Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Favourite TV Shows 2010 - Favourite Episodes 25-11

This year's list of my favourite episodes is a little longer than it has been in previous years. Not only did I manage to find a fantastic episode in every show I featured on my list, but also a couple of shows which didn't feature also get their dues. So onward with the first 15 of my favourite episodes of 2010!

25. Charlie Brooker's Newswipe - Series 2, Episode 2
Newswipe isn't the kind of show which necessarily has perfect episodes, it's just a uniformly fantastic show with moments that stick out more so than actual entire episodes of sheer perfect. I love almost everything that Charlie Brooker has ever laid his hands (particularly the XXXwipe shows) but it's hard to pin point an individual episode as the best of a particular series. So I chose Episode 2 of the second series as a true example of the show at it's best. There was the fantastic 'How to Report the News' segment, the genuinely informative piece on British journalists and the complete ripping apart of the Wooton Bassett story from early last year. Yes I don't like every element of the show (*cough*TimKey*cough*) but the bits I like, I absolutely adore and this episode had that in spades.

24. Modern Family - 'Manny Get Your Gun'
The best episodes of Modern Family will normally have the entire cast in one place (see 2009's 'Fizbo') and whilst 'Manny Get Your Gun doesn't have the cast together for the majority of its run time, when everyone does meet it is literally a collision. Modern Family might not be the most hilarious comedy on TV but this episode was able to have enough funny moments (Phil, Claire and Alex breaking down in the car etc.) whilst holding together the sense of family that makes Modern Family so enjoyable.

23. 30 Rock - 'When It Rains, It Pours'
After the resurgence that the show had back in spring, this episode was the solidification that 30 Rock was back on top form. A fantastic, but not flashy guest appearance by Paul Giamatti, Jack making the video for his future son ("the secret to good hair is dove....blood") and of course Tracey playing Cash Cab in order to see the birth of his child. 'When It Rains, It Pours' played to the strengths of most of the cast proved how 30 Rock can still hit it out of the park.

22. South Park - '200'/'201'
South Park celebrated its 200th episode in 2010 and definitely pushed the show to the limit. '200' and '201' were celebrations of a show that has been on TV for almost 15 years. Almost every celebrity that South Park had taken the piss out of was back, we had Tom Cruise (and more gayjokes), Mecha-Streisand, Scott Tenorman and of course Muhammad. What followed over their combined 40 minute run time was a fantastically hilarious and even thoughtful look at the ideas of censorship. Of course the show ended up getting censored and the creators received death threats for trying to portray Muhammad on TV, showing just how right South Park was in the first place.

21. Futurama - 'The Prisoner of Benda'
Futurama came back to our screens after great anticipation. Whilst it maybe wasn't as consistent as it was back before it was cancelled, there's no denying that Season 7 had flashes of the Futurama we loved, and 'The Prisoner of Benda' was the clearest example of this. Everyone knows body swap episodes, pretty much every sci-fi TV show ever has done an episode about, but what made Futurama's take so great was to the lengths that they took it. By the end of the episode almost everyone was in someone else's body and always leading to hilarity (Scruffy & Wash-bucket Amy FTW). The episode was intricate and even proved how dedicated the writing staff of Futurama are by having the writer Ken Keeler actually create an entire mathematical theorem to have the episode work.

20. Justified - 'Fire in the Hole'
'Fire in the Hole' was a template for the Justified was going to succeed as the show went forward. Based on the short story by Elmore Leonard and developed for TV by Graham Yost (Band of Brothers, The Pacific), the pilot Justified turn out to be a fantastic piece of television. This first episode hinted at a larger plot to the show, but also showed how it could work within a self contained. The fact that the show was buoyed by a fantastic performance by leading man Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) and a fantastic villainous portrayal by Walton Goggins (The Shield), made Justified's first episode one of the most rounded hours of television all year.

19. Rubicon - 'The Outsider'
Rubicon may have stumbled a little out of the gates, especially when compared against AMC's other fantastic shows Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but 'The Outsider' proved that Rubicon might have had what it took to actually compete with those two shows on a qualitative level (barring that godawful finale). This was the episode was the lose threads started to come together and the show became less interested in the central mystery behind the show and focusing on the characters jobs within API and the moral responsibilities it holds for them. It also Truxton Spangler's fantastic tie speech, one of the best scenes of television all last year.

18. Better Off Ted - 'The Impertinence of Communicationizing'
Sometimes a show is just so damn for funny for reasons that are quite simple to explain. A memo goes around the offices of Veridian Dynamics urging the employees to insult each other and hilarity ensues. Here is a series of hilarious outtakes from the episode. Enjoy.

