For some, breaking bread with people you actively try and avoid 364 days of the year is what Thanksgiving is all about. Between alcoholic uncles, racist grandparents, and that vegan cousin who just won't quit, there's just no amount of turkey or stuffing that can make this meal easier to swallow. One thing that we've found that helps pass the time until you're allowed to leave? Casting our favorite TV characters in the most outlandish roles and seeing what happens. 'Tis the season for the most dysfunctional meal of the year!
1. The Gracious Host With Rage Issues: Claire Dunphy from Modern Family
It's only 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, and Claire is already pissed off. The weather is pissing her off. Why is it so sunny? The mud tracked into the hall by some ill-bred child pisses her off. The fact that her sister-in-law said she'd bring cranberry sauce and instead brought orange cranberry sauce really pisses her off. She Swiffers up the mud with a pointed glare, and feels incredibly unappreciated. In the other room the group laughs, and she cringes. Every joke that her husband makes pisses her off. She wants to gouge his eyes out (but that's not out of the ordinary). Her mother's face pisses her off -- mostly because she can see herself in that face, except all wrinkled and saggy, and the entire concept of aging pisses her off. Her hands clench and unclench behind her flowered apron, her fingernails digging half-moon wounds into her palms. The paint color on the walls pisses her off. So does her sister's new boyfriend, who has one large mole under one eye, throwing off the symmetry of his otherwise acceptable face.
Rage wells up in her and catches in her throat, burning like acid reflux. The only thing that soothes her is the thought of tomorrow's trip to the firing range, where she goes to unload the burden of her stress-riddled life. She eagerly stores up small injustices, waiting to conjure them up with a loaded gun in her hand. She sneers, and serves the turkey.--Naivasha Dean
2. The Drunk Uncle: ALF from ALF
The resident drunk, Gordon "ALF" Shumway is always the first to arrive to any party, showing up obnoxiously early. Cramming his fur-lined peepers through the mail slot in the front door, he's just in time to see our startled host Claire frantically zipping up as she runs to answer. As he stumbles in, handing her a half-drunk bottle of Jameson, he uses an inappropriate joke referencing his affinity for eating feline creatures as an off-color holiday greeting. "Ha! I kill me!"
For most of the evening, Uncle Gordon parks himself in a Barcalounger to the relief of almost everyone since, when standing, his 3-foot frame puts his furry muzzle at exactly crotch level. Unprovoked, he slurs through war stories about his home planet (which sound oddly similar to plot points from Battlestar Galactica) and as the evening progresses he mistakenly refers to Melmac as Malbec, Melbourne, Mypos, Big Mac and Mel C. At one point he's seen crying into his aloha shirt about his 20-plus years of unemployment, and then disappears briefly only to reemerge dressed as an asparagus and singing the "Asparagus Song" while making dirty innuendos about his phallic headdress. No one sees ALF actually eat anything all night, but when everyone is suddenly looking for one of Aunt Edith's missing dogs, Uncle Gordon abruptly bellows, "That was a dog?!" -- and runs retching to the lavatory with his hands over his snout. -- Richard Ogawa
3. The Boozy, Judgmental Mother-in-Law: Malory Archer from Archer
Despite insisting that she'll provide half the ingredients needed to cook the perfect turkey with all the fixings, Malory instead shows up with a bottle of vodka, a jar of olives, and a ham because "you'd only have messed the turkey up anyway (like you've messed up my son)." As our host struggles to prep the feast, now with an incessantly yapping dog named Duchess adding to Aunt Edith's group of "children," Malory still feels it appropriate to point out everything that's going wrong (in the kitchen, in your life) all within earshot of a mysterious Russian billionaire whom she insisted be invited because of his intel ... and recent divorce.
When it's finally time to eat, all of the "children" have mysteriously ended up sleeping in a pile in the corner of the room next to an empty bottle of chloroform, and Duchess is nowhere to be found. And just when guests are lead to the dining room to begin the Thanksgiving feast, whom should be found naked upon the dining room table but Malory herself, crying about what happened to her poor, poor dog. Of course, none of this is her fault, and she insists blame lies with our incompetent host who's ruined Thanksgiving yet again. Thankfully, Woodhouse has prepared a backup feast. -- Martin Moakler
4. The Spinster Aunt: Lady Edith Crawley from Downton Abbey
"I'm here, and I'm not alone," Aunt Edith Crawley proudly chirps as she marches through the front door. You've come to expect some pretty unfortunate creatures on her arm: a blind burn victim, a geriatric, or a married employer. But this year she astonishes everyone as she and a team of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels bound through the door. "I'm a mommy now," she sings -- shooting a withering glance to big sis, Mary. "This is Mildred, Stanley, Geraldine, Evelyn, Eugene, and Cecil." Her children are immediately unleashed and given free reign of the house.
