We at Black Girl Nerds are very thankful for television. So here are some of our favorite or at least noteworthy Thanksgiving TV episodes. Starting with the Emmy-winning classic, Master of None‘s “Thanksgiving” written by the amazing Lena Waithe.
The numbers is a list function and not a ranking of the episodes.
“Thanksgiving” (Master of None) by Joelle Monique
It’s appropriate that Netflix did the #FirstTimeISawMe campaign the same year as the second season of Masters of None. Episode 8, simply entitled “Thanksgiving,” shows one of the most honest and heartwarming coming out stories ever told on film and earned Creator/ Performer Aziz Ansari and Writer/ Performer Lena Waithe an Emmy.
Hitting all of the hallmarks of Thanksgiving, the uncomfortable clothes, sneaking around getting high as a teenager, and the introduction of significant others, this episode explores the beauty and struggle of what it means to call someone family.
Specifically a traditional Black family. Waithe, from Chicago, explored the Southern migration mixed with inner-city attitude most Black Chicagoan’s experience growing up. Instead of the stereotypical crying and kicking-out family-style drama that usually surrounds coming out tales, Ansari and Waithe explored the complexities of a family accepting a person they never knew existed. This exploration creates a path for parents, unsure of how to manage the motions of this revelation. A way to embrace their queer children, a way to mess up, reconnect, and find a journey back to love.
It gives courage to queer youth that their parent’s first reaction isn’t necessarily how they’ll feel forever. Most importantly, the episode explores the importance of lifelong friendships particularly to those who have felt like outsiders their entire lives. Wonderfully directed by Melina Matsoukas (“Formation,” “Pretty Hurts”) with an unforgettable performance by Angela Basset, this is easily the best Thanksgiving day episode in television history. You can watch Master of Noneon Netflix.
“The One With the Rumor” (Friends) by Joelle Monique
Half of this Friendsgiving classic is one of the most cringe-worthy episodes of Thanksgiving television ever, but also has some amazingly funny moments. “The One With the Rumor,” features special guest, and then husband of Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt. There should definitely be a trigger warning about inaccurate discussions about intersex individuals. In the episode, Pitt plays Will Colbert, a former big boy who got hot after high school. He admits he was in an “I Hate Rachel” club with Ross. The boys created a rumor that she had both sexual organs. The mocking and betrayal between the spouses can bring about second-hand embarrassment.
The B storyline featured most of the funny. Monica refuses to cook a Turkey because there will be too many leftovers. Phoebe is a vegan, Rachel’s pregnancy has left her unable to eat poultry, and Chandler’s family fights have left him unable to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Joey will not celebrate the holiday without the bird so he decides he’ll eat whatever is left. Joey in maternity pants is a moment not to be missed. You can watch Friends on Netflix.
“Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations” (Community) by Carolyn Hinds
When we were asked to suggest a Thanksgiving episode, the first show that popped into my head was the 5th episode in season 4 of Community, “Cooperative Escapism In Familial Relations.” When I re-watched it, I remembered how heartwarming this episode is. At Britta’s urging Jeff decides to pay a visit to his father William, whom he hasn’t seen in over twenty years. This was a huge moment for Jeff because he has always been running from his past and how his father’s abandonment affected him. When his father takes credit for how he turned out, Jeff leaves in frustration, but he realizes that he can’t keep running away. He returns and finally lets William know how much his abandonment hurt Jeff mentally and emotionally.
At the end of the episode, Jeff hosts a dinner for the rest of group at the community college because as he said, sometimes your true family is the one you choose. I love this episode because we got to see Jeff grow emotionally, he was finally able to put that hurtful chapter of his life to rest, plus Abed gave a hilarious Morgan Freeman in “Shawshank Redemption” inspired voice over. You can watch Community on Netflix.
“A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” (Gilmore Girls) by Cherra Hampton-Mitchell
“A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving” starts with our favorite ladies named Lorelai watching Grey Gardens. Nothing bad starts with Grey Gardens. The soothing sounds of Little Edie trying to sing are soon replaced with the frantic voice of Sookie freaking out over Thanksgiving preparations and just as soon as Lorelai is able to talk her down, she gets roped into Thanksgiving dinner with her parents thanks to a surprise visit by Emily. Rory and Lorelai soon realize that including the dinner with Emily and Richard, they have committed to four different Thanksgiving dinners. Being the bottomless pits that they are, they’re willing to take their monumental task head-on. Along the way, they run into all of Stars Hollow’s kooky favorites. “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” is available for streaming on Netflix.
“Dawn of the Peck” (Bob’s Burgers) by Mel Perez
“Dawn of the Peck” starts with a scene that pays homage to the beginning of Jurassic Park. That’s when I knew I was in for something good. The Belcher family save for Bob decide to go to the Turk-Tacular Turkey Town Festival and Turkey Trot. If you watch Bob’s Burgers, you know how much Thanksgiving means to Bob. It’s an entire holiday that revolves around cooking. So, of course, he wasn’t happy and refuses to cook dinner. Instead, he chills at home with alcohol to keep him company.
While the kids hang out on the rides, Linda and Teddy do the turkey trot. It’s like the running of the bulls except with turkeys, chickens, ducks, and geese. It turns out the poultry are kind of evil and they attack everyone. Pandemonium ensues. My favorite part of the episode features characters covered in stuffed animals running from violent poultry set to a Donna Summers song. Second favorite is Bob having an emotionally fraught conversation with his turkey baster.
“Pangs” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) by Jonita Davis
I saw this for the first time in my late teens, just before doing Thanksgiving on my own. I think that’s why the steady deconstruction of the holiday and its traditions throughout the episode appeal to me — I was starting to define what Thanksgiving meant to me and how I would celebrate on my own.
The show is about a vengeful Native American spirit that gets released during a groundbreaking ceremony at the college. While the speeches are made and the ceremony goes on, Willow, Buffy, and Anya are chatting about the crowd and then Thanksgiving. Willow gives her first of a handful of takedowns on the holiday. It seems as though that Buffy wants to make a dinner for everyone anyway. Over the course of the episode, they battle the spirit as Buffy’s struggles to make the perfect dinner. Angel arrives after hearing that Buffy may be in danger. Spike escapes Riley’s crew and seeks asylum with Buffy, and meanwhile, Riley and his men come along as well. Buffy has her entire “family” of friends around her, the people she has held close as an adult. Yes, Spike is bound at the dinner table. We don’t trust him at this point.
They figure out that the spirit is defeated by his own weapons, and he is defeated. However, this episode isn’t one that takes advantage of the “angry Indian” trope. The spirit provides an opportunity for Buffy and her crew to reframe Thanksgiving as a holiday for family gathering because history, as we learned it, is bogus. For me, this episode also serves as a mark of my first Thanksgiving with friends instead of family. “Pangs” sorta helped make it feel like a natural part of growing older.
Thanks to the BGN crew for participating.
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Writer. Podcast contributor. Costume design enthusiast. Lover of fantasy movies from the 1980s and bizarre deep sea creatures. Can be found tweeting about comics, Yuri on Ice, Doctor Who or Star Wars at @jane_anon or on the Nerds of Prey podcast.