Thanksgiving is a pretty ugly time of year. Lots of turkey carnage. And the whole guilt over what was done to the Indians. It’s a slaughtering holiday. The weather is hideous–all brown and cold, with no excuses to get some fresh air and go for a walk. There’s some kind of ludicrous law that most people have to watch football or they’ll die. And I’m supposed to get up early the next day and go shopping?
Plus there’s the annual scene of my dad hacking away at a turkey carcass in the kitchen yelling at everyone not to eat any appetizers–the ones I was asked to bring, mind you–while I am horribly drunk on boxed wine because my empty stomach always thinks dinner will come sooner than it does. Hey, Dad gets what he gets when he tells me to stay away from my own plate of cheese and crackers! Well, after I slur my way through dinner conversations about tired family memories, and I’ve crammed plenty of stuffing and potatoes in my face, the whole time trying not to embarrass my mom or make her cry (as has happened multiple years in the past), it’s time for my dad to pass out in a turkey coma in the recliner.
And that means it’s TV time! We can put on the best movies and TV shows that Thanksgiving has to offer…which decidedly isn’t much. For such ripe material about family and autumn and conflict and booze, there is shockingly little material out there, especially compared to Christmas. Maybe it’s slaughter shame. Christmas is all magical, and Thanksgiving is all carnage.
Well, fret not; the ol’ cornucopia is still full of television and movie treats, and here are the best ones, my fellow slaughterers. Don’t be fooled by other lists that load up any crap movies or TV shows that make me want to wretch over the pumpkin pie. I promise you, below are only truly worthy watches. And for all of them, I am truly thankless. Because I’m an irreverent asshole.
Best Thanksgiving Movies
- Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
The Braidwood Inn, Del’s trunk, the beer cans exploding on the vibrating bed. The burned-up car, the frozen dog, the impossibly broken car seat, and the two pillows between which Del snuggles his hand.
Side note: John Candy and Steven Martin perform brilliantly as 1980s male representations of what my marriage is like (I’m Neil Page, and my poor husband is Del Griffith). Rude, sweet, and just damn funny.
- Home For the Holidays
A hidden gem of a dark comedy from 1995. Turkey grease, puffy coats, Robert Downey, Jr., and floor lamps. Anne Bancroft smoking. Charles Durning dancing. Aunt Glady’s Fruit Loops necklace and admiring her “horse in a uniform”. And Steve-fucking-Guttenberg.
- “This is America Charlie Brown”: Mayflower Voyagers
Pilgrims Snoopy, Woodstock, and Charlie Brown. The simple, varnished version of Thanksgiving as taught to schoolchildren of yore. Blissfully adorable animation. A little bit of actual history. Charlie Brown yacking over the side of the boat. Linus rolling through a pumpkin patch at the new settlement.
- Son in Law
Pauly Shore at (*cough*) his best. The square dancing, the assless chaps, the John Denver songs, the dorm room shenanigans. So much 1990s hair and fashion. It’s corny, completely stupid, and still adorable.
Ed O’Neil shooting off firecrackers and taking BB gun pellets to the crotch. Doyle hogtied to a hockey stick and making his pitiful face to beg for money. So much cheesiness and bad physical comedy. Yet it’s so delightful.
Best Thanksgiving TV Episodes
Okay, we’ll just admit that the movie selection above was pretty pitiful. I stand by each of those movies as, at the very least, charming, corny, and comfortable. But for some reason, the giblets really shine when it comes to television shows. Unlike movie producers, the TV show peeps really figured out how to do Thanksgiving well. Here are the best of the best:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Pangs”
- Gilmore Girls: “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving”
- Friends: “The One With the Football”
- Cheers: “Thanksgiving Orphans”
- How I Met Your Mother: “Slapsgiving”
- Roseanne: “We Gather Together”
- The West Wing: “Shibboleth”
- Friends: “The One With All the Thanksgivings”
- Murphy Brown: “Mission Control”
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: “The Gang Squashes Their Beefs”
- WKRP in Cincinnati: “Turkeys Away”
- Mad About You: “Giblets For Murray”
There, hopefully that’s enough to keep you entertained while you polish off that box of wine and rave about the pumpkin pie your mom bought. Happy Thanksgiving to all. And as Ed McMahon would say: “Gobble, gobble!”