12 Heartfelt Thanksgiving Episodes Worth Watching Again (PHOTOS)

Josh Wigler

Clockwise from left: Greg Gayne/Fox/Everett Collection; Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images; Mitchell Haddad/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Thanksgiving Tales

Thanksgiving's around the corner, but before you stuff yourself with, well, stuffing and fall into a turkey coma, make sure your television's loaded with shows to gorge on. You don't want to wield the remote aimlessly and go channel surfing with piping hot gravy still coursing through your veins, do you? Instead, stock your queue with some of the most epic Thanksgiving episodes in TV history, including these faves that are worth rewatching.

Brooklyn Nine Nine

Eddy Chen/FOX

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, "Thanksgiving" (Season 1, Episode 10)

When Santiago (Melissa Fumero) throws together a dinner to impress Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) that goes horribly awry with terrible food. Even though Jake (Andy Samberg) does everything he can to avoid the holiday and an incredibly hangry Terry (Terry Crews) gets increasingly infuriated and threatening to get food any way he can, it’s Boyle, the precinct foodie, who actually saves the day by bringing everyone together for a rousing game of Boyle Bingo.

NEW GIRL, Justin Long, Zooey Deschanel,

Greg Gayne/Fox/Everett Collection

New Girl, "Thanksgiving" (Season 1, Episode 6)

The last turkey in America gets cooked in the dryer when it's way too big and frozen to fit inside the oven. That's just one of the many ways the least sexiest holiday of the year (per Schmidt) goes horribly wrong for Jess (Zoe Deschanel) and her roommates, after she invites the school music teacher (and über nerd) Paul (Justin Long) over for dinner. While the guys just want to have a “Dudesgiving” with beer and football, Paul shakes things up with a little fiddle here, a song and dance here and a grieving heart for his dead grandmother...which makes it more awkward when he later comes face-to-face with a dead elderly woman. But, thankfully, confronting his grief and fear helps him realize life is too short without Jess.

Gilmore Girls. Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham

Mitchell Haddad/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Gilmore Girls, "A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving" (Season 3, Episode 9)

Thanksgiving overload is a genuine affliction, so it's refreshing to see the epidemic represented so well in Gilmore Girls as Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) drag each other through four—count 'em, FOUR—different holiday feasts, all in one day, at Lanie’s, Luke’s, Sookie’s and Emily and Richard’s. All manner of entrees are consumed, including Tofurkey and the titular deep-fried bird, but the genuine dinner drama comes during the restless travel in-between parties…and when Rory reveals the surprising news that she also applied to both Yale and Harvard. No time like the time giving of thanks to give some potentially life-changing news!

Fresh Prince Bel-Air

NBC/Everett Collection

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, "There's The Rub" Parts 1+2 (Season 6, Episodes 9+10)

When chefs talk about the importance of massaging their meat, they probably aren't talking about the kind of massage parlor that Will (Will Smith) and Uncle Phil (James Avery) wind up in on Thanksgiving night. Their inadvertent trip to a morally questionable masseuse lands them behind bars for a spell, salivating at the thought of the feast they're missing out on. ("Tiny onions swimming in a sea of cream sauce!") All's well that ends well, though, when the Banks family realizes just how thankful they really are after spending the night feeding the homeless.

THE O.C., Peter Gallagher, Autumn Reeser, Adam Brody

Greg Schwartz/WB/Everett Collection

The O.C., "The Cold Turkey" (Season 4, Episode 3)

Sure, there are plenty of Thanksgiving episodes to choose from this short-lived but fan-fave drama, like "The Homecoming" from Season 1 where Seth (Adam Brody) had to choose between Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Anna (Samaire Armstrong). But in the show's criminally underrated final season, "The Cold Turkey" stands out, with Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) seeking vengeance against Volchok (Cam Gigandet) for causing Marissa’s (Mischa Barton) death. But the vendetta evolves into a surprisingly moving moment when the two bond over their mutual grief. And while it's a rather depressing Thanksgiving, it still shows the healing power of the holidays, and of the eternally wise Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher).

