Saturday, July 18, 2009

Top 10 Best Sitcom Episodes of the 2008-2009 Television Season

Well, I had meant to do this before the Emmy nominations were out, but now they are, so that ship has sorta sailed. I'm still offering my opinion, even when there is a much more respected one out there!

10. 30 Rock - "Kidney Now!"

I think I was more into this year's 30 Rock finale than most people--I thought it was far better than last year's finale, scattershot Emmy winner "Cooter." A lot of my enjoyment came fromm the fact that I'm a sucker for satirical points about the division between medium and message, which two of the three plotlines (1. a charity song to selfishly get one person a kidney and 2.a catchy but relationship-destroying catchphrase) dealt with.

9. Flight of the Conchords - "Prime Minister"

Of all the fun things in this episode--the guest starring roles of Art Garfunkel-obsessed Mary Lynn Rajskub and self-important Elton John impersonator Patton Oswalt to start, not to mention the cameo of Garfunkel himself--the one that pushes this episode into the sublime is the parody of Korean karaoke. The whole bit, sung by Bret, complete with both-languaged subtitles and marvelously weird stock footage, is the most consistently hilarious straight two minutes on TV since Alec Baldwin's therapy session last year on 30 Rock.

8. South Park - "The Ring"

I've knocked South Park before here, but man, when they get it right, they get it right. Calling out the Jonas Brothers' purity rings not for being lame but for being an elliptically dirty marketing trick--THAT is satire.

7. The Big Bang Theory - "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis"

This is a show that started with a terribly lame pilot, but has grown into one of the best sitcoms on TV, centered on Jim Parsons playing an self-important Aspegian asexual (and getting an Emmy nom for it, huzzah!). I wouldn't pick this episode to start with (for that I'd recommend either the first season's "The Loobenfeld Decay" or this season's "The Vegas Renormalization") but once you've familiarized yourself with Parsons' character, his every move in this episode is gold.

6. How I Met Your Mother - "The Naked Man"

Television critics smarter than me have pointed out that at HIMYM's best, it often recalls Seinfeld's social-deconstruction-via-term-invention but with more heart, and this episode is a prime example of that, in what is almost certainly the show's best season to date.

5. 30 Rock - "Gavin Volure"

I was a lilttle underwhelmled by this episode at first, but I kept thinking about it and remembering lines from it, and when I watched it again and realized that it's exactly the groove that 30 Rock has settled into--in a good way. It's not as mind-blowingly surprising as, say, last year's "Secrets and Lies," but it's just an excellent and consistent half-hour of comedy, with jokes like, Steve Martin: "This is my expert on fine art and yelling," John MacEnroe: "Why isn't there any good art in this house!" that I can only describe as perfect.

4. How I Met Your Mother - "Intervention"

Maybe my favorite episode of HIMYM to date, this just has callbacks building on callbacks building to an earned climax--this is like great sitcom writing 101. And something as wacky as old-man makeup as a plotline could only be sold by Neil Patrick Harris.

3. 30 Rock - "Generalissimo"

As I indicated before, I don't think that 30 Rock quite had the highlights of its best episodes last season, but was overall more consistent. That was helped out by a pair of reliably good-quality romantic storylines, Baldwin with Selma Hayek and Fey with Jon Hamm (whose good looks and serious comedic chops make him my biggest man-crush in a long while). This stellar episode is kind of a stand-in for how the several episodes with those characters were for me--brought over the top by Baldwin playing his gay Mexican doppelganger.

2. The Office - "Broke"

Even more so than 30 Rock, this one is a stand-in for The Office's superb 6-episode storyline about the clash between Michael Scott and Charles, the stuffy suit played by Idris Elba. This whole season saw Michael Scott shouldering not only the comedic weight that he always had on the show, but also the dramatic weight--with a major love interest early on and a major professional conflict later. Together they made this season of The Office the best yet, though it was more about the consistency in arc from episode to episode than it was about individual 22-minute chunks. I elected this one the best (over other close calls like "Heavy Competition," which may have the best Office line of all time in, "The meatball parm is their worst sandwich!") in part because all of the wonderful subtle details about Michael that appear when this show is firing on all cylinders. The fact that he has been drinking milk and sugar--JUST milk and sugar--every morning for the past six years, is too perfect for words.

1. Better Off Ted - "Racial Sensitivity"

Well. I have waxed poetic about this episode already. Suffice to say I thought it was the best half-hour of TV this season. Watch it, already.

CAVEAT: I have yet to see more than the pilot of Party Down. Also, there are other shows that I didn't watch, but they're shows that for the most part I don't like.


Anonymous said...

it's like you don't even watch it's always sunny

Rob said...

Yeah, truth is I'm not really crazy about Always Sunny, but I do really like an episode every once in a while. Want to recommend me a particular episode from this season?

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