Television, as an artistic medium, is wonderful. There has been, and continues to be, so much wonderful television in the world, it rivals almost any other artistic medium. Oh, there’s awful TV out there too, make no mistake. And television is hardly the end-all of art. However, at the end of the day, TV provides is consistently with some of the most entertaining….entertainment there is.
Some, however, is better than others.
What follows is a totally subjective and terribly biased list of my favorite episodes of television of all time. I’ve tried to be systematic about this, ranking episodes on production quality (especially compared to comparable shows of the time), performance and execution (acting and directing versus special effects or animation, which would fall under production quality), narrative excellence (how it furthers the larger story of the show it is a part of), and overall awesomeness.
This is just for fun and to spark lively debate. Enjoy!
Also, please note, spoilers below.
10 – Forever Red (Power Rangers Wild Force)
For the tenth anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, all the red rangers from previous teams assemble to stop a combined threat from across the franchise’s history. While the episode makes almost no sense in the established canon, it is amazing to see all the original actors return and be given a few moments to shine. The final battle is over-the-top fun unlike just about anything seen on television before or since.
9 – Fire In The Sky (Transformers)
One of the most somber cartoons of any series, Fire In The Sky introduced kids to a great and fun new character, Skyfire, and then promptly killed him. An expertly written story that builds masterfully and helps to establish numerous elements of Transformers canon, this episode was a hallmark of great animation, good voice acting, and a stellar ending that was every bit as moving as more ‘grown-up’ shows.
8 – Son Of The Defender (Boston Legal) – Sorry, no YouTube video available 😦
In a stroke of genius for an already genius series, Son Of The Defender splices together a story of William Shatner’s Denny Crane in a literal life-or-death trial with scenes from a fifty-year-old television episode called ‘The Defender’, in which a young William Shatner plays a lawyer going up against his father, played by Ralph Bellamy. Using footage from the older show as memory flashbacks and set to the heart-rending tones of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes, it is quite simply impossible to finish this episode with a dry eye.
7 – Truth Or Consequences (NCIS)
NCIS, a procedural cop drama, has been on for longer than most series can hope. And while most series lose their luster after a few seasons, NCIS was going strong into their seventh season, in part with the help of this pilot episode. The team crafts an elaborate plan to rescue a captured comrade, but in the process, the episode gives the viewers a solid reintroduction to each character and their role. Few episodes go so excellent a job bringing new viewers up to speed and emphasizing the teamwork element at play. And the final scenes (available through the link) is awesomeness incarnate.
6 – Out Of Gas (Firefly) – Sorry for the small screen; silly copyright issues
Any fan of Firefly will be constitutionally incapable of picking a favorite episode, and in truth, they’re all quite good. What makes Out Of Gas stand out is the non-linear narrative the weaves in not just the current predicament but also loops in lots of answers to lingering questions (namely when and how did the crew come together). While other episodes may be more fun, few episodes so vividly embody what made this show wonderful.
5 – The Parting Of The Ways (Doctor Who)
In the culmination of an entire season of a relaunched classic, The Parting Of The Ways brings us everything that makes Doctor Who fun: World-threatening peril, glib one-liners, heroically memorable scenes, and culmination of Dr Who nerdity, the regeneration of a doctor. The episode climaxed the Bad Wolf story line as well as set the pace for all future seasons of the show.
4 – All Good Things (Star Trek the Next Generation)
Like Firefly, most Star Trek fans will be unable to give you an answer to their favorite episode. But All Good Things will almost definitely be near the top of the list. This series finale brought back old characters and fan favorites, hit all the notes from action to existential quandaries, and left the series on a high note. Everything you could ever want from a series finale, this gave you.
3 – Epilogue (Justice League Unlimited)
Facing cancellation, Justice League Unlimited decided to drop the mic on all future series. The finale of season two not only closed the door on the Justice League series, but also beautifully connected it to Batman Beyond and brought together the entire DC animated franchise to date. The show was so popular and successful, it bought JLU another seasons with this powerful episode cited as a major reason.
2 – Lost City (Stargate SG-1)
If All Good Things hit all the notes, Lost City bangs them with a hammer and sets the piano on fire. This epic tour-de-force highlights some of the most emotional stories in the franchise history and delivers some of the best action sequences too. The show pulled out all the stops for this and it shows.
1 – Swan Song (Supernatural)
The intended series finale of the long-running monster-of-the-week sleeper hit, Swan Song confronts the building towards the Biblical Apocalypse like no other show had before; by starting it. Clever, emotional writing and expert turns are hallmarks of this episode, but it’s all sold by the montage scenes narrated by Rob Benedict as the prophet Chuck. Watched independently, the episode is amazing but watched as the crown jewel of five seasons worth of build and it is a masterpiece.
So there we have it. I hope you enjoyed the list. Agree? Disagree? Comment or email me. 🙂