BWW Exclusive: The 101 Greatest Television Episodes of All Time - from I LOVE LUCY to BETTER CALL SAUL

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BWW Exclusive: The 101 Greatest Television Episodes of All Time - from I LOVE LUCY to BETTER CALL SAUL

One thing I can say about writing a list like this is...I watch way too much TV. Now that we're still shut in, staying at home to save lives, I've watched more TV than ever. But what is the best episode? Which one stands out above all others?

Again, I used a rubric for this, combining the artistic merit of the ep in writing, direction and performance as well as how it holds up, how iconic it is, its emotional or comedic resonance, and how historically important and groundbreaking it is. I've included the overall scores with each entry below.

You'll notice that I spread the wealth with the list, picking from 101 shows to find the top of the top. The earliest episode is from 1952; the latest, just a few weeks ago in 2020. Series and mini-series, sit coms, dramas, variety shows and talk shows are acceptable; made-for-TV movies and one-off specials are not.

So, while we're still social distancing, let's start mining for TV gold, to see the greatest of them all. We'll start at #101 and count 'em down to the top. (Please note: There are SPOILERS in some of the write-ups.) If you want to see what made #1, you're going to have to scroll a long ways down. Hopefully it will be an enjoyable distraction, to take your mind off the current crisis. So enjoy!

The 101 GREATEST TELEVISION EPISODES of All Time

101. "The LSD Story"/DRAGNET [1967]

Also known as "Blue Boy." Some of the episodes on this chart fit in the "so bad they're funny" department, and our #101 selection--the last on the list--fits the bill. This one is outrageous, sort of an over-the-top Acid Madness. Imagine The FBI meets Psycho-Out, Wild in the Streets as a Quinn Martin production. Sgt. Friday's just-the-facts-ma'am rat-tat-tat dialogue meets a crazed tripping teen. As Jack Webb's Joe Friday states at one point, with background twangy psychedelic guitars, acid heads have created their own language and call LSD "the ticket, the ghost, the beast, the chief, the hawk, or simply 25." Drugs are a serious business, but watching the half-painted face of LSD-maniac "Benjy the Blue Boy," it's hard to hold back the guffaws. OVERALL SCORE: 76.5

100. "Forsyth County, Georgia"/THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW [1987]

One of the most shocking episodes of television ever, and the one that made Oprah Winfrey a household name in 1987. Just a few months after her show went national, Winfrey held a townhall with the not-so-fine folks of Forsyth County, Georgia, north of Atlanta, a community that didn't allow people of color to live there since 1912. It was dangerous television, Oprah with her mic in hand, unblinking and unafraid amid a large flock of vocal racists. To be fair, a few of the white Southern people there called for change, but others were adamant in their open hatred against blacks. The n-word is slung around throughout, and it's upsetting and flabbergasting to watch. But if you ever wonder how Oprah became OPRAH, the most powerful woman in show business, then check out the snippets on You Tube to see what she had to endure to get there. OVERALL SCORE: 77.0

99."Episode 46.5"/THE PRICE IS RIGHT [2017]

In a very special week of THE PRICE IS RIGHT (Season 46, Episode 5), the 10th Anniversary of Drew Carey's reign as host, three contestants spun the Big Wheel and hit the dollar square...a total of five times! $80,000 was given out on the Big Wheel, the most ever in PIR history. The odds of such an occurrence? A mere one in 3.2 million! OVERALL SCORE: 78.0

98. "Public Image Limited/Robbie Dupree"/AMERICAN BANDSTAND [1980]

John Lydon of Public Image Ltd. makes a mockery of the musical guest segment of AMERICAN BANDSTAND, refusing to lip-sync most of the time (and when he does, it doesn't match up), crazily running off the stage and then on, pushing young dancers onto the dance floor, etc. Seeing the bandstand dancers try to bop to "Poptones" is a sight for sore eyes. Incredibly odd, but it makes for superb TV! OVERALL SCORE: 79.0

