The Most Popular TV Episodes & Shows During the Holiday Season


What role does holiday TV play in your annual 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 USDISH team wanted to know which holiday episodes of TV shows made the biggest mark when they first aired—and how well the shows behind them have held up with holiday TV habits today. Read on to see what we uncovered.

Thanksgiving TV Stats

Thanksgiving Episodes Interesting Findings
  • Comedy and romance are hit genres for Thanksgiving content. Fourteen of the 15 most popular Thanksgiving TV show episodes were comedy, romance, or both. Only two were dramas, and only one (House) was a mystery.
  • Apparently Thanksgiving is the perfect season for a little throwback TV. Just two of the six shows behind the top Thanksgiving holiday episodes aired in the 1990s, but they garnered 53% of the top Google searches last November.
  • If you’re team Seinfeld, we hate to break it to you: Friends had 10 of the 15 most watched Thanksgiving holiday TV episode premieres since 1990 and was the most searched in twice as many states as Seinfeld last November.
  • Friends was also the most searched holiday TV show overall in November 2020. The sitcom had an astronomical budget per episode—as high as $10 million—and it clearly continues to pay off for NBC.
  • The average running time of all the Thanksgiving holiday episodes on our list is 24 minutes, which is about how long it takes to make Grandma’s green bean casserole that you never eat each year.

Christmastime TV Stats

Christmas Episodes Interesting Findings
  • You may not think Christmas and medical dramas go hand in hand, but 33% of the Christmas holiday episodes in the top 15 were from House.
  • 60% of the most popular Christmas TV show episodes’ premieres aired between 2000 and 2009. 
  • The Office snagged just two episodes in the top 15, but it blew away the competition in search volume during December 2020. How I Met Your Mother, despite landing three spots in the top 15, was the most searched show in just one state.
  • With an average running time of 40 minutes, the ranking Christmas holiday TV specials and episodes run longer than the average Thanksgiving or New Year’s TV episode.

New Year TV Stats

New Year’s Eve Episodes Interesting Findings

  • Popular New Year’s TV show episodes don’t lean quite as nostalgic as popular Thanksgiving or Christmas episodes. Eight of the 15 ranking New Year’s episodes premiered between 2010 and 2013.
  • People evidently love to ring in the new year with laughs. Twelve out of the 15 New Year holiday episodes that made our list feature comedy as their primary genre.
  • The average running time of all the episodes on our list is 23 minutes—the shortest average running time of all the holidays in our report.
  • Friends got three of the top four spots for most watched New Year’s TV episode premieres and tied with The Office for the most searched shows nationwide in January.
  • That ’70s Show isn’t popular in most states, but in Alaska, the show is the state’s most searched TV show year-round.

Overall Holiday TV Episodes Interesting Findings

  • According to our findings, nostalgia is a big deal during the holidays. 
    • A solid 33% of the most watched holiday TV episodes were produced in the ’90s, while <1% were produced in 2015 or later.
    • 9 of the 13 most searched TV shows during last year’s holiday season premiered over 15 years ago (we eliminated Parks and Recreation from these results since it didn’t rank first in any state). Ten of 13 premiered over 10 years ago.
    • Of the only three ranking holiday TV shows that are still airing new episodes, two premiered over 15 years ago (Doctor Who in 2005 and The Simpsons in 1989). This Is Us is the only recently premiering show (2016) to join the ranks of time-tested holiday TV shows.
    • Friends boasted the highest overall number of ranking holiday TV episodes since 1990, but it came second behind The Office in nationwide searches during the holiday months.
    • The Office managed top interest by an enormous lead during the holiday season last year without even making the list of popular Thanksgiving TV. Friends, the runner-up, also didn’t make the cut for popular Christmas episodes.
  • Americans appear to watch fewer Christmas TV episodes than Thanksgiving or New Year’s episodes during the holiday season. The most watched Christmas episode premiere in the last 30 years, “It’s a Wonderful Lie” (House S4 E10), had 10 million fewer views than the top Thanksgiving and New Year’s episodes in the same period.
  • 43 of the 45 most watched episode premieres had an IMDb rating of 8.0 or higher. The highest rating of 9.4 went to “The One with the Rumor” (Friends S8 E9), while the lowest rating of 7.6 went to two episodes, “The Seminar” (The Office S7 E14) and “The Doorway, Part 1” (Mad Men S6 E1).


