Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best of the best of the best?

As we get close to the the post-Thanksgiving, pre-New Year's rerun dead zone, I'm starting to do work on both my Best of 2009 list (which will be a bear, because so many good new shows debuted this year, at the same time that a lot of veteran contenders were still great), and also on a Best of the Decade package that I'm guessing will comprise multiple lists, spanning not only genre (drama/comedy/reality/etc), but also covering things like Best Season, Best Episode, possibly Best One-Season Wonder, maybe Best Import, etc. Some more thoughts on that - and my request for input - coming up after the jump...

Not sure yet. Still trying to suss it all out. But the goal is to spread the wealth as much as I can, because the '00s were a great decade for TV, so no show will appear on more than one list.

I more or less know what most of the series contenders are - and if you've been reading me for a while, you can figure some obvious ones out, like "The Wire," "The Sopranos," "Freaks & Geeks," "Arrested Development," etc. - and just have to figure out how to divvy them up. But the lists for best season (of a show that overall isn't great enough to qualify for a best series list) or best episode (ibid) may require more thought. The best seasons of "Buffy," for instance, were in the '90s, but "Once More With Feeling" (pictured above) or "The Body" might earn a spot on the episodes list. ("Hush," alas, was the final episode aired in 1999, or it would be the pick.)

So I'm curious: if you leave out the obvious contenders listed above (and shows like "The Office" and "BSG"), what are either some great episodes or great seasons from shows that you think merit end-of-decade recognition?


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megan said...

For best seasons I would suggest:
Veronica Mars – Season 1 – Just amazing from start to finish.
The West Wing – Season 2 – Probably one of the greatest seasons of TV ever.
Alias – Season 1 or 2 – Season 2 was uneven compared to season 1, but it was gutsy in completely rewriting the show – twice!
The O.C. – Season 1 – Too bad the awesomeness couldn’t last longer.
Angel – Season 5 – It’s amazing how many of the single episodes people mentioned from Angel were all from season 5
Friends – Season 8 – Haven’t seen this mentioned yet, but I loved the creative upswing the show had during this season, due mostly to Rachel’s pregnancy.
For best single episodes:
Buffy – “Once More with Feeling” – The obvious choice, those songs still get stuck in my head from time to time.
The West Wing – “17 People” – “Two Cathedrals” seems to be the go to choice, but “17 People” is a great balance of the serious drama and light comedy that the show did so well.
Scrubs – “My Screw Up” – Heartbreaking and hilarious, vintage Scrubs.
How I Met Your Mother – “Slap Bet” – HIMYM’s 2 greatest gifts to views came in this episode: the slap bet and Robin Sparkles.
Gilmore Girls - "Rory's Birthday Parties” – A perfect blend of the two worlds the girls lived in.
Psych – “American Duos” – I know you don’t blog about this show, but this episode never fails to make me laugh
And I’m going to assume both Lost and The Office will make the “best of the best” lists, but just in case I want to acknowledge my love for two of my favorite episodes of TV ever, “The Constant” and “Casino Night” respectively. Oh and season 2 of The Office is just made of win all around.

apk said...

"33" from BSG. The first, and still best, episode of a standout series.

Donlee Brussel said...

Let me start out by clarifying one thing. The season where Ari gets fired ("Exodus") is season TWO. No one was that blown away by season one, because like "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," its season one was small (8 episodes) and they hadn't found their footing yet.

During season 2, the NY Times wrote an article talking about how it had become men's answer to "Sex and the City," and in certain episodes exceeded it. This was true. It's been all downhill since then.

That being said...

Best Seasons (of shows that have gone downhill since):

Entourage - Season 2

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 2 - The only season with a complete, season long arc. Used DeVito to his full diabolical genius. Before the shock value for shock value's sake hadn't worn thin yet as it has now.

Rescue Me - Seasons 1 or 2

Season 1 of "Veronica Mars" and "Friday Night Lights" are gimmes as perfect seasons, however, I think we can agree that both shows offered enough in later seasons that they should be on your top series list.