97. "Flu Season"/PARKS AND RECREATION [2011]

Yes, this is the episode where Rob Lowe steals the show in a scene where he tries to will away his flu by yelling at himself in the mirror: "Stop...pooping!" A must. OVERALL SCORE: 79.0

96. "The Threat"/DYNASTY [1983]

Alexis (Joan Collins) and Krystle (Linda Evans) kick ass in the ultimate cat fight, this one, in a lily pond, being more than epic. OVERALL SCORE: 79.4

95. "The Devil and Peter Tork"/THE MONKEES [1968]

Monkee Peter Tork visits a creepy pawn shop and signs away his soul to Beelzebub (not unlike impresario Don Kirshner) for a cool harp. There's even a bizarre trial scene featuring the likes of Billy the Kid, Atilla the Hun and Blackbeard. Episode features the songs "Salesman" and "No Time," with unique harp versions of "Pleasant Valley Sunday and "I Wanna Be Free." In a way based on Stephen Vincent Benet's short story, "The Devil and Daniel Webster." OVERALL SCORE: 79.7

94. "A Date with Jet Screamer"/THE JETSONS [1962]

Judy Jetson goes gaga for the latest orbital rocker, Jet Screamer, and his galaxial garage band anthem, "Eep Opp Ork." OVERALL SCORE: 80.5

93. "The Silent Show"/ERNIE KOVACS [1957]

A ballsy, inventive special ep in TV's early days from a true comedic genius, Ernie Kovacs. No words are spoken in its various bits, including a person opening a copy of Camille, and the book coughs; a copy of War and Peace produces battle sounds, etc. Way ahead of its time. OVERALL SCORE: 81.4

92. "PMS, I Love You"/ROSEANNE [1991]

With all of Roseanne's shenanigans these past few years, we forget that she created one of TV's most important series, a 1990's icon. With the exception of the off-the-charts zaniness of the last two seasons, Roseanne dealt with blue collar issues in an edgy, unapologetic way. And its finest episode--"PMS, I Love You"--uses Apocalypse Now imagery (ceiling fans as helicopter blades) to deal with Dan's inability to cope with his wife's PMS-inducing bipolarism on his birthday. If you want to see one episode to know what the classic Roseanne series was all about, this is it. And barring his fantastic turn in The Great Lebowski, John Goodman has never been better. OVERALL SCORE: 82.8

91. "Slap Bet"/HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER [2006]

Two key HIMYM running gags were first born in this second season episode: Robin's cheesy "Robin Sparkles" bubblegum pop video (with the song "Let's Go to the Mall"). And, best of all, the titular Slap Bet itself, where Marshal slaps Barney throughout the series. OVERALL SCORE: 82.9

90. "The Giant Jackrabbit"/THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES [1964]

A great trivia question: What is the most watched half-hour of a regular episodic TV show of all time? If you answered "The Giant Jackrabbit," ding ding ding. Yes, this episode of The Beverly Hillbillies about Granny and a kangaroo suckered in more viewers than LBJ's STATE OF THE UNION address, which aired at the same time. 44 percent of all American television sets were to tuned to this particular episode (44% rating, 66 % share). That there's rating's gold. OVERALL SCORE: 82.9

89. "Ricky the Drummer"/THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET [1957]

Ricky Nelson, who would become a true rock icon, showed his talent to the world in this famous episode where his dreams of being a drummer in a band come true. Watch as he rocks the socks off "I'm Walkin'" here, and you can see where the later teen-dream rockabilly dynamo would venture with such hits as "Poor Little Fool" and "Hello Mary Lou." Terrific stuff. OVERALL SCORE: 83.0

88. "In the Soup"/LEAVE IT TO BEAVER [1961]

Beaver (Jerry Mathers) gets stuck in a giant bowl of soup attached to an advertising billboard. Much hilarity ensues. OVERALL: 83.3

