what to watch

What TV Should I Watch This Thanksgiving?

This Is Us - Season 1
This Is Us. Photo: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

It’s time to celebrate Thanksgiving, a day when Americans come together to overeat and pretend they aren’t drinking that third glass of chardonnay because of that racist thing Grandpa just said.

The holiday and the four-day weekend that comes with it (for some) is an opportunity to consume excessive amounts of home-cooked food. But it’s also a great opportunity to overindulge on television, perhaps this year more than most. Seriously: If you’re spending four straight days with family members who voted for the candidate you opposed in the recent presidential election, the only way you may survive is by staring at a TV screen and not actually talking to each other.

With that in mind, here are a dozen viewing/streaming options for Thanksgiving Day weekend, minus Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life because, duh, you already know about that one. All of the shows listed should satisfy those looking for Turkey Day–specific fare, people trying to play TV catch-up and/or concerned citizens who just want to take their minds off the fact that this country is falling deeper and deeper into a metaphorical sinkhole. Watch softly and carry a large turkey drumstick, my friends.

Pre-Prepared Thanksgiving Day Binges

The Simpsons marathon (FXX): Remember when FXX aired every Simpsons episode ever back in 2014? Well, they’re doing it again starting at noon on Thanksgiving, broadcasting  600 back-to-back episodes during a Springfield-fest that will last 13 days. I mean, sure, yeah, okay: FXX shows hours and hours of The Simpsons every week. But, like, not in chronological order in a way that guarantees you don’t have to find the remote for two straight weeks. (Tip: The classic season two episode “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” is on at 9:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night in case you want to celebrate the holiday by singing, “Mom, it’s broken, Mom, it’s broken …”)

Parks and Recreation marathon (Esquire): From 7 a.m. to midnight on the Esquire network, it’s all the Knope you can handle, including most of season three and all of season four, complete with episodic gems like “Lil’ Sebastian” and “The Debate.”

Friends Thanksgiving episode marathon (TBS): If your idea of the perfect Thanksgiving involves watching every Thanksgiving episode of Friends, TBS is totally there for you on Thursday, at least between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Should you prefer to enjoy Rachel’s holiday trifle on your own schedule, you can always orchestrate your own Friends-giving on Netflix, where the sitcom is streaming in its entirety.

Thanksgiving Day and Beyond

This Is Us (NBC, Hulu): This drama about the long arc of love and secrecy in one family is the breakout hit of the fall season. It also may provide the kind of TV comfort food you crave while consuming actual leftover comfort food. All episodes of the first season are available via NBC on demand and Hulu.

Search Party (TBS):  This new TBS mystery/comedy/drama about a Brooklynite (Alia Shawkat) determined to locate a missing college friend is one of the best shows of the year, according to our Matt Zoller Seitz. As someone who flew through all ten episodes in a 24-hour period, I agree with that assessment. TBS is rolling out episodes two by two every night this week at 11 p.m., but all of them can be streamed right now, with no log-in required, on tbs.com.

Speechless (ABC and Hulu): Seeking something that the whole brood can watch and that also keeps you TV-current? Catch up on Speechless, one of the stronger network sitcoms of the new season and one that shows there can be genuinely funny moments in the fight to make sure every kid, including J.J., a teen with cerebral palsy, is treated equally. All episodes are available on demand and on Hulu.

The Crown (Netflix): If you’re a fan of British prestige dramas with high production values, report immediately to this sumptuous period piece that traces the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from the moment she married Philip (Matt Smith) to her coronation at the age of 25. Something tells me that knowledge of this ten-episode series will pay off in January, when the PBS debut of Victoria, the British series that traces the rise of Queen Victoria more than 100 years earlier, will likely stir a round of think pieces comparing the two.

Sherlock (PBS, Netflix): Hey, speaking of British series that air on PBS, the fourth season of Sherlock will premiere on New Year’s Day, both on PBS here in the States and on the BBC across the pond. To prepare for that occasion, watch or rewatch the first three seasons of Sherlock and last year’s special “The Abominable Bride,” all of which are streaming on the PBS website and Netflix. If you need to convince certain relatives that this is worth their time, just tell them Doctor Strange is in it. Maybe that will help.

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon): When the first season of this series began streaming last year on Amazon, it presented an intriguing, chilling vision of an alternate history in which fascism infects American society post–World War II. Watching that season now — a good idea if you’re interested in jumping into season two as soon as it arrives on December 16 — may feel less like observing an alternate history and more like watching a potentially prescient drama.

The Powerpuff Girls (Hulu): If there are elementary schoolers in your midst this Thanksgiving and you’d prefer to avoid sitting through multiple hours of Disney Channel programming, steer the young folk toward Hulu, where original episodes of The Powerpuff Girls are still streaming even though they left Netflix earlier this month.

Queen Sugar (OWN):  Sometimes the best way to escape family problems is by watching some other family deal with their problems. This well-received OWN series — set in New Orleans and focused on siblings who stand to inherit the family farm — is one compelling way to do that. With the season-one finale scheduled to air on November 30, this is a timely moment to get up to speed. Catch up on previous episodes by downloading the OWN app or purchasing a season pass from iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, or Google Play.

The Americans (FX; Amazon): Everyone’s been saying that The Americans is great but you just keep ignoring them. On this most American of holidays, and in light of what could be a newly cozy relationship between the U.S. and Russia, make this the time when you finally get onboard with one of the best dramas on television, due to return for its fifth season in early 2017. The first three seasons are streamable for free via Amazon Prime; the fourth season is not yet available to Prime subscribers, but it, and all other seasons, can be purchased and streamed via iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play.

What TV Should I Watch This Thanksgiving?