Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘Friends’: The One With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Mishap

‘Friends’: The One With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Mishap

In the world of sitcoms, holiday-specific episodes are nothing new. Christmas, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve episodes can be found across a wide variety of shows spanning many decades. But the beloved 90s sitcom Friends went a slightly different route. Does it have episodes showing the iconic sextet celebrating Christmas and Halloween? Of course. Friends is perhaps best known, however, for its Thanksgiving episodes.

The often overlooked holiday squashed between spooky and Santa seasons is highlighted frequently in the NYC-based sitcom. In fact, Monica, Chandler, and the gang are shown celebrating Turkey Day a whopping 10 times! Only one episode of Friends, however, features another Thanksgiving staple: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

In the series’ very first Thanksgiving episode, Season 1’s “The One Where Underdog Gets Away,” no one wears a turkey on their head or plays an ultra-competitive game of tag football. Instead, this Friends episode features the gang gathering at Monica’s house for “Friends-Giving” when Monica and Ross are unable to join their parents’ Thanksgiving trip to Puerto Rico.

While the friends squabble over the best method of cooking potatoes, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade passes by the apartment. Suddenly, the Underdog balloon, a 64-foot long, 320-pound canine requiring 30 handling lines to keep it in check, breaks free of its handlers. Mesmerized by the escaped inflatable, the gang rushes out onto the roof to get a closer look – as the door locks behind them.

Trapped on the roof, Monica’s feast burns (ruining all three varieties of potatoes). As the happy holiday devolves into chaos, Chandler breathes a sigh of comfort, declaring Thanksgiving complete, as his parents announced their divorce on Turkey Day many years prior. The friends, of course, come back together in the end, enjoying an unusual feast of Chandler’s grilled cheese sandwiches.

The ‘Friends’ Thanksgiving Episode Mirrors a Real-Life Macy’s Parade Mishap

As one of the biggest annual events not only in NYC but the entire country, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade requires an incredible amount of preparation. Included in these prep days are countless safety checks to ensure the iconic Parade goes off without a hitch. And it usually does – usually.

When dealing with millions of attendees, hundreds of performers, dozens of motorized floats, and balloons the size of buildings, the odds of a mishap are high. As such, it’s no surprise that there are a few scattered throughout the Parade’s history. The real surprise is actually that there aren’t more of them!

The real-life incident that mirrors the fictional one in Friends occurred way back in 1932, less than a decade after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s inception. The Parade was a new idea and giant balloons an even more novel concept. So novel, in fact, that organizers hadn’t quite nailed down how to deflate them yet. Instead of packing up the balloons to store for the next year, handlers were instructed to just…let them go.

Each balloon was equipped with a tag promising the person who returned it safely to Macy’s a $100 reward. Over $2,000 in today’s money! This, unsurprisingly, led to fights among nearby residents and a few balloons where they shouldn’t be. While one balloon landed in the East River, another was lost at sea. Then, finally, organizers had to accept that their haphazard method of balloon management needed reworking in 1932.

This year saw the bizarre incident of a released balloon wrapping itself around the wing of a small airplane. Though the pilots of the plane were miraculously unharmed, the Tom-Kat balloon suffered severe injuries. After that, organizers decided it was probably best to safely deflate the balloons post-parade.