87. "Blue Harvest"/FAMILY GUY [2007]

Family Guy meets Star Wars in this wonderful episode, featuring Stewie as Darth Vader and Brian the dog as Chewbacca. Interestingly, for you trivia buffs, the title "Blue Harvest" is a reference to the faux working title of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. OVERALL SCORE: 83.4

86. "Final Escape"/ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS [1985]

One of the most harrowing half hours of television that still haunts the nightmares of anyone who saw it. In this, a terrible and terribly wealthy murderess is sent to prison for life. She devices an ingenious escape-she will hide in a coffin when someone at the prison dies, and then a hapless prison employee, whom she bribes, will dig her up and set her free. The perfect plan, right? So, the bell rings (meaning someone at the prison has died), she gets in the coffin and is buried. Underground she waits. And waits. Where is the prison employee to dig her up? Soon, she realizes the truth...the person who died was the prison employee, and she's stuck in the coffin with him....for eternity. Her screams trapped underground are the last things we hear. OVERALL SCORE: 83.5

85. "Wind Sprints"/FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS [2006]

Life with the Panthers football team after a particularly grueling loss. Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) tries to inspire his team: "Wind sprints, up and down the hill. Let's go. Let's go. If you think you're champions because you wear the Panther uniform, you're wrong! If you think you're champions because they give you a piece of pie at the diner, you're wrong! Champions don't complain! Champions don't give up!...Champions give 200%. You're not champions until you've earned it!" And this episode certainly earns it. OVERALL SCORE: 84.6

84. "Scott Tenorman Must Die"/SOUTH PARK [2001]

Cartman doesn't let nature take its course; here, he buys his first pubic hair from Scott Tenorman for $16.12. What follows is one of the most off-center SOUTH PARK storylines in history, involving Radiohead, genital-biting ponies, pube chili, and cannibalism (Tenorman winds up eating his parents). The moral: Don't get Cartman mad. OVERALL SCORE: 84.6

83. "Good to the Last Drop"/L.A. LAW [1991]

How do you solve a problem like Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur)? For the creators of L.A. Law, they got creative: They plunged the quasi-villain down an elevator shaft to her untimely death. Yes, the act would be re-created years later on Friends when the creators of Days of Our Lives would have poor Dr. Drake Ramoray get the shaft. OVERALL SCORE: 84.7

82. "Hash"/BARNEY MILLER [1976]

Too much fun when the officers of the 12th Precinct unintentionally gobble down some hash-laced brownies. OVERALL SCORE: 84.8

81. "The Secret Life of Gomer Pyle"/GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. [1967]

Photos of innocent Gomer (Jim Nabors) frolicking on the beach with buxom young ladies wind up in a girlie magazine, so Sgt. Carter (Frank Sutton) wants in on the action. In the end, after much misunderstanding, Gomer finally takes his barking sergeant to meet the "girls"...which turns out to be an old ladies sewing circle. The look on Sgt. Carter's face when he meets the geriatrics of the sewing guild earns this episode a place on the list by itself. OVERALL SCORE: 85.0

80. "Hope"/BLACK-ISH [2016]

Another young black man has been murdered by another white cop. The Johnson family watches the trial and discuss their reality in an immensely poignant episode. After it aired, Slate ran the following headline: "Black-ish Just Delivered One of the Best Episodes About Race Ever to Air on Television." OVERALL SCORE: 85.3

79. "The Caterpillar"/NIGHT GALLERY [1972]

Night Gallery was a darker Rod Serling serial series than its predecessor, The Twilight Zone. And this episode is on par with Hereditary in the horrifyingly warped department. In it, Laurence Harvey plays a civil servant in Borneo who wants to do away with a man in order to steal his wife, and he comes up with a brilliant plan: Put a local earwig in the man's ear that will cause insanity and perhaps even death. But, as it stands, the earwig accidentally winds up in his own ear. Harvey is brilliant, in perhaps his best role ever, as he screams in torturous agony with an earwig eating up his brain. But it finally comes out the other end, and he seems okay. Big relief...until he finds out that the earwig was female and laid eggs in his brain. This is a horror story that can give Stephen King the shudders. OVERALL SCORE: 85.4

