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Thanksgiving viewing guide

By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Nov. 25, 2011

<i>Miracle on 34th Street</i>
Miracle on 34th Street

Ah, television. That wonderful easer of social anxieties. That delightful reliever of familial tensions. It fills the awkward silences and provides soothing white noise for tryptophan comas, drowns out your racist great-aunt's polemics, and bridges the divide between generations – because, really, who can't agree that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is boring as shit? Whether you're spending the day with family or friends or on your own, it'll include some quality time on the couch. Here's our handy guide to TV's Thanksgiving assault of holiday spirit.

7-8:30am: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (TBS). Yo, homes. Three back-to-back episodes of the Banks family carving turkey and cutting up.

9am: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. TVGuide.com's preview promises more than 800 clowns. Like that's a selling point?

9am: Meet Me in St. Louis (TCM). This season-spanning MGM musical set on the eve of the 1904 World's Fair is revered for Judy Garland's rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Because it's never too early to get weepy.

9:30am-4:30am: KLRU-Create will be looping Thanksgiving-themed cooking shows from its vault, including America's Test Kitchen and Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Don't blame us if you spend the rest of the day aping Julia Childs' delightfully frog-throated trill and Frenchie Jacques Pépin's inscrutable accent. And a tip for the cook trapped in the kitchen sans TV: From 10am to noon, KUT airs The Splendid Table host Lynne Rossetto Kasper's annual Turkey Confidential Thanksgiving call-in special.

10am: Man v. Food Nation: "The Feast Special" (Travel Channel). Adam Richman crashes various interpretations of the Thanksgiving feast, from Hawaiian luau to proper Plimouth Plantation-style. This may raise expectations for your own festivities, but do resist the urge to do an impromptu hula dance, unless you want your iPhone-packing evil niece posting the video to YouTube by dessert.

11am: Food Jammers: "Dehydrated Turkey" (Cooking Channel). The brainiacs at Food Jammers build a dehydrator to make their turkey portable for a camping trip. This one's all about lowering the bar back down for your own T-Day spread. Turkey turn out a little tough? At least it wasn't dried, reconstituted, and served in the wild. Burn.

Noon: National Dog Show (NBC): It seems self-explanatory enough, but that didn't stop NBC from posting a "How To Watch a Dog Show" video to its website.

Midafternoon nostalgia block: Various channels will be running marathons, including Roseanne (Oxygen, 6am-6pm), The Andy Griffith Show (TV Land, 7am-5:49pm), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Chiller, 5am-2pm), Martin (MTV2, 2-7:30pm), and Arrested Development (IFC, 5am-11:30pm). Netflix streaming also has options: We recommend Thanksgiving-specific episodes of Sports Night (108: "Thespis"), The Cosby Show (609: "Cliff's Wet Adventure"), and Cheers (509: "Thanksgiving Orphans").

1:45pm: The Great Outdoors (Encore). Of course, John Candy's Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the Thanksgiving classic, but it's nowhere to be found on TV, so why not get your Candy fix with this awesomely goofy 1988 comedy co-starring Dan Aykroyd? Not recommended if you happen to be serving hot dogs for dinner. ("You know what they make those things out of, Chet? You know? Lips and assholes.")

And while we're (sort of) on the subject: Actual Thanksgiving-themed movies are surprisingly underrepresented on the big day. You can stream a couple on Netflix (Dutch, Miracle on 34th Street) and rent a couple more (The Family Stone, Pieces of April) from iTunes, but for the very best of the genre – Jodie Foster's family dramedy Home for the Holidays, no contest – you'll have to wait until 3am on Friday morning to catch it on OWN.

2pm: Miracle on 34th Street (NBC). The original 1947 tearjerker.

5pm: Better Than Black Friday (QVC). Credit cards, start your engines.

7pm: Texas at Texas A&M (ESPN). The Longhorns and Aggies' historic last encounter as Big 12 rivals.

7pm: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (ABC). As Marcie puts it, "Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck." She's right. It's also about the cozy rite of reuniting with the Peanuts gang.

7:30pm: "Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown" (Fox). This 2011 produced short sees Linus struggling to say goodbye to his blankie.

8:30pm: A Very Gaga Thanksgiving (ABC). Lady Gaga cuddles up to Tony Bennett and friends for performances that mix the Gaga backlog with Christmas standards.

9pm: The 85th Anniversary of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (NBC). Matt Lauer hosts this special retrospective. No word on the clown count.

9pm: Elf (USA). Likably twee comedy with Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel.

9pm: The Lady Eve (TCM): All turkeyed out? Consider this Preston Sturges classic screwball comedy for secular counterprogramming.

10pm: Punkin Chunkin 2011 (DSC). Annual competition of "backyard engineers who turn pumpkins into projectiles." A word of warning: If your meal hasn't settled yet, this might inspire a different kind of chunking.

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