Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

28.7.06

Top Ten Week: My favorite television episodes

Yes, it's another harder-than-it-looks edition of Top Ten Week! Again, I could have gone with my ten favorite shows, which would have been hard enough, but I decided instead on my favorite episodes, even if the shows themselves would not have made the list. I read a blog post about this recently, so if I'm stealing your idea, sorry. I just can't remember where I saw it, but I thought it was a good idea. So let's go! (Again, these are in no particular order, because that's too hard.)

1. "The Last Newhart," Newhart, aired 21 May 1990. Of course this is the greatest series finale ever, but it's a wildly surreal episode as well that made up for a lot of subpar efforts in the last year or two of this sitcom (which I still like more than The Bob Newhart Show). Bob's world gets increasingly weirder, with the land around the inn being sold to a group of Japanese businessmen who turn it into a golf course. It's a subtle (okay, maybe not so subtle) shot at the modernization of America and the loss of innocence, something that is highlighted even more (in my eyes) by the big reveal at the end, in which Bob wakes up next to his Bob Newhart Show wife, Suzanne Pleshette, and we find out the entire show is all a dream. It's completely unexpected and very funny, but it harkens back to an earlier time (the 1970s) when things were less complicated. And Pleshette was still a hottie! (Of course, Mary Frann was kind of a hottie, too.)

2. "The One with the Embryos," Friends, aired 15 January 1998. Yes, I like Friends. Mock me if you wish! However, I usually only like parts of each episode - there's usually something in each one that isn't funny. The title of this episode comes from the fact that Phoebe has her sister-in-law's eggs put into her body so she can be the surrogate mother for Alice and Frank, her brother, and although that's an okay storyline, the other one in this episode is the one that makes it great. Yes, this is the episode where Monica and Rachel switch apartments with Chandler and Joey because they lose a bet. The game that Ross comes up with to test their knowledge of each other is fan-freakin'-tastic. Lots of great lines, culminating in Ross' final question: "What is Chandler Bing's job?" The running gag of no one knowing what Chandler does for a living comes back and bites the girls in the ass! Very funny stuff.

3. "The Contest," Seinfeld, aired 18 November 1992. There are a lot of great Seinfeld episodes, but this remains my favorite. The fact that they never mention "masturbation," Kramer's early exit, Elaine's attempt at nonchalance when she fails, the nurse giving the woman the sponge bath, Jerry's increasing irritation ("Meanwhile, I've got this contest, I'm dating a virgin!") - all of this make this episode one of the funniest ever. It's so much fun to watch even after repeated viewings.

4. "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'," The X-Files, aired 12 April 1996. I have never been the biggest fan of The X-Files, but this episode might be one of the greatest episode of any television show ever. I don't even know where to start: Charles Nelson Reilly as Jose Chung, Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek as the Men in Black, the cursing policeman, Scully threatening to kill someone, Mulder eating piece after piece of sweet potato pie - it's all brilliant! It's outside the "mythology" of the show, too, so we don't have to know any backstory - although, obviously, knowing it helps, because the episode skewers so much of what has come before. When The X-Files was on, like here, it was a wonderful show. Unfortunately, too often it wasn't on.

5. "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," My So-Called Life, aired 26 January 1995. I could have thrown a dart at a list of episodes of this show and picked the one it hit, but the last one is sheer genius. Brian writes letters to Angela that are supposedly from Jordan, and she, of course, finds out about it. This is the crux of the issue, but Ricky finds out that that chick has a crush on him, which freaks him out, and Rayanne and Sharon move forward in their relationship. It's a classic example of the show, occasionally funny, often painful, beautifully written and acted, and full of those moments where you just want to scream at the screen because the characters need to say certain things but they don't. The final scene, when Angela finds out that Brian wrote the notes but doesn't say anything because Jordan arrives just then to pick her up, is heart-wrenching. I love this show. Buy the DVDs, people!

6. "Woody Gets an Election," Cheers, aired 22 April 1993. This is another show I love, and it's hard to pick one episode, especially because I can't remember in which episode the best ever conversation at the bar (the one in which the guys decide that Wile E. Coyote is the Anti-Christ) is in. But this one, coming near the end, is a brilliant example of why Cheers managed to survive the Shelley Long departure. Frasier decides to run Woody for City Council when the other candidate, played by Philip Baker Hall (who, of course, may have already been the greatest guest star in television history), spouts platitudes and never answers a question directly. As a joke, Frasier gets Woody on the ballot to prove that anyone can get 5% of the vote. After he's interviewed by Peri Gilpin (I love Peri Gilpin, by the way) and gives wacky homespun answers that he thinks are straight but she thinks are metaphorical, his stock begins to rise. Frasier has a nightmare in which Woody is the president and blows up the world because he's not too bright. Woody, of course, gets elected (it's near the end of the show, remember, so lots of things happen). It's a very funny episode that takes advantage of Woody's goofiness without really making too much fun of him. Most Cheers episode are excellent, but I always liked this one a lot.

7. Mystery Science Theater 3000 - the episode with Mitchell, aired 23 October 1993. This is another show with several great episodes - Manos, the Hands of Fate, Alien from L.A., Hercules Unchained, Girls Town, Kitten with a Whip - but I love the one when the guys make fun of Mitchell. I think it's because I like the modern pictures more - the 1950s sci-fi movies are just so easy, while Joe Don Baker and Linda Evans were actually trying to make something serious. This is the last episode with Joel, too, which actually makes it more interesting. I would love to get these on DVD, but they're really expensive. Probably the movie rights jack up the price.

