The Greatest Thanksgiving Specials of the 2010s

A-ding… a-ding… a-what’s that sound? It’s the gravy boat, a-comin’ around! It’s not a navy boat, it’s the gravy boat! Filled with bravery, savory, sailor folk!

No one makes the holidays more festive than Linda Belcher (John Roberts) from “Bob’s Burgers.” This aforementioned melody is brought to life in one of several Thanksgiving specials the show presents. Modern television taps into the humor of family coming together at the end of November in a variety of ways. The following list will offer a few quality specials you and yours can gather ’round to view in anticipation of the binge-eating and thanks-giving we partake in each year, despite the holiday’s colonialistic origin.

1. “Bob’s Burgers”: “Turkey in a Can,” Season 4, Episode 5

Courtesy of FOX.

Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) is nearly driven to madness each morning at the sight of their family’s toilet laying host to his precious, sometimes imagined to be anthropomorphic, Thanksgiving turkey. Gayle (Megan Mullally) and Linda’s “Gravy Boat” song will be the soundtrack to your Thanksgiving festivities after witnessing these spectacular 22 minutes of television. Not only are we blessed with the slow deterioration of Bob’s psyche, but Baby Tina makes an appearance in the flashbacks of her potty training. Baby Tina is the golden snitch of Thanksgiving special elements; no other show stands a chance against Baby Tina.

“Bob’s Burgers” is available to stream on Hulu and FOX.

2. “Modern Family”: “Punkin Chunkin,” Season 3, Episode 9

Courtesy of ABC.

If you, like most individuals with taste, hold adoration for Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), this is your episode. A beautiful collision of comedic genius occurs in the interactions between Phil and guest star Josh Gad, portraying Phil’s former neighbor and son-figure Kenneth Ploufe. The classically hilarious episode ties an emotional bow on itself to close out, as “Modern Family” so often does. The gang ditches their Thanksgiving meal to test the candor of Cam’s “Punkin Chunkin” story by launching a pumpkin from a massive slingshot to see the distance it travels. Cam (Eric Stonestreet) articulates the value of juxtaposition in each of their family units, saying, “See, the dreamers need the realists to keep the dreamers from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists? Well, without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground.” This quote playing over their united laughter and pumpkin-launching efforts does unfailingly bring a tear to my eye.

“Modern Family” is available to stream on Hulu.

3. “New Girl”: “Thanksgiving IV,” Season 4, Episode 9

Courtesy of FOX.

“New Girl” rakes in a heap of laughs with “Bangs-giving.” In light of the friend group’s singleness, Schmidt (Max Greenfield) organizes a blind-date pairing raffle in which each person must bring a date for the name that they draw. As one could imagine, chaos ensues. Nick drew his own name, so he brings Tran (Ralph Ahn) to the festivities. The episode also features my personal favorite guest star love interest, Ryan (Julian Morris), the enticing Englishman Jess (Zooey Deschanel) finds herself entangled with.

“New Girl” is available to stream on Netflix.

4. “Parks and Recreation”: “Harvest Festival,” Season 3, Episode 7

Courtesy of NBC.

While Thanksgiving is never explicitly celebrated in “Parks and Rec,” this special is too delightful to be omitted.  Li’l Sebastian acts as the sun that the episode orbits around. Ben (Adam Scott) struggles to understand the hype around said famous pony, ultimately faking conversion to the crowd’s adoration while secretly remaining befuddled. Ken (Jonathan Joss), Chief of Pawnee’s Wamapoke tribe, performs a fake curse to frighten the city employees out of putting together the festival on the site of a Wamapoke massacre. The subplots of this episode are top tier and the characters really hit their groove upon reaching the show’s third season.

“Parks and Recreation” is available to stream on Peacock.

5. “Community”: “Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations,” Season 4, Episode 5

Courtesy of NBC.

Abed (Danny Pudi) narrates a “Shawshank Redemption” homage when the community college clique is forced to endure Shirley’s (Yvette Nicole Brown) exhausting family, electing instead to hide out in the garage. The crew humorously and pathetically attempts to entertain one another to pass the time after several failed escape plans. Jeff (Joel McHale) seeks to spend Thanksgiving with his estranged father; a less interesting plotline, though somewhat redeemed by Adam DeVine’s guest appearance. The friends set aside their rotten days and tenderly share a meal to close the episode.

“Community” is available to stream on Hulu.

By Risa Bolash

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