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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Giving thanks for great television

Aggie writer reviews the best Thanksgiving episodes

Holiday specials of your favorite television series are often the most memorable — they can be sappy and sweet or full of twists. With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is a list of some of the best Thanksgiving-themed television. 

“Thanksgiving”  “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

This was an early episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and it worked well in establishing the individual idiosyncrasies of the characters in an ensemble cast, as well as the relationships they share with each other. Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) team up to solve a case in order to get out of a Thanksgiving dinner Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) only hosted to impress Holt. Having the majority of the characters interact in the B-Plot while Jake and Holt work a case was a smart choice by the writers — it proved that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” was not just Andy Samberg’s show but one that belonged to all of the cast. 

“Blair Waldorf Must Pie”  “Gossip Girl”

The Upper East Side wouldn’t be the same without extravagant and intensely dramatic holidays, which is perfectly exemplified by this episode. The episode utilizes flashbacks from all of the characters’ Thanksgiving festivities just one year prior, showing how all of them have grown since the start of the series. As usual, Leighton Meister’s Blair Waldorf is the driving force through the episode; we get insight into her complicated relationship with her family as well as the source of her eating disorder. The characters actually show some sense of morality around the holidays, and it’s nice to see them get along for once. 

“Thanksgiving”  “That ‘70s Show”

This season one episode is a basic but classic holiday special. Eric Foreman’s sister Laurie brings home a friend from college that Eric and his hormone-ridden friends find attractive. Meanwhile, Kitty struggles with her mother-in-law who dislikes her, and Red has to deal with a bunch of people in his home. Although the episode’s humor is as raunchy and shallow as other episodes, there are a few scenes that show the character’s maturity. Red gives Eric genuine parenting advice that is not based on insults, leading to Eric and Donna taking a genuine step forward in their relationship. Overall, this is a light-hearted and simple Thanksgiving episode that encapsulates the themes of the holiday. 

“Thanksgiving IV” New Girl

While “New Girl” struggled in its later seasons, this season four episode was surprisingly well-written and enjoyable. Schmidt (Max Greenfield), in his usual womanizer fashion, suggests that the friends host the aptly put “Bangs-giving.” Essentially, they all draw names from a hat and bring a date to the party for whomever they choose. This is a character-driven episode, exploring why Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) have struggled with moving on from their past relationship. It also shows that Schmidt and Cece (Hannah Simone) could have a relationship that actually works. The one-liners and the appearance of Nick’s elderly friend Tran makes the episode one of the funniest of the season.

“The Mom and Pop Store” “Seinfeld”

It wouldn’t be “Seinfeld” if they didn’t take a family-oriented holiday and turn it into something shallow and a bit deplorable. The characters are at their best (and worst) in this episode: George (Jason Alexander) obsesses about a car he thinks used to be owned by Jon Voight, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) loses her hearing and Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) over-analyzes not being invited to a Thanksgiving-Eve party. Meanwhile, Michael Richards’ character Kramer and his shenanigans threaten a family-owned business that had been running for almost 40 years. This episode was also the introduction of recurring character Tim Whatley, a fan-favorite who becomes more ridiculous with every appearance on the series. 

“Thanksgiving”  “Master of None

While Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” was a bit tumultuous at times, there were a few masterful episodes within its two-season run. This episode follows all of the Thanksgiving dinners that take place at best friend Denise’s (Lena Waith) house, from the early ‘90s to present day. The story is a contemplative look at the power of family and the importance of acceptance. It shows Denise’s path of coming out to her mother and owning her sexuality. Viewers see her transition from wearing frilly dresses picked out by her mother to defining her own style and bringing girlfriends home for the dinners. This episode balances serious topics with humor, making it a powerful and enjoyable episode. 

“The One with All the Thanksgiving”   “Friends

The six friends gather around after Thanksgiving dinner and share their worst memories from the holiday. The memories are shown in flashbacks, and it is incredibly fun to watch the characters play younger versions of themselves. As each character tries to one-up the other for the worst Thanksgiving ever, the flashbacks get more and more ridiculous. “Friends” episodes that break from their usual format are some of the most memorable because of how fun it is to see where the characters were before the show began. The characters are all at their best here, and it is a stand-out from the entire series. 

“Harvest Festival” “Parks and Recreation” 

If you’re sick of Thanksgiving episodes, “Harvest Festival” is perfect for a fall viewing that doesn’t revolve around the holidays. The entire third season was building up to the Harvest Festival that the Parks Department was throwing for the town, so this episode feels like a culmination of everything the characters have been working toward. It is the quintessential “Parks and Rec” episode:” Leslie (Amy Poehler) goes above and beyond for her job, Ron (Nick Offerman) reluctantly helps everyone he claims not to care about and somehow everything that goes wrong gets blamed on Jerry (Jim O’Heir). Recurring character Joan Calamezo makes a welcomed appearance in this episode and the famed miniature horse Lil’ Sebastian makes his monumental first appearance in the series. It is hard to beat this hour of television. 

Written by: Alyssa Ilsley —arts@theaggie.org


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