When Edith overhears Claire and Mary discussing pre-schools she chimes right in about her misadventures in Doggy Daycare. ("Can you believe they don't make them dress for meals!?") When Sue Sylvester attempts to let the dogs into the backyard, Edith breaks down in tears: "Would you make Henry sit outside on a family holiday?!" Later she insists that each dog be given a seat at the dining table, much to Joffrey's chagrin as he gets bumped back down to the kids' table. -- Courtney Hyde
5. The Obviously Gay But Recently Outed Cousin: Jack from Will & Grace
He's loud, he's proud, and everyone at the table saw this coming five Thanksgivings ago. He's the cousin who for so long has tried to play the straight card with made-up girlfriends like "Grace" or "Karen" or "Cher", but the constant critiquing of table settings and inability to give thanks without the use of jazz hands have always been a dead give away. Now that he is out of the closet and loooving life, there's definitely no going back. Instead of a day watching football, Jack will request an audience for his one man show, in which he has choreographed his own dance routines to all the musical numbers in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. All of them.
Once fed and thoroughly bored with the festivities, he'll make his leave in some fabulous fashion, probably involving bumping stomachs with cousin Hannah and slamming the door behind him after declaring to the group "Peter, Paul and Mary you're all fabulous!" -- Raef Harrison
6. The Successful Sibling Who Secretly Is A Hot Mess: Olivia Pope from Scandal
Beautiful, composed, and impeccably coiffed at all times, Olivia is the family member who has all her undeniably impressive ducks in a row. Naturally, she's secretly resented by everyone else at the table. One more story about a DC power player she helped out of a crises or talk of being some sort of "gladiator" and Aunt Edith is ready to dump gravy in her lap. But beneath the fabulous pant suits and 100-watt smile, she is, in fact, the very definition of a hot mess. And with a, um, strenuous mother/father dynamic, a sidekick with a murderous trigger finger and one who might have terrorist ties (will we ever find out?!), and a world leader who just WON'T STOP CALLING HER, who can blame the woman? Suddenly it becomes clear why the bottle of top-shelf red wine she always brings as a hostess gift never seems to make it to the table. -- Raef Harrison
7. The Kid Who's Outgrown The Kids Table: Joffery from Game of Thrones
Holidays can be hard for kids, especially when they're in their early teens. Not quite old enough for the adult table, Joffrey is stuck at the kids table with the other relatives drawing hand turkeys and screaming for apple juice. Not one to keep his feelings under wraps, Joffrey makes the most of his situation by slowly and methodically psychologically torturing his child dinner mates--making them eat all his peas and taking everyone's pumpkin pie. Everyone's.
Joffrey starts a new holiday tradition in his family by bringing along a servant to lop off the heads of several of his dinner mates and prop them up on spikes so the rest of the little brats don't get any ideas. Also, he'll be taking 10-year-old cousin Chelsea as his child bride, so don't even try to argue with him about it. -- Liz Brown
8. The Obnoxious Vegan: Alexander Grayson from Dracula
The entire family does a collective eye roll as soon as Alexander Grayson, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula shows up for dinner. In a grandiose show of obvious overcompensation, Alex always arrives bearing a full array of meat-free, dairy-free, and, most importantly, blood-free Thanksgiving dishes to emphasize his feigned disgust for anything animal-based. Apropos of nothing, he spends the night loudly proclaiming that "Ever since going vegan I just feel great, you know? I just have so much energy." These declarative statements, coupled with a heaping dose of Malory Archer-approved scathing criticism, are overlaid with the withering stare of the self-righteous as he aggressively shames Claire for needlessly murdering a turkey.
But his charade works: everyone's so busy stabbing themselves in the eye with their forks that they don't notice that he never actually eats his own meatless concoctions. Instead, when no one is looking, this loudly sworn vegan is of course out back, furtively snacking on the neighbors. -- Kristin Knox
9. The One Who Mistakenly Brings A Homeless Person As A Dinner Date: Hannah Horvath from Girls
While doing some questionable drugs at a bat mitzvah-themed warehouse party, Hannah falls for a guy with a cute dog and a predilection for meggings, walking barefoot, and dirt. It happens to be the day before Thanksgiving so, naturally, she brings him home to meet the family because WHY NOT? THIS IS MY BODY. It's all for her e-book, anyway. Her family tries to tell her she's dating a homeless man, but Hannah finds it insulting, which makes her OCD start acting up.
