Monday, December 29, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: Best (episodes) of the rest

Today's column, as promised on Friday, is my look at some of the best episodes from shows that overall weren't strong enough to make the Top 10 but had great individual moments. Lots of video clips in this one, too, including "Dr. Horrible" in its entirety.

41 comments:

Toby said...

Thanks for including the "Midnight" episode of 'Doctor Who'. As big a fan of the show as I am, I think I might have overlooked that one. Not only was it as gripping as some of the best 'Twilight Zone' episodes that were in the same claustrophobic, paranoid vein, but it was such an excellent acting showcase.

Anthony Foglia said...

Can't really argue with too much except omitting mentioning that the Conan/Colbert/Stewart fight started on Stewart when Conan and Colbert showed up ready to fight, but they they delayed it for each show.

I would rate "Frozen" above "Wilson's Heart" for House episodes.

And I would probably put either "Ten Sessions" (admittedly weak for most, but with a great ending) or "Sandcastles in the Sand" for HIMYM.

But I can't think of any shows that should qualify for either list but didn't.

Michael said...

For what it's worth, reading you rave about HIMYM again and again has finally gotten me to watch the series. A friend loaned me all 3 seasons on DVD and I'm through the first 6 episodes so far ("Slutty Pumpkin" is the most recent). Looks like I'll have to set up my DVR to catch season 4.

Good thing you have tags for the show, makes it easier to re-read what you wrote at the time. From episode 1.05 ("OK Awesome"), you wrote "if they can do episodes like this every week, I won't care if we don't meet the mom until season three". It's season 4 and counting, are you still OK with it?

Amanda said...

Oh S2 of Friday Night Lights is "disastrous"? Bugger, I have just started watching the first season (if it was on network TV here in Australia I missed it, they probably showed half the episodes out of order and at 3am on every third Thursday -- their usual MO for Shows I Like) and really liking it. I liked this last season of Dexter a lot more than Alan though too so I'll hold out hope you're wrong about that too! ;-)

kwig said...

There is a certain plot point in season 2 of Friday Night Lights that pissed a lot of people off, and kind of casts a bad shadow over the rest of the proceedings which are somewhat uneven.

But I would recommend still watching it, as I think one of the episodes, #14 "Leave No One Behind", probably could have been a candidate for this list if only for the scene at the end between Coach and Saracen.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's season 4 and counting, are you still OK with it?

As I said a couple of months ago, at this point I'd almost prefer it if the mom didn't show up until the final scene of the series' final episode.

mj said...

@amanda - I absolutely agree with kwig. S2 of FNL is well worth watching. Using S1 as a benchmark to evaluate S2 hurts S2 but I don't think it was ever "disastrous" and I still think it was more compelling than just about any network tv drama series that season. I would highly recommend reading Alan's reviews and blog after you watch each episode - I believe they are archived. One frustration of doing so, though, is that there will be a lot of discussion along the lines of "but it's not like Season 1." Glad to see "Hello, Goodbye" and "The Naked Man" make the Top 10 eps for 2008. Both memorable and very worthy.

max_h said...

hi Alan, just curious as to whether there were any episodes of other shows (e.g. Life on Mars) that you thought about including but just missed the cut? On a related note, what were your best episodes of shows that did make your top ten?

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I just got my DVD of "Dr. Horrible," but I haven't had time to watch it yet. On the front, however, it says it includes "Commentary: The Musical" which I am really also looking forward to seeing. Whedon had said earlier about doing the commentary in song, so it should be fun.

Alan Sepinwall said...

hi Alan, just curious as to whether there were any episodes of other shows (e.g. Life on Mars) that you thought about including but just missed the cut? On a related note, what were your best episodes of shows that did make your top ten?

I probably could have included more things -- the biggest thing I wrestled with was finding a way to slot in Generation Kill, where the problem was that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts -- but I don't remember all of them now off the top of my head.

On a related note, what were your best episodes of shows that did make your top ten?

Now that's a good question, especially since I didn't have to go through that particular thought process before. Lemme think...

-"The Shield": the finale

-"The Wire": "Late Editions" (penultimate episode)

-"Mad Men": probably "Six Month Leave," but I could also go "Maidenform" or "The New Girl."

