Bullet-proof Episodes

I’ve been up to my ass in alligators so I’ve been going full speed ahead just to clear the swamp. Then at night, I sit down with crochet and watch stuff from my video library, just to get the vibrating down a notch. I’ve gone through my Marvel library, and I really have too much to do right now to watch an entire movie anyway, so I thought, “Pick an episode of something you know is wonderful.”

If you asked me to describe a great story, I’d say romance and humor first, but the episode I went to was Person of Interest‘s “The Devil’s Share,” a bleak, violent story of people trying to recover from the loss of someone essential to them. This is not my kind of story, but every time I watch it–and I’ve watched it a dozen times at least–it amazes me all over again in the way it shows the complexity of the characters (in part in flashbacks that are both chilling and wonderful) and the simplicity of the plot: Get the man who murdered the woman they all love. Some of them want to kill him and some of them want to send him to trial, and some of them aren’t sure until the last minute (Fusco’s monologue still makes me weep, even after all these viewings), but they all move inexorably toward a conclusion that I didn’t see coming and yet is still fitting. It’s a marvelous piece of storytelling, made better by really, really good actors.

Which led me to this question: If it isn’t our personal preferences in storytelling (romantic comedy for me) that makes us say, “This episode, this story, was so excellent I will watch it over and over,” what is it? Certainly for me, the emotional impact is strong: the Johnny Cash song that plays over the opening minutes of the episode is a real rip-your-heart-out montage. Definitely characters I care about in conflict with worthy antagonists. But there must be something more. “The Devil’s Share” is nothing I would choose on its description alone, and yet I love that story.

I’m still pondering my reasons, but I think I’m too close to this one, so I want to know, is there an episode of a TV series like that for you? Not the whole series, just one show where you watched and said, “This. This hour/half hour/whatever is storytelling perfection for me.” And then the key, why? What was it about that single story in the series that lifted it above good into great?

77 thoughts on “Bullet-proof Episodes

  1. Resonance in the gut. Something that will last for generations. I haven’t seen this one, but I know the feeling you’re describing. And when it’s combined with well-crafted story-telling, it’s amazing.

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    1. I forgot to answer the question. For me, I think, it might be the M*A*S*H* episode where they have all pulled several days on surgery, then they all have dreams. Each one speaks to the character so well. It was before the days of Netflix, so I’ve only seen it 2, maybe 3 times, but it is the one I thought of when I read your description.

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  2. Well, I almost hesitate to say it, but I think it’s ‘Once More With Feeling’ from Buffy. I never usually like musical episodes so I avoided it for years. But when I eventually saw it, I realised how wrong I had been. I absolutely love everything about it. The really smart aspect of it is that Joss W managed to make the songs fit in so brilliantly with the storyline and with the characters. When people randomly break into song in most musicals, it can be very jarring, as it lifts you out of that willing suspension of disbelief mode you need for fiction. But the songs in OMWF further the story and really reflect the characters and what is happening to them, especially emotionally. When Giles and Tara do a duet about how they need to leave Buffy and Willow for their own good, it’s heartbreaking and very true to the story arc. It’s not even really a duet as they are singing different songs that are then blended together seamlessly, with them coming together on the line ‘It hurts me because I love you so’, with romantic love and fatherly love both conveyed perfectly in that line. Spike’s Rest In Peace conveys all the longing and frustration of his seemingly unrequited love that has been building up and building up for a long time.

    The whole episode runs through a gamut of emotions – there’s humour, fear, yearning, love, loss, pain. Each song hits a different emotional note. It helps that so many of the cast are very good singers and that Joss wrote great songs in a variety of styles. It’s also just so cleverly done. There’s a scene where they are all singing and walking to get to where Dawn is being held. As they sing, a fire truck passes behind them very fast, exactly as they sing the word ‘burn’. That makes me give a little wriggle of happiness as I watch, because it’s just clever and witty and perfectly timed. I love how they have Dawn start singing and then just stop it dead and it turns into a dance, which you just don’t see coming. The whole hour is a pleasure to watch and remains my favourite tv episode ever. It cemented for me my belief in Joss’ genius. Plus, James Marsters singing is always something that makes my day better!

