“How I Met Your Mother” cast in 2006

"How I Met Your Mother" cast in 2006 (Photo by s_bukley on Shutterstock)

Thanksgiving is best known for families and friends coming together to celebrate and eat a smorgasbord of food. And there’s more than football to watch when you’re unwinding after Thanksgiving dinner and processing your food. StudyFinds has put together a list of the top five best Thanksgiving TV episodes to watch while celebrating the holiday.

There’s plenty of food available on the table for Thanksgiving, but many Americans are getting tired of the same old thing. Many want to see some new options on the holiday feast’s menu, and that may even mean replacing the classic turkey. In fact, 30 percent of people have already stopped serving it every year.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is doing away with tradition. Many Turkey Day classics are still highly anticipated by families everywhere. A new survey shows mashed potatoes take the crown as America’s favorite side, followed closely by stuffing. Do you agree?

Are you ready to put down that turkey leg and turn on the TV? StudyFinds has compiled the best Thanksgiving television episodes everyone should watch. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

The cast of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" arrives at the world premiere of "Cowboys and Aliens" in 2011
The cast of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” arrives at the world premiere of “Cowboys and Aliens” in 2011 (Photo by CarlaVanWagoner on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Thanksgiving TV Episodes, According to Experts

1. Gilmore Girls: “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving”

Topping the list is the popular “Gilmore Girls” Thanksgiving episode “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving.” “After three seasons of watching Lorelai and Rory Gilmore regularly indulge in whatever junk food they can find, their appetites for overconsumption are finally put to the test when they say yes to four separate Thanksgiving dinner invitations—each one a little different than the last (it kicks off with a tofurky),” writes Wired. “The real treat in the episode, however, isn’t in seeing whether the mom-daughter team can pull it off and still be standing at the end, but witnessing a very drunk Sookie (played by Melissa McCarthy) give us what might be our very first glimpse at the raucous comedy chops she has since become famous—and Oscar-nominated—for.”

“Lorelai’s parents expect the girls for Thanksgiving dinner…and so do Lane, Luke and Sookie. So, how do they handle four enormous dinners? They don’t exactly. But it’s at Emily and Richard’s where, to Lorelai’s dismay, Rory reveals that she has applied to other schools besides Harvard,” explains PureWow.

You’re able to stream the episode on Netflix. “One Thanksgiving meal is usually more than enough food for one day, but the Gilmores are no ordinary eaters,” notes Variety. “Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) agree to go to four separate holiday celebrations in this third season episode of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s mother-daughter dramedy. Unfortunately for them, each event is so full of complications, they have to worry about having enough to eat, rather than too much.”

2. Seinfeld: “The Mom & Pop Store”

The classic “Seinfeld” Thanksgiving episode of “The Mom & Pop Store” will have you doubled over in laughter. “Kramer tries to save a local mom-and-pop shop from going out of business while inadvertently helping Jerry get scammed; Elaine wins her boss a spot in the Thanksgiving Parade, only to lose herself a date; and Jerry accidentally destroys a float,” writes Vogue. “But the best part—and running joke throughout the episode—is George’s obsession with actor Jon Voight, who performs the bite of his life.”

“There’s no shortage of great Thanksgiving episodes, but there are very few that are focused on the Biggest Party Night Of The Year (BIPNOTY), also known as Thanksgiving Eve,” explains The A.V. Club. “BIPNOTY factors heavily in Seinfeld’s ‘The Mom And Pop Store,’ with everyone getting an invite to Tim Whatley’s party except Jerry. Even if you ignore Whatley’s party and another fantastic Bryan Cranston guest spot, this is a stacked episode, complete with George buying ‘John Voight’s LeBaron,’ Kramer dooming a pair of elderly cobblers, and Mr. Pitt going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every line is a crusher in this one. It’s the perfect way to pass the time in between courses.”

You’re able to currently stream “Seinfeld” on Netflix. “While this episode may be the only one not to feature a family-filled day of stuffing and turkeys (you’ll have to see ‘The Butter Shave’ to get your bird fix), this Seinfeld classic features the second-most Thanksgiving-y thing: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” says Entertainment Weekly. “Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) wins Mr. Pitt (Ian Abercrombie) a spot holding Woody the Woodpecker in the parade, everyone is invited to Tim Whatley’s (Bryan Cranston) night before Thanksgiving party except Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), and George (Jason Alexander) buys Jon Voight’s car. In true Seinfeld fashion, each event comes together in the end in the cringiest way possible. Be especially thankful for guest spots by Jon Voight himself and Bryan Cranston.”

