Lightening the mood a bit, I tried to think of what I considered to be the best television episodes to air in 2004. Making it more difficult, I limited it to one per show -- otherwise, it probably would have been something like 6 episodes of Angel and 4 of The Wire.
- 10) Gilmore Girls - "Emily Says Hello"
- 9) Arrested Development - "The One Where Michael Leaves"
- 8) Wonderfalls - "Karma Chameleon"
- 7) American Dreams - "Tidings of Comfort and Joy"
- 6) The Shield - "Strays"
- 5) Deadwood - "Sold Under Sin"
- 4) Lost - "Walkabout"
- 3) Scrubs - "My Screwup"
- 2) The Wire - "Middle Ground"
- 1) Angel - "Not Fade Away"
I had a very hard time picking the #10 episode. A Gilmore Girls episode seemed like a good choice, but I couldn't think of one that really stood out. This one stood out the most. When Gilmore Girls is good, it mixes comedy and drama as deftly as any show on television. This episode might have done it the best, ranging from the humor in seeing Jackson deal with life as town selectman, to the very heartfelt scene where Emily breaks down realizing what has happened to her life. Good enough for number 10.
An amazingly funny episode, with a number of subtle (and less subtle) parodies of Fahrenheit 9/11. And this episode had the line where Tobias says "I just blue myself" ... that makes the list.
A simply marvelous show that Fox aired about 3 episodes of because they are insanely stupid. This ep was written by Tim Minear, and I just dig his writing. Pretty much every episode of Wonderfalls that aired was hysterical, so this one wins as a representative of the rest.
Ahh, the little show that could. American Dreams has no reason to be anything more than a trite, cloying 7th Heaven-ish show. Except it is. Using the 60s as both the basis for the storyline and as a metaphor for dealing with modern issues, it just generally pushes all of the right buttons. And it's loaded with 60s pop music which is awesome. "Tidings of Comfort and Joy" deals with JJ's homecoming from Vietnam and milks it for all it is worth. And it completely works. I'm a sucker for good melodrama.
Damn. The Shield is a great, great show. Outside of The Wire, it's easily the closest thing to Homicide: Life on the Streets that's left on TV. Except it is a bit more over the top. Dutch finally gets the Cuddler Rapist and later strangles a stray cat ... which sounds ridiculous but was chilling on screen. This episode further ratchets up the tension in the Strike Team, which would seriously boil over in the last couple of episodes of the season.
The season finale of Deadwood. Just masterful in wrapping up the season, opening new storylines for next season, and aligning two characters who had been set up all year to be advesaries. If it wasn't for The Wire, Deadwood would be the best show on HBO.
The fourth episode of Lost is the number four show of the year. "Walkabout" dealt with Locke's backstory, including a remarkable reveal towards the end of the 3rd act (I think) where you learn that Locke had previously been confined to a wheel chair. It was one of thost moments where you realize that good television is all about pacing and act breaks, and there are few shows that do them as well as a Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams show.
Scrubs is probably the best sitcom on television. I move back and forth between this or Arrested Development, but when I sit back and think about it, I would be more upset if Scrubs left the air. A good example of why I feel that way is "My Screwup." Brendan Fraser, who's actually a pretty good actor (really!) plays Dr. Cox's brother-in-law Ben, who we first met in season 1 when he learned he had cancer. The entire episode deals with Dr. Cox dealing with Ben's return to the hospital. It is just an amazing episode with a wonderful twist at the end that forces you to rething everything that happened during the episode. Twist endings can be rather douchebaggian, but this one is pitch perfect.
It's all about conversations. Omar and Brother Mouzone. Avon and Stringer. Stringer and Bunny Colvin. Bunny and McNulty. Omar, Brother Mouzone, and Stringer. If you don't get this show, you shouldn't be allowed to watch tv.
Could there be another choice? The series finale of Angel was a huge "fuck you" to the WB Network, as it may have been the finest hour of television in a long time. Long character arcs (in some cases, 8 years) are brought to a logical end. The long time comic relief character kills someone in one of the coldest, surprising deaths ever. The tortured Wesley goes out on top, dying a heroes death and then some. Huge, huge battle scenes including a giant dragon. Tons of in jokes and meta-references for long time fans, but an episode that, for the most part, could completely stand on its own.
There it is. The Top 10 Television Episodes from 2004. If you're a TV dork like me, you'll notice a running theme of episodes written by former Buffy or Angel writers (episodes 10, 8, 4, and 1). Anyway, feel free to disagree with me. I'm more than willing to explain to you why you're wrong.