78. "Got a Light?"/TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN [2017]

The closest David Lynch ever got to the black and white awful awe of Eraserhead. It's magical, bizarre, darkly funny, surreal, and a keen glimpse into one of the most creative artists to ever pick up a camera. And the use of Penderecki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" as the camera actually, slowly, ventures into an atomic blast is sublime. OVERALL SCORE: 85.4

77. "The Getaway"/DEXTER [2009]

Thus endeth the Trinity Killer plotline and John Lithgow's triumphant appearances as fellow serial killer Arthur Mitchell. The ending turns out to be both a twist and quite twistedly demented. OVERALL SCORE: 85.5

76. "Grilled Cheesus"/GLEE [2010]

Finn's grilled cheese sandwich looks like You-Know-Who while Kurt's father suffers a heart attack and Sue talks about God with her sister. Seven songs from the ep charted, a record for the series, including "Only the Good Die Young," "Papa, Can You Hear Me?", "Losing My Religion," and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Kurt's version of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand," slow and torchy, is the show's highlight. OVERALL SCORE: 85.5

75. "Midnight at the Concord"/THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL [2018]

After not knowing his daughter's secret comedy skills, Midge's dad, Abe (Tony Shalhoub), finally sees her stand-up routine in the show's best episode. OVERALL SCORE: 85.7

74. "Killing All the Right People"/DESIGNING WOMEN [1987]

One of the first shows to bravely deal directly with AIDS. In it, a young man with AIDS named Kendall (Tony Goldwyn, before Ghost and The Inheritance) comes to Sugarbaker and Associates with a request: to design his funeral. Linda Bloodworth-Thompson wrote the episode after dealing with the death of her own mother from AIDS (contracted from a blood transfusion). Bloodworth-Thompson took the title from something she sadly overheard in the hospital: "The good thing about AIDS is that it's killing all the right people." OVERALL SCORE: 85.9

73. "Hang the DJ"/BLACK MIRROR [2017]

The standout episode of this anthology series about a future barricaded society. Freedom is out and people must be matched with the other person in a relationship. The caveat is, all the relationships come with expiration dates that can be revealed if the partners choose. Georgina Campbell and Joe Cole as the couple here are outstanding. OVERALL SCORE: 85.9

72. "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis"/THE BIG BANG THEORY [2008]

Sheldon (Jim Parsons) gives his first "Sheldon hug" to Penny (Kaley Cuoco) thanks to her Christmas present to him: a napkin signed and actually used by Leonard Nimoy. OVERALL SCORE: 85.9

71. "Chapter 14"/HOUSE OF CARDS [2014]

Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) kills Zoey Barnes (Kate Mara) by pushing her in front of an oncoming train. One of TV's more shocking deaths. OVERALL SCORE: 86.0

70. "Divided He Falls"/BEWITCHED [1966]

Darrin (Dick York) is split into two separate beings by Endora (Agnes Moorehead): The annoying party-hardy Darrin and the annoying too-serious workaholic Darrin. There's no way around it....Darrin is annoying, no matter what configuration. But the episode turns out to be a salute to the brilliance of Dick York, who gives a tour de force performance playing both Darrins to the hilt. OVERALL SCORE: 86.0

69. "They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They?"/HAPPY DAYS [1976]

