for the famed Geller cup. As Chandler and Joey compete for a foreign woman's attention, Ross and Monica get super competitive, and Rachel keeps being told to "go long," you find yourself wishing you were in that park spending Thanksgiving and the football game with these friends. Filled with memorable lines and great physical comedy, it's a stand-out of the series and a classic Thanksgiving episode.

1) The Bob Newhart Show #83 "Over the River and Through the Woods" (November 22, 1975)
Even 40 years later, there is still no show that tops this one for the best Thanksgiving episode. The best episode of the entire series finds Bob, Jerry, Howard, and Mr. Carlin getting drunk and spending Thanksgiving together. From "Durr Bob Hartley" to "Moo Goo Gai Pan" to Bob's classic greeting of Emily at the end, it is without question the funniest episode of this series. Bob plays a great drunk and the show gives these characters a silly dimension that wasn't typically seen on the show. It's a must-see for anyone who appreciates Thanksgiving episodes.

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