    I love OMWF because it’s not different just to be gimmicky. He uses the new genre to continue the story and stays true to the characters. He uses the music to highlight the emotions and plot points that have been building up from previous episodes. So it fits in perfectly with the whole storyline. But it’s also brilliantly filmed, choreographed and performed, and demonstrates what a talented cast Buffy had. Plus the songs are wonderful, both the words and music. It shows just how good television can be.

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    1. I also loved it that most of the cast weren’t great singers. Since the whole premise is that a demon is making them burst into song, it’s exactly what would happen to real people: ordinary voices. Plus that premise is genius for a musical since it answers the question, “Why are these people singing?”

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  3. The only one I keep coming back to again and again and again is BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, which isn’t what you’re talking about. Too long, and the whole series.

    I have a lot of TV programs on DVD, but when I do re-watch them, it’s usually because the sum is greater than the parts, and I binge-watch. The Christmas episode of Mr. Bean is about it — part of it is because it’s Christmas, and part of it is because it’s just so funny. Jesus being airlifted by a helicopter has me laughing Every Single Year.

    I think it helps if a show has a trigger event. When it’s Halloween, I watch G. When I get a little blue, I watch P. When it’s Christmas, it’s time for B.

    I have a lot of books that I go back to when I’m in a certain mood, though.

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  4. I like to watch the “Innocence” episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s season 2. I enjoy everything about it. The heroine had sex for the first time, and it was lovely. She and the hero loved each other then bam! He becomes a monster out to destroy her and, you know, all humanity. It’s capped by the wonderful use of Alice Faye song Goodnight My Love. Trust me, the lyrics and that beautiful voice fit the misery in that episode.

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    1. It’s a great use of metaphor, too: the guy who is perfect until you sleep with him, and then he shows who he really is because he got what he wanted. It’s what makes that so devastating; there’s a real world explanation for why he’s being such a jerk. Then he starts murdering people . . .

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  5. Dr. Who’s “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood” (two episodes but one story) from Ten’s time as the Doctor. The gravity of the issues–race, war, education, and personal identity–and the way they comment on the Doctor’s life and on the course of 20th-century history are key for me. Plus, it’s beautifully written and acted.

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    1. That last bit always gets me, the list of the way the Doctor imprisoned the different members of the family. It’s a brilliant piece of storytelling all the way through.

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      1. The Doctor hid because he knew he would have to do something to them. He was trying to save them from themselves…

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    2. I love how furious Joan is at having to give up John Smith and how she is totally not impressed with the Doctor. He might look like the man she loves, he might even be the same physical being but he is not John Smith and she does not want him. She might understand given the danger the Family are, why John has to “die” but she doesn’t like it and she’s not afraid to say that.

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    3. Thats a great story. In addition I do like these almost-alternate universe stories because the writers can tell a whole story beginning to end without it impacting on the rest of the series too much.

      Similarly I love “Mystery Spot” in Supernatural, where one character goes on an immense emotional journey in a time loop while his brother is completely unaware of it. Like Groundhog Day if it went really, really badly.

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  6. I’m not a big TV watcher, other than The Big Bang Theory and The Voice, about all else I watch is the news, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Simple tastes. Ha ha.

    The Shawshank Redemption gives me the same feelings you’ve described. I’ve watched it many times (and it is definitely not the type of movie I would normally watch because, like you, my go to stuff is romantic comedy) but there is something about this story that touches me mind, heart, and soul. I can’t explain it. It’s beyond an intellectual explanation, but I think it has something to do with being a survivor, with justice, with the tenacity of the human spirit. And some amazing acting. The strange thing is at the end you question who is guilty, and yet you applaud the escape.

