Friday, January 23, 2015

Last Quarter

Over at the AV Club they're naming the top 25 sitcom episodes of the past 25 years.  A daunting task.  The 90s was a great time for sitcoms and so have been the past several years.  Off the top of my head you've got shows like The Simpsons, Seinfeld, The Wonder Years, Cheers (the tail end), Friends, Roseanne, The Larry Sanders Show, South Park, Family Guy, Arrested Development, Better Off Ted, The Big Bang Theory, The Office (British and American), Parks And Recreation, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Party Down, Malcolm In The Middle, My Name Is Earl, The Middle, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Louie and quite a few more. Just picking the top 25 series is tough, so 25 episodes?  You could pick 25 from Seinfeld or The Simpsons alone.

But let's see their list:

25. Modern Family "Fizbo"

I guess this is as high as Modern Family will be ranked--AV club seems to have tired of the show.  I admit no single episode especially sticks out, though if I had to choose I'd probably pick "Yard Sale" which is actually from the fourth season, after The AV Club said it was treading water.  Their choice is from the first season, and is certainly a fine episode.

24. Everybody Hates Chris "Everybody Hates Food Stamps"

Never watched the show.

23. Girls "Beach House"

This is from season three and I gave up after season one.

22. Louie "Late Show (Part 3)"

This is a good episode, but not its best. In general, I think its best are short bits, not long or multi-part episodes.

21. Spaced "Gone"

Never watched the show.

20. How I Met Your Mother "Slap Bet"

Never watched the show (except the finale)

19. Flight Of The Conchords "Yoko"

I liked the show but didn't love it. "Yoko" is a well-known episode, and features the wonderful Sutton Foster, though I'm not sure if I'd call it their best.

18. New Girl "Cooler"

This show doesn't do it for me.

17. Roseanne "A Stash From The Past"

A good episode from a good show, though if I made a list I'm not sure if anything from this show would make it.

16. Archer "Placebo Effect"

Never watched the show.

15. Curb Your Enthusiasm  "The Doll"

A good choice--maybe the choice. "The Doll" was probably the first episode of CYE that everyone called a classic.

14. The Larry Sanders Show "Flip"

This is the finale. I don't remember the finale as being especially great.  I could name several episodes that I prefer.

13. South Park "Scott Tenorman Must Die"

This may be the most notable episode of South Park, and it's certain powerful, but I almost find it  more disturbing than funny.

12. Better Off Ted "Racial Sensitivity"

If you're going to pick one from BOT this is probably the best choice.

11. Parks And Recreation "Fancy Party"

This is one of the most memorable episodes. Good choice.

10. Friends "The One With The Embryos"

A justifiable choice.  All Friend 's episodes start with The One With, but they misnamed this one, since fans would no doubt recall this show as the one with the contest for the apartment.

9. Party Down "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday"

Yeah!  Party Down is, along with Community, my favorite sitcom of the past decade, yet many lists would overlook it. And they chose the best episode, too.

8. 30 Rock "Rosemary's Baby"

A pretty good choice.  This one is best-remembered for Jack's multiple impressions of Tracy's family.

7. The Office (U.K.) "Training"

As good as the other episodes, I guess.

6. NewsRadio "Complaint Box"

What is this doing here?  NewsRadio was a mediocre show.

5. Arrested Development "Pier Pressure"

"And that's why you always leave a note!" This episode is often listed as the best, but the show generally kept up a high level so I'm not sure if it stands out that much.

4. Community "Remedial Chaos Theory"

Yes!  My other favorite show with its best episode (and there are a lot to choose from).  Sometimes you turn on an episode of TV and suddenly you realize you're watching art. My only objection is it's rated too low.

3. The Office (U.S.) "Dinner Party"

One of the best episodes (and like some other classics listed above, off-series).

2. The Simpsons  "Marge Vs. The Monorail"

As good a choice as any, but in a season that also includes "Homer The Heretic," "Mr. Plow," and "Last Exit To Springfield" it's hard to go wrong.

1. Seinfeld "The Chinese Restaurant"

You probably guessed this would be a Seinfeld, but I don't agree with the pick (in fact, I prefer "The Pick"). This is an early episode--famous, groundbreaking--but not its best.  I'd prefer "Bizarro Jerry" or "The Opposite," not to mention stuff like "The Hamptons," "The Marine Biologist," "The Contest," "The Puffy Shirt" and "The Soup Nazi."

Overall, a good list--especially the top ten.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

My God was BOT funny. Can't believe it only lasted as long as it did.

2:39 AM, January 23, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is hard to nail down the episodes because so many good episodes work off the understanding you've developed for the characters in other episodes. With some exceptions I guess, sitcom episodes were never really meant to be viewed as a single work - I mean the whole point- generally- is to make you come back again next week (well with binge-watching and on-demand maybe just say more)

Also I don't really recognize episode titles (see point above) so despite LA Guy's elucidations, this list was a little frustrating

6:24 AM, January 23, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Like any TV series, sitcoms want you to like the characters so you'll return each week. But they've changed in recent decades in depending more on story arcs to hold the show together. An episode of The Honeymooners or The Dick Van Dyke Show or M*A*S*H is generally a stand-alone thing--each plot is its own separate thing working by itself. The Simpsons has parodied this, of course, where each episode ends with life exactly as it was at the start (unlike almost any other sort of storytelling).

9:16 AM, January 23, 2015  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

"Slap Bet" is my choice for the best HIMYM episode. In fact, I showed it to a couple people who hadn't ever seen the show, and they liked it a lot.

"Chaos Theory" was brilliant, and should have won the Hugo in 2012 (a Doctor Who episode beat it). It might be the most ingenous Community episode. But it's not the funniest; there are several 1st and 2nd season episodes that are funnier.

2:01 PM, January 23, 2015  
Anonymous LAGuy said...

Perhaps I'll check out "Slap Bet" if I see it's being rerun.

Community often takes big chances and none paid off more than "Remedial Chaos Theory." You may be right that it's not the funniest overall, but the darkest timeline was one of the best bits they've done, and the episode has a cumulative effect that the others can't match.

3:30 PM, January 23, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Actually, I'm curious which episodes you think are funnier.

1:42 AM, January 24, 2015  

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