Part 1 #25 – #11
Its the time of year where one looks back on the year that was and ranks stuff. So in the spirit of of looking back and judging, here is the first in a series of “Best Of 2010” year ending lists. My list of the best television episodes of 2010 was not separated into comedy and drama because a great episode of either essentially does the same thing, it sets itself apart and above from the rest of the season and not only gives us the formula that made the series great to begin with, but brings that formula to a completely different level. Sometimes they made me laugh, some made me cry, some had me on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t have 10, or 15 – it was simply a great TV year – I had to have 25 episodes. Without further delay here is part 1 of the Top 25 Episodes of 2010.
25. “Getting Closer”/”The Hollow Men” Dollhouse
written and directed by Tim Minear/Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters & Tracy Bellomo and directed by Terrence O’Hara.
It’s easy to forget but Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse finished up its series run in early 2010. Even though Getting Closer and The Hollow Men aired a week apart, I watched them together as one tense exciting final battle (It’s pretty much a two parter, so they will be judged as such). Getting Closer gives us (SPOILER ALERT) the murder of Bennett Halverson (Genre goddess Summer Glau) by a reprogrammed Doc Saunders (Genre goddess Amy Acker), and the revelations that Caroline was an eco-terrorist/freedom fighter; responsible for Bennett’s maiming and that trustworthy and stalwart Boyd Langston is actually the evil head of Rossum Corp. The second hour is war. The Hollow Men has our heroes shutting down Rossum (at least for a while); it’s violent, romantic, tragic and funny; it also marks the return of Enver Gjokaj’s (Tony/Victor) killer Topher impression.
24. “The Master Plan” Parks and Recreation
written by Michael Schur (co-creator) and directed by Dean Holland.
It’s a game changer for the world of Pawnee government, state auditors played by new regulars Adam Scott and Rob Lowe come to town from Indianapolis to slash the city’s budget, to Ron’s (and our) hilarious joy. They shut down the government; and you can imagine how that sits with Leslie. The Master Plan also showcases the supporting cast at their best. I loved Andy’s crushing on April who’s 21st Birthday party is the second half of the episode and Tom finding some romantic redemption in Lucy (Natalie Morales). Mostly I’m happy Adam Scott didn’t leave Party Down for nothing.
23. “Pilot” Lone Star
written by Kyle Killen (creator) and directed by 500 Days of Summer and Spider-Man relaunch director Marc Webb.
Damn this was good. I hadn’t seen the second episode when I’d heard the reaper had claimed Lonestar; and I never watched it. The pilot was so good I decided to let it be, this singular one-off showing of a pilot that never really stood a chance – and I never saw the second episode. The story of a con man; stuck in two long cons, living two lives and in love with two women: small town cutie Lindsay (newcomer Eloise Mumford) and sexy debutante Cat (Adrianne Palicki, Tyra Collette from Friday Night Lights) daughter of his con’s mark, Jon Voight. The greatest strength of the episode simply though is the lead performance by James Wolk. You’d never think he was 25 by watching this, but it’s like the man on screen has lived a thousand lives and you see it in Wolk’s charming, layered, performance. This could have been a great series but the pilot stands as one of the years best hours.
22. “Boardwalk Empire” Boardwalk Empire
written by series creator and Sopranos vet, Terence Winter and directed by some kid named Marty Scorsese.
The first episode of Boardwalk Empire is a Scorseseian masterpiece. The rest of the series never lived up to the quality of the premiere. Buscemi, Pitt and Shannon all give stellar performances but for me the shining star is Kelly Macdonald. Her Margaret Schroeder was equal parts feisty and meek and the heart of the episode.
21. “Hitting the Ground”/“Night on the Sun” True Blood
This is the second unofficial two parter on the list these episodes are a non stop thrill ride. Bookmarked with bloody vampire death (Sookie staking Lorena and Eric staking Talbot) and in between was a series of amazing moments; Tara kicking Bill out of the truck into the sunlight, Sookie’s first visit to the Faerie Land, Russell marries Sophie-Ann, Russell decapitates the Magister, Sookie and Bill break-up, Sookie and Tara basking in the sun, Hadley’s visit to Sookie, Bill training Jessica, Eric and Talbot’s date “I’m Bored. Strip”, The Werewolf attack on Sookie’s house, Jessica killing and Sookie and Debbie Pelt’s awesome fight. The peak of the season by far.
20. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” Community
written by Dino Stamatopoulos and series mastermind Dan Harmon and directed by Duke Johnson.
It was equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Abed hysterically starts to see the world as a stop motion christmas special and sets off on an adventure to find the meaning of Dr. Ian Duncan (John Oliver). In the end its revealed the stop motion world is due to Abed’s trauma of being abandoned by his mother on christmas for her new family. Ouch. But the gang comes together to help Abed on his journey and defeat the Christmas Sorcerer and create a new family christmas tradition. Should be shown every year, a new classic.
19. “Party Down Company Picnic” Party Down
teleplay by John Enbom who wrote the story with Dan Etheridge, co-creators and directed by Bryan Gordon.
This series will be sorely missed and this episode is a perfect example why; Lydia’s stage parent desperation was the perfect showcase for Megan Mullally – it was Lydia at her crazy best, also Casey kicking Garland Greenbush ass in the competition, Ron falling in love with the owner’s crazy daughter, Kyle training Escapade in the ways of Hollywood and Kristen Bell as rival caterer Uta.
