For many, the 1990s evoke fond memories of popular things like Skip-It, Tamagotchi, and Beanie Babies. They gave us Hanson, the Spice Girls, and the Macarena. But they also gave us ridiculously fantastic — and often iconic — television. With the holidays around the corner, it’s that time of year to give thanks and be grateful for the wonderful TV of the past. Take a trip down memory lane and check out what some of your favorite characters were doing to celebrate Turkey Day during the last great decade of the 20th century.
Beverly Hills, 90210
Season 6, Episode 12 – “Breast Side Up”
November 22, 1995
Aaron Spelling’s TV shows ruled the airwaves for the last half of the 20th century, and 90210 was the hippest zip code in the 1990s. The West Bev High days are behind us as this post-Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty) episode celebrates turkey day. The plan is to have dinner at the Walsh residence, but the gang scatters to take care of some pre-holiday commitments: Steve (Ian Ziering) and his girlfriend attend a faculty party, while Brandon (Jason Priestly) and Kelly (Jennie Garth) run last minute errands for dinner. Donna (Tori Spelling) surprises her boyfriend with a visit from San Francisco 49er Steve Young, while Val (Tiffani Amber Thiessen) deals with David’s (Brian Austin Green) not-so-mentally-stable mother and her attempts at schooling Valerie in food preparation. **Pies for dessert graciously provided by the Peach Pit.
Boy Meets World
Season 4, Episode 10 – “Turkey Day”
November 22, 1996
Boy Meets World was a mainstay of ABC’s now defunct “TGIF” lineup. In season four’s Thanksgiving episode, best friends Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) and Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong) convince their families — who don’t like each other much — to spend Thanksgiving together, and the Matthews head to the Hunters’ trailer park for the fest, which makes Cory’s family uneasy. It’s only when the boys begin expressing what they’re thankful for that the parents realize how judgmental they’ve been toward each other, and all ends well. If this show brings back fond memories, you’re in luck: the Disney Channel quasi-rebooted it earlier this year with Girl Meets World, which centers around Cory, Topanga (Danielle Fishel), and their kids.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 4, Episode 8 – “pangs”
November 23, 1999
Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t a big hit when it hit theaters in 1992, but screenwriter Joss Whedon wasn’t one to give up easily, so he took his creation to TV, and the rest is history. Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) decides to host Thanksgiving at her place while her mom is out of town. Of course, evil doesn’t take a day off just because we do, so Buffy springs into action to fend off a vindictive Native American spirit with an axe to grind. With the help of her friends — and an admirer looking out for her — Buffy saves the day, per usual.
Season 3, Episode 8 – “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
November 24, 1999
Memes of James Van Der Beek crying have roamed the internet for years now, but Dawson’s Creek had a lasting impact on a generation. Kevin Williamson (writer of The Vampire Diaries and the Scream franchise) was the man behind this show, which featured teens who regularly spoke like they were thirty-five years old. For the series’ 1999 Thanksgiving episode, Jen’s (Michelle Williams) estranged mother shows up, and the gathering at Gram’s gets a little awkward. Joey (Katie Holmes) politely reminds Jen how nice it is to have her mom around at all, despite their strained relationship, and the gang ultimately realizes how lucky they are to have each other, even if the usual teen angst still exists among them.
Season 1, Episode 9 – “Thanksgiving”
November 24, 1998
Keri Russell got her start on The All New Mickey Mouse Club that aired in the early-to-mid-1990s on the Disney Channel (yes, the same MMC that gave us Ryan Gosling, Justin Timberlake, and Britney Spears). In Felicity, she played the titular coed, who follows her high school crush, Ben (Scott Speedman), to college in New York City. For her first Thanksgiving vacation, Felicity decides to stay at school instead of returning home to her family in California. Noel’s (Scott Foley) girlfriend, Hannah (Jennifer Garner), comes to visit him and he downplays his friendship with Felicity, which doesn’t make her too happy. Julie (Amy Jo Johnson) avoids going home due to a recent tragic event, so when everyone’s plans fall through, they share an “Orphan Thanksgiving” together.
Season 5, Episode 8 – “The One With All the Thanksgivings”
November 19, 1998
Friends is the quintessential 1990s sitcom, a show that’s still fondly quoted and referenced to this day, and one whose episodes frequently remind its fans of situations they’ve encountered in their own lives. In this episode, the gang takes a trip down memory lane, recalling their worst Thanksgivings ever. Chandler (Matthew Perry) claims to be the king of the worst Thanksgiving, and when Monica (Courtney Cox) tries to cheer him up, he accidentally responds with those three little words. Monica reacts exactly like you’d expect her to react.
Mad About You
Season 3, Episode 8 – “Giblets for Murray”
November 17, 1994
Mad About You followed a newlywed couple living in New York City, and in this particular episode, Jamie (Helen Hunt) and Paul (Paul Reiser) host Thanksgiving dinner at their place for their families. Naturally, they stress out all day trying to please everyone’s tastes, and right when things start coming together, they discover their dog Murray has gotten into the turkey. By the way, how weird is it to see smoking in someone’s residence on a network TV sitcom? Oh, how times have changed.
Season 6, Episode 8 – “The Mom and Pop Store”
November 17, 1994
Seinfeld is famously a show about nothing, but “The Mom and Pop Store” is loaded with even more randomness than usual. In this episode, Kramer is on a mission to save the shoe repair store downstairs from going out of business, but in typical Kramer fashion, he only ends up making matters worse. George buys a car because Jon Voight might have driven it, while Elaine is helping her boss get into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (and loses her hearing in the process). That night, Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston, in his first Seinfeld appearence) has everyone over to watch the parade on TV (never mind that it’s broadcast live during the day). In other words, Thanksgiving is just as crazy as any other day in Seinfeld-land.
Season 1, Episode 8 – “Thespis”
November 17, 1998
Here we have a pre-Six Feet Under — and Parenthood — Peter Krause, a very much alive Josh Charles (sorry, Good Wife fans), and a pre-Housewives Felicity Huffman. The laugh track is a bit distracting, but all Sorkin-isms are in play (watch this on-point sketch Seth Meyers recently did on Late Night for clarification). As for the episode itself, Huffman’s character, Dana, is busy putting out multiple fires — as most executive producers do — when her thought-to-be frozen turkey ends up crashing through the ceiling landing on the news desk from the floor above. This was Aaron Sorkin’s first TV show, and it unfortunately lasted only two seasons before Sorkin decided to concentrate on The West Wing instead.
Will & Grace
Season 2, Episode 7 – “Homo for the Holidays”
November 25, 1999
Before Debra Messing was kickass detective and single mom Laura Diamond on The Mysteries of Laura, she was Grace Adler, an interior designer living with her gay best friend Will (Eric McCormack), a lawyer in New York City. Along with Karen (Megan Mullally), Grace’s socialite assistant, and Jack (Sean Hayes), Will’s other BFF from college, these four starred in one of NBC’s most popular sitcoms during its “Must See TV” years. Here, Jack is super pumped for turkey day, but things go south when he finds out Will invited Jack’s mom to Thanksgiving dinner; Jack hasn’t told his mother he’s gay. His friends are there for him when he finally comes out to his mom, and as it turns out, she’s harboring a secret of her own.