-"Chuck": either "Chuck vs. the Seduction" or "Chuck vs. Santa Claus"

-"Lost": "The Constant"

-"The Office": Either "Goodbye Toby" or "Chairmodel"

-"Battlestar Galactica": "Revelations"

-"In Treatment": the one with Glynn Turman, or the one with Sophie's dad

-"Breaking Bad": "Crazy Handful of Nothin'"

-"Burn Notice": "Double Booked"

-"The Middleman": "The Sino-Mexican Revelation"

Adam said...

"The Constant" was my favorite hour of tv this year, and I am so glad Alan went with 30 Rock's "Episode 210" rather than the more prominent "Cooter" and Oprah episodes.

The one that's missing? The final night of Colbert's run in Philadelpihia, when John Edwards (jetski!), Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all cameod.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Can't really argue with too much except omitting mentioning that the Conan/Colbert/Stewart fight started on Stewart when Conan and Colbert showed up ready to fight, but they they delayed it for each show.

A fair point, though there were the usual space limitations, plus the fact that the item was an excuse to praise Conan's strike run as a whole, which I felt was much stronger than the strike versions of Daily Show or Colbert Report.

Anonymous said...

Very glad to see you giving recognition to Dr Who and Skins, both shows I really love. ( I'd like to see Nick Hoult or Mike Bailey up for the 11th Doctor, myself.) I probably watch at least as much Brit tv as I do American.

Bobman said...

-"The Middleman": "The Sino-Mexican Revelation",

I have to say, the episode of Middleman I think I will remember for eternity is The Flying Fish Zombification, if only because I kept cracking up at their "pronunciation" of the product "!!!". I will buy the DVD set just to show people that episode.

jengod said...

I thought the SOA was one of the sleepiest episodes of the season, but I heart you for including the show at all, so you are forgiven. :)

Alan Sepinwall said...

I have to say, the episode of Middleman I think I will remember for eternity is The Flying Fish Zombification, if only because I kept cracking up at their "pronunciation" of the product "!!!". I will buy the DVD set just to show people that episode.

That would have been my other choice. But "Sino-Mexican" had evil Lucha Libre wrestlers, and that's just awesome.

belinda said...

I can't agree with you more on Conan. I even feel a little guilty now because I miss those strike days where I tuned in obsessively to see what he'd do. Dare I say it, I think Conan is actually better during the strike, which I can't say for Colbert or Stewart. (in particular Stewart, just because his show depends almost entirely on writing, and Stewart is more of a host than a comedian.)

But anyway, good list. I also have forgotten about how good Midnight was on DW, and am glad to be reminded of it.

Also, since I've just OD'ed on watching S1 Skins over the weekend, it's really good to see "Cassie" on the list here. Some, hell, most of the actors in this show are really quite extraordinary, and it's nice to see them acknowledged by you.

And Eternal Flame! Awesome. It's fantastic to see how great a cheesy ol' song can make one feel with the right tv show. Perfection.

David J. Loehr said...

"The Middleman": "The Sino-Mexican Revelation"

There were things I loved in just about every episode, but that one in particular fired on all cylinders, from Wendy's car to Sensei Ping to the wrestlers. (Well, maybe her car didn't fire on all cylinders, but still.)

To this day, I can't watch Iron Chef America without hearing "Sensei Ping" at the sight of Mark Dacascos. Seriously. Because my 7yr old is hooked on saying it over and over.

Anonymous said...

The Costas Now pick was great. I am a big sports fan who hates how ESPN markets it's products more than reporting sports news and Costas Now did a good job of commenting on that theme. The guest from the sports media( Patrick, Leitch, Buck..) were superb, the current and former athletes were so so. They condensed 10 hours of material into ninety minutes so it did feel a bit rushed; but it was a topic that so needed to be presented that I felt it was HBO's 2nd best program of the year after the Wire final season.

renton said...

Thanks for helping to solve my mini OCD dilemma over whether to put my Dr. Horrible DVD with my TV show boxed sets or my movies.

Another reason why I love this place!

JustJoan said...

I know this is the wrong place to put this, but I really want to share it for the holidays, and if I put it under "Mad Men" it would get lost.