Best Episodes:

Heroes - Company Man - An episode that showed the full potential of the series, even if it would never reach this height ever again

Scrubs - My Old Lady - An episode that perfectly encapsulated the humor and pathos of the show in its first season.

Best Import:

Coupling - It's like "Friends," but funny.

Cameron Hughes said...

My Name is Earl was not a very good show, but its second season episode Our Cops Is On is fantastic.

Sonia said...

The Office episode when Pam and Jim found out Pam was pregnant. The Michael and Holly stuff in that episode was also great (so good to see Holly again)

I also concur with Company Man on Heroes. The show never even came close after that and I haven't watched at all this season.

I nominate any episode of Scrubs where Turk dances.

The entire first season of FNL was perfection.

The Sopranos when Tony killed Christopher after the car crash....shudder!!!

Six Feet Under's series finale was amazing.

And I gotta say...on Survivor Fans vs. Favorites...when Amanda produced the immunity idol at Tribal council...that smile on her face...I think she should have won just for pulling that off! It was even better than what Russell did last week, b/c he had help!

Billiam said...

Oh, I almost forgot about "My Screw Up" from Scrubs (though my personal favorite is the Cox-narrated "His Story").

Otto Man said...

Party Down, "James Rolf High School Twentieth Reunion"

Unknown said...

Only one other person has mentioned it, but I think Chappelle's Show deserves to be recognized in some way. Either season would do. For an individual episode I'd take the pilot. The "Frontline"/Clayton Bigsby sketch was probably the best thing the show ever did, and I'm still sort of shocked that it ever made it on air.

Unknown said...

Season 5 of The Shield was a suckerpunch. Redefined the series completely, and re-watching the show nothing quite lives up to that kind of gravity.

Mr. Thinker said...

Season 2 of Spaced
Season 1 of Frisky Dingo
Season 1 of Wonder Showzen
Season 1 of Dexter
Season 2 of The Venture Bros

Terminator: SCC, "Samson and Delilah," "Self Made Man"
24, "10am-11am" of Season 1

grat said...

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Opening Night(S4E10). For Mel Brooks meta-imitation of The Producers, for Larry David's spectacular Broadway performance, for the Curb humor outside of the play. This is one of the best, funniest, most unique, once-in-a-lifetime hours of television. Should not go unnoticed.

Season 2 of: 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Extras.

Rob said...

As someone who basically only watches or knows sitcoms...

1. Arrested Development
2. The Thick of It
3. The Office (US)
4. The Office (UK)
5. 30 Rock
6. Black Books
7. How I Met Your Mother
8. Curb Your Enthusiasm
9. Scrubs
10. Peep Show
11. Flight of the Conchords
12. The Big Bang Theory
13. Malcolm in the Middle
14. King of the Hill
15. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
16. Spaced
17. Home Movies
18. South Park
19. Parks and Recreation
20. Extras

And the rest of these are in the same league of quality but only had or have had one season:

21. The Comeback
22. Better Off Ted
23. Lucky Louie
24. Andy Richter Controls the Universe
25. Community
26. Modern Family
27. Eastbound and Down
28. Summer Heights High

And yeah, I cheated and put The Thick of it #2 even though it technically only had one season plus specials and a movie. It's just that good.

Rob said...

29. Party Down

God dammit I knew I was going to miss something!

Anonymous said...

Season: Supernatural Season 4.

Everything else I wanted to add has already been mentioned. I realize this has too, but not nearly enough. Season four took this show to a place I never thought it was capable of going. It's superb.

Clare said...

Generation Kill, Band of Brothers and Rome were my favourite from HBO.

Grey's Anatomy season 1 and the final episode of season 2 remain classics.

Veronica Mars season one remains, for me, the example of how to do a perfect story arc.

And Gossip Girl season 1 is seriously underrated. It's faded fast, but that first season was just fantastic.

Blink from Doctor Who is probably my favourite episode from the decade, let alone the series itself.

Skins is also up there for me as a series. Probably my favourite show of the decade. THe episode "Everyone" from season one, with them all singing wild world at the end, was perfection.

