En español | Thanksgiving has a way of bringing out the best and worst of us. Sure, we get to spend time with loved ones and indulge in our favorite comfort foods, but we also often end up debating politics and stressing over all that cooking. That blend of sweet and salty may present a precarious balance in real life, but it makes a perfect recipe for classic sitcom Thanksgiving episodes. We've put together a watch list of 15 streamable favorites — from Bewitched and That Girl to Seinfeld and Friends — and paired each with a dish inspired by the show. And this year, with pandemic restrictions possibly turning your Thanksgiving into a much quieter affair, these LOL episodes might be just the tonic. Pass the gravy boat and the remote!
The Show: Make Room for Daddy
The Episode: “Thanksgiving Story” (1953)
The Plot: You might know this throwback sitcom from its second name, The Danny Thomas Show, which it debuted in its fourth season, but chances are you haven't seen this holiday episode in a while (if at all). That's because the first three seasons haven't been shown in syndication since the 1960s! In this episode, Danny has to miss Thanksgiving dinner because he's doing a benefit show in Boston. To cure the homesickness, he heads to the history museum, where he's the sole visitor on a guided tour of a pilgrim exhibit — but luckily his family has a sweet surprise for him back at the hotel.
The Dish: Tabbouleh, to honor Thomas's Lebanese American upbringing; remember, his birth name was Amos Muzyad Yaqoob Kairouz.
Where to Watch: “Thanksgiving Story,” on Vimeo
The Show: Bewitched
The Episode: “Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember” (1967)
The Plot: A nostalgic Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) casts a spell that accidentally transports herself, the Stephens family, and nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz (Sandra Gould) back to 1620s Plymouth. Though Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) manages to zap them into period-appropriate attire, Darrin (Dick York) gets accused of witchcraft when he lights a match—those wouldn't be invented for another 185 years!
The Dish: A cloth bag filled with pudding, the dessert that gets Darrin in trouble when he starts a fire to boil it.
Where to Watch: “Samantha's Thanksgiving to Remember,” on Amazon Prime ($1.99)
The Show: That Girl
The Episode: “Thanksgiving Comes but Once a Year, Hopefully” (1967)
The Plot: There are mishaps aplenty when Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas, now 82) tries to prepare the favorite dishes of both her parents and her future in-laws. She cooks in two separate apartments and accidentally stuffs her oyster goose stuffing in the turkey and her chestnut turkey stuffing in the goose. Look out for a surprisingly ahead-of-its-time joke, when the mailman mistakes an envelope of dried marjoram for something more illicit.
The Dish: A frozen-solid mince pie — Ann has to make vents in the crust with a hammer and screwdriver.
Where to Watch: “Thanksgiving Comes but Once a Year, Hopefully,” on Amazon Prime
The Show: The Bob Newhart Show
The Episode: “Over the River and Through the Woods” (1975)
The Plot: After ducking out of a trip to Seattle with his wife, Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), Bob (Bob Newhart, now 91) invites his friends over for a bachelor Thanksgiving to watch the William & Mary college football match. A drinking game — and a jug of vodka and apple cider — leaves the gang absolutely sloshed, and with only a sad small turkey between them, Bob decides to call for Chinese takeout. Spoiler: Slurred speech and Cantonese words don't mix.
The Dish: Moo goo gai pan, Bob's order of choice.
Where to Watch: “Over the River and Through the Woods,” on Hulu
The Show: The Brady Bunch
The Episode: “The Un-Underground Movie” (1975)
The Plot: Greg (Barry Williams, now 66) casts his family in a student film about the first Thanksgiving — and the Bradys have lots of opinions. Carol (Florence Henderson) wants to dress her daughters in period-inappropriate colorful Pilgrim costumes, Alice (Ann B. Davis) has script notes, and Peter (Christopher Knight, now 62) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland, now 59) are mad they can't play Native Americans. They argue. They make up. The film is a roaring success.
The Dish: Instant mashed potatoes, which Greg uses (alongside spray-painted corn flakes) as snow in his “hard winter scene.”
Where to Watch: “The Un-Underground Movie,” on Hulu
The Show: WKRP in Cincinnati
The Episode: “Turkeys Away” (1978)
The Plot: Widely considered one of the most uproarious sitcom episodes of all time, “Turkeys Away” sees Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump) concocting a publicity stunt for the station that involves dropping 20 live turkeys from a helicopter above a mall parking lot. The audience never sees the disastrous results, only experiencing it through the horrified reactions of reporter Les Nessman (Richard Sanders, now 80): “Oh, the humanity! People are running about. The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!” Carlson later admits: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
The Dish: Turkey meat loaf or soup or chili — or any recipe that can accommodate some slightly damaged poultry.
Where to Watch: “Turkeys Away,” on Amazon Prime ($1.99)
The Show: Family Ties
The Episode: “No Nukes Is Good Nukes” (1982)
The Plot: Steven (Michael Gross, now 73) and Elyse (Meredith Baxter, now 73) put meal prepping on hold to attend an antinuclear rally. But when trouble breaks out, they end up spending the holiday behind bars. When they refuse to sign a statement saying they won't protest again, the cavalry — Alex (Michael J. Fox, now 59), Mallory (Justine Bateman, now 54), Jennifer (Tina Yothers, now 47), and Elyse's parents — arrives with picnic baskets of turkey in tow.
The Dish: Stuffing with bean sprouts, a new recipe that ex-hippie Elyse is trying out before she gets locked up.