I watched -- re-watched, as is my holiday habit -- Richard Curtis' "Love, Actually" over the Xmas weekend. And what to my wandering eyes should appear, dressed in sprayed-on Spandex pants and a big holiday smile, but a much, much younger January Jones in perhaps her second movie role ever. She plays one of the Wisconsin bar girls who takes home the can't-get-a-date Brit who just knows that his "cute" accent will get him girls in the U.S.A. And he's right: He gets a bevy of models (all of whom, according to Curtis, wrote their own lines), including January, who wrote the very best ones. If you haven't seen "LA," or not for a while, I do recommend it heartily, and not just so you can see Bets out of her 60s clothes and into well, very little.

Anonymous said...

JustJoan - LA is one of my handful of favorite movies ever, I watch it at least a half a dozen times during the holiday season.

Jason Henningson said...

While I am glad Midnight was recognized for Doctor Who, I would say that the final episodes to Series Four (Turn left, The Stolen Earth and Journey's End) were some of the best, helping to tie up loose ends to the entire new show as well as giving fans a reason to miss Catherine Tate's Donna.

Hatfield said...

Ahh, I just followed that link in the comments to your recap of "Late Editions" and it got me excited to watch Season 5 again.

For the shows on this list I watch, hard to argue with your choices, except I would say "The Sleep of Babies" (that was the name of the penultimate SOA episode, yes?) was stronger than "The Revelator." Maybe that's because of the tension and the way it leads up to that one big moment (trying to be spoiler-minded here), but that episode had me cringing and squirming and gesturing/shouting at my television. And I'm curious how close SOA as a whole got to your Top 10, since I know you took about 4-5 episodes to completely buy in.

And slightly off-topic: you've often referred to The Wire as the best ever, and it makes me wonder if you've ever taken a stab at a BEST EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER ACCORDING TO ME type list, or even a series. Call me a dork, but I think that would be extremely fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Like Just Joan, I also watched Love Actually and enjoyed the January Jones moment, but I didn't know about them writing their own lines.

Gingi said...

Thank you, thank you for the post about the complete "The Wire" series on Amazon. Yes, the price has now gone back up, but they have it at borders.com for $57.59. They are out of stock, but the wait time appears to be less than 2 weeks. Can't wait to get mine.

legion said...

Hulu hates Canada :(

Thankfully, NBC doesn't, and I got to watch the hilarious Conan/Colbert/Stewart beat-downs :)

Thanks Alan!

Anonymous said...

Hulu hates Canada :(

To Legion -

Try Googling "Hotspot Shield".
Trust me.

jim treacher said...

I thought the best ep of SOA was the one where Dutchboy got smoked. Whoops, spoiler!

Will Leitch is a good guy. I don't know or care the first thing about sports, but The Black Table was really cool, and he seems like a genuinely nice person. Bissinger is nuts.

I feel kind of bad for Tina Fey. The closest she'll ever come to fame is by imitating somebody better-looking and more accomplished than her. I wish somebody would ask her whatever happened to "Bitch is the new black." We should all want a woman in the White House... as long as she's a Democrat.

Somehow I managed to miss Midnight, but I liked the other episodes in the second half of the season. Particularly the one where Catherine Tate went away. Best idea in years.

domino87 said...

Alan, just wondering if you have been following along with Brotherhood? It is still very much the poor man's Wire + the poor man's Irish version of the Sopranos, but it's also vastly improved since its debut. In fact the 3rd season finale was easily the series' best episode, and, dare I say, as good as one of the better Wire episodes.

Rich C said...

@Renton

Thanks for helping to solve my mini OCD dilemma over whether to put my Dr. Horrible DVD with my TV show boxed sets or my movies.
Another reason why I love this place!

Your post is priceless! Mostly because I feel your pain. A lot of my stuff is "vertically intergrated chronologically" (aka: "Piles". If nothing else, that phrase justifies Numb3rs existance for me). But when it comes to CDs and DVDs, a rigid system is required to find anything! And obviously, alphabetical will never cut it...

Alan,
Once again, thanks for all the labor (of love) you put into your blog. It makes me feel much better about all the TV I watch!