Zac F. said...

Here's my favorite episodes of the decade:

24 - 11:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. (1.24)

Arrested Development - The S.O.B.'s (3.9)

Battlestar Galactica - Daybreak Part II (4.20)

The Big Bang Theory - The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis (2.11)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Once More with Feeling (6.7)

Chuck - Chuck vs. The Ring (2.22)

Friday Night Lights - State (1.22)

Freaks and Geeks - Discos and Dragons (1.18)

Gilmore Girls - Dear Emily and Richard (3.13)

Heroes - Five Years Gone (1.20)

House - Wilson's Head (4.16)

How I Met Your Mother - Slap Bet (2.9)

Life - One (2.21)

Mad Men - The Wheel (1.13)

My Name is Earl - Our Cops is On! (2.12)

The Office - Casino Night (2.22)

Scrubs - My Screwup (3.14)

Six Feet Under - Everyone's
Waiting (5.12)

The Sopranos - Pine Barrens (3.11)

Sports Night - The Cut Man Cometh (2.11)

Veronica Mars - Leave it to Beaver (1.22)

The West Wing - Two Cathedrals (2.22)

The Wire - Final Grades (4.12)

Anonymous said...

"Scrubs" My Screwup--amazing drama for a comedy

Anonymous said...

I'd ask that we find some kind of recognition for 'The Job' and also for 'Action'.

Rich in Denver

arieswym said...

Best Season:
Grey's Anatomy - S2
The OC - S1/S2
Rescue Me - S1
Weeds - S1
Ugly Betty - S1

SMN said...

I've got to send some love to South Park, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. The current event criticism these shows provide are invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Most of my favourites have been mentioned, but will add noms for:

Bones - Aliens in a Spaceship
Dollhouse - Needs, Belonging (sorry can't choose)
HIMYM - Game Night (Slap Bet has all the votes and understandably, but I think this is the episode that established what an interesting and smart show HIMYM can be).
Life - Fill It Up

Dexter - Season 1

Anonymous said...

"Out of Gas" from Firefly is probably the best episode I've ever seen on television.

elainecleo said...

PLEASE no reality shows, they are for brain dead
I think Buffy is the best series ever on TV, but loved season 5 of Angel. Firefly was killed off way to soon and Veronica Mars had several more useful years left.

JT said...

Alan, we know you'll pick S4 of THE WIRE for best season (cause it is and nothing comes close). Great eps list is less important or not at all.

Hard not even bother with list when it all begins and ends with THE WIRE.

Everything else pales in comparison, ESPECIALLY your beloved SOPRANOS.

Jen L said...

I think the second season of Supernatural is the best 2nd season of tv ever. Meaning, it took what happened in the S1 finale and kept up the energy and interest. Most shows that have a great S1, notably Veronica Mars an Heroes, stumble throughout S2.

Queer as Folk needs to be on your list somewhere, as it was so groundbreaking with long-reaching effects.

Anonymous said...

Lost - The Constant. I know The Sopranos will make your series list anyway, but Join The Club (the Kevin Finnerty episode) of The Sopranos is awesome.

Deborah said...

For Firefly, I'm going to have to say that "Out of Gas" is as good as television gets.

For Mad Men, oh the agony of picking just one! I'd have to say "The Gypsy and the Hobo," because the depth of performance in that extended revelation is truly unlike anything I've ever seen.

christy said...

Another great season of non-scripted TV was PBS's Frontier House. At least, I adored it when it aired. Haven't seen it again since then.

Anonymous said...

I think Lost is the best TV show ever and my favorite episode was "The Economist" from season 4 where Sayid is in Berlin in his Flash Forward and meets Elsa. In the end we find out he has been working for...Ben. (who by the way should be best character of the decade if there were such a category).

And a great episode form an underrated "classic" style comedy - The series ender of King of Queens. A much better series by the way than the overrated, screechy Everybody Loves Raymond. Arthur marrries Spence's mom, Doug wrestling drunk in the alleyway, and the final scene where Doug and Carrie have two tots and Arthur comes back.


