The Best (and Worst) Thanksgiving TV Specials of All-Time

aquateen thanksgiving1 The Best (and Worst) Thanksgiving TV Specials of All Time

Sure, 1973’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will air several times before Thanksgiving this year, but this classic is not the only Thanksgiving television special. A variety of sitcoms and dramas have created their own Thanksgiving specials, with a mix of the best and worst below. Make your own call as to which ones you would resurrect from the annals of television history.

The A-Team

“Family Reunion” 1986

Thanksgiving by dm_50a40e0d2db75

Apparently the A-Team celebrates Thanksgiving together in a palatial estate (which you can see in this clip), and we learn that you should “never get to friendly with a bird you’re about to eat.”

Not so much an episode about the celebration of Thanksgiving, the A-Team are brought together to reunite a daughter with her terminally ill father within 24 hours in exchange for top secret information on a group of shady politicians.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

“The Dressing” 2003

Thanksgiving is late on this Adult Swim stalwart, as Meatwad, Frylocke, and Shake are not officially United States Citizens and somehow believe they are forced to celebrate the holiday one week late. The trio invite their neighbor Carl over to the house to share their Thanksgiving meal (which includes gourmet entrees like taco pie). A time traveling robot turkey interrupts dinner to save his an ancestor, only to find out than the ATHF and Carl have cooked him.


“Thanksgiving Orphans” 1986

In one of the few episodes the Cheers gang leaves the inside of a bar, the band of alcoholics and enablers with nowhere to go gather together for a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner at Carla’s house.  The turkey takes forever to cook, leaving the group to watch football and professional wrestling. Tired of waiting, the crabby cadre gathers long into the night to share the meal, only to unleash their frustrations, ending in a food fight ensues Norm, Woody, Carla, Sam, and Frasier.

How I Met Your Mother

“Slapsgiving 2: Revenge Of The Slap” 2009

The best 21st Century Thanksgiving tradition, slapsgiving, is birthed from the womb of How I Met Your Mother. In this follow-up to 2007’s “Slapsgiving”, Marshall re-initiates the slap bet he won against Barney. Barney doesn’t know when or the next slap will occur, he just knows it will be today.

South Park

“History Channel Thanksgiving” 2011

southpark kyle The Best (and Worst) Thanksgiving TV Specials of All Time

In the undisputed champion of this list, South Park makes fun of the History Channel and their penchant for all things pseudo-history in this special. Trey Parker and Matt Stone devise a story that places Stan and Kyle on a History Channel show about “true” origin of Thanksgiving that is eerily similar to Ancient Aliens.


“Turkey in the Straw, Part 1 & 2” 1988

ALF, NBC’s greatest sitcom of all time starring a furry Alien Life Form, aired a two-part Thanksgiving special in its five season run. In this holiday special, Alf is a little homesick, thinking of a corresponding holiday on his home planet of Melmac where cats were the featured dish. Alf eats the Tanner’s turkey, with the boring Tanners failing to realize they could just go out and buy one. Alf is actually being a good guy in this storyline, as he is gathering food and hobo for a local drifter by the name of Flakey Pete.  Flakey Pete wants to turn Alf over to the U.S. government in order to obtain a cash reward, but that’s another plot altogether.

Doogie Howser, M.D.

“Don’t Let the Turkey Get You Down” 1990

He’s a little kid, he’s a physician. Imagine the malpractice insurance premiums! Young Doogie may have grown up to be Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but he is far from legendary in this especially tense episode. Doogie’s grandparents arrive for an awkward Thanksgiving, one that kicks off with a way-more-emotional-than-it-every-should-be game of Scrabble.

Doogie’s best friend has drama as well – Vinnie was just dumped by his girlfriend, with her parent’s prying her away with a car. This episode is a reminder of all the reasons you don’t want to be around friends and family during he holidays. Run away or fall into mild depression.

Images from Cartoon Network and Comedy Central.


Keith Veronese has a Ph.D. in chemistry and regularly writes for Gawker Media's science site, io9. His worked has appeared on the Gawker Media sites Lifehacker, Deadspin, Kotaku, and Jezebel in addition to Paste Magazine, AMOG, So Jones, Hip Hop Press, and FormatMag. Keith also has a non-fiction book in the works, Plugged In: Comic Book Professionals Working in the Video Game Industry, which will be released by TwoMorrows Publishing later this year.

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