8. "Season 1, 11:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.," 24, aired 21 May 2002. The last episode of 24's first season set the tone for the rest of the show. Sure, at that point it had been a super-blast, but at the end, just when we think it's over, Nina kills Jack's wife, Teri. Holy crap! This set up the future shows, when Jack is more bitter than ever, and the show went even further with the surprises and the violence (Jack cuts off that dude's head!). The show has been better, but the first season remains my personal favorite, because we weren't ready for the balls the creators and Kiefer had to pull this stuff off. And Kim hadn't quite become a joke yet.

9. "Pilot," Lost, aired 22 September 2004. Lost is one of my favorite shows, and it might have the best first episode in television history. The mystery kicks off with a bang, as Jack wanders out of the jungle onto the beach and that great scene with the plane crash. Later we get the doomed pilot and the monster, plus Charlie telling everyone he's in the band Drive Shaft. It's visceral, it grabs you, and it's exciting, a bit scary, and occasionally funny. It has had its ups and downs, but it starts out so well, which is how all shows should start out - it gives them something to shoot for!

10. You know, I was trying to find two specific episodes of The Simpsons, but I don't know what they're called. I suck. Anyway, I'm cheating a bit, because almost any episode of The Simpsons (especially from the first ten seasons or so) could be on this list, but I think my two favorites are ... you know, I can't even pick one. The first time Sideshow Bob gets out of jail, when Marge stars in "A Streetcar Named Desire," when Selma marries Troy McClure, when the town bans alcohol, when Bart sells his soul ... Holy crap, what a great show. I'll go with the ban on alcohol (aired 16 March 1997), if only because it gives us perhaps the single greatest line in the history of television: "To alcohol: the cause of, and the solution to, all of life's problems!" Sure, it's not the greatest episode, but that line is awesome.

You'll notice that I'm missing some shows. Deadwood is currently my favorite show, but I don't view it as individual episodes, preferring instead to see it as one long episode for each season. Each one is brilliant, but it forms a whole. I also skipped several shows like The Simpsons where I can't remember individual episodes even though I liked the show. WKRP in Cincinnati, for instance, a show I love - Tom might have a wonderful memory for individual episodes, but I don't. There are a lot of shows like that - moments I remember, but whole episodes I don't. There was that episode of Moonlighting where they were rhyming all the time - man, that was cool. But I can't remember much about it. I suck.

What say you, good readers? What individual episodes do you like?

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8 Comments:

Blogger Chance said...

Excellent post. You actually got me thinking about seeking out that Cheers episode, and I normally loathe traditional sit-coms.

28/7/06 9:13 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

"Mitchell!" The constant dogging they do on poor Joe Don Baker in that episode never fails to reduce me to tears of vicious laughter.

29/7/06 10:37 PM  
Blogger tomthedog said...

That's Ms. Chanandler Bong. Yep, best Friends episode ever. And the easy choice for WKRP is "Turkeys Away" -- "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly." One of the funniest episodes of any show ever. For X-Files, I'd go with "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," the one that won Peter Boyle an Emmy (written by the same guys who did "Jose Chung" -- which would be my second choice). 24, I'd pick the first episode of this season -- what a hell of a shocker it was! Dammit, another great list idea I'm gonna have to steal!

30/7/06 10:36 AM  
Blogger HCaldwell said...

I don't know if I would nominate it in its entirity as a classic episode, but certainly the funniest scene from the small screen was the "Taxi" episode with Rev. Jim's "What does a yellow light mean?" scene at the DMV. I have seen it many times and it always makes me laugh so hard that my stomach hurts.

30/7/06 12:36 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Mr. Caldwell - I love Taxi, but it's another one of those shows where I have trouble remembering the episodes. I considered doing "moments," because those are easier to recall. I don't know if I've ever seen the one with Jim at the DMV. Is Taxi on DVD? It should be.

Tom - I love the turkey one, too. Again, I just forget abouot certain episodes. That's the one in which Herb talks about making the turkeys dance, isn't it? What a great show. Stupid music rights!

And Nik, whenever anyone in our daily lives or on television or on radio or in the movies says Mitchell, Krys and I look at each other and say, "Mitchell!" in the bots' tough guy voice. What a freakin' funny episode.

30/7/06 1:41 PM  
Blogger HCaldwell said...

True, I also remember scenes from Taxi more than specific episodes. It was probably a more character driven series than most. I think that I've seen Taxi/DVD's on Amazon before. The "yellow light" scene was in the episode where I think the Rev. Jim character was first introduced (second season, perhaps). My personal favorite MST episode has to be "Puma Man".

30/7/06 3:51 PM  
Blogger Krys said...

"I'm normally not a praying man, but if you're up there....SAVE ME SUPERMAN"!!!

"I am familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda"

"Who am I, Kreskin"?

"Keep Gaming..."

"Hey, we used to make out to that Hymn".

"Disco Stu does NOT advertise..."

"Ooooh...but I was using my WHOLE ass..."

The Simpson's has given us way too many great lines...

31/7/06 3:43 PM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I'm like you, Greg. Can't remember episodes (though I agree with your choices 1,3, and 8, and also the turkey episode of WKRP.)
At least the first three seasons of Taxi are on DVD.

So, like you there are moments:
There's this episode of Barney Miller where a guy steals this woman's pink Cadillac some 30 years ago, and he finally is captured, the man and the woman are at the station. She notes: "It's so PINK." He describes how well he took care of it, wiping it "with a shammy". I can't do justice to it, but it really cracked me up.

One important episode: "Sometimes You Hear the Bullet" on M*A*S*H, first season, Hawekeye hanging with his friend, but later he (or sdomeone) is operating on him. The first really serious moment of the first season. There were others: Abyssinia, Henry", of course. There's one in the later seasons with a clock in the corner, but the details are now fuzzy.

4/8/06 12:57 AM  

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