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New traditions and old standbys: 17 TV shows to stream this Thanksgiving

New traditions and old standbys: 17 TV shows to stream this Thanksgiving
Graphic: Natalie Peeples
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Because the parade eventually has to end, because not everyone is into football: If you’re gathering with family and/or friends to celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, you’re going to want to have some streaming picks in your back pocket. (And if you’re not, well, you’ve got the time to do some heavy duty viewing.) It’s a need The A.V. Club is always happy to oblige, recommending the TV equivalents of favored desserts and new additions to the same old spread. Whether you’re looking to laugh, cry, or just drown out a heated debate over brining techniques, here are 17 shows—with just under a thousand episodes—that’ll get you through the long weekend.

The Curious Creations Of Christine McConnell (Netflix, 6 episodes)

Combining the process-based relaxation of The Great British Baking Show and the morbid sensibilities of an Edward Gorey drawing, The Curious Creations Of Christine McConnell creates a new TV subgenre: the goth cooking show. Star Christine McConnell rose to Instagram fame three years ago, when she turned her parents’ house into a whimsical monster for Halloween. Her ’50s pinup style and Tim Burton-meets-Charles Addams aesthetic translates not only into the complicated treats she creates on the show—including peanut-butter femurs that look remarkably like the real thing and shrunken-head cookies—but also the creepy-cute mansion where the action takes place and the murderous, Jim Henson Company-crafted creatures—like sex-crazed firebug raccoon Rose and hulking werewolf Edgar—that live there. There are only six half-hour-ish episodes in the show’s first season, meaning you can watch the whole thing in under three hours; Curious Creations also follows a season-long story arc, making it more bingeable than most shows in the genre. The final episode takes place on Halloween—which, yes, was three weeks ago. But considering the show is aimed at the sort of viewer who thinks Halloween should last all year, that’s hardly an issue. What might be an issue, however, is explaining Rose’s popularity with the neighborhood dogs to young children. [Katie Rife]

Dogs (Netflix, 6 episodes)

At first glance, Dogs, a new docuseries about humankind’s best friend (cats are really more like frenemies), looks like the kind of background-noise programming you can nap in front of or throw on to thwart invasive questions. But the Netflix series, from Glen Zipper and Amy Berg, has a lot more heart and depth than crowd-pleasing canine content like Precious Puppies—it shows just how complementary the relationship between people and pups is. In one episode, a doe-eyed Labrador mix acts as child and colleague to an Italian fisherman, while another installment centers on the artistry of Japanese dog groomers, who find their clientele loyal and inspiring. At just six hours, you can easily watch Dogs over the course of your Thanksgiving meal. But if you must choose, we recommend the third episode (starring Ice) and the fifth episode, the latter of which is set in a dog village—er, refuge—in Costa Rica. [Danette Chavez]

The Night Manager (Amazon, 6 episodes)

The Night Manager stars Olivia Colman, Tom Hiddleston, and Hugh Laurie, which should be enough to hit “play.” Based on the novel by John le Carré, it hits all the notes you’d expect from the British espionage author, as Hiddleston’s Jonathan Pine (the titular night manager) tries to foil Laurie’s international arms dealer. The 1993 book has been geographically updated for the 2010s, and a few other updates help freshen it up, as well—namely Olivia Colman, whose character in the book was a man, as dogged British agent Angela Burr, who’s on a quest to bring down Laurie’s Richard Roper. She masterminds a deep undercover job in which Pine joins Roper’s inner circle, and the ensuing series—which is beautifully shot across four countries—unspools its action with near-perfect tension, at Susanne Bier’s direction. Hiddleston and Laurie, ostensibly on opposite sides of international law, bring nuanced charm and danger to their respective roles. Although le Carré is nearly always adapted to the big screen, The Night Manager makes an excellent case for espionage miniseries. [Laura M. Browning]

Pride & Prejudice (1995) (Amazon, 6 episodes)