Kathie said...

How does everyone know the names of the episodes?


6 Feet Under-finale
The Shield-last season and the
The Nine (not mentioned!) the pilot
Damages-season 1
Greys-episode with the bomb in the guy, Coach Taylor was on the bomb squad
Breaking Bad-episode where Jesse was waiting for the crack whore and took care of her poor little boy
the OC-season 1 finale when Ryan left

Anonymous said...

Best Series Finale Ever

Six Feet Under

Anonymous said...

wow, this post expoloded.

Not sure if you still need my suggestions, but here they are anyway

Best Season
The West Wing seasons 2 & 7
Friday Night Lights season 1
Gilmore Girls seasons 2, 3 & 4
Lost seasons 3 & 5
House season 2
Everwood season 1

Best Episode
ER - 'All in the Family', 'On the Beach', 'The Lost', 'And in the End'.
The West Wing - 'In the Shadow of Two Gunmen' Parts 1 & 2, '17 People' , '25', 'Election Day'
Alias - 'Phase One'
Friday Night Lights - 'Mud Bowl', 'State, Underdogs'
Six Feet Under - 'pilot', 'That's My Dog', 'Everyone's Waiting'
Gilmore Girls - 'The Lorelais' First Day at Chilton', 'Like Mother, Like Daughter', 'Teach Me Tonight'.
House - 'Broken', 'House's Head' 'Wilsons Heart', 'Three Stories' +many more
Lost - 'Live Together, Die Alone', 'Through the Looking Glass', 'The Incident'
NCIS - 'Call of Silence'
The Simpsons - 'The President Wore Pearls'

Best One-Season Wonder
Freaks and Geeks

Best Import
Now I don't even know if you get these shows, but I have heard Americans talk about them in the other blogs, So they must be at least available in the US some way

Spooks (UK) - I think this may be called MI5 in the USA
Summer Heights High (AU)
Kath & Kim (AU) - The original, not the silly American remake.
The Chasers War on Everything (AU)
Cold Feet (UK)
Green Wing (UK)

Emily said...

Best episode:
"Smile Time" or "A Hole In The World" - Angel
"Epitaph One" - Dollhouse
"With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept." - One Tree Hill

Best season:
Veronica Mars s1

Henry said...

Anyone mention the first three seasons of Alias? Parts of the fourth season were great as well ("Search and Rescue" is a great episode that I can only think of right now). I loved that show, even though it went off the rails a bit in its final years due to network interference.

The first two seasons were flawless, though. Logical plot progression, great character development (Jennifer Garner had the Best Actress in An Action Show Emmy if such a category existed in my book), solid action, and the coolness factor to boot. It even had an episode where the entire premise of the show was rebooted, which has rarely been done in network TV. Everyone nowadays remembers Lost when thinking of JJ Abrams, but I still remember Alias. I would nominate "The Solution", "Q&A", "Almost Thirty Years", and "Truth Be Told" from the first season. Basically every episode from the second season. I thought it was that good.

Also love any West Wing episode from the first two seasons (I was one of few people who actually liked "Issac and Ishmael," Aaron Sorkin's poignant, though lecture-like, response to 9/11) and the episode of Arrested Development where George Michael hangs his head like Snoopy as the music from Charlie Brown plays on the soundtrack (the name of the episode escapes me right now).

Fernando said...

I'd like to throw in my votes for Oz, as show that seems to get lost in the discussion of great 90's and great 2000's tv. For this decade 2 episodes that could make a best of the rest list are "Good Intentions" from season 5 (beecher gets his parole hearing) or the series finale.

Also the The rick James episode of "Chappelle's Show" is arguably the biggest comedy moment of the decade/biggest cultural impact. Really any show from the 1st 2 seasons is worthy of a mention.

Mike F said...

misread the post earlier, sorry for that...

I'd try to talk you into the Hard Knocks season with Herm Edwards and the Chiefs...or this season with the Bengals...without blinking, I can easily call it the absolute best and most riveting "reality show" in the history of television

and Project Greenlight was so unique and so interesting to watch in its first was a great experiment and captivating

both shows transcend the typical "reality show" and deserve serious consideration for any best of list from this decade

Art V said...