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  7. The West Wing 2.18 “17 People” is one of my all time favorite episodes of anything. The marked contrast of Toby’s dark realizations and everyone else’s fun, funny efforts to write the Correspondent’s Dinner speech is just the perfect balance for me. There’s some light hints of romance from Josh and Donna to add some sweetness, but really it’s all about the complex character stuff happening with Toby, Leo, and the President.

    The season finale “Two Cathedrals” might – justifiably – be considered one of the series’ best episodes, but I love the setup just as much as the payoff, in this case.

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  8. I spy -Home to Judgement

    I like most of the I Spys (Some of them were very well written) but that’s the one that’s on US soil and really hits every button.

    In some ways the premise is unbelievable but it has Will Geer and the bad guys are sort of omnipresent without being specific.

    Buffy – the Christmas episode in S3.

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  9. The West Wing episode: Someone’s Going to Emergency, Someone’s Going to Jail. Love the juxtaposition of the humor of Toby “teaching” the young kids how to protest, along with idealistic Josh learning heroes may actually be traitors.

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    1. Fantastic episode of the West Wing (in a list of many). There was also the scenes between Sam and Nancy McNally that totally revved my engines. Plus, another great use of music with Don Henley’s In A New York Minute.
      Great choice, ChristinNY.

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  10. I can’t think of anything specific, but for me it’s normally because the book/movie/t.v. show does hit my sweet spots – romance, humor, choosing and defending your family – just in a way or in a genre I didn’t expect them to based on the sweet spots. There’s a hockey movie called Goon that I never would have watched on my own, being as how I am not a fan in general of sports movies, bro-movies, or gratuitous gore. But in the middle of this gorey, sportsy, crude movie is a sweet, vulnerable character with an odd but understandable definition of honor and family who’s head over heals for a smart, dishonorable woman. It’s still the things I love, but it feels a little richer because it’s played out in an arena I normally don’t care about.

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  11. The Wire – S2 Ep 6. D’Angelo Barksdale has been jailed pretty much for ever. He is in a prison book club and discusses the Great Gatsby. By the end of the ep, his uncle has arranged for a hit man to kill him in prison because D knows too much about the family business.
    Breaking Bad: The Fly episode.

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  12. The episode of Castle where they solve a cold case, but it’s all played out in 1940s noir, with everyone playing a role in the past. Becket’s a cigarette girl at the night club, and Castle is a tough PI. Martha is his wise-cracking secretary and his daughter is the unreliable client. And so on.

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  13. I don’t think I’ve watched TV since Friday Night Lights ended. The episode that sticks with me to do this day is when audiovisual equipment was stolen from the athletic department. You’ve got this kid in the worst situation–dad’s a drunk, abandoned his boys. Mom’s out of the picture. Tim’s guardian is his older brother. They’ve got no money, very little hope. And Tim tries hard to make good decisions, but he doesn’t always get there. But in this episode he hates that his dad’s accused of stealing. He wants to defend his dad–the drunk who abandoned them. Then, when he finds out his dad DID steal the stuff, he’s got this dilemma. Turn in his own dad–to whom he feels tremendous loyalty–or do right by his coach–who’s stood by him again and again. Who’s fathered him when he’s shown up hungover to practice. In the end, Tim turns his dad in. It’s what I loved about the first 3 seasons of the show–moral dilemmas, three-D characters. So much push-pull. The writers left, and the new ones who took over just didn’t get it. I stopped watching after that.

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  14. Firefly. Out of Gas. We get partial origin stories.

    Objects in Space. It all comes together. That point where Early says “River… Serenity?” and he has bought her deception. Best line tho’ – “my sister’s a ship, we had a complicated childhood.”

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    1. Second “Out of Gas”. A triple layered story – the first time I’d ever seen that done. (At least I think it is. Long Ago, Near Past, Current – did I miss anything?)

