CC Issue 47 / Film / TV

The Best TV Ever

This is not a list of my favorite TV shows. This is a list of my favorite TV episodes.

The determining factors were quite simple. First, could I remember the episode, right now, without browsing through lists of TV shows or episodes? Second, if somebody watched this one episode, would they likely be hooked on the show? And third, could I watch that episode on repeat forever?

The following 8 fit all three requirements.

Community – Pascal’s Triangle Revisited

2010 – Season 1, Episode 25

Plot –

In the season 1 finale, Jeff Winger, student at Greendale Community College, must choose between the two women who profess to love him at the year-end school dance.

Why it’s my favorite –

Although the show is now a sad parody of itself, this episode was the perfect end to a perfect season of TV. At the time, “Community” was far and away my favorite series, maybe ever, and had a perfect mix of heart, humor, and zany antics. This finale managed to be a hugely satisfying end to the season and set up a cliffhanger that was at once shocking, and also not shocking at all.

Angel – A Hole in the World

2004 – Season 5, Episode 15

Plot –

Winifred “Fred” Burkle, scientist at Wolfram & Hart, a demonic law firm, is infected by an otherworldly virus and her friends must race around the world using all of their resources to save her.

Why it’s my favorite –

Spoiler alert: Fred dies. This episode is so emotional that, when I mentioned to my wife that it was going on my list, she said “I cry every time I see that one, Niagara Falls-style. And not all sad tears. Some of them are angry tears. ” “Angel” was oftentimes a pale reflection of its sister-series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but I think when it came down to it, “Angel” had the better one-off episodes. “A Hole in the World” proves you can have great depth in a TV series about vampires fighting a monster-of-the-week.

Top Gear – Bolivia Special

2009 – Series 14

Plot –

James May, Jeremy Clarkson, and Richard Hammond must buy used trucks from Bolivian newspaper ads within a tight budget. They are then dropped off in the middle of the jungle to make their way across the country.

Why it’s my favorite –

This episode distills the best of “Top Gear” into a single adventure. The hosts bicker, get into absurd scenarios, and ultimately come to a bombshell realization, all while participating in a show that’s loosely about cars. If you aren’t laughing while watching “Top Gear”, and especially this episode, then you are a robot.

Sherlock – A Scandal in Belgravia

2012 – Season 2, Episode 1

Plot –

Modern-day Sherlock Holmes must retrieve incriminating photos from the phone of Irene Adler, a mysterious woman who knows far more than she’s willing to admit.

Why it’s my favorite –

“A Scandal in Belgravia” is my favorite episode of TV ever. I would suspect that some wouldn’t even have it down as the best of the “Sherlock” series, but I love it. At almost an hour and a half in length, it’s possibly better classified as a film, but that’s getting stuck in the details. There’s a well-written mystery, and the chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch’s reserved Holmes and Lara Pulver’s dominatrix Adler is sizzling.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Once More With Feeling

2001 – Season 6, Episode 7

Plot –

The residents of Sunnydale are cursed by a demon and must reveal their innermost secrets through song.

Why it’s my favorite –

It’s a musical episode. I’m a sucker for musicals. This episode is not only a shiny one-off for the season, the episode’s plot, and the revelations through the songs, are also hugely impactful for the rest of the series. Although I had heard good things about it, before seeing this episode, I had not watched any “Buffy”. “Once More, With Feeling” convinced me to begin watching from the pilot, immediately.

Gilmore Girls – Luke Can See Her Face

2004 – Season 4, Episode 20

Plot –

Luke Danes, owner of a diner in the town of Stars Hollow, discovers that he has feelings for his long-time friend, Lorelai Gilmore.

Why it’s my favorite –

This is another episode where I came in halfway through a series. My friends had been going on about “Gilmore Girls” for some time, and I happened to turn on the TV during repeats for this episode. The pre-titles sequence had me falling out of my chair laughing, so I kept watching. I liked what I saw, and continued watching until the end of the series, and then back around from the beginning. After I had seen the entire series, I realized that the episode I’d started with was the best one I possibly could have started with. The combination of chemistry between the cast, relaxed tone of the show, and wicked one-liners made it very difficult to forget.

Extras – The Extra Special Series Finale


Plot –

Andy Millman, ex-movie-extra, and former star of the hit show “When the Whistle Blows” hasn’t had a hit in a while, and people are beginning to forget about him. He takes a spot on a reality TV series and reminisces about the things that led to his current situation.

Why it’s my favorite –

In a word, “heart”. Ricky Gervais’ Andy is a tragic figure who slowly begins to realize his faults. Gervais’ writing and acting is especially touching during the character’s interactions with Ashley Jensen’s janitor, Maggie. I don’t get sniffly very often, but this episode did it for me. Don’t let me lead you astray, though, because the show is also super funny. I’m breaking my own rule a bit here, because, while this episode is the best, the rest of the series should be watched first to get the full effect.

The Simpsons – The Springfield Files

1997 – Season 8, Episode 10

Plot –

An alien is spotted in the woods near Springfield. FBI agents Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate.

Why it’s my favorite –

It’s been more than fifteen years since I first saw this episode, and probably something close to ten since I last watched it, but I can still quote almost the entire thing. So, so many classic bits. And Leonard Nimoy. It was brilliant then and I’m sure it remains brilliant now.

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