Not sure what category this would fit into but Top Gear should be the best of something for 00's. The African Road trip and Polar Challenge in particular.

If there's a "Best Characters We Didn't Get to Know Well Enough" category, Derek Reese should blow that out of the water.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I'm bothering to comment at this point, as I gather you're looking for suggestions of seasons/eps that hadn't occured to you, not votes (and there's no reason you should do this democratically--it's lists of what you think is best, of course. But having thought of my favorites and dutifully read everyone else's (237!)comments, I can't resist naming mine anyway.

As so many others have said, Veronica Mars S1 for best season. Runner-up: FNL S1 (and I'd also say The Office S2, but you already mentioned it in your post.)

Best single episode: Blink (Doctor Who). Runner-up: The Constant (Lost).

Thinking about this questions makes me want to rewatch the first three seasons of Gilmore Girls, British Coupling, and West Wing to pick episodes as my favorites. West Wing Season 2 deserves best-season consideration (and please, please not the horrible WW S7 that some have inexplicably (to me) suggested).

Scrubs My Musical is at least worthy of best musical episode, perhaps even best episode consideration. (And for a best-of-later-season Buffy ep, I'd go with Once More With Feeling over The Body.)

A few people have mentioned OC S1, but I consider S4 the best OC season, though perhaps not quite worthy of best season consideration up against VM1, FNL1, Office 2, and WW2.

I'd join others in nominating Slings and Arrows for Best Import.

Jaynee said...

238 comments? Really? Wow. Chances are slim you'll read this, but if you decide to do a season of something, then "Buffy" Season 3 is a GREAT season (the Mayor, Faith) and considered the best among most diehard Buffy fans (myself included).

Anonymous said...

house season one is incredible...almost every episode is strong enough to stand alone, but especially the pilot, Maternity, Babies and Bathwater, and Three Stories

mj1599 said...

Some suggestions in the comedy category:
1. The Office (UK)- The Complete 13 Episodes
2. The Office (US)- Season 2 (especially "Booze Cruise and "Casino Night")
3. 30 Rock- Season 1 and Season 2's "Succession"
4. Curb Your Enthuisasm- Season 4, 7
5. Arrested Development- Season 1 (especially "Pilot" and "Pier Pressure")
6. South Park- "Scott Tenerman Must Die," "Best Firends Forever," and "Make Love, Not Warcraft"
7. The Chappelle Show- Season 1
8. Chuck- Season 2
9. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia- Season 5

Also, Best Kids Show Episode:
Spongebob- "Krsuty Krab Training Video"

Nathaniel Cornstalk said...

I love to see Joan of Arcadia make the list somewhere. It was brilliant in its first season, and highly under-rated.
Season five of Angel is another good contender for best season. I was, on the whole, not a huge Angel fan, but I thought the fifth season was brilliant.

mac35 said...

Best seasons:
Lost S1
Chuck S2

Racial Insensitivity (Better off Ted)
The Constant (Lost)
Bath Item Gift Hypothesis (BBT)
Out of Gas (Firefly)

Amy said...

Does Kenny vs. Spenny air in the US?

If so, it would count as a wildly inappropriate and funny import. You could choose the one where the compete for who can smoke the most marijuana, who can wear a gorilla suit the longest, who can stay naked the longest... Some real gems there.


Schmoker said...

If Best One Season Wonder can include a show that didn't even air 13 episodes, I cannot think of a show that should be so honored above Firefly. Not simply because the show was so good (I'd call it Best Series of the Decade, even though it never made it through half a season), but because it reverberated in so many ways. That show was responsible for one of the most organized and effective fan campaigns I have ever seen, which in turn prompted the creator to try and keep the show alive any way he could, resulting in a major motion picture. For that to happen is, I believe, unprecedented. I cannot think of any other failed show that resonates so large (including, in the end, financially thanks to massive, and massively unexpected, DVD sales).

It was a one of a kind is so many different ways, both in terms of quality and impact.