17. Supernatural - 'Weekend At Bobby's'
I could have quite easily chosen the Season 5 finale 'Swan Song' as the best episode of Supernatural in 2010, but that episode would have worked on a whole other level if it had actually been the final episode of the show. Instead I decided to use this as a chance to speak of unsung heroes. Bobby has been the closest thing the boys have had to a functioning father figure since the beginning of Season 2, and whilst he's been a constant presence on the show since then, it took us until Season 6 to get an episode highlighting his awesomeness. Sometimes moves away from established format can prove to be messy and muddled, but Supernatural offer consistently offer up interesting ways of subverting their format, and 'Weekend At Bobby's' was one of the best.

16. Cougar Town - 'You Don't Know How It Feels'
Cougar Town magically transformed a few episodes into Season 1 and became one of the most consistently funny ensemble comedies on TV. Yes, Courtney Cox is still the obvious weak link and it's a shame the show has to built around her, but even she can't take away from the natural chemistry all the actors have together. Guest-starring Scrubs' Ken Jenkins as Jule's dad, Cougar Town finally strives for some more of the lofty emotional moments that Bill Lawrence's other show so often achieved. But even removed from the most emotional beats there was the fantastic Halloween themed hilarity, with a multitude of fantastic costumes. Ellie and Laurie going dressed as each other was the gift that kept on giving and Bobby's Windy Man is genius on so many levels. If you aren't watching Cougar Town, you are definitely missing out on a very worthy successor to Scrubs.

15. Chuck - 'Chuck versus The Beard'
Whilst Chuck Season 3 didn't quite reach the heights that the show was able to achieve in it's second season, 'Chuck versus the Beard' was an episode the fans had been waiting a long time for. Ever since Chuck gained the intersect, it was obvious it was only a matter of time until it bled more and more into his personal life and his family and friends would inevitably become privy to his life as a spy. First came Captain Awesome and then, finally, in this episode, Morgan found out. Of course this all took place during yet another assault on the BuyMore but what made the episode was Morgan's of sheer elation when his friend told him he was a secret agent. Chuck in 2010 had many great moments, in particular the first episode with Chuck and Sarah as a couple on the train, or Timothy Dalton's fantastic guest appearances, but it shall forever be remembered as the year Morgan found out about the Intersect.

14. The Pacific - 'Peleliu Airfields'/'Peleliu Hills'
Whilst some people don't hold The Pacific to the same lofty heights that they hold Band of Brothers (I cannot honestly say, seeing as I have only seen the first 4 episode of BoB) but I will say The Pacific is fantastic in its own right, dealing fair more with the emotional tole of warfare, rather than its visceral nature. But no episodes were as harrowing as the episodes that dealt with the assault on Peleliu. The men were completely out of their element and completely outmatched. Images from these episodes still float when I think back on the miniseries, from Sledgehammer finally breaking and trying to rip out the teeth of a dead Japanese soldier or Snafu throwing rocks into the blown apart skull of a corpse. They might not be pleasant images, but they came from some of the strongest hours of television I watched last year, and I'm grateful I saw them.

13. Louie - 'God'
It's very hard to describe Louie as a series. Louie takes the form of a series of vignettes, sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes 20 or 40. One of the standouts vignettes from it's first season was the episode which dealt with the idea of religion. What starts of seemingly innocently turns into one of the most downright terrifying lessons on Jesus' crucifixion I have ever heard, going into disgusting details of how much pain Jesus would have been on the cross with only the choice between the pain being in his legs or arms, for three days. Even that scene alone would have been enough to earn this episode a place on my list, but the later scene with Louie talking to his mother about religion and the expertly placed stand-up excerpt helped prove that Louie is definitely something very special.

12. Dollhouse - 'Getting Closer'
Dollhouse only aired 3 episodes in 2010 and whilst the final two episodes were a mixed bag in the way that concluded the series, 'Getting Closer' was an amazing penultimate episode from writer Tim Minear (Firefly and Terriers). We got an action packed 40 minutes filled with so many mind blowing twists and revelations that showed that even with only 3 episodes left it was going to be hugely enjoyable. The two big twists of course were Dr. Saunders coming back and then proceeding to shoot Bennett in the head immediately after she and Topher had a moment (a Whedonesque twist on so many levels). But of course the huge twist of the piece was that Boyd had in fact been the head of Rossum since the very beginning. Yes in context it doesn't make much sense, but that doesn't take away from the sheer amount of fun that this episode really was.

11. The Walking Dead - 'Days Gone Bye'
What a pilot episode this was. You can argue as to whether the rest of the show was able to reach the heights that this episode did (I'd say episodes 4&5 came closest) but there's no denying that Frank Darabont wrote and directed one hell of a pilot episode here. Capturing every single beat from the first issue of the comics, The Walking Dead proved that there was still life in the zombie genre. From Lennie James' fantastic portrayal of Morgan to Rick shooting the half Zombie in the face was filled with little moments of sheer brilliance. Compared to other works of Zombie fiction, the pace was positively sedate able to properly explore the toll of being alone in a world infected by zombies. To start a tale of ongoing survival, The Walking Dead couldn't have possibly hoped for a stronger episode than this one.

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