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  15. Master’s Sun, Episode 1 – I never watch scary things, NEVER EVER. The description sucked me in though. It was billed as a new genre, romantic comedy/horror. Even though the ghosts (yes, ghosts – shudder) were flat out scaaaaaaaary, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized at the strange and pitiable heroine. Fifteen minutes into the first episode, I had the whole set up. She is tortured by her ability to see ghosts and the hero is a rich jerk who has the ability to make the ghosts disappear when she touches him. It had a wonderful metaphors about power and worth and touch for sex vs. touch for need. It was such a strange blend of cutesy rom-com and heart pounding creep-outs. It was completely outside of my wheelhouse, but something about the heroine’s tragic and strange life connected with me. She was so honest. I expected her to pretend that she was normal, but she never lied about who she was, and she knew how powerless she was, but she still could smile and be silly at times. The normal girl beneath the crazy one would show in flashes. I was hooked.

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      1. I hope you like it. You might check out City Hunter or My Love From Another Star. Also, the Hong sister’s that wrote Master’s Sun wrote My Girlfriend is A Gumiho and Best Love (aka Greatest Love). They all have their quirks, but are ultimately good stories. City Hunter has a few tiny mis-steps, but the story is a action/romance page-turner and the leads are wonderful actors. My Love From Another Star hooked me in the first 5 minutes (does that make me easy?). The production is super stylish, and I am a sucker for the super-hero element to the story. The antagonist is over the top, but I appreciated that the seemingly unlikable heroine doesn’t change. Instead, the writer’s continually reveal more of her character so that the audience’s perception of her changes. The Hong sister’s love kooky minor characters and bathroom humor, but their stories always resonate with me. Greatest love has a wacky hero (his goofy laugh, his crazy voice), but the metaphor of a man who is literally “cold-hearted” (he has an artificial heart) is beautifully carried throughout the story, and My Girlfriend is a Gumiho is such sweet campy fun. Both stories change from zany and campy to emotionally gripping, a Hong Sister’s trademark. I love the mythology built into their stories. It is beautifully crafted. Happy T.V. viewing!

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  16. CHINA BEACH tore my heart out almost every episode. The long-term damage done to the souls of the characters plays out over the 62 episodes, ending with Colleen at The Wall.

    And that speaks, Jenny, to the fact that I don’t usually choose to have my heart torn out. In movies, I prefer a good RomCom. But, I never missed China Beach, even though I knew I would cry over Collen, Boonie, Beckett, K.C., and Dodger.

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  17. The only thing I’m watching on TV (and have watched and can watch over and over) is Outlander. I’m not much of a TV girl.

    Audiobook-wise, I’m listening to Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Lady Catherine de Bourgh from the A&E version of P&P) read “The Unknown Ajax” by Georgette Heyer for the second time, and I don’t doubt that I’ll listen to it again. And again. Her voice, the story, the characters — all amazing, and I’m picking up new stuff on this second go-round. I’m sure it’ll happen on each subsequent listen.

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  18. Even smaller than an episode…the scene in The Wire’s (I think) fourth episode where the only dialogue is repeated uses of the word “fuck” in many different ways and meaning many different things. I don’t usually like much profanity in my speech – I think it’s lazy – but this scene is just perfection. You get everything you need to know about the characters in the scene, and the way solving the mystery plays out is just beautiful.

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  19. I had to write my answer before I read all you clever people who were going to influence my thinking! This is a really fun topic.

    The Highlander episode titled “studies in light”. There are two plot lines running through it, and each one ends in a scene that I found totally satisfying. To me the unforgettable ones are about making the right choice out of love and honor.

    To cheat and use a movie instead, I basically dislike “Scent of a Woman” but the two scenes near the end, where the kid doesn’t let Al commit suicide, no matter what the risk to himself, and then at the culmination when Al makes that inspired speech about honor and everyone in the room goes “oh. right. it can’t be any other way” because it is so fundamentally true. I will watch the whole movie I dislike for those two scenes.

    Robena, I am with you on Shawshank Redemption – love and honor again. That’s what gets me.