A year before Fonzie (Henry Winkler) literally jumped the shark, he appeared in the show's best episode...the one with the dance marathon. Joanie (Erin Moran) is feuding with rival Jill (Charlene Tilton) and makes a bet at the dance contest held at Arnold's: If Joanie wins, she gets to be a Pom Pom Girl; if she loses, Fonzie, Joanie's dance partner, has to suffer a crew-cut. But Fonzie had to push his motorcycle twelve miles before the marathon, and is understandably pooped, but he still dances for fourteen hours in order to help Shortcake. The whole Happy Days gang is involved, with Ritchie (Ron Howard) as the Master of Ceremonies ("Yowsah, yowsah, yowsah!"), Potsie (Anson Williams) as the singing entertainment, Mr. C (Tom Bosley) as the judge, and Mrs. C (Marion Ross) as the nurse. In the end, Joanie wins when Fonzie's Greek dance challenge destroys the rival Jill and her brother, Bubba. The title alludes to the ultra-serious Sydney Pollack dance-marathon film, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? OVERALL SCORE: 86.2

68. "Grave Danger"/CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION [2005]

Like the "Final Escape" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (see above) and owing more than a nod to Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (this was directed by Quentin Tarantino), "Grave Danger" involves one of the CSI team being buried alive where his rescue-time is of the essence. As tense and exciting as CSI would get in its long history. OVERALL SCORE: 86.3

67. "Dear Mrs. Kennedy"/THE CROWN [2017]

Two grand historical women who helped shaped modern history are on display in this crucial ep, beautifully acted by Claire For (as Queen Elizabeth) and Jodi Balfour (as Jackie Kennedy). The question is: Did Jackie Kennedy really insult the Queen behind her back at Buckingham Palace? OVERALL SCORE: 86.6

66. "Hush"/BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER [1999]

So as to not be able to scream when their hearts are cut out, the citizens of Sunnydale have had their voices removed by murderous ghouls known as "The Gentlemen." Buffy and the gang must nonverbally find out who is responsible for the sudden sound of silence and stop their deadly scheme. Out of a 44-minute episode, only 17 minutes of dialogue is uttered. OVERALL SCORE: 86.7

65. "Password"/THE ODD COUPLE [1972]

Oscar (Jack Klugman) and Felix (Tony Randall) are on the television quiz show, Password, with host Alan Ludden and his wife, Betty White. For the word "gravy," Betty gives the word "sauce," to which her partner answers Mayonnaise." Oscar gives Felix the next clue, "meat," to which Felix responds, "Lincoln!" When asked why, Felix says, "It's a known fact that Lincoln loved mayonnaise!" And when "Aristophanes" becomes a typical Felix clue (for "bird," naturally), Oscar's had it. Guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. OVERALL SCORE: 86.7

64. "Days Gone Bye"/THE WALKING DEAD [2010]

The Walking Dead gets off on the right foot with this edge-of-your-seat pilot episode. And the image of a horse being devoured by the dreaded undead walkers will never leave my memory, no matter how hard I try. OVERALL SCORE: 86.9

63. "Casino Night"/THE OFFICE [2006]

One of the funniest 28 minutes you will find, written by Steve Carell. OVERALL SCORE: 87.1

62. "Dramatics, Your Honor"/THE GOOD WIFE [2014]

The death of Will Gardner (Josh Charles), in a twist no one was expecting, and no one would ever get over. According to Willa Paskin in Entertainment Weekly, it was "one of the best and most gut-punching death-of-a-major character episodes I've ever seen." That goes for all of us. OVERALL SCORE: 87.2

61. "Prague"/SUCCESSION [2018]

The ultimate bachelor party featuring the billionaire Roy clan--the only family that would make King Lear's brood look undramatic and staid. OVERALL SCORE: 87.2

60. "Beloved Aunt"/CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM [2000]

Larry David specializes in discomfort, and there is no better cringy episode than this one--where a misspelling in an obituary causes a minor apocalypse. Most misspellings would be forgivable, but not one where you replace the "a" in "aunt" with a "c." Hilarious and painful at the same time. OVERALL SCORE: 87.3

59. "Super Bowl Sunday"/THIS IS US [2018]

Many questions were answered when Jack dies in a 1998 fire and is remembered 20 years later during the Super Bowl. Get your Kleenex ready with this one. OVERALL SCORE: 87.3