To find the most popular Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s TV episodes since 1990, we first used IMDb data to find holiday TV episodes that meet the following criteria:

  • Contain the keywords “Thanksgiving,” “Christmas,” or “New Year’s Eve” in the episode description
  • Have over 1,500 IMDb votes
  • Achieve an IMDb rating of 7.5 or above
  • Be produced between 1990 and 2021

After narrowing down our list, we (1) compiled the viewership count for each episode’s premiere using the viewership archive on TV Listings and (2) ranked the premieres from most to least views.To find out the relative popularity of these shows during the most recent holiday TV season, we analyzed Google Trends data on these shows for each state during Nov. 2020, Dec. 2020, and Jan. 2021.

StateTV Shows Popular on ThanksgivingTV Shows Popular on ChristmasTV Shows Popular on New Year's Eve
AlabamaThis is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
AlaskaHouseDoctor WhoThe X-Files
ArizonaFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
ArkansasFriendsThe SimpsonsFriends
CaliforniaFriendsThe SimpsonsThe Office
ColoradoSeinfeldThe SimpsonsThe Big Bang Theory
ConnecticutFriendsThe OfficeFriends
DelawareSeinfeldThe OfficeFriends
District Of ColumbiaHouseThe SimpsonsMad Men
FloridaThis is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
GeorgiaFriendsThe OfficeFriends
HawaiiThis is UsHouseFriends
IdahoSeinfeldThe SimpsonsHow I Met Your Mother
IllinoisSeinfeldThe SimpsonsThe Office
IndianaThe Big Bang TheoryThe OfficeThe Office
IowaThe Big Bang TheoryThe OfficeFriends
KansasFriendsHouseModern Family
KentuckyFriendsThe SimpsonsThe Big Bang Theory
LouisianaThis is UsThe SimpsonsFriends
MaineSeinfeldThe SimpsonsThe Office
MarylandThis is UsThe OfficeFriends
MassachusettsThis is UsThe OfficeThe Office
MichiganThis is UsThe OfficeThe Office
MinnesotaThis is UsThe OfficeThe Office
MississippiThe Big Bang TheoryThe SimpsonsFriends
MissouriThe Big Bang TheoryThe OfficeThe Office
MontanaFriendsThe OfficeThe Big Bang Theory
NebraskaThe Big Bang TheoryThe OfficeThe Office
NevadaFriendsThe OfficeFriends
New HampshireSeinfeldHouseDoctor Who
New JerseyFriendsThe OfficeModern Family
New MexicoThe Big Bang TheoryThe SimpsonsThe Office
New YorkHow I Met Your MotherThe OfficeThe Office
North CarolinaFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
North DakotaThis is UsThe X-FilesFriends
OhioFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
OklahomaFriendsThe OfficeFriends
OregonSeinfeldThe SimpsonsFriends
PennsylvaniaSeinfeldThe OfficeThe Office
Rhode IslandFriendsThe SimpsonsThat '70s Show
South CarolinaThis is UsThe OfficeThe Big Bang Theory
South DakotaThis is UsThis Is UsThe Big Bang Theory
TennesseeThis is UsThe OfficeThe Big Bang Theory
TexasFriendsHow I Met Your MotherFriends
UtahFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
VermontThis is UsThe OfficeDoctor Who
VirginiaThis is UsThe OfficeFriends
WashingtonFriendsThe OfficeModern Family
West VirginiaSeinfeldHouseThe Big Bang Theory
WisconsinFriendsThe OfficeThe Office
WyomingThis is UsModern FamilyModern Family

USDISH is an authorized reseller of DISH Network. For any media inquiries, contact

This site is a U.S. Consumer site. You can learn more about our site and privacy policy here.