18 pop culture conversations starters for Thanksgiving

Friends don’t let friends sit down at Thanksgiving dinner unprepared.

Whether you need some entertainment refreshers to keep up with your pop culture-literate cousins, a relevant TV show to broach the elections with your in-laws, or a handy list of topics completely removed from politics, we've got you covered.

For celebrity gossip junkies

The Dancing with the Stars finale: "DWTS" awarded its mirror-ball trophy to Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez this week. Chances are, if there are any regular network-TV watchers at your table, they’ll have an opinion on Laurie taking home the prize.

2016’s gauntlet of celebrity deaths: This year’s been a doozy for fans of Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen and many more. Where were you when you heard the news? And which hit you hardest?

Kanye's health struggles: One of celebrity's most controversial figures, West landed in the hospital for exhaustion this week, cancelling the rest of his 2016 dates. Is Kanye an overworked genius, or could mental illness be at play here? And what's the deal with his Trump comments?

Prince Harry’s new girlfriend Meghan Markle: Started from the bottom, now she’s here — if there’s a more unlikely story in pop culture this year than an actress from "Suits" snagging herself a British prince, we haven’t heard it.

The Rock winning Sexiest Man Alive: People named the "Moana" star 2016’s sexiest man earlier this month. We may agree...but not everybody does. Should he have won the title -- or if not, which celeb should have won instead?

JonBenet Ramsey: Have any Lifetime fans among your family or friends? Brush up on 2016’s most controversial docu-series so you debate whether it really was her brother responsible.

Dream Kardashian: Even for your family’s resident Kardashian-Jenner obsessives, the saga of Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna may prove to be too much. Are we rooting for the unlikely couple — now the parents of newborn Dream — or happy to stop paying attention to them?

First lady fashion: While not every family enjoys debating elections at the dinner table, America's bitterly-divided political climate suggests more of us should look for openings to connect with our politically-distant relatives. If you don't want to open your discussion with Trump's latest Cabinet pick, consider the big shoes the future first lady Melania Trump has to fill fashion-wise, taking over for the designer-beloved Michelle Obama.

For your binge-watcher cousins

The rise of Westworld: If you haven’t kept up with HBO’s latest buzzy drama, critics are calling it the next Game of Thrones, for its ambitious storylines, eye-popping nudity and gratuitous violence. In case you don’t have hours to dedicate to Westworld’s robot dystopia, catch up with our recaps here.

Gilmore Girls' return to TV: Where Lorelai and Rory lead, GG fans will follow — this time, to Netflix, where "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" premieres Nov. 25. Now's the time to find out whether your loved ones are on team Jess, Dean or Logan.

Those pesky Walking Dead zombies: We think this season's been a bit of a snooze, but chances are, the Walking Dead-heads at your dinner table may think differently. If you haven't been watching the most recent episodes, get up to speed with our recaps.

More: Is Chandler Riggs next to die on 'The Walking Dead'?

Saturday Night Live’s huge season: Looking for a way to broach the topics of the election with your in-laws? Debating the strength of Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression — or any of the other politics skits on SNL's current season — is a good start. (We think he does a pretty good job.)

Favorite late-night TV hosts: Another way to ease your way into politics is discussing how the late-night pundits cover it. Are you a disciple of John Oliver? A "Carpool Karaoke" obsessive? Or do you think Samantha Bee is the best thing to happen to late night since The Colbert Report? Chances are, someone at the table will have a different host they’re ready to defend.

Veep’s election foreshadowing: A female White House regular fights a bitter campaign to become president, battling her way through a scandal involving a crude anatomical nickname, whose journey ends in an election meltdown. Sound familiar? Regardless of how you feel about Selina Meyer vs. Hillary Clinton, the many similarities between the HBO comedy and 2016's real-life campaigns are undeniable.

For the movie buffs

Fantastic Beasts vs. Harry Potter: Another one of 2016's most contentious debates — does Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them live up to Harry Potter's legacy? And what on earth is J.K. Rowling going to do with the franchise's four more movies?

The new Star Wars movie(s): Unless you're a family of "Star Wars" followers, there may be some confusion among your loved ones about the December's new installment "Rogue One," the Han Solo spin-off coming in 2018, and how exactly they fit into the original films' timeline. Do a little reading before "Rogue One" hits theaters Dec. 16.

The Oscars race: Which movies are contending for Hollywood's biggest prize? "Moonlight" and "American Honey" lead this week's nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards, considered a bellwether for the Academy Awards. For other best picture contenders, keep an eye on "La La Land," "Loving," "Manchester By the Sea" and "Jackie."

Beauty and the Beast: After everyone's finished arguing about their Oscars ballot, come together in agreement that Emma Watson is the perfect Belle for Disney's new live-action version of the classic animated movie. News has also emerged that Mulan is getting the same remake treatment, just in time for you to dream-cast the movie around your Thanksgiving table.


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