At some point in the Thanksgiving meal, people are going to be exhausted from talking to each other. It might just be the families I have been around, but after the meal is served and the older folks gather around the table to catch up, gossip, and solve the world's problems, the rest of us are looking for an escape without actually being rude enough to leave.
This is where TV saves the day.
I have many fond memories watching Thanksgiving episodes of classic shows or catching a broadcast of a classic holiday film while the grownups sat around and gabbed. Back before streaming, people would turn on the TV to "see what was on" and sometimes that would lead to delightful surprises. Whether it was seeing the WKRP in Cincinnati episode where the station manager learns that turkeys do not actually fly, giggling at the cheesy commercials for compilation albums for "golden" country hits, or watching Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood for the first time, it was nice to have something on in a room where people were not required to make conversation. If we got bored, someone brought out the old Sorry or Aggravation game.
And before you "nice story, grandma" me, recognize that without the easy option of seeing what's on, people now have to actively choose something to stream that everyone will like. It'll need to be something that is agreeable and appropriate for both kids and great aunt Judy.
My never fail list of Thanksgiving TV and Movies
Sports -- they're always on and even a non sports fan can every once and a while mutter, "Hmmm. Look at that." I was just in Louisville for an early Thanksgiving, where we kept the TV on the Louisville Football game, where there was much cheering and shouting, and the next day the basketball game with an equal amount of cheering and shouting.
Great British Baking Show -- much like sports, it's competitive and eventually someone will mutter, "Hmmm. Look at that." It's gentle and cozy and gets everyone in the mood for pie.
Grumpy Old Men -- I always watch this one around Thanksgiving. It's snowy, it's about friendship, it has an incredibly funny old man who will not have anyone telling him how to live his life. Kids will laugh at the slapstick and grown ups will see themselves as the old codgers or the grown kids trying to keep them safe and out of prison.
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving -- We actually watch this on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving for our annual Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Event. Everyone loves Snoopy and eventually some smart ass will point out that Woodstock is eating turkey at the end.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles -- Steve Martin and John Candy rushing to make it back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. It's classic John Hughes and it will make you grateful that you are not on a plane, train, or automobile at the moment. It's also a fun look at travel in a pre-Travelosity era.
Friends Thanksgiving episodes -- This requires someone to be on point because currently no streaming service has isolated these specific episodes where they will run seamlessly. Unless there is a marathon on somewhere, someone will need to cue up the next season's Thanksgiving episode. But even if someone falls down on the job, you're still watching Friends, so it's okay.
Bob's Burgers Thanksgiving episodes -- One of the most family friendly adult animation series, the show has several seasons of wonderful Thanksgiving episodes that will make everyone laugh. The Thanksgiving episodes begin in season three, but there is one every year after that. Much like Friends, someone must take on the task of cueing up the next season's episode, but it is totally worth it. Everyone in my house has a different favorite Thanksgiving episode -- whether it's the running with the turkey's or an unfortunate incident with some allergy medication and sleepwalking -- everyone enjoys the antics and Bob's obsession with making the perfect meal.
Gilmore Girls -- particularly season one. So much of the show is set in Stars Hollow which is the quintessential small town vibe. Old buildings, falling leaves, stacks of books, plaid : it has that fall vibe. The show has an excellent Thanksgiving episode in season 3 titled, "Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving" which is also my favorite Sookie episode -- between her barking orders in her kitchen or soused on margaritas when Jackson almost burns down the house trying to deep fry a turkey, Melissa McCarthy is bringing it.
Wipeout -- This might be my most low-brow option. It requires so little of it's viewer. It's just people voluntarily risking injury to work their way through an oversized obstacle course where they will eventually end up in a pool of water. Other options would be The Floor is Lava, or American Ninja Warrior.
Whether your holiday is hectic or cozy, know that it is okay if you need to hide in the den with the kids and watch TV. Hopefully great aunt Judy won't follow after you to ask more questions about your personal life.
Read Books. Wear Boots.