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    1. I don’t remember that ep of Highlander, JenniferNennifer, but I remember Adrian Paul. 🙂 Thank you.
      I hope I can find that on Netflix!

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  20. Doctor Who’s new series with the Ninth Doctor: The Empty Child/ The Doctor Dances. Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor seems always to be forgotten and this upsets and astounds me because he revitalised the series as a whole. His obvious suffering from Post Traumatic Stress is gently relieved at the conclusion of this two-part episode. “Just this once, everybody lives.” The joy the Doctor felt resonated with me because it’s not often that everyone gets a happy ending. The way things have been going for me this last year, I rewatch these episodes and feel some joy and some relief and am able to smile a little wider because, just once, everybody lived. And to me, that is precious.

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      1. Nine. Always Nine. Well (she says with a Tennantian drawl and headtilt) Ten got in enough good licks that I can’t bear to wztch his final episode and start in on Eleven. Bad Dr. Who fan, me.

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    1. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. A truly beautiful yet also terrifying piece of storytelling. My (now adult) sons still think it’s funny to creep up behind me saying “Are you my mummy?”

      Also, The Big Bang Theory. No particular episode, I just know I’ll feel better after watching it.

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  21. Stargate Atlantis’s “Vegas” episode from the final season. It’s an Alternate Universe episode in which the cast are all painted in a more noir palette. It makes them say harsh truths to one another that they’d never say in the regular narrative of the show. And it ends on both a sad and hopeful note. Bittersweet. It’s not exactly a feel good episode, but it’s so very watchable.

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  22. The West Wing episode, Two Cathedrals. It’s a good show, but doesn’t include my favorite elements of humor and magic like my favorite shows (Doctor Who, Supernatural, Buffy)… yet if you asked me to name the most compelling TV episode I’ve seen, that one brilliant episode I can watch over and over, I’d pick Two Cathedrals. Martin Sheen’s Latin monologue is beyond brilliant, the flashbacks are excellent, and the cigarette on the floor gets me every time.

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  23. For me the “Blink” episode of Doctor Who is something I keep returning to. For the first twenty minutes or so it has the feel of a Gothic, and the focus is on characters other than the Doctor. This episode is about the nature of Time, love, romance, and fear. It just amazes me how so much of a punch it packs on all fronts.

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  24. “The Last Damn Job” of Leverage along with many others. How they pulled 4 seasons of shows together and ended on such a hopeful note.

    Practically every clip Felicity was in, in Arrow, but that is because I love the character.

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  25. Sherlock – I don’t know the name of the episode, but it is the one where Sherlock gives the speech as the Best Man. I love the way that there is this small thing that is happening (Best Man speech), and interspersed are months of plot and information. It is humorous, has mystery, develops the character of Sherlock, Watson, and Watson’s new bride. The timing is so sharp. The West Wing has a lot of moments where you just want to sit back and applaud, the writing is so sharp.

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  26. The one that always gets me is the Dr. Who episode called Blink. I think it is the complexity of the episode that truly gets me. How it goes from random to the littlest things making all the difference. The details of the story had to be worked out from the end to the beginning, I could watch that over and over and still love it.

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  27. The one that always gets me is the Dr. Who episode called Blink. I think it is the complexity of the episode that truly gets me. How it goes from random to the littlest things making all the difference. The details of the story had to be worked out from the end to the beginning, I could watch that over and over and still love it.

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  28. I don’t watch much TV anymore. The only TV episode I could think of that’s pretty much perfect is Sherlock’s “A Scandal in Belgravia.”

    Movie wise, the one movie I watch that’s totally outside my usual fare is No Country for Old Men. It’s scary and violent and without a HEA, yet I still watch it. Maybe it’s for the resignation in Tommy Lee Jones eyes at the end. Cormac McCarthy is so totally opposite of my good read (subject matter), but this works for me.

    I’m drawn to movies of alienation and connection like Lost in Translation, Local Hero, The Station Agent, or Enchanted April. I guess I see The Shawshank Redemption that way as well.

