The series finale of Everybody Loves Raymond aired 16 years ago, but the show remains a constant presence in syndication where re-runs frequently air on channels like TV Land, IFC, and on streaming services like Peacock. The sitcom about Long Island sportswriter, Ray Barone (Ray Romano), his wife, Debra (Patricia Heaton), and their three kids ran for 210 episodes over 9 seasons from 1996-2005. Like its sister shows, The King of Queens and Home Improvement, Raymond’s laughs stem from its relatable comedy, riffs on middle-class woes, and its cast of quirky supporting characters like Ray’s brother, Robert (Brad Garrett), and their parents, Frank (Peter Boyle) and Marie (Doris Roberts).
The show was never short on holiday episodes (or dysfunction), and its Thanksgiving episodes were some of the series’ best — so much so that networks frequently run them in a back-to-back marathon on or near the holiday. From clashing in-laws, to Debra choosing to cook a fish instead of a turkey, to a Thanksgiving meal without the fat, Raymond’s Thanksgiving episodes bring the humor in clever and relatable ways. Each season’s outing features holiday high-jinx, heated arguments, and more than a couple faux pas that, no matter how cringe-worthy, make us feel better about our own families. As we approach Thanksgiving and the feasts of food (and TV) that come with it, here are all 8 Thanksgiving episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, ranked.
8. “No Thanks” (Season 4, Episode 9)
When Debra spends the day cooking with Robert’s wife, Amy (Monica Horan), and Marie, she decides to try a new approach in attempting to get along with her extremely critical mother-in-law. She complements her cooking expertise, lets her take the lead in the kitchen, and bites her tongue when Marie insults her mothering skills. But it’s not long before her plan backfires spectacularly with Debra losing her temper. Marie offers her “useful advice” like explaining how to use a rolling pin, or giving her a backhanded compliment about her dinner rolls and how “the burnt part gave them some flavor.” “No Thanks” gets its humor from putting three incredibly different women in a bubble and waiting for the inevitable fireworks to ensue (not to mention Amy’s continued laughter when she drinks too much wine).
7. “Older Woman” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Deb is excited when her divorced parents decide to spend Thanksgiving with her and Ray. She’s less excited to find out that her father, Warren (Robert Culp) is bringing a date, Emma (Patricia Place)…who also happens to be much older than he is. Debra’s mom, Lois (Katherine Helmond), is fine with it, but everyone else at the holiday gathering is confused why Warren would pick her. As Frank says, “she seems nice and all, but jeezaloo! You got a golden opportunity here. You’re still handsome, nice tan. You got all your teeth and then some. What gives?” The episode’s humor increases with the Barones’ observations of Emma as she takes long naps and has trouble lifting the bowl of mashed potatoes, not to mention everyone treating and talking about her like she’s an infant. “Oh, she just went down,” Warren says after Emma takes a nap. “She’s good for three hours.”
6. “Marie’s Vision” (Season 7, Episode 10)
When Marie’s eyesight worsens, the Barones encourage her to get glasses. She does and her improved vision allows her to start making observations and comments about everyone’s appearance…just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. But rather than ignore Marie’s criticisms, the family begins to get self-conscious. Ray dyes his graying hair with shoe polish, Debra slathers on dark eyeliner that makes her look like a raccoon, while Robert gets anti-wrinkle injections that end up paralyzing his face. His arc ends up being one of the episode’s highlights. “Hey, e’rydody,” he says, unable to speak correctly with a face fresh from Botox. “Where do you want me to hut this cranderry sauce?”. “Marie’s Vision” is funny because it shows that the family really does care what Marie thinks, despite their claims otherwise. Holiday dysfunction never made us feel so lucky that we are’nt related to the Barones.
5. “Debra’s Parents” (Season 9, Episode 7)
Deb’s parents come down for Thanksgiving again, but this time, Lois stays with Frank and Marie, while Warren stays with Ray and Deb who give up their bedroom for him. All seems to be going smoothly until Ray awakens one night to find the divorced Lois and Warren in bed together. Naturally, he’s horrified, and the bulk of the episode’s humor comes from Ray’s alarm. After all, not only is Warren sleeping in Ray’s bed and making his pillow into a “thigh sandwich,” but he sleeps naked. “Well, you know what they say,” Ray says, “it’s not Thanksgiving till you got a sweaty old man in your bed.” It gets even worse for Deb (and funnier for us) when she discovers her parents being intimate yet again. “They’re doing it again!” she says, aghast. Ray’s astonishment makes it even funnier. “Oh, my God,” he says. “It’s like spring break up there.” If Deb happened to lose her appetite for Thanksgiving dinner afterward, well…we couldn’t blame her.