By the way, the shooting style (silent space, cinema verite action in space) was revolutionary and has been imitated all over the map since. BGS owes a heavy to debt to Firefly, but so does almost every other space action show filmed since.

Best Episode is tricky, but I would go with Lost's pilot, which again created a revolution. Even though from a creative standpoint you could say that it probably wasn't even the best episode of Lost in many ways, it shocked and captured people's imaginations like no other show has this decade. And how many shows have attempted to capture the mystery/character/fantasy serial storyline lightening in a bottle that Lost reinvented with its pilot? Many, but none have managed to succeed.

Of course, I guess that pretty much signals that Lost would have to be considered Best Series of the decade, both for quality and impact. I'm not even certain there is a close second in my mind.

By the way, if not the pilot, then The Constant has to be the best episode of the decade, with Once More With Feeling from Buffy coming in at 1-A.

mcbryson08 said...

Another great West Wing episode- "20 Hours in America (1 & 2)."

I also love "Bastogne" from Band of Brothers and My Boys' "Douchebag in the City."

Unknown said...

Best episodes:

Mad Men--A Night to Remember, Season Finale of Season 3

The Sopranos--Long Term Parking, The Second Coming, Whitecaps, University, Employee of the Month and Pine Barrens, Unidentified Black Males

The Wire---Season 3's Moral Midgetry

Lost--Through the Looking Glass (so cinematic!!), Pilot, The Constant, Walkabout

Buffy-The Body

The Office--Casino Night

Bst Seasons
Season 1 of 24
Season 1 and 4 of Lost
Season 3 and 4 of The Wire
Season 1 of FNL
Season 3 and 5 of the Sopranos
Seasons 1,3,5 of Gilmore Girls
Season 1 of Heroes
Season 2 of The Office
Season 1 of Veronica Mars
Season 2 of Mad Men

Narrim said...

Brainstorming as best I can:

Shows I've Watched:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has The Body, The Gift, Restless, Chosen, Tabula Rasa, and Once More With Feeling all in the decade that could all go up for best episode noms. Possible "Best Ensemble" if you do that category, but no best characters.

Angel can really go anywhere. I think "Hero" was pre-00, but the rest has enough, especially the fifth season. Best character nod to Wesley Wyndham-Pryce.

Alias had a strong first two seasons and someone mentioned the Super Bowl episode which I definitely have to agree with. The world was turned on its head as the main evil organization was upended mid-season and it still wasn't over.

24 Season 5 for best season, hands down.

Best Characters:
- Wesley Wyndham-Pryce
- Barney Stinson
- Chuck Bartowski

Best Ensembles:
- The Wire
- Scrubs
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Freaks & Geeks and Friefly are easily in best one season wonders.

Haven't Watched/Don't Know or Remember Specifics:
- The West Wing, particularly the final season
- Sports Night
- Ed (either good first season or "Stayed Too Long For Its Concept")
- Now & Again
- The Sopranos
- Gilmore Girls
- Curb Your Enthsiasm
- NYPD Blue
- Futurama
- Monk
- Psych
- Boomtown (Best Pilot list)

Germ said...

“The Man From Tallahassee” (Lost)
“An Evening With Mr. Yang” (Psych)
“I Am Sylar” (Heroes)
“There’s More Than One of Everything” (Fringe)
“Blinded” (Lie to Me)
“Ron and Tammy” (Parks and Recreation)
“Time” (Early Edition)
“Comfort Food” (Pushing Daisies)
“Belonging” (Dollhouse)
“One” (Life)
“Help!” (Eli Stone)
“Home By Another Way” (Journeyman)
“The Hummingbird” (My Own Worst Enemy)
“Mr. Monk Is On the Run, Parts 1 & 2” (Monk)
“Wheels” (Glee)
“A Bright New Day” (V)
“Debate 109” (Community)
“Javelin” (Kings)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Okay, folks, 250 comments seems the right place for a cut-off. I appreciate all the suggestions, but I think we're at (or past) the point of information overload.

Thanks, everybody.

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