Many sitcoms are known for their holiday-themed episodes, but some have a reputation for representing some particular holidays – such as Thanksgiving – better than others. For instance, Roseanne would basically release a mini horror movie each Halloween, Community got especially inventive for Christmas (such as Season 2’s Emmy-winning stop-motion animation special), and Friends’ Thanksgiving episodes practically define the essence of the holiday better than any other.
In fact, while the long-running sitcom also has some memorable Christmas shows, the series is so famous for its Thanksgiving episodes that the most die-hard fans can even name their Number One favorite among them. The same goes for me, which is why I have listed all 10 Friends episodes specifically related to the holiday in the order that I am most thankful for, starting with the one that coined the term “Mockolate.”
10. The One With The List (1995)
Much of the second season of Friends revolved around the increased tension of Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) “will they, won’t they” dynamic before officially dating, which hit a frustrating peak in its eighth episode with Ross trying to choose between Rachel and Julie (Lauren Tom) by listing each of their flaws. The saving grace, and qualifying Thanksgiving element, of “The One with the List” is Monica (Courteney Cox), per her potential employer’s request, attempting to incorporate a disgusting artificial chocolate substitute into that year’s feast, which Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) describes as “what evil must taste like.”
9. The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs (2000)
While it thankfully (no pun intended) does not feature any of Ross’ romantic incompetencies, the seventh Thanksgiving episode of Friends does not really have much to offer in terms of memorability, by comparison. It does, however, mark the beginning of Rachel’s romance with her office assistant, Tag (Eddie Cahill), sees Ross desperately attempt to name all 50 states, and – as the title, “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs,” suggests – reveals that Chandler (Matthew Perry) is afraid canines, having previously fooled the rest of the Friends cast into believing he was allergic.
8. The One Where Underdog Got Away (1994)
Every holiday tradition has to start somewhere and, with Friends, it began in the ninth episode of its very first season, “The One Where Underdog Got Away,” which set the tone for the disastrous circumstances that became a recurring theme of the series’ subsequent Thanksgiving specials. With their original plans ruined, the gang decides to feast at Monica’s apartment, which also gets ruined when they accidentally get locked out while preparing dinner. Fortunately, the sight of Ugly Naked Guy enjoying his holiday and a last minute grilled-cheese meal reminds them what “Friendsgiving” is all about.
7. The One With Chandler In A Box (1997)
Monica typically takes the most heat in these episodes, but I think she brings it on herself to the worst degree in the fourth season when she invites the son of ex-boyfriend, Richard (Tom Selleck), to Thanksgiving with awkward intentions to date him. Meanwhile, Chandler goes to extremes to apologize for kissing Kathy (Paget Brewster) while she was still with Joey (Matt LeBlanc) in the titular plot line of “The One with Chandler In a Box,” which does not have as much to do with Thanksgiving, but is undeniably iconic.
6. The One With Rachel’s Other Sister (2002)
Friends is also iconic for its awesome guest star appearances, such as Christina Applegate, who won an Emmy for her first time on the series as Rachel’s incredibly selfish sister, Amy Greene, in “The One with Rachel’s Other Sister.” She causes a conflict that gets physical during her unexpected Thanksgiving visit after learning she will not be godmother to Ross and Rachel’s daughter, Emma (whom she keeps calling “Ella”), making Monica extremely protective over her new set of plates that she was already apprehensive to use this year. However, their inevitable destruction ends up being Chandler’s fault.
5. The One With The Football (1996)
The main conflict in Friends’ third Thanksgiving episode stems from Monica and Ross’ notorious childhood rivalry (one of the show’s funniest inside jokes) over a traditional family football game, which is reignited when the gang plays some three-on-three that turns fierce. “The One with the Football” is one of the few specials in which Monica does not stress over dinner plans, but probably sees her at her most intensely competitive throughout the whole series, if not the vicious ping pong game against Paul Rudd’s Mike in Barbados.
4. The One With The Late Thanksgiving (2003)
After the gang shows up late to a Thanksgiving dinner Monica and Chandler did not initially want to prepare anyway, they lock the other four out of their apartment and Joey gets his head stuck between the door crack attempting to break in. In addition to being the final Thanksgiving episode of Friends, “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” may also be the most disastrous, but is complimented by a kick-ass conclusion when Monica announces she and Chandler have been selected to adopt an unborn child by Anna Faris’ pregnant character, Erica.
3. The One With The Rumor (2001)
This Season 8 Friends episode features Jennifer Aniston’s then-husband Brad Pitt as “I Hate Rachel Greene” Club co-founder Will Colbert, who reveals that he and Ross branded her as a hermaphrodite in retaliation for her bullying them in high school. In spite of that epic, Emmy-nominated guest spot, the moment that really makes “The One with the Rumor” a classic Thanksgiving show is Joey donning Phoebe's old maternity pants to prepare to eat a turkey reserved entirely for him.
2. The One Where Ross Got High (1999)
However, a more iconic Joey moment is when he becomes the sole enjoyer of Rachel’s ill-fated dessert attempt when Monica and Ross’ parents (Elliott Gould and Christina Pickles) join the gang for Thanksgiving. To make matters worse, Monica is embarrassed to tell them she is living with Chandler since their opinion of him faltered when college-age Ross used him as a scapegoat after he was caught smoking weed. Any Friends episode where Ross and Monica compete for their parents’ favoritism, Chandler is desperate to be liked, and Joey’s libido (and/or stomach) get the best of him are classics and “The One Where Ross Got High” has all of that and more.
1. The One With All The Thanksgivings (1998)
Joey’s stomach gets the best of him in, arguably, the most hilarious fashion in this Friends episode that sees the gang at the tail-end of an unusually successful Turkey Day feast, prompting stories of the worst Thanksgivings they have each experienced. With Joey getting his head stuck inside a turkey, Monica accidentally severing Chandler’s toe in the ’80s, and Chandler’s first “I love you” to a turkey-headed Monica in the present day storyline, many believe “The One With All The Thanksgivings” (which is labeled "The One with the Thanksgiving Flashbacks" on HBO Max for some reason) is among the series’ finest moments, regardless of its ties to the holiday.
After you are done spending your Thanksgiving day dining on a traditional feast, binge these classic Friends episodes with an HBO Max subscription for the rest of the evening.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.