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Best of the Decade, Part 1: TV Episodes

November 30th, 2009

The AV Club recently ran out their best of the decade articles for the uh-ohs decade. I thought I’d throw some of my thoughts in there on the fly. I’m sure I’ll forget several episodes, shows, character and TV events which merit a mention, but I’ll do my best.

AV Club’s Best TV Episodes

I was shocked by how many of these best TV episodes of the decade that I hadn’t seen and hadn’t thought to see. But there are definitely some that reminded me that there’s a bunch of good DVDs I can still rent to watch while working out (e.g., The Corner, Brotherhood and Sons of Anarchy.


Jack Bauer returns to 24 in January, with Season 8 set in New York City. Season 7 was in Washington, while all prior seasons had focused on Los Angeles.

The AV Club’s list only included the best episodes from shows that weren’t considered “premier” shows.  Some notable inclusions on the list included:

In particular, I was pleased to see “Epitaph One” on there. I just finished watching the first season of Dollhouse (I should have a review up at some point). Most striking on my completion of the DVDs is how much better Epitaph One was than anything else in the first season and it really was the type of TV pilot that gets people going.  I imagine that Dollhouse probably was a borderline pickup for a second season and shooting Epitaph One was probably a pilot for a second season, in many regards.


Some that I thought were missing (most of which weren’t eligible for the AV Club’s list, by virtue of being on the “best series”:

  • Katee Sackoff had the "it" factor on BSG but really flashed her acting chops in the "Scar" episode in Season 2.

    Katee Sackoff had the "it" factor on BSG but really flashed her acting chops in the "Scar" episode in Season 2.

    Lost, Pilot (September 22 and 29, 2004)

  • Lost, The Constant (February 28, 2008)
  • Battlestar Galactica, “Scar” (February 10, 2006)
  • Battlestar Galactica, “Crossroads” (March 18 and 25, 2007)
  • The Wire, “Home Rooms” (September 24, 2006)
  • The West Wing, “Two Cathedrals” (May 16, 2001)
  • The West Wing, “Commencement” (May 7, 2003)
  • Mad Men, “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” (September 20, 2009)
  • Arrested Development, “Charity Drive” (November 30, 2003)

There are more, but those really standout.

The Lost Pilot is probably the best produced TV launch I’ve seen. It’s nearly impeccable in setting the show up and is probably the definition for TV event.  It launched several careers and brought cinematic style to the small screen.  Meanwhile, “The Constant” was the episode that all Lostphiles were waiting for.  It was easily the best written episode of the series and fulfilled some many of the subconscious desires of the viewing audience while not overdoing things or betraying the overall story arcs of the series.

The “Scar” episode of BSG was really a bit of a standalone (somewhat like the “Isaac and Ishmail” on The West Wing which turned 9/11 into a teachable moment), but the depth with which is went into Kara Thrace character was outstanding. More conventionally solid was the Season 3 finale, “Crossroads,” which succeeded in the BSG standard of flipping the show’s world on its head.

As for “Home Rooms,” it stands out most for two items: getting into the political mud and for a scene that evokes the realism that The Wire is all about. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers… but it’s a “Shit Just Got Real” type of moment.  The Wire was such a phenomenal and consistent show that few individual episodes really stand out.  But this episode, if for only three minutes, left jaws on the floor in a way that hadn’t been done since “The Cost” in Season 1.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes we'd had a real Josiah Bartlet in the last decade.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who wishes we'd had a real Josiah Bartlet in the last decade.

The two West Wing episodes show my bias toward my favorite shows of the decade. Aaron Sorkin did many things well, but setting up and delivering in spectacular fashion for finales is chief among them. “Two Cathedrals” was an epic Second Season finale with an even bigger cliffhanger. “Commencement” really set up “Twenty Five”, the finale to the West Wing’s Fourth (and last good) Season.

Mad Men’s “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency” was somewhat of a bridge episode for the series with its John Deere moment really helping to transition the series to its Season 3 climax.  There are a ton of things going on in the Episode, and yet it is impeccably controlled and above all else reveals that Joan is not, after all, destined to head off into the redhead sunset.

The last episode on my list, Arrested Development’s “Charity Drive” is the quintessential AD episode.  When I say that I mean that it is near perfect comedy and captures each featured character impeccably, from Lindsay’s brief foray to the wetlands to Michael’s trying to corral the family while doing good.  But for as good as certain bits such as Michael giving a ride to the latina domestic and Buster’s budding romance with Lucille Ostero are, nothing will top the scene featuring Lucille Bluth, Michael and Lupe’s cousin.  You need an exit strategy if you want to not laugh yourself to tears when watching that scene.

Stay tuned for the additional parts of my Best of the Decade Series.

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