This miniseries adaptation of Pride & Prejudice is still the gold standard, with a stoney-faced Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as the charming and willful Elizabeth Bennet. Six hours may seem like a long time for a slow-moving period piece, but there’s a reason this story keeps getting adapted: it’s thoroughly engaging, and this particular cast is especially so. The perfect backdrop for a long day of cooking, it’s as pleasant as other British imports like The Great British Baking Show but even easier to drop in and out of (though we also recommend devoting your full attention to it at some point, perhaps a gray, snowy day in February; it’s worth every minute and goes great with hot cocoa). It’s a romance but not a saccharine one, and the female-heavy cast includes Julia Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous) as the headstrong and carefree Lydia, and a small appearance from Lucy Davis in her first television role. [Laura M. Browning]

Us & Them (Sony Crackle, 7 episodes)

One of those rare instances where you can guarantee that nobody in the house has seen the show, presuming they weren’t working at the Fox network five years ago. An Americanized version of hit Britcom Gavin & Stacey starring Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel, Us & Them was ordered to series the same spring as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, scheduled for midseason 2014, and premiered… in 2018, on its studio’s ad-supported streaming site. It’s the interstate love story of a city boy and a country girl, their less-than-smitten best friends (Ashlie Atkinson and Dustin Ybarra), and their eccentric families (Kurt Fuller, Jane Kaczmarek, and the mini-State reunion of Kerri Kenney and Michael Ian Black). Whereas most rom-coms ask “Will they/won’t they?”, Us & Them’s disappearing act poses the question, “What if?” [Erik Adams]

Black Lake (Shudder, 8 episodes)

Horror streaming service Shudder has incorporated TV series into its roster, meaning there are now a bevy of darkly appealing offerings for those who want to spend a little more time getting lost in a scary story. Black Lake takes a classic horror premise—a group of friends head to a remote cabin in the mountains for a snow-capped vacation, only for bad things to start happening—and invests depth and human drama in it. The Swedish chiller follows Hanna (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) and her friends as they take a trip out to a ski lodge that’s been closed for years after a horrific crime was committed there, as her boyfriend Johan has designs on buying and reopening the place. But Hanna soon starts hearing strange noises coming from the basement, and as inexplicable situations befall various members of the group, she suspects there’s a sinister force at play—though whether it’s human or something else isn’t entirely clear. At eight episodes, it’s the perfect length for occupying the evenings of your holiday weekend, or a day-long binge. [Alex McLevy]

Joe Pera Talks With You (Adult Swim, 9 episodes)

Amid the abrasive and rapid-fire sensory assaults that constitute most Adult Swim programming (hell, most TV these days), it’s a joy to find a series so committed to gentle whimsy and laidback rhythms. Joe Pera Talks With You is based around the soft-spoken and deadpan persona of comedian Joe Pera, a series of 10- to 15-minutes episodes (save for the double-length finale) that find the star expounding on small-town life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s funny without being caustic, witty without being biting, and never condescends to either its audience or an assortment of good-natured townsfolk, most of whom live a far more conventionally paced existence than the droll titular character. To say it’s a soothing balm for the headache of daily life is to undersell the humor and sly commentary, but it’s also true. You could binge the whole thing in a few hours, but honestly, it might be better appreciated spaced out—each installment a small treat for whenever you feel a holiday-derived headache of your own coming on. [Alex McLevy]

3% (Netflix, 16 episodes)

What at first appears to be a variation on The Hunger Games/Battle Royale formula (in a near-future dystopian world, a test called “The Process” allows all 20-year-olds to compete in an effort to be part of the titular percentage that wins the right to escape society and live on an elite island paradise) soon reveals itself to be a slick and addictive psychological thriller. The first season follows a group of young people as they fight to make it through the Process, while among the people running the test there’s word of a revolutionary insurrectionist who has infiltrated this latest array of candidates, intent on taking down the entire system. It’s a combination of political intrigue, spy-games espionage, and gleeful survival-of-the-fittest gamesmanship, and this Portuguese-language production (only the second non-English series produced by the streaming giant) deserves a wide American audience for its splashy and smart storytelling. [Alex McLevy]