    And I like romantic comedies, too. I can’t think of a “perfect” one, though.

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  29. For me it’s an advertisement for Travalgo starring a handsome guy called Christian Goran… a couple of people who come across each other a times at a top hotel and then meet in their street clothes in the elevator. He has a beard and when he smiles its to die for. Google him and see what I mean. That is one hunk. I watch it over and over again. He’s become my fourth dimension for my current novel.

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  30. Buffy season 3, “Beauty and the Beasts.” It’s my go-to episode of that show. The tragedy of an abusive relationship with the excellent Jekyll-and-Hyde monster illustrating how she sees her abuser juxtaposed with Buffy and Angel’s tragic history and his potential for redemption. That last scene in this episode when he saves her even though he’s still basically feral from the hell dimension…there’s just something about it that gets to me; there are always tears.

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  31. “Zhadum” Babylon 5 – I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this and not sure why. Well, it’s at least partly because I’m a sucker for the long lost wife showing up. Yes, it’s a soap opera cliche but still kind of brilliant here. Because Sheridan had been told that he would die if he went to Zhadum, so what could get him to go there? I also love the fatalism running through the episode.

    “Blake” Blakes 7 – because even if the ending sucks, I loved Blake and never tire of watching his path finally (tragically) cross Avon’s again.

    “Comes a Horseman” and “Revelation 6:8” Highlander – Okay, I can watch any Methos episode of HL. Great angst.

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  32. There’s an episode of 30 Rock called The Bubble that guest stars Jon Hamm. He plays a doctor who Liz (Tina Fey’s character) is dating and he’s not a very good doctor – he’s not good at anything, really but he’s always been told he’s great at things because he’s so handsome. Liz explains to him that he lives in a bubble. He’s always been oblivious to it and he tells Liz he doesn’t want to be in the bubble. Of course, he changes his mind by the end of the episode. I think what makes it so charming and funny is that a hot guy hasn’t recognized that he’s been objectified and given breaks and had talents attributed to him just because he’s hot. I’ve watched it more than once and it hasn’t lost its charm.

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  33. It’s funny that a couple of people have already gone to West Wing – because that’s where I was going. And I was torn between two episodes: “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen” and “Celestial Navigation”. If you’re going to let me have a two part episode, it will be the former: if it has to be a single episode, it’s the latter. But it could really be almost any episode of that show in its early years. It’s smart, funny, and thoughtful writing. And even when things go wrong, it’s hopeful – because they’re all trying to do something good for the greater good, even if they’re smug about it. And the characters are just so strong. So I guess what draws me to it over and over again is the community, the writing, and the characters.

    If I only have a half hour and my DVD player, it will be Friends. “The One Where They All Find Out”, or “The One with the Embryos”. The One where they all Find out is a perfect 23 minute farce, and it has a tremendous emotional payoff when Chandler admits that he’s in love with Monica. And “The One with the Embryos” is the one where Monica and Rachel lose the apartment in that bet -and I still laugh. I remember when it first aired I laughed so hard I cried.

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    1. I have to go back and watch Friends again. There was some really brilliant comedy there.
      I never stopped watching The West Wing, especially the early years.

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      1. Friends is worth a revisit. I got drawn back into Friends a couple of years ago when I was directing a production of “Closer” by Patrick Marber. It’s a fascinating play about four people who are trying to just be happy but they’re overall so selfish they do an inordinate amount of damage to themselves and each other in pursuit of that goal. It was challenging and I loved working on it – but I would come home from rehearsing with these horrible, awful people and I craved happiness like air – so I watched Friends. Lots and lots of Friends. So much so that I bought the whole series on DVD and went from beginning to end on a straight shot, because TNT and Nick at Night kept cutting off some of my favorite bits in the stingers in the beginning or end of the episodes.

        Sure, Ross and Rachel were the big ticket attraction, but I really got hooked into the Monica/Chandler relationship during the re-watch. They just made my shipper heart go pitter pat, because they just GOT each other, even in the earlier seasons before it turned so surprisingly romantic.