After about 20 minutes of no one paying attention to her, she decides to make a scene by chopping her hair off at the dinner table with a carving knife (which actually turns into a really cute bob). She then throws a piece of turkey in her tote bag before grabbing her new BF and heading to the hottest restaurant in NYC right now, "Soup Kitchen." -- Sheila Dichoso
10. The Depressed, Divorced, Now-Sober Uncle: Don Draper from Mad Men
Uncle Don doesn't sulk, he broods. While the rest of the family mills around, generally enjoying each other's company, Uncle Don sits motionless in his easy chair by the fire. He stares at the ground, but you can tell his mind is miles, if not decades, away. A frosty O'Doul's rests on his right knee; he grips the bottle like it's the only thing he's got left in this world. Having given up drinking for good a few months ago, he certainly doesn't look any better for it.
Sally brought her boyfriend to dinner this year -- some creep almost twice her age with greasy, slicked back hair. As the two move around the house, mingling with various family members, his hand never leaves the small of Sally's back, and one can't help but wonder how uncomfortable that must be for both of them.
When dinner is served Uncle Don doesn't say much. He and Sally exchange glances over the mashed potatoes -- wordless expressions racked with guilt, resentment, pain, and longing. It unnerves everyone, even the greasy suitor, who is nervously recounting the benefits of all-inclusive resorts to no one in particular.
"You made me afraid of forever," Sally says quietly.
"Forever is a time we've long forgotten." Don puffs on an electronic cigarette.
"And I always said it was going to rain."
"I presupposed it might, but I never wanted it to."
"Is that really what you thought you didn't want? Or is that what you hoped to one day believe?"
The family loses interest in this opaque exchange, and they settle back into their conversations about Subarus and quinoa recipes. -- Katherine Rea
11. The Leftovers Poacher: Marie Schrader from Breaking Bad
One of the greatest things about Thanksgiving is the days upon days of delicious leftovers overflowing from the fridge, right? Not with Marie in the family. Those leftovers are most definitely going to get lifted. Kitchen kleptomaniacs of this ilk lift more than decorative spoons. They'll take the food right out of your mouth. Ever willing to help "clean up" in the kitchen, she's got a fat stash of one gallon Ziploc bags in her purse ready to load up with white meat, whipped potatoes and green bean casserole. It's not that she doesn't have enough food at home. She just loves the feeling of power that comes along with a lukewarm baggie of hijacked gravy floating around in her purse. -- Liz Brown
12. The Racist Grandmother: Rose from Golden Girls
Oh, Sweet Gramma Rose. She shows up 15 minutes early to warm up her famous Snerglerpen cookies (made from an old St. Olaf recipe passed down from her Great-Uncle Haavard Kerklavoner who used to run the town's Bull Castration and Cheese shop). While in the kitchen, Rose takes a sip of the cooking sherry, mistaking it for grenadine syrup (her beverage of choice) and a few moments later the gloves come off as she starts voicing her uncensored opinions on the Swedes and the Fins to no one in particular. "Those herring smoked gerflankenpers!"
Everyone is aghast, except Malory Archer, who plies the old woman with more cocktails (she's been looking for a proper drinking buddy). By the time the turkey is carved, Rose swills her glass, announcing, "The only good Russian is a White Russian," just before removing her brassier and threatening Uncle Alf with a butter knife. -- Courtney Hyde
13. The Singleton: Sue Sylvester from Glee
"Look guys, I just have a lot on my plate right now." A common excuse for ol' Aunt Sue Sylvester as she shows up to yet another Thanksgiving dinner with only a can of cranberry sauce and a couple of frozen daiquiri pouches under her arm. Not that there's anything wrong with being single, but everyone is starting to worry that maybe she's just not putting in the effort, and hiding behind her work. She could at least try to wear something other than a solid-colored track suit every once in awhile, right?
In all fairness, she does have a lot going on: under potentially dubious circumstances, she's recently taken over as principal of McKinley High, she has an ever growing (and changing) band of peppy Glee Club nerds to squash, and she's in talks with some major Ohio-area TV networks to bring back the ever popular Sue's Corner. When that perfect someone comes along, maybe things will change, but for now Sue's just fine taking phoners on her iPhone. And that's how Sue Sees It. -- Raef Harrison
14. The Moody Teen Every Family Must Tolerate: Dana Brody from Homeland
No holiday meal is ever complete without a melodramatic teenager locking herself in the bathroom and threatening to "end it all" because no one understands her, and no one understands that state of mind quite like Dana. It doesn't matter if Claire's been slaving away in the kitchen for a week and Hannah just wants everyone to get along on to impress the homeless guy she might be falling out of love with all of a sudden, Dana will still find a way to make Turkey Day all about her own teen angst. -- Liz Brown