Freakazoid! (VRV, 24 episodes)

In the Venn diagram overlap between the pop-culture-savvy zaniness of Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs and the sophisticated comic-book capering of Batman: The Animated Series there lies a masked teen whose powers include lightning-fast jibber jabber and bursting through the fourth wall. Brought to life by the superteam of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Tom Ruegger, Freakazoid! was a volatile outlier within the Kids’ WB lineup, whose titular character was as apt to get wrapped up in an elaborate Hello, Dolly! riff as he was to save the day. The missing link in the evolution of our current superhero-obsessed, meta-humor-saturated age, Freakazoid! is the purveyor of non sequiturs that have been stuck in your brain for a couple of decades and the source of a gloriously deadpan Ed Asner performance you never knew you needed. Whatever the case, it might just be the thing to cue up when your cousins are clamoring to watch Deadpool for the umpteenth time. [Erik Adams]

Dead Like Me (Amazon, 29 episodes)

The very first of numerous shows that Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller would leave over “creative differences,” the TV auteur walked away from Dead Like Me five episodes into its first season. The show follows 18-year-old Georgia “George” Lass (Ellen Muth) after she’s killed by a toilet seat that broke off the Mir space station as it fell to Earth. George soon learns she’s become a grim reaper—one of those tasked with harvesting the souls of the soon-to-be-departed (preferably right before they die) and shepherding them to the afterlife. Joining up with a coterie of fellow reapers (including wonderful turns from actors like Mandy Patinkin and Jasmine Guy), George tries to navigate the thorny issues of life after death, while trying to keep an eye on her still-alive and grieving family. Season two expands the mythology of the show in interesting and unusual ways; just be sure to avoid the dispiriting years-later TV movie follow-up, Dead Like Me: Life After Death. [Alex McLevy]

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Netflix, 45 episodes)

And now for something completely essential: The groundbreaking sketch show that spent several years bouncing around the streamosphere (RIP Seeso) landed on Netflix in 2018, accompanied by Life Of Brian, various live recordings, a smattering of documentaries, curated compilations, and the Pythons’ brief attempt to translate their quintessentially British silliness into German. But it all started with this—well, technically it started with the stuff glimpsed in Monty Python: Before The Flying Circus (get on with it!)—four series of stream-of-consciousness absurdities linked by surreal animations, prone to self-aware interruptions, and rightly praised for turning the square realm of midcentury television inside out. Sure, you can get the highlights compressed into the also-streaming anthology Parrot Sketch Not Included, but with the complete Flying Circus, you get “The Spanish Inquisition” (though you’d never expect it), “Argument Clinic,” and “The Ministry Of Silly Walks” in their original context. Plus, this way, you get to see that dead (passed on! Ceased to be! ex-) parrot. [Erik Adams]

Z Nation (Netflix, 55 episodes)

Five seasons in, and Syfy’s laudably demented zombie action series Z Nation shows no signs of slowing either the mayhem or the reliably weird and inventive narrative conceits. Another variant on the post-apocalyptic drama in which the undead are back and making life very difficult for the increasingly small remaining human population, Z Nation zags where The Walking Dead zigs, going big and bonkers with broad comedy and gruesome effects alike as a multicultural band of survivors led by Lt. Roberta Warren (the charming Kellita Smith) come together several years after a zombie virus has wiped out most of humanity. Tasked with ferrying the sole immune human across the country to a CDC outpost, the group encounters one weird situation after another, making for a show that upends the dour conventions of the genre even as it treats its human drama with gravity. It’s gotten progressively smarter and more ambitious with each passing year, as the season-one hijinks transition into thoughtful sci-fi mystery in season four, the most recent season available. [Alex McLevy]

The Great British Baking Show (Netflix, 60 episodes)