3. Master of None: “Thanksgiving”

“Master of None’s” Thanksgiving episode delves into Denise, played by Waithe, coming out as a lesbian to her family. “Waithe made history with her Emmy win for writing the episode, and it’s both moving, awkward and hilarious. And, of course, Angela Bassett’s presence is always appreciated in any and everything,” says Parade.

“Over several Thanksgiving meals throughout the years, Denise comes to realize her attraction to women, processes it, and does her best to communicate her identity to her mom (Angela Bassett),” explains Den of Geek. “It’s a touching saga made possible by the Thanksgiving season. It also serves as many viewers’ introduction to the storytelling dynamo that is Lena Waithe, who would go on to lead Master of None season 3.”

Viewers can watch the touching episode on Netflix. “This Thanksgiving episode is a whole damn movie and is so unbelievably good. Don’t take my word for it: Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari’s Emmy for best comedy series writing speaks for itself,” writes The Everygirl. “This episode is deep and is a collection of Thanksgiving memories over the span of a decade. During this empathetic and attentive recollection, Denise realizes and embraces her identity as she seeks acceptance from her family.”

4. How I Met Your Mother: “Slapsgiving”

This rip-roaring “Slapsgiving” episode will literally have you rolling. “As Lily and Marshall host their first Thanksgiving as a married couple, Barney remains on edge in anticipation of the third slap in their ‘slap bet’ (which is supposed to be coming that night),” writes PureWow. “Meanwhile, Ted and Robin sleep together on the night before Thanksgiving. So yeah, that’s awkward.”

“Drama and hilarity pervade this episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother‘ as the group of friends deals with a secret, a slap and a new marriage. As Marshall (Jason Segel) terrorizes Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) in the days leading up to his third slap, a stipulation agreed upon by the two after making (or losing, in Barney’s case) a bet, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) calls the bet off for the holiday after becoming fed up with Marshall’s lack of help,” notes Variety. “Meanwhile, Ted (Josh Radnor) and Robin (Cobie Smulders) reveal to their friends that they slept together, despite having broken up, and begin to navigate whether they can truly become friends again.”

“How I Met Your Mother” is streaming on Hulu. “It’s Marshall and Lily’s first Thanksgiving as a married couple, and they have the whole gang over to celebrate,” says Vogue. “While Lily frets over making the perfect meal, Robin and Ted deal with the residual sexual tension from their recent breakup as Robin tries to move on with a new man who’s also in attendance at the dinner (who, at the age of 41, is, by everyone else’s standards, ancient). The most amusing events of the night, however, revolve around Barney and Marshall: After losing a slap bet to Marshall, Barney is living in perpetual fear of when Marshall will enact his payment and bring on the third slap.”

5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs”

Rounding out the top five is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Thanksgiving laugher “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs.” “On It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Dennis, Dee, Charlie, Mac, and Frank can’t even apologize correctly without everything going to hell. The gang decides to bring together some of the show’s best supporting characters, all of whom they’ve wronged in some major, usually life-altering way, and make a group apology to ‘squash their beefs,'” writes The A.V. Club. “It all ends, predictably, in disaster: Frank lights a pile of money on fire, burning down Mac and Dennis’ apartment, and the gang flees, leaving all their guests trapped inside. ‘The Gang Squashes Their Beefs’ recalls the chaos and destruction the gang has wrought over nine seasons of television without resorting to a greatest-hits type clip show; instead, it forces the characters to reflect on their actions and then, as is typical for them, refuse to learn anything from the experience.”

“Some people gather around close family and friends at Thanksgiving, but that’s just not the It’s Always Sunny gang’s style,” notes Entertainment Weekly. “They invite the various enemies they’ve made over nine seasons of bad behavior including standouts like Liam and Ryan McPoyle (Jimmi Simpson and Nate Mooney), Hwang (Shelly Desai), Gail the Snail (Mary Lynn Rajskub), and Cricket (David Hornsby) in the hopes of making amends for their years of bad behavior.”

You can catch “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” streaming on Hulu. “The gang has a very literal dinner of beef and squash after their Thanksgiving is ruined due to the various beefs they have with people around the city,” says Parade. “Instead of squashing their beefs, however, they just make things worse. Like, a lot worse.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Matt Higgins

Matt Higgins worked in national and local news for 15 years. He started out as an overnight production assistant at Fox News Radio in 2007 and ended in 2021 as the Digital Managing Editor at CBS Philadelphia. Following his news career, he spent one year in the automotive industry as a Digital Platforms Content Specialist contractor with Subaru of America and is currently a freelance writer and editor for StudyFinds. Matt believes in facts, science and Philadelphia sports teams crushing his soul.

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