FRIENDS , Matthew Perry, Jennifer Aniston , David Schwimmer , Courteney Cox

Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Friends, "The One With All The Thanksgivings" (Season 5, Episode 8)

Every single Thanksgiving-themed episode of Friends is worth another look, but if you only have time for one, make it the one with the highest volume of turkey action. A litany of Thanksgiving horror stories courses through this ep, from the time Joey (Matt LeBlanc) literally got lost inside of a turkey to the time Monica (Courteney Cox) chopped off Chandler's (Matthew Perry) toe—not to mention the new memories that were created, like Chandler and Monica exchanging their very first "I love you."

The West Wing - Shibboleth

The West Wing, "Shibboleth" (Season 2, Episode 8)

"This is a great job," President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) says at the end, a wonderful understatement capping off a wonderfully understated episode. Carve off the central stories about Chinese religious refugees and controversy surrounding Leo McGarry's (John Spencer) sister, and you're left with the best part: C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) deciding which of two turkeys are photogenic enough to receive a presidential pardon…while the other gets an “execution.” Another reason to worship this episode? Pilgrim detectives. As in the funny show idea that Toby (Richard Schiff) and Sam (Rob Lowe) accidentally think of when writing a speech. (You know you're laughing on the inside.)

Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Kyle Chandler, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Brad Leland, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS ,

Bill Records/NBCU Photo Bank

Friday Night Lights, "Thanksgiving" (Season 4, Episode 13)

For three seasons, the series focused on one thing: whether or not the Dillon Panthers could make it to the state championship and win the day. But season four subverted this expectation by asking viewers to root against the Panthers and for Coach Eric Taylor's new squad, the East Dillon Lions, instead. Combine these strange shifting alliances with a holiday dinner at the Taylor household, plus the devastating arrest of hometown hero Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), and the result is not just one of the most epic Thanksgiving episodes ever, but one of the most epic episodes of FNL ever, all with clear eyes and full stop.

THE LEAGUE, l-r: Katie Aselton, Stephen Rannazzisi

Patrick McElhenney/FX Networks/Everett Collection

The League, “Thanksgiving” (Season 2, Episode 9)

How does a man as impossibly smug and arrogant as Rodney Ruxin (Nick Kroll) come into existence? The League revealed that answer by introducing Ruxin's father, played by—who else?—Jeff Goldblum. If that masterstroke of inspired casting wasn't enough, Sarah Silverman also showsup as Andre's (Paul Scheer) sister, Heather, who is, um, interrupted in the bathroom with Ruxin's dad when everyone bursts in feeling sick—after seeing a guinea pig crawl into a turkey. The whole thing is a cringe-worthy mess, but a hilarious mess nonetheless.

Felicity

Felicity, "Thanksgiving" (Season 1, Episode 9)

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving feast without ongoing tension between Felicity’s (Keri Russell) and Ben (Scott Speedman) and Noel (Scott Foley). When Felicity decides to stay in New York to keep Julie (Amy Jo Johnson) company for Thanksgiving, awkwardness bubbles to the surface when Noel's girlfriend, Hanna (Jennifer Garner pre-Alias days), visits and causes tension between Noel and Felicity…that leads to a forbidden kiss (that Ben witnesses). Despite all the drama, the episode is more fun if you strap on your pinkest wig and pretend Hanna is just one of Sydney Bristow's many false identities.

Randy Tepper/Showtime/Everett Collection

Dexter, "Hungry Man" (Season 4, Episode 9)

It was a very twisted Thanksgiving when John Lithgow brought the Showtime horror series to its knees as the terrifying Trinity Killer. His powerful performance as Arthur Mitchell was never more apparent than when he invited Dexter (Michael C. Hall) over for Thanksgiving dinner, revealing that his psychotic behavior extended beyond murders. His violent actions and language toward his family are so despicable that Dexter sheds his "Kyle Butler" disguise and not only ruins Thanksgiving but also his hard-fought quest to infiltrate the Trinity Killer's life. While not the most feel-good episode, it showed the lengths Dexter was willing to expose a psychopath, which should count for something?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Pangs

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Pangs" (Season 4, Episode 8)

Leave it to Joss Whedon's supernatural series to tackle the ugly side of Thanksgiving history with wit and wooden stakes. When Xander (Nicholas Brendan) accidentally unleashes the spirit of a vengeful Native American killed by Sunnydale's earliest settlers, it’s up to Buffy and the gang to stop him. Toss in the secret return of Angel (David Boreanaz) and an amazing feast that features Spike (James Marsters) tied to a chair, and you have end with an excellent Buffy-style holiday.

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