5 Politically Salient Television Episodes to Stream With Your Family This Thanksgiving


I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: The holidays this year will most likely be god-awful. This is owing to a confluence of circumstances, includingoh, I don’t know, let’s see herethe fact that the world is collapsing and our president is a bucket of refried beans poured into a polyester suit and topped with a diseased tangerine. But even during the best years, the holidays still kinda suck. It’s like, sure, you get all this time off work — if you’re lucky enough to even have work and also lucky enough to have days off! Yay, capitalism! On top of that, you have to spend those precious free moments hanging out with people you don’t even like. It’s not right! And if you happen to be from some magical family who all “love each other” and “always get along” and also share the same non-terrible political views — Women are people! People of color are people! Mashed potatoes are the superior carb! — then, goodbye forever. I hate you, and so does everybody else.

For the rest of you: This list exists to help you spend time with that terrible aunt, or insufferable uncle, who either openly touts their support for our gutter-garbage president or — and this is almost worse — refuses to talk about it because you know they secretly voted for Melania’s deadbeat husband and they don’t want to feel guilty while they fill their fat faces with dry dead bird. Welp, the only way I see dealing with any of that nonsense is to do what families do best: Watch TV to avoid talking to each other! And while you do, why not put on an episode that might seep into their unconscious and teach them to be less of a scourge on the earth? It can’t hurt, right? Maybe you can even talk about them afterward with open hearts and open minds, and wouldn’t that be nice? At the very least, it’s something you really should do if you’re a white person and have racist relatives: Speak to your people before they completely destroy this country. And then after that, when you’re all hugging it out, you can kick back with your plates of pumpkin pie and proceed to ruin the holiday by telling everyone their delicious pumpkin pie is actually made of squash. (See! You can be a killjoy about literally anything!)

“Lemons” (Black-ish, season three, episode 12): 

We all dealt with the political blowout of 2016 in different ways: crying, celebrating, calling our reps, raging, retreating, boasting, stress-eating entire pies, protesting in ways both large and small. This post-election, pre-inauguration episode of Black-ishwhich aired on January 11, deals with our nation’s collective emotions, and, astonishingly, does so without too much preachiness. If you want to help empathy-deficient family members gain some understanding of what it felt like to wake up in Trump’s America, especially for black people, this is a great start. In one particularly moving storyline, eldest daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) becomes obsessive about making the perfect lemonade for a healing rally. Of course, her hippie mom, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), would rather her daughter call her reps about Planned Parenthood funding and take to the streets to rage against the newly elected Cheeto-in-Chief. However, Zoey explains to her mom that she’d rather use this time to come together with her friends and that, just because her side didn’t win, doesn’t mean her values don’t matter. “It’s not liberal lemonade, it’s not conservative lemonade,” she says. “It’s just lemonade — that I made with love. That’s what I want my contribution to be. Love.” Deep! Combined with Dre’s speech about how he loves America but America doesn’t love him back, it’s a one-two gut-punch of common sense that’ll hopefully crack even the crustiest GOP grandpa. Oh, and if your family gets hooked, you might want to try to sneak in “Hope,” the second-season episode about police brutality that masterfully avoids “very special episode” territory. Bow down. [Stream on Hulu.]

“Citizen Jessica” (Fresh Off the Boat, season three, episode 4):

It’s almost Election Day 1996, and sax-playing rapscallion Bill Clinton is facing off against stodgy, dusty ol’ Bob Dole. This episode of Fresh Off the Boat centers itself around one of the hot-button issues of that election cycle: immigration. Sound familiar?! When mom Jessica (Constance Wu) tries to rat someone else out to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, she finds herself caught in their evil cross hairs for failure to renew her green card. Her shitty behavior bites her in the ass (as is the way of all great sitcoms!) and Jessica is swept up in the nightmare of having to deal with an unreasonable, broken, racist system that hurts families and American stability. Plus, there’s a whole bit about how pilgrims are the original undocumented citizens that is so NO DOY that it can’t help but create conversation at the dinner table when you casually bring it up after asking your aunt to pass the Tofurky that only you are eating. [Stream on Hulu.]

“The Debate” (Parks and Recreation, season four, episode 20):

It’s shocking that this 21 minutes of television about a competent woman getting trounced by a useless man in the political arena is from early 2012. But then, it’s also not shocking, because this is an endemic issue that we can’t ever escape and the world deserves to burn. After watching this episode, maybe your relatives will finally see how infuriating it is for a bright, prepared, and, yes, sometimes tedious woman to get her ass handed to her by a lazy piece of caca. Amy Poehler’s Leslie Fuckin’ Knope (™, Ron Swanson) can’t stop, won’t stop, and is the true definition of “nevertheless, she persisted.” Hopefully this can open up conversations about the different standards placed on men and women in power, and also about what a fine specimen Ron Swanson is. If you all can’t bond over that fact, you should dramatically flip over the Thanksgiving table and never return. [Stream on Netflix.]

“Adult Education” (The Golden Girls, season one, episode 20):

This groundbreaking, hilarious comedy has finally gotten its due from millennials who recognize the true brilliance of watching four freewheeling babes making it happen in Miami. The Golden Girls often tackled real issues facing women without being moralizing downers — which, honestly, is my favorite pastime, so no disrespect — and “Adult Education” is no exception. When Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) — the original Samantha from Sex and the City and don’t you forget it! — takes a class at a local college and finds herself sexually harassed by the professor, her anger gets ignored by the powers that be, and she has to take shit into her own hands. This episode is a great gateway to necessary conversations about gender dynamics, power differentials, and also Bea Arthur’s amazing pastel painter’s jacket. Like, where do you buy that? Maybe your racist aunt knows! [Stream on Hulu.]

“After the Winter” (Queen Sugar, season two, episode 1):

For those relatives who love a juicy, smart soap, there’s nothing more satisfying than Queen Sugar. Honestly, you should probably start with the first season and make them binge the entire thing while in a mashed-potato coma, but if you have to cut to the essentials, the second season police-brutality story arc, which begins in this stunning first episode, is a good place to start. When young Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) is pulled over for driving while black — let’s just call it what it is — a tense and terrifying experience with a police officer leads to his arrest. His NBA-star dad pulls some strings to get him released, and when Micah emerges, he is visibly traumatized. What happened to him in there? It’s a question that will force even your most “I don’t see color!” relatives to let the credits roll straight into the next episode. And if not, you should probably find a new family. Call me! After these holidays, I might be looking for one, too! (jk, Mom!) (Probably!) [Watch on OWN; buy on Amazon.]