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  34. We’ve got a number of Buffy episodes on the list already, but here’s mine. 🙂

    The last episode of season 2 when Buffy kills Angel. Even thinking about it makes me ache. I crave romantic comedy, so it’s usually not my thing to go for a story where the hero is killed and the heroine is left a broken shell with nothing more to give (temporarily), but I’ve watched that episode over and over. She’s lost everything but finds her strength, then gets back what she wants most (Angel) and he loves her but she still has to kill him to save the world. Sob.

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  35. The Lodger and Closing Time are always wonderful. Watching Matt Smith’s Doctor try to be a regular bloke is hilarious. “Football. Is that the one with the sticks?” Closing Time is heartbreaking because all he wants to do is be selfish and just say goodbye without really saying goodbye but he can’t help noticing there’s something wrong. It’s also because Craig is so brave. The bits where the baby cries and the Doctor responds are perfect, I love how Craig goes from being Not Mum to Dad.

    On a completely different note, there’s an episode of Criminal Minds where these two girls go missing, one is the daughter of a former hitman for the Boston mob who’s turned state’s evidence and is in witness protection and one is just a regular girl. The regular girl is killed and by the end of the episode the hitman dad has the ring leader cornered in a bathroom and his daughter is screaming at her dad to kill him. Reid walks in and tries to talk him out of it and says “When does the violence end?” The dad says “Tomorrow” and shoots. What I love about it is not so much the vigilante justice as the unexpectedness of it. You expect that the violence is over. The bad guy is nearly in FBI custody, the dad and daughter are in witness protection, everything says the dad should put the gun down but he knows what you do with rabid dogs. He knows what he has to do to keep his child safe, even though she’s not in immediate danger. The voice over at the end has a quotation that is something like “It is a wise man who knows his child.”

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    1. I love that episode – because you know in 15 years the team is going to have to catch the daughter.

      She’s scary.

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    2. I love anything with Craig. I just rewatched those two episodes. Evidently Smith and the guy who plays Craig are good friends in real life; the guy is so damn funny he can hold his own while Smith is bouncing off the walls.

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      1. That’s James Corden. He’s wonderful!

        He’s playing the Baker in the upcoming big screen version of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” and he’s taking over for Craig Ferguson as host of the show after Stephen Colbert’s Late Night…

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  36. My preference is always for comedy. But the last episode (part 4 of the serial) of the BBC 2004 version of North & South gets me every time. Really its just the scene(s) where Margaret Hale is leaving Milton after her father’s death. She gives a book to John Thornton, then gets in a carriage to leave and he is standing in the snow willing her to look back at him.

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  37. Sports Night, and it’s the moment when Casey says, “You’re wearing my shirt, Gordon.” The entire episode had been leading up to that line, but in such as way that you didn’t know it, but as soon as he says it, it all becomes clear and you wonder how you missed it. A moment of pure writer’s envy for me, I admit.

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    1. That is one of the best lines in any story ever. Talk about a gut punch. I actually sat up in my chair, it was such a shock. Brilliant. And absolute writer’s envy.

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  38. I hate sad or bittersweet endings.

    What was supposed to be the original series finale of Supernatural – “Swan Song,” Season 5, Episode 22, haunts me in the beauty of the storytelling. The show brings the Winchester boys full circle, capturing the magic of loving your sibling so much even though you want to smack him upside the head much of the time. I remember not watching television for days afterward, because I wasn’t ready to move on from the high emotion of that one episode.

    Similarly, Season 2, episode 7 of Twin Peaks, the episode where Maddy Ferguson is killed. I loved Twin Peaks, and my husband and I pull out the series at least once a year to watch it end to end. But that particular episode–when everyone at the Road House can feel it in their guts that something is just so damned wrong right at that moment and they can’t fix it–it tears my heart out every single time, and I always have to shut of our Twin Peaks marathons right there to process that kick in the gut even though I’ve seen that episode a hundred times. And still, when that episode comes on, I watch it beginning to end without distraction.