Where to Watch: “No Nukes Is Good Nukes,” on CBS All Access
The Show: Cheers
The Episode: “Thanksgiving Orphans” (1986)
The Plot: Sometimes you want to go to a holiday potluck where everybody knows your name. For a variety of reasons, the Cheers staff and regulars find themselves celebrating Thanksgiving dinner away from family and together at Carla's (Rhea Perlman, now 72) house. Norm (George Wendt, now 71) shows up with a raw turkey, Diane (Shelley Long, now 71) dresses as a pilgrim, and rising tensions end in a massive food fight.
The Dish: Carla's peas, which are the first shot fired by Norm in the culinary battle.
Where to Watch: “Thanksgiving Orphans,” on Hulu
The Show: Full House
The Episode: “The Miracle of Thanksgiving” (1987)
The Plot: The Tanners’ first Thanksgiving without their late mother, Pam, is unsurprisingly poignant, but it's still packed with a full smorgasbord of laughs: Uncle Joey (Dave Coulier, now 61) gets his tongue stuck in a bottle that then gets stuck in a chair, Uncle Jesse (John Stamos, now 57) cooks in a leather vest, and the turkey goes from frozen solid to charcoal-crisp burnt in a matter of minutes.
The Dish: The “picture-perfect pumpkin pie” that Stephanie drops on the floor.
Where to Watch: “The Miracle of Thanksgiving,” on Hulu
The Show: A Different World
The Episode: “If You Like Pilgrim Coladas” (1988)
The Plot: When the rest of their classmates leave campus for the holidays, Kim (Charnele Brown, now 54) and Whitley (Jasmine Guy, now 58) pull out their fake IDs and head to a club to drown their homesickness. After knocking back two of the drink specials that give the episode its name, Whitley ends up drunk — or is she? — and singing “Twist and Shout” on the bar, before she's caught by one of their professors, Col. Taylor (Glynn Turman, now 73).
The Dish: The Pilgrim Colada, which it turns out is actually alcohol-free and from the kiddie menu!
Where to Watch: “If You Like Pilgrim Coladas,” on Amazon Prime
The Show: The Simpsons
The Episode: “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” (1990)
The Plot: Early critics of The Simpsons (including President Bush) saw the yellow bunch as the downfall of American wholesomeness — but skeptics missed out on sweet episodes like this Thanksgiving classic. After destroying Lisa's elaborate centerpiece, Bart runs away from home with his dog, Santa's Little Helper, and learns a powerful lesson when he stops inside a soup kitchen.
The Dish: Swedish meatballs and trout amandine, which Patty and Selma bring to dinner because they think their sister Marge's turkey is dry.
Where to Watch: “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” on Disney+
The Show: The Wonder Years
The Episode: "The Ties That Bind” (1990)
The Plot: Perfectly capturing the wistfully bittersweet tone that generations of fans love about this show, the Thanksgiving outing starts with the family's stove breaking. Jack (Dan Lauria, now 73) asks for a raise to buy a new one, but it comes with a catch: a promotion that means he'll have to travel before the holidays. Will he make it home in time to carve the turkey?
The Dish: “A turkey the size of a Buick,” as an adult Kevin (Daniel Stern, now 63) describes the family dinner in his narration.
Where to Watch: “The Ties That Bind,” on Hulu
The Show: Seinfeld
The Episode: “The Mom and Pop Store” (1994)
The Plot: In this particularly zany episode, George (Jason Alexander, now 61) buys a car that may have been owned by Jon Voight (now 81); Kramer (Michael Richards, now 71) takes all of Jerry's sneakers to a mom-and-pop repair store; Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, now 59) wins her boss a ticket to hold a rope on the Woody Woodpecker balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; and Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld, now 66) chips his tooth while running in boots.
The Dish: A bowl of nuts. A temporarily deaf Elaine — it's a long story — rejects a date with her crush, Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston, now 64), because she thinks he's just offering her nuts.
Where to Watch: “The Mom and Pop Store,” on Hulu
The Show: Will & Grace
The Episode: “Homo for the Holidays” (1999)
The Plot: When Will (Eric McCormack, now 57) invites Jack's mother, Judith (played by Veronica Cartwright, now 71), over for Thanksgiving dinner, the gang is shocked to learn that Jack (Sean Hayes, now 50) has never officially come out to her. Judith ends up revealing a secret of her own: Jack's real father is a one-night stand she met at a party. The heartwarming but hilarious episode won Hayes a supporting actor Emmy and was ranked number 74 on TV Guide's “100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time” list in 2009.
The Dish: Any kind of casserole to honor Judith, who quips, “Hot dish coming through — and she's carrying a casserole.”
Where to Watch: "Homo for the Holidays," on Hulu
The Show: Friends
The Episode: "The One With the Rumor” (2001)
The Plot: You could make an entire watch list solely out of the 10 Friends-giving episodes, which include such classic moments as Rachel's beef-filled trifle (Season 6) and Monica with a turkey on her head (Season 5). But Thanksgiving meals live or die by who's around the table, and Season 8 features a doozy of a dinner guest: Brad Pitt (now 56), as an old classmate and founder of the “I Hate Rachel Green Club.” Elsewhere, when Monica (Courteney Cox, now 56) tells the group she's not cooking a turkey this year because half of them won't eat it, Joey (Matt LeBlanc, now 53) protests and agrees to eat the whole 19-pounder himself, which leads to him getting “meat sweats.”
The Dish: Potato chips, which Joey uses to warm up his stomach before the poultry marathon.
Where to Watch: “The One With the Rumor,” on HBO Max