The world did not end when hosts Sue and Mel and judge Mary Berry left The Great British Baking Show. New hosts Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding don’t have quite the same easy rapport as their predecessors, but they bring the same warmth and humor, while new judge Prue Leith brings a welcome counter to the steely eyed Paul Hollywood; in fact, while there’s no replacing the supreme Berry, Prue and Paul have an affinity for each other that was missing from the previous judge’s relationship. The contestants, the challenges, and the warm pleasures of The Great British Baking Show are as kindly as ever in this, the most friendly of competition shows. Netflix houses the two new seasons as “Collection 5” and “Collection 6.” Keep some Thanksgiving pie on hand and give thanks that the simple comfort of British baking can weather stormy seas. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Battlestar Galactica (Hulu and Amazon, 75 episodes)

Over an initial miniseries, four more seasons, and two TV movies, Battlestar Galactica took its 1978 cult classic inspiration and turned it into a bonafide success, bringing viewers a thrilling survival story that is far more thoughtful than it looks at first glance. “The Cylons were created by man,” begins this sci-fi space adventure’s opening line. “...And then the day came when the Cylons decided to kill their masters.” While humans struggle to survive after the majority of their home lands are destroyed in a Cylon attack, Battlestar Galactica explores themes of personhood, representative democracy, military responsibility, and corruption of power, always coming back to ideas of sentience and what makes a being “human.” Start with the miniseries, which plays more like a three-hour movie than anything, before traveling alongside the last of the human race and their discontent progeny across the stars. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Living Single (Hulu, 118 episodes)

25 years after its premiere, Living Single still doesn’t get nearly enough credit for inventing the urban sitcom format later seen on Friends and Girls, let alone for its cast, an electric (and sexy) ensemble that included Queen Latifah, Kim Fields, and Erika Alexander. The Fox series, from Yvette Lee Bowser (then Yvette Denise Lee), broke ground by following the lives of six black people in the city: an ambitious publisher (Latifah); her mild-mannered cousin (Kim Coles); their imperious friend (Fields); their other fierce friend (Alexander); and their odd-couple neighbors (T.C. Carson and John Henton). Disappointment and success, of the professional and personal variety, filled every hilarious half-hour of this ’90s kind of world. Hulu snagged the complete series earlier this year, so once you’ve had enough of your relatives, spend some time with this chosen family—“true blue, and tight like glue.” [Danette Chavez]

St. Elsewhere (Hulu, 137 episodes)

This pioneering medical show is another recent key acquisition for Hulu, part of a deal with 20th Century Fox that added nearly nearly 3,000 episodes to the service’s library. (We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Hulu, not Netflix, is the streamer that actually cares about TV.) Subscribers have long had access to St. Elsewhere’s first season, but now that the show’s complete run is back in circulation, you can more easily bear witness to the stranger paths traveled by the staff of crumbling St. Eligius, from the decade-spanning two-parter “Time Heals” (with Edward Herrmann as swing-loving hospital founder Father McCabe!) to the episode where the veteran docs decamp to Cheers to decompress over beers and Carla’s jeers. There’s plenty of compelling workplace drama and memorable characters (if you only know William Daniels as Boy Meets World’s Mr. Feeny, you must see his Emmy-winning turn as prickly heart surgeon Dr. Mark Craig) in between, but if you’re in it for the historic oddities, an episode that launched TV’s widest-ranging shared-universe theory—after all the viewers it infuriated calmed down, at least. [Erik Adams]

Unsolved Mysteries (Amazon, 356 episodes; Hulu, 10 episodes)

A mix of true crime and the paranormal, of cold cases and urban legends, Unsolved Mysteries probably didn’t mean to traumatize the very viewers it was trying to keep informed and safe, but it did so all the same. The show’s overtly spooky direction and Robert Stack’s voice, a steely sound ideal for describing both earthly wrongdoings and the supernatural, made this hourlong stretch in front of the TV more unsettling than Masters Of Horror (well, almost). You’re already going to be on edge this holiday season, so why not revisit some old crimes and ghost stories? Consider this the snacking option—which is still a necessary part of any bingewatch guide—and watch a handful of episodes from seasons 1-12 on Amazon, or check out Dennis Farina’s stint as host via the handpicked season 14 episodes available on Hulu. [Danette Chavez]