Best of luck to everyone, and to all your favorite shows, in 2009.

Nicolas said...

"I feel kind of bad for Tina Fey. The closest she'll ever come to fame is by imitating somebody better-looking and more accomplished than her."

Who? Vanna White?

jim treacher said...

lol

Relax, fellas.

Nicole said...

Although I preferred the Moffat two parter with River Song, Midnight was a good episode as well. It is the Donna-lite episode for those that didn't like that character too much.

When is the DW Christmas special with David Morrisey airing on this side of the pond? With only specials and no "season" to speak of, I wonder how delayed the airing will be for those not in the UK. (and who can't access alternative methods).

Zachary said...

I haven't organized my favorites of the year yet, but I know that Sheldon getting his Christmas present from Penny will be on the list. Jim Parsons should get an Emmy nomination just for that scene alone. Just the thought of it makes me laugh.

Matthew L said...

Somehow I managed to miss Midnight, but I liked the other episodes in the second half of the season. Particularly the one where Catherine Tate went away. Best idea in years.

I'm confused - Midnight was the one where Catherine Tate went away. They filmed Midnight and Turn Left (the Donna-centric episode) at the same time. In fact, I really liked how they handled the Doctor-lite episode problem this year.

Personally, I don't understand the dislike of Catherine Tate. I can understand people not liking her comedy (I've not been impressed by what I have seen), and her first impressions (in The Runaway Bride) weren't that great, but the character developed siignificantly sufficiently over the course of that initial episode that I wasn't too bothered that she was coming back. But the character she became over the course of the show was brilliant, neither a fawning lovesick Rose or Martha, nor an overly harsh Tegan, but the perfect companion. And it was that change in the character that made the way she left the show hurt so much. And as a result I just can't understand why anyone is still responds negatively to Catherine Tate.

belinda said...

I don't. I love Catherine Tate, and how she portrayed Donna Noble. Yes, she's a bit shrill at times, but I think her character developed the most over the season, and I agree it was utterly crushing to see how that ended. She might be my favourite companion of all, given how strong her chemistry was with DT - I'm still hoping she'd pop up at some point in the specials next year. And if they were ever shopping around for a woman Doctor, I would have loved it if it were her. Turn Left was a good indication that I'd totally watch a DW with her at the helm.

Anonymous said...

Semi OT- Dr. Horrible "Commentary: The musical" was cute and had a few hilarious lines but nothing really special or new. It's best if you already KNOW all the backstories and info since they did a lot of references to that. And minus on not having subtitles for the musical which makes it hard to understand a lot of parts.

But watch the ELE applications, Tur-Mohel made it and is absolutely worth it.

-EmeraldLiz

jim treacher said...

I'm confused - Midnight was the one where Catherine Tate went away.

For good, I meant. Or at least until they bring her back like they did with Rose.

I wonder if you can find this year's Christmas special on the Internet? That would be, of course, wrong.

Nicole said...

Sort of off topic, but is NBC still going to air Merlin? The kid in Midnight plays Merlin, and although I will not reveal how I saw the first series, I thought it was fun and much better than pretty much anything on NBC at the moment. A North American audience would definitely enjoy this show, even with the original British accents.

Pamela Jaye said...

we got Dr Horrible yesterday (well, now it's day before yesterday) and watched it Monday night (except for Commentary, as I needed to find the transcript someone kindly posted (try google, I did commentary, the musical lyrics and that worked)

today I wanted karaoke, cause - I've only seen it once with captions and maybe that's enough karaoke but not for me, so I googled some more and ended up with some really good - if not so great video - on youtube, and some with a few words off. the vocals are all still in, but at least i can find each person's part, which helps, as I haven't seen it as much as everyone else on earth (and I haven't listened to those mp3s I got months ago, either. oh well.

so today I learned youtube playlists and how to install firefox 3 and flash on a linux machine (firefox is in the wrong place, but it works. at least if I'm "couch" - a user on our machine, "potato")

now i have a nice DVD with crappy video but almost all the lyrics, some of them lighting up and most of them in differing colors.
and of course i have the official DVD which I have to watch all of, again. (and technically, it's my brother's. i'm surprised it didn't leave the house with him)