58. "Thanksgiving Orphans"/CHEERS [1986]

The Cheers gang winds up at Carla's for a Thanksgiving feast to remember, mainly because it ends in the ultimate food fight. We even get to meet Norm's wife; too bad her face is covered in pie. OVERALL SCORE: 87.3

57. "House's Head"/HOUSE [2008]

An episode where, after a bus accident, the mystery is trapped in the labyrinth of Dr. Gregory House's mind, and he must save someone, but whom? Television Without Pity called the key moment when House (Hugh Laurie) retrieves his memory as "the best ten minutes of television you might ever see." OVERALL SCORE: 87.5

56. "Maude's Dilemma"/MAUDE [1972]

On the eve of Roe v. Wade, Maude (Beatrice Arthur), aged 47, chooses to have an abortion in an episode that, nearly fifty years later, would still cause much controversy. OVERALL SCORE: 87.5

55. "Steve Martin, Host"/SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE [1978]

The key SNL ep where so much happens: The introduction to the Blues Brothers; "Theodoric of You, Medieval Barber"; the Czech Brothers; Nerds at the Science Fair; and Steve Martin introducing the world to his soon-to-be-Top-40 novelty hit, "King Tut," for the first time It's a week where everything went right. OVERALL SCORE: 87.5

54. "Blink"/DOCTOR WHO [2007]

In order to stop the statue-like Weeping Angels (in their initial appearance) to take over the TARDIS, the tenth doctor (David Tennant), stuck in 1969, tries to communicate with a young woman, Sally Sparrow (Carey Mulligan), in 2007. Sparrow must unravel a set of mystifying clues sent through time by the marooned Doctor, left in DVD Easter Eggs. Mind-blowing. David Bradley of SFX predicted that "Blink" would go down "as one of the finest, scariest, cleverest Who episodes ever." OVERALL SCORE: 87.7

53. "Bagman"/BETTER CALL SAUL [2020]

Up there with the very best Breaking Bad episodes, which means it's one of the best that TV has ever had to offer. In it, Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) is ambushed in the desert over $7,000,000 and Mike (Jonathan Banks) saves him Unfortunately, one of the ambushers slunk away and Jimmy's car died, so Jimmy and Mike have to tread on foot through the unforgiving desert. Meanwhile, Jimmy's girl back home, Kim (the fantastic Rhea Seehorn), is worried enough to visit Cartel baddie, Lalo. In the end, what do you think disturbed Jimmy the most, that he almost had his head blown off or that he had to drink his own pee? OVERALL SCORE: 87.8

52. "Isn't It Romantic"/THE GOLDEN GIRLS [1986]

This one's a howler. The main plot revolves around a friend of Dorothy's, Jean (Lois Nettleton), who falls in love with Rose (Betty White). Blanche (Rue McClanahan) hears the news about Jean from Sophia (Estelle Getty): "Jean is a lesbian." Blanche: "What's funny about that?" Sophia: "You aren't surprised?" Blanche: "Of course not! I mean I've never known any personally, but isn't Danny Thomas one." Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur) must intercede here: "Not Lebanese, Blanche! Lesbian!" OVERALL SCORE: 87.8

51. "Turkeys Away"/WKRP IN CINCINATTI [1978]

Answers the question, "Can turkeys fly?" OVERALL SCORE: 88.1

50. "Haunted"/ST. ELSEWHERE [1986]

St. Elsewhere has so many classic eps to choose, from the "Time Heals" double header, which goes back and forth in time with a different film stock used for each time period, to the head-scratching finale, where all of the St Eligius drama was in an autistic child's head. But "Haunted' beats them all in the heartbreaking department, when Dr. Craig (William Daniels) loses his son in an auto accident. His pregnant daughter-in-law is seriously injured in the crash and ultimately gives birth. Is there a more touching moment than when Dr. Craig, crushed, sees his new granddaughter for the first time? OVERALL SCORE: 88.1

