Thanksgiving is for sitting around the table with family and friends, expressing gratitude for things most of us take for granted every other day of the year. But above all, Thanksgiving’s a time for TV, where tempers run as high as oven temperatures. Charred turkey, sibling rivalry, yam-slamming, and sticking a turkey on one’s head; without these key ingredients, no TV Thanksgiving would be complete. Here’s a list of what you’ll need to make your own TV Thanksgiving, at home.
The Hybrid Dish
In The Big Bang Theory’s third-season special, “The Pirate Solution,” Howard Wolowitz describes his mother’s signature Thanksgiving dish. The tur-briska-fil: “Turkey stuffed with brisket stuffed with gefilte fish,” as Howard explains it to an unamused Penny. Mrs. Wolowitz’s creation follows in the legacy of other hybrid dinners. There’s Ted’s far less creative “turturkeykey” – a large turkey stuffed with a smaller turkey – in How I Met Your Mother’s Season 6 “Blitzgiving.” And who can forget Rachel’s erroneous mashup of an English trifle and shepherd’s pie in the sixth season of Friends? Everyone avoids the dessert – including the pigeons Chandler claims ate his – but Joey, of course. “What’s not to like?” Joey asks, as he gulps down helpings of cream-laden beef and peas. “Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? GOOD.”
The Turkey Trot
It worked wonders for Monica, whose jiggling turkey dance – stick a turkey on your head, accessorize with a fez hat and a pair of oversized sunglasses, and shimmy accordingly – compelled Chandler to tell her he loves her in Friends Season 5’s flashback special, “The One With All the Thanksgivings.” Ladies, get your turkeys ready. (And yes, there is such a thing as a turkey trot.)
The Surprise Guest
For a real zinger, extend your Thanksgiving invitations to more controversial guests. New Girl’s Jess invites her equally adorkable co-worker, Paul (Justin Long), to the group’s first Thanksgiving at the Loft – much to the chagrin of her roommates, who don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving at all. But the most interesting dinner guests, by far, have shown up on Friends. Remember the one where Richard’s son comes to dinner – and ends up kissing Monica on the balcony? What about the one where Rachel’s sister, Amy (Christina Applegate), comes to town and opens an unprecedented can of worms when she asks who, if Ross and Rachel died, would look after their daughter, Emma? What about the one where Phoebe has sex dreams about Ross and Monica’s dad, and then has to spend Thanksgiving with him, sans girlish giggles? No guest caused quite as much of a ruckus, though, as Ross’ old high school chum, Will (Brad Pitt) – with whom Ross co-founded the “I Hate Rachel” club and started a hermaphrodite rumor about Rachel. The tension in the room is enough to set a perpetually dieting Will back on the carbs, as he asks brusquely for the yams.
…and the Uninvited Guest
And then there are the uninvited. Rory’s father, Christopher makes a surprise appearance in Gilmore Girls’ Season 6 Thanksgiving episode, turning up to Stars Hollow with a bundle of inheritance money. Though he doesn’t join Lorelai and Rory for their first dinner at the Dragonfly Inn, he certainly makes the table conversation. And in The O.C.’s first Thanksgiving special, Summer makes an impromptu appearance at the Cohens’, where Seth is already entertaining Anna. Extraditing Summer to the pool house, whilst keeping Anna at bay in his bedroom with Captain Oates, a flustered Seth travels between the two girls, until the turkey burns in the kitchen (Seth’s mom, supposedly tending to dinner, started drinking early), setting off the fire alarm; as both Summer and Anna rush to the source of the commotion, they run into Seth and each other, realizing his game before making their respective exits.
The “Materniturkey” Pants
Remember when Joey wore Phoebe’s maternity pants to dinner as his very own Thanksgiving trousers? Well, those are what I like to call “materniturkey” pants – perfect for anyone planning, like Joey, on eating a whole turkey in one sitting.
While the turkey’s in the oven, why not make like the Friends group in Season 3’s Thanksgiving special and head to the park for a game of football? Here are some pointers on how to keep it jovial (or, what we can learn from their mistakes):
1. Find a democratic way to select team players (i.e., don’t pick someone important, like your best friend or girlfriend, last, like Monica and Ross did with poor Rachel). 2. Don’t tell one of your players to keep going long. (Poor Rachel, again.) 3. Don’t start a fight with your teammates, like Joey and Chandler, who spent their halftime competing for the same girl. 4. Don’t miss Thanksgiving dinner for a trophy – especially if it’s a troll doll tacked to plywood. I am, of course, talking about the coveted Geller Cup, for which Monica and Ross, in the throes of sibling rivalry, miss Thanksgiving dinner altogether.
But if we’ve learned anything from the “Slapsgiving” saga of How I Met Your Mother, it’s that you don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy a game – or a good pun. The HIMYM writers thought of “slapsolutely” everything for their mildly taunting “Slapsgiving” specials in the show’s fourth and fifth seasons, which see the group’s notorious slap-bet come to a head as they squabble over who gets to slap a squirming, suit-wearing Barney. I feel obligated to add that you shouldn’t try this one at home.
The Burnt Turkey
In the event of scorched turkey, resort to grilled cheese sandwiches, as Monica and friends did when they locked themselves out of the apartment for their very first Thanksgiving to watch the escaped Underdog balloon – leaving the turkey to burn to crisp fodder. Or, better yet, make it tradition to order take-out, like The O.C.’s Mrs. Cohen.