The Most Popular TV Episodes & Shows During the Holiday Season

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What role does TV play in your holiday traditions? Do you binge-watch Friends after you’ve eaten your weight in turkey? Does your family queue up The Office after you’ve opened presents? What about New Year’s Eve? Are you team action or team sci-fi as you wait for the ball to drop?

As lovers of (and, if we may say so ourselves, experts in) all things TV, the team of USDISH wanted to know which TV episodes are most popular during the holiday season. We also wanted to find the most-googled TV shows during each holiday too—so that’s exactly what we did.  

We found the most popular TV episodes and shows on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, respectively. According to our findings, shows from the ‘90s are all the rage during the holidays.

If you’re team Seinfield, we hate to break it to you: Friends was each state’s most-searched TV show during the holidays, as well as the TV show that boasted the highest number of most popular episodes overall. Right behind Friends is The Office, the second-most popular TV show during the holidays.

We also found that Americans tend to watch longer episodes during Christmas and shorter episodes during Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Read on to see what else we uncovered. 

Thanksgiving

 

Interesting Findings
  • According to our findings, Friends is the most popular TV show on Thanksgiving. Of the fifteen episodes that made our list, ten were Friends episodes. Friends had an astronomical budget per episode (some episodes were as high as $10 million). Luckily for NBC, it clearly paid off.  
  • Comedy and romance are hits around Thanksgiving. A whopping fourteen out of the top fifteen episodes are categorized as comedy. Thirteen out of the fifteen TV episodes are also categorized as romance.
  • Apparently Thanksgiving is a perfect time for a little throwback TV. Seven out of the top fifteen episodes aired in the ‘90s, while six aired in the 2000s. 
  • The average running time of all the episodes on our list is twenty-four minutes, which is about how long it takes to make Grandma’s green bean casserole that you never eat each year.

Christmas

Interesting Findings
  • You may not think Christmas and medical dramas go hand in hand, but 33% of the episodes in the top fifteen were from House
  • 66% of the TV episodes in the top fifteen were released in the early 2000s. 
  • The average running time of all the episodes on our list is forty minutes, which is longer than the average running times for the most popular TV episodes on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
  • The Office snagged three episodes in the top fifteen, as did How I Met Your Mother. 
  • Last December, the most-googled TV shows were The Simpsons, The Office, and Doctor Who.

New Year’s Eve

Interesting Findings
  • Friends dominated the New Year’s Eve category: 20% of the top fifteen episodes lead with the signature, “The One with the . . .”
  • Unlike Thanksgiving, the majority of popular TV episodes on New Year’s Eve premiered in 2010. Eight out of the top fifteen TV episodes premiered sometime around 2010.  
  • People evidently love to ring in the new year with laughs. Twelve out of the fifteen episodes that made our list feature comedy as their primary genre.
  • The average running time of all the episodes on our list is twenty-three minutes—the shortest average running time of all the holidays in our report.  
  • Last January, each state googled Friends, Modern Family, and The Office the most of any TV show. 
  • That ‘70s Show isn’t very popular in most states, but in Alaska, the show is the state’s most-searched TV show year-round. 
Methodology 

To find the most popular TV episodes on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, we analyzed the top fifteen holiday episodes for each holiday using IMDb data

To qualify for our analysis, each episode had to meet the following criteria: 

  • Contain the keywords “Thanksgiving,” “Christmas,” or “New Year’s Eve,” respectively
  • Be produced between 1990–2020
  • Have over 1,500 IMDb votes 
  • Achieve a rating of 7.5 and above

Once we narrowed down our search, we found each episode’s viewership count using the viewership archive on TV Listings. Then we ranked each episode from most popular to least-popular based on viewership.

To find the most-searched TV show in each state for November, December, and January, respectively, we analyzed Google Trends data. 

StateShows Popular on ThanksgivingShows Popular on ChristmasShows Popular on New Year's Eve
AlabamaFriendsDoctor WhoFriends
AlaskaHow I Met Your MotherThe X-FilesThat '70s Show
ArizonaFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
ArkansasFriendsDoctor WhoFriends
CaliforniaFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
ColoradoFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
ConnecticutThis Is UsThe OfficeParks and Recreation
DelawareThis Is UsModern FamilyModern Family
District Of ColumbiaThis Is UsModern FamilyModern Family
FloridaFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
GeorgiaThis Is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
HawaiiHow I Met Your MotherThe SimpsonsModern Family
IdahoFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
IllinoisFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
IndianaFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
IowaThis Is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
KansasFriendsDoctor WhoParks and Recreation
KentuckyFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
LouisianaThis Is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
MaineThis Is UsHouseDoctor Who
MarylandThis Is UsThe SimpsonsDoctor Who
MassachusettsThis Is UsThe OfficeModern Family
MichiganFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
MinnesotaFriendsThe OfficeFriends
MississippiThe Big Bang TheoryHouseThe Big Bang Theory
MissouriFriendsDoctor WhoFriends
MontanaFriendsDoctor WhoThe X-Files
NebraskaFriendsThe OfficeFriends
NevadaThe Big Bang TheoryThe SimpsonsFriends
New HampshireFriendsThe OfficeModern Family
New JerseyThis Is UsThe OfficeFriends
New MexicoThe Big Bang TheoryThe SimpsonsFriends
New YorkThis Is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
North CarolinaThis Is UsThe OfficeFriends
North DakotaFriendsThis Is UsThe X-Files
OhioSeinfeldThe OfficeThe Office
OklahomaFriendsThe OfficeThe Big Bang Theory
OregonFriendsThe SimpsonsSeinfeld
PennsylvaniaThis Is UsThe OfficeModern Family
Rhode IslandThis Is UsThe OfficeThe Office
South CarolinaThis Is UsThe SimpsonsThe Big Bang Theory
South DakotaThe Big Bang TheoryHow I Met Your MotherThe X-Files
TennesseeFriendsDoctor WhoFriends
TexasFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
UtahFriendsThe SimpsonsThe Office
VermontHouseThe OfficeDoctor Who
VirginiaSeinfeldThe OfficeFriends
WashingtonFriendsThe OfficeFriends
West VirginiaFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
WisconsinThe Big Bang TheoryThe SimpsonsThe Office
WyomingHow I Met Your MotherHouseThe Big Bang Theory

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