Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday hands down! No stressing out about gifts, no religious services to attend (although I’m sure good Catholics make time to show their gratitude at the altar). For me, it’s a day of parades, football, and food (and since I don’t cook, I can focus on increasing my waistline!). But it’s really a day for family, and I thought it might be fun to take a glimpse at how some TV families commemorated the day. So without further adieu, let’s dig in!
Seinfeld – “The Mom & Pop Store”
Framed by Tim Whatley’s annual party of watching the Macy’s Balloons the night before the parade (and Jerry is not invited – “Why would Jerry bring anything?), we also get Elaine using her knowledge of jazz to win Mr. Pitt a place under the Woody Woodpecker balloon, Kramer destroying a small shoe repair business to the strains of Midnight Cowboy, and George purchasing his Jon Voight car (that’s J-O-H-N; hey, sometimes Jerry spells his name with a “G” and and an “I”). Maybe not the happiest of Thanksgivings for this Fab Four, but instantly a classic (“Oh, look, there’s Gregory Peck’s bicycle! And Barbara Mandrell’s skateboard!”).
NCIS – “Child’s Play”
The mystery at the heart of this episode has nothing to do with Turkey Day (it’s all about a plan to infiltrate a government think tank that uses child prodigies to aid the military). But it starts with a lonely Ducky inviting his co-workers to dinner. Everyone has an excuse (since when did Ziva become so tight with her neighbors?). Gibbs orders all plans cancelled (which makes him both the most awesome and scariest boss in the world). In the end, everyone is at Ducky’s table. And Gibbs shows up with convenience store fare instead of the dinner rolls Ducky asked him to bring. The family gets together, Gibbs is asked to carve the turkey, and Abby mistakenly quotes Santa Claus as they all toast. A sweet glimpse of Gibbs’ team away from tracking terrorists and saving the world.
Everybody Loves Raymond – “The Bird”
Hands down the best Raymond Thanksgiving episode (even better than Marie’s low cholesterol affair). The Barones and the MacDougalls get together for the holiday. No TV? That’s a problem right of the bat. But the families start to enjoy one another’s company until a bird hits the MacDougall house and matriarch Pat does the noble thing and puts the fallen feathered friend out of his misery. Monstrous in the Barones’ eyes, the conflict spills over into the MacDougalls’ Thanksgiving play (but it doesn’t mar Ray’s inspired interpretation of Squanto). Soon another bird is served and, in a familiar tableau, all is right with the world.
Frasier – “A Lilith Thanksgiving”
Aside from Room Service (when Lilith and Niles get it on), this is the best use of Bebe Neuwirth on the spin-off. Frasier and Lilith, determined to get young Frederick into an exclusive private school, sabotage themselves with increasingly humorous results (who knew that Lilith dated Golda Meir’s grandson, Oscar Meir?). Presenting the turkey that Niles slaves over to a pre-Glee Jane Lynch gets Frederick the in, but Frasier and Lilith are banned from school grounds, even if it’s “Frederick Crane Day.” Add to all of this Martin repeatedly and accidentally injuring his poor grandson, and we have a holiday treat from Seattle by way of Boston.
7th Heaven – “Last Call for Aunt Julie”
I’m a little crazy. This episode from the life of the Camdens, the most impossibly moral family on TV, is something of a Thanksgiving tradition. I love to close the day with this tasty treat. Think The Waltons with a touch of The Man with the Golden Arm. Reverend Eric’s sister, Julie, shows up for the holidays, bearing gifts. Some are better than others. A wallet full of cash? Awesome! A Batman sweatshirt? Not so much. It doesn’t take long for Julie’s charade to crack, and soon she’s raiding the liquor cabinet (Eric and Annie are certainly preparing for a party!). Julie attacks young Simon in his Batman shirt, and rather than ship her off to rehab, her devoted brother decides to see her through withdrawal while his family prepares the sides. Eldest Camden daughter Mary (who goes on her own Lost Weekend of sorts a bit later in the series), hates, hates, hates Aunt Julie and can’t see the sense in a second chance. Eventually she changes her tune, the other kids make dinner, and everyone toasts to Aunt Julie’s new-found sobriety (with water, naturally). Corny throughout, it’s still something of a testament to family sticking by you. And there’s nothing better to give thanks for!