49. "Grace Under Pressure"/HILL STREET BLUES [1984]

Sgt. Esterhaus dies. In real life, actor Michel Conrad, best known for his line "Let's be careful out there," had passed away a few months earlier due to cancer, and the writers were able to write his death as a major storyline. OVERALL SCORE: 88.4

48. "Triangle"/X-FILES [1998]

Classic stand-alone ep, written and directed by Chris Carter, edited to appear like it's filmed in one continuous take, a la Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. In it, Muldar (David Duchovny), on a luxury liner in the Bermuda Triangle, has traveled back in time to the beginnings of World War 2 (1939). Nazi's are also on board, looking for Thor's Hammer, that can turn the tide of the war. Scully (Gillian Anderson), in 1998, is trying to find a way to get Muldar back. It's cinematic and thrilling. According to Matt Zoller Seitz in The Star-Ledger: "There has never been an hour of TV that looks or moves like 'Triangle.'" OVERALL SCORE: 88.4

47. "City on the Edge of Forever"/STAR TREK [1967]

Like "Triangle," Star Trek did its own time travel episodes, and this one stands as the best. Leave it to Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley) to travel back in time to New York City, 1930, and be responsible for altering history. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) have to heroically fixed what McCoy had botched on the timeline. Unfortunately, Kirk has fallen in love with the person in the middle of the changed timeline, Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), and there's one thing that has to happen in order for him to save the future: He must let her die. As she steps in front of a fast-moving truck, will he stop her? Will he allow his love to die? In the end, it's Mr. Spock, not Captain Kirk, who ultimately makes the right decision and saves mankind. OVERALL SCORE: 88.4

46. "Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey"/TAXI [1979]

Burned-out ex-hippy Reverend Jim (Christopher Lloyd) must pass a test to become a cabbie. Reverend Jim to Bobby (Jeff Conaway): "Psst...what does a yellow light mean?" Bobby: "Slow down." Reverend Jim (slowly): "What...does... the...yellow...light...mean?" Bobby: "Slow down." Revered Jim (even more slowly): "Whaaat...doooeees...theee... yeeelllooowww... llliiiggghhhttt... meeeaaan??" OVERALL SCORE: 88.5

45. "Episode #2.4/CHAPPELLE'S SHOW [2004]

The Love Contract & True Hollywood Stories: Rick James. Genius. OVERALL SCORE: 88.6

44. "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice"/MOONLIGHTING [1985]

The best film noir of the 1980's, in black and white, with Dave (Bruce Willis) and Maddie (Cybill Shepard) investigating the Flamingo Cove Murder, a 1946 cold case. TV never did things like this before Moonlighting. Narrated by Orson Welles, his last assignment before his death. OVERALL SCORE: 88.8

43"The Subject Was Noses"/THE BRADY BUNCH [1973]

Marcia (Maureen McCormick) gets hit in the nose with a football, causing her schnozz to blow up like a balloon. A fan favorite, this has everything, from classic lines ("Something suddenly came up") to repeated visuals of Marcia getting football-slammed in the snotlocker over and over. Look for Nicholas Hammond (Fredrich in The Sound of Music; Peter Parker in TV's Amazing Spider-Man; and director Sam Wanamaker in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) as the eely wannabe-lothario, Doug Simpson, who insensitively breaks his date with Marcia and her bulbous beak. OVERALL SCORE: 89.0

42. "Last Exit to Springfield"/THE SIMPSONS [1993]

A surrealistic classic, complete with faux Yellow Submarine allusions ("Purple Submersible") and even Citizen Kane (the Cockatoo screeching). In this, Homer Simpson doesn't want to buy braces for Lisa, so he does what any empty-pocketed pa would do: He becomes president of the labor union of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and leads his workers in a strike to bring back a dental plan. The title is an homage to Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr.'s dark novel of, among other things, a union strike. OVERALL SCORE: 89.2

41. "Barney and the Choir"/THE ANDY GRIFFTH SHOW [1962]