4. “Fighting In-laws” (Season 5, Episode 9)
Warren and Lois stop by to visit the Barones for Thanksgiving before the pair goes on their trip to Germany. But, as Ray quickly discovers, Deb’s parents aren’t going to Germany after all; they’re going to marriage counseling…in New Jersey. It’s funny to watch as Ray squirms and struggles to keep the juicy bit of gossip to himself before inevitably spilling the beans to Debra. Also a standout in the episode is how Lois and Warren begin acting like Frank and Marie. Lois begins judging the cleanliness of Debra’s house while Warren unbuckles his belt after overeating. Ray insists that his parents are more authentic than Deb’s parents and it’s this comment that gets Deb fired up, giving her the funniest (and most quotable) line in the episode: “If my parents lit an orphanage on fire on Christmas Eve, they wouldn’t be as bad as your parents!”
3. “Turkey or Fish” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Debra wants to have Thanksgiving at her house this year instead of Marie’s. But that’s not the only big holiday change. She also decides to cook a fish instead of a turkey, an idea which Marie is, predictably, not a fan of. To retaliate, she invites extra people to dinner — including Uncle Mel (Phil Leeds) and Aunt Emma (Pearl Shear) — so there’s a bigger audience when Deb’s meal isn’t a hit. “My god,” Uncle Mel exclaims, “that fish smell is like a punch in the face!” The bulk of the laughs come from everyone’s jokes surrounding the fish, as well as Marie’s insistence that everything, from the dinner to the guests invited, be her way. She even brings her own turkey “just in case.” “Turkey or Fish” is another Raymond episode that does a great job of highlighting the extreme “dysfunction-palooza” of the Barones and their extended family.
2. “No Fat” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This time, it’s Marie’s turn to throw a wrench into the holiday festivities when she and Frank discover that their cholesterol is close to the “danger zone.” As a result, she decides that she’s going to start cutting the fat from her diet…including Thanksgiving dinner. Ray’s selfishness is humorously on full display here (“You’re still gonna make the real food for us though, right?”), as is everyone’s disgust with the actual diet meal of tofu turkey and steamed vegetables. “How ’bout that, huh?” Robert says, eyeing the faux turkey. “Look how it…jiggles.” It’s a hilarious sight gag when no one can figure out how to slice it, but the most uproariously funny parts of the episode come when everyone takes a turn tasting the tofu turkey. Robert can’t swallow it, Frank’s facial expression is pure child-like refusal and disgust, and even Debra struggles to find something positive to say about it. In addition to one of the series’ funniest episodes, “No Fat” is also one of Raymond‘s most heartwarming when the family gathers together in the wee hours of the morning to have a “real” Thanksgiving meal with the restaurant food that Ray secretly ordered behind Marie’s back.
1. “The Bird” (Season 8, Episode 9)
As if one set of in-laws wasn’t recipe enough for holiday drama, two definitely are. When Amy’s parents, Hank (Fred Willard) and Pat MacDougall (Georgia Engel), invite the entire Barone family to their Pennsylvania home for Thanksgiving, the two sides quickly butt heads. Frank is horrified that they don’t own a TV, while Marie makes veiled insults about Pat’s cooking. But the main plotline (and laughs) comes when a bird crashes into the MacDougalls’ home and Pat goes outside to “take care of it.” The differing views of what should’ve been done with the bird cause the brash and free-speaking Barones to clash with the mild-mannered and church-going MacDougalls. “Pat the Psycho choked a bird with her bare hands,” says an aghast Frank, while Hank insists that Pat just did “what has to be done.” “The Bird” is chock-full of hilarious bickering, committed comedic performances, and sight gags that make it a classic. Moments like Pat’s lack of hesitation to kill an animal, the Barones and MacDougalls participating in a disastrous re-enactment of the first Thanksgiving, and everyone forgetting about the whole argument once dinner is ready, make it the Holy Grail of Raymond‘s Thanksgiving episodes.