    I probably wouldn’t have watched either series without someone else shoving me toward them, but they both have these moments that resonate with something deep inside me in such a way that I look at them and think, “That! That is the TRUTH.” Even though it’s fiction.

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    1. Oh, I didn’t know that was meant to be the end of Supernatural. It was epic. That series always ends miserably, which is a bit of a worry for when it finally ends for real. The only thing getting me through the finales is the thought that they’ll fix it next season!

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  39. The BtVS episode “Hush”. The first day I watched any episodes of the show was on a marathon day; that show sold the series to me, because of how effectively it conveyed the characters’ personalities and relationships to me (a non-follower of the series). It was also simultaneously quirky & serious, ending on the sentence “We have to talk”, which was ironically one of the few spoken lines in the entire hour. I’m tickled by charades & pantomime anyway, but this so completely overturned what I’d come to expect from television that it recalled a previous conversation I’d had about the value of dialogue in TV/movies. It had been argued that radio was the audio medium, and that TV/film was the showcase for spectacle. I disagreed, because of how much I love language and voices and witty writing … until the moment that I began watching “Hush”, and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, there was just so much going on in every instant, on so many levels. Best. TV. Ever.

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    1. That’s an amazing episode. I remember reading that so many people had been dismissing Whedon’s approach to storytelling as just snappy dialogue, so he wrote an hour in which almost no one spoke. I think it’s had a major impact in other ways, too. Analogs of those creepy drifting smilers turn up in other shows all the time. Really a brilliant episode.

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  40. The best episode of TV imo was ’33’ – the first episode past the pilot of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. I had no intention of watching the series, not really my genre or intrest, but my husband had it on and it was so gripping, set up all the characters, painted the moral quandaries faced by people in desperate straits, depicted all of the characters and their flaws, and layered it all ever so lightly with humor and humanity. From my view, it is a masterpiece of writing and acting.

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    1. “33” was genius, and then “Water” right behind it. That whole first season was so strong. The Hubbin pulls out “Exodus” from S3 with fair regularity because it has that moment when the Galactica drops into atmo and you KNOW it was NEVER meant to do that – absolutely gorgeous. 🙂 Plus it had the Tigh/Ellen sequence which is just mind breaking.

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  41. The X-Files: Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose. I’ve watched this one so many times; it’s hilarious, scary, suspenseful, intelligent, self-aware, poignant and filled with compassion and heart. It’s also eminently quotable. Peter Boyle is wonderful and I’m always in tears at the end; a great stand-alone X-Files episode.

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  42. I’m going to go way back, to an episode from the final season of NAKED CITY.

    NAKED CITY was kind of a halfway stop between the early anthology shows like PLAYHOUSE 90 and later shows built directly around a cast of central characters. The framing device for NC was a group of New York City detectives, but the focus of the episodes frequently reduced them to minor characters and went into close focus on the lives of the NYC citizens involved in the stories.

    “Hold For Gloria Christmas” starred Burgess Meredith in a bravura performance as a self-destructive, alcoholic poet whose excesses have finally left him with only a short time to live, and who has to try and recover the only copies of his last poems, traded to a bar owner in return for drink. The people whose help he needs are all people he’s alienated and driven away over the years. The episode also features a frighteningly young Alan Alda in his second professional performance, as a cynical rival poet.

    (And, during a scene at a newsstand, if you look closely you’ll see on the newsstand’s comics rack a copy of AMAZING FANTASY #15, the very first appearance of Spider-Man. Had the film crew but known…. That issue is probably worth more today than it cost to film that entire episode of NC back in the early 60’s.)

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  43. There is a Star Trek Next Generation episode called “Inner Light.” A character experiences, in his mind, a life entirely different that the one he lives in reality. This life is rich and represents everything he has given up to get where he is. The episode also has some of the best music the series produced. It’s lovely and I think I’ll find a way to watch it tonight!

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