The fourth Thursday in November is coming up, and it’s time for many of us to vacate Grounds and face several consecutive days of intense family time. This might be your first visit home since the start of the semester, or it might be your hundredth. You may have left school early to maximize your vacation, or you may be hanging around the largely deserted University during your time off. Some find the holiday comforting, others stressful. However you see your Thanksgiving playing out, there is an episode for you on this list. Settle in with a piece of pumpkin pie and check out my recommendations for the best episodes of the season.
"Thanksgiving," Veep season 5, episode 5
If you want to laugh until your stomach hurts while masking a gnawing sense of despair over the present political climate, you will love Veep. This episode is full of great lines, but the response of White House Chief of Staff Ben Caffrey to an unfortunately timed salmonella outbreak — “We need to shut this down like a f—ing public school for the arts” — might be my favorite.
“A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” Gilmore Girls season 3, episode 9
The autumnal aura that emanates from every episode of Gilmore Girls reaches its zenith in “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving.” We spend time with all our favorite characters as Lorelai and Rory hit four separate dinners throughout the day, and we marvel at their capacity to consume ungodly amounts of food — while talking super fast the whole time.
“Thanksgiving,” Brooklyn 99 season 1, episode 10
Each member of the 99th precinct is in peak form here, from Amy’s eight-page toast to the game of Boyle Bingo Thanksgiving Edition into which Charles can’t help but play. The squad represents a family of friends, and the unconventional Thanksgiving they share is both funny and endearing.
“He is Risen,” The Sopranos season 3, episode 8
While The Sopranos might not be the most obvious choice for a Thanksgiving watchlist, Tony spends “He is Risen” lying about his Thanksgiving plans in order to exclude a few people he dislikes from his family dinner, and I think we can all empathize.
“Public Relations,” Mad Men season 4, episode 1
Mad Men is a distinctly American show about superficial mid-century lies of capitalism and the nuclear family. What could be a more fitting watch for this fraught American holiday? Betty and Sally share one of my favorite moments in “Public Relations” when Betty force feeds her angsty daughter a spoonful of sweet potato at her mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
No Thanksgiving watchlist would be complete without this beloved special. I watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” annually, and with each rewatch I am struck by how sweet, weird and funny it is. Plus, the soundtrack is sublime.
Honorable non-Thanksgiving-themed mentions:
“Grad Night,” Schitt’s Creek season 3, episode 13
Schitt’s Creek is defined by the evolution of its central family unit, and this makes the show an essential Thanksgiving watch. The Rose parents falter in their efforts to support their two children in this episode, but Moira’s tribute to Alexis at her graduation is genuinely moving.
“The Hope That Kills You,” Ted Lasso season 1, episode 10
Ted Lasso is possibly the sweetest show ever put on television. It couldn’t hurt to spend some time soaking in Ted’s unfailing selflessness, and this bittersweet season finale finds Ted and his team at their best.
“Episode 1,” Fleabag season 2, episode 1
This might be a perfect episode of television. Featuring a long, tense family dinner that ends in explosive conflict, watching “Episode 1” is equally agonizing and wonderful and offers the complex exploration of family dynamics we all need this Thanksgiving. It also features the introduction of Andrew Scott as the hot priest, which makes it a must-watch.