18. “Unplugged” Modern Family
written by series co-creator Steven Levitan, dir; Michael Spiller.
The Dunphy family goes Luddite, The Pritchetts deal with a dog that won’t stop barking and Cam and Mitchell try to get Lily into a preschool. It’s full of great one-liners and its the rare sitcom episode where all three plots are equally great and offer a lot of laughs. I still die when I think of Cam saying “My white man name is Tucker” and Hayley winning anti-tech competition “We got Shawshanked”.
17. “Verna” 30 Rock
written by Ron Weiner, directed by Don Scardino.
In one plot Jack helps Jenna deal with her terrible mother (he would know…), the titular Verna (Jan Hooks) and in the other Frank moves in with Liz and they try to rid each other of their bad habits. This episode’s brilliance is in Hooks’ gleefully trashy performance and a secret nanny-cam video Liz takes of her apartment, which shows Liz Lemon in a sleep eating frenzy, ordering a pizza and munching on cigarettes in her sleep. As funny as her drunk dialing the condo board from a few season back.
16. “Sanctuary”&”Death and All His Friends” Grey’s Anatomy
written by series creator Shonda Rhimes, dir; Rob Corn.
Shonda knew she needed to do something drastic to shake things up, Grey’s had been in the doldrums for 3 or four seasons (ghost sex, deer surgery) – and shake things up she did. A gunman stormed Seattle Grace seeking vengeance on McDreamy and left a path of blood and bedlam in his wake. Every member of the sprawling 14 member cast was given something to do climaxing with Meredith and Christina’s skill being tested under extreme pressure, the aftershocks of this great episode are still being felt in Grey’s world and the show is MUCH better for it.
15. “And Then There Were Fewer” Family Guy
written by longtime Family Guy contributor Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, directed by Domenic Polcino.
The hourlong season 9 premier took the residents of Quahog to a mysterious dinner party at a mansion held by occasional nemesis James Woods. It was a classic murder mystery done family guy style. I’m a mystery buff and it was note perfect from the look of the mansion to the episode’s score. Starting with the death of Quagmire’s date Stephanie (the funniest one-off character in FG history. Easy.) and then with the deaths of James Woods, Muriel Goldman on an Agatha Christie-esque hunt for the truth: (SPOILER ALERT) News reporter Diane Simmons was the murderer, she was dumped by James Woods on the eve of her being replaced as the Channel 5 News Anchor and wanted to frame Tom for his murder. Lois figures it out and just as Diane was about to kill her a single mystery shot kills Diane and saves Lois. It was Stewie “If anybody’s gonna take that bitch down it’s gonna be me”. The coolest part? For an animated sitcom, everyone who died stayed dead.
14 “Fire in the Hole” Justified
written by series creator Graham Yost (cowriter of Speed!) and directed by Michael Dinner.
In the opening minutes of Fire in the Hole TImothy Olyphant has a quick draw with a Miami drug runner. It’s a tense stand off, one that sets Justified’s contemporary western’s gritty tone and introduces us to TV biggest badass Raylan Givens played with simmering fury and big hat bravado by Timothy Olyphant. The pilot follows him as he ‘s transfered to the home he left so many years ago and thrust on the hunt for criminal/childhood friend Boyd Crowder (The Shield’s Walton Goggins, never creepier) who blew up a church with a rocket launcher. It’s an amazing hour and a brilliant showcase for Olyphant’s Givens who as his ex-wife puts it: “You are the angriest man I have ever known”
13. “Days Gone Bye” The Walking Dead
written and directed by Frank Darabont
The first episode of the Walking Dead was scary, we knew from the opening child zombie kill that we were in for a different kind of TVoehl experience. We awoke well into the zombie-pocalypse with Rick as our proxy, we shuttered as he came upon the doors reading “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” and we learned with him as he was taught the ways of the zombie world by Lennie James. Despite my knowledge of how he escapes, the ending where Rick is chased on the streets of Atlanta and stuck in the tank still has me biting my nails.
12. “Telethon” Parks and Recreation
written by series star Amy Poehler and directed by Troy Miller.
Leslie orders the Parks and Recreation employees (and Ann) to help her with her 4 hour slot at the Pawnee Cares Diabetes Telethon, from 2:00 am to 6:00 am. Leslie’s been up for 24 hours in preparation, fueled on Sweetums bars and the desire to reach the $20,000 mark and no sleep, Leslie is at her wildest and funniest. It shows how much Amy Poehler knows the ins and outs of Leslie that she was able to write Leslie’s funniest episode.
11. “A Study in Pink” Sherlock
written by co-creator Mark Moffat and directed by Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Push).
This 90 minute pilot for BBC’s Sherlock was better than the Robert Downey Jr. movie that came out last year. An adaptation of Doyle’s first Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, set in modern times and featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and future Bilbo Baggins/British Jim from their Office, Martin Freeman as Watson. Not only is the case a doozy, but watching the Watson and Holmes’ friendship unfold is a real treat. The pilot zips and zooms in McGuigan’s capable hands and sets a standard for what Holmes ought to be.
Well that was part 1, part 2, the Top Ten Episodes of 2010 will be up in a few days or so, but there may be another Best of 2010 list up before then. In the meantime, what were your favorite episodes of the year?