Every choir teacher has one...that enthusiastic kid who just cannot sing. Well, that's Barney Fife (Don Knotts) in this most-beloved episode where no one has the heart to tell Barney that his singing voice can break glasses for all the wrong reasons. The choir tries to hold secret rehearsals, but Barney always finds them. Andy finally comes up with the solution that will not break Barney's spirit...tell him he's on a microphone and to sing so quietly that no one can hear him. Barney so dense that he doesn't even realize that Glen Cripe is behind a curtain singing for him. Showcases the untouchable comedic skills of Don Knotts at his very best. A classic. OVERALL SCORE: 89.3

40. "Second Look"/THIRTYSOMETHING [1991]

Brilliant bait and switch, the vicissitudes of life in full swing. In this episode, we celebrate Nancy (Patricia Wettig) as she overcomes cancer (the year's main storyline) while learning of the shocking death of Gary Shepherd (Peter Horton). A kick in the gut, joy and sorrow in the same breath. OVERALL SCORE: 89.3

39. "The Actor's Home"/ THE ABBOT AND COSTELLO SHOW [1953]

Contains the all-time classic routine, "Who's on First?" Need I say more? OVERALL SCORE: 89.3

38. "11 PM TO 12 AM"/24 [2002]

The season one finale of the hottest show on television, where FBI agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) defeats the bad guys but loses the world with the death of his wife in the last minute. A spellbinder. OVERALL SCORE: 89.6

37. "The Germans"/FAWLTY TOWERS [1975]

John Cleese's silly-walk goose-stepping and miming a Hitler mustache to a roomful of Germans is laugh-so-hard-the-milk-comes-out-of-your-nose funny. OVERALL SCORE: 89.7

36. "The Producer"/GILLIGAN'S ISLAND [1966]

Phil Silvers may be the guest star of the episode as Harold Hecuba, but that is not what we remember. This ep is famous for one thing and one thing only: The Musical Hamlet sequence. Using Bizet's Carmen for music, the castaways write and perform the zaniest version of William Shakespeare's most famous play. Check out their casting: Gilligan as Hamlet; Skipper as Polonius; Mr. Howell as Claudius; Mrs. Howell as Gertrude; Ginger as Ophelia; and Mary Ann as Laertes. And what about the Professor? I guess he was their music director (he turns on the record player). The songs are infectious and clever, especially Skipper-as-Polonius' big solo: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be/Do not forget/Stay out of debt/Think twice/And take this good advice from me/Guard that old solvency/There's just one other thing you ought to do/To thine own self be true!" How many children got their first introduction to the Bard by watching this very special Gilligan's Island? OVERALL SCORE: 89.7

35. "Episode 1.03"/DOWNTON ABBEY [2010]

Pamuk. His death of a heart attack in Mary's bed starts a memorable chain of events as she and Anna try to carry the stiff to his own bed. Unfortunately, their secret is not safe as Daisy sees Mary carrying Pamuk's corpse along the corridor. Great stuff, proof that DOWNTON ABBEY would be more than the typical British import...it's a masterpiece. OVERALL SCORE: 89.9

34. "Everyone's Waiting"/SIX FEET UNDER [2012]

One of the top two series finales ever, right up there with M*A*S*H's and Newhart's last episodes, where we flash forward to the future to find the fates of the Fisher family. OVERALL SCORE: 90.1

33. "Who Done It?"/DALLAS [1980]

In 1980, the biggest question of the year wasn't Reagan's "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" It was "Who shot J.R.?" And in this iconic episode, the truth emerges...it was Kristin (Mary Crosby). Two weeks later, when John Lennon was murdered outside of his Dakota apartments in New York City, I was greeted the next morning in a Florida high school with the following written on a blackboard: "Who shot J.L.?" I cringed. It wasn't funny at all, but it showed just how popular "Who shot J.R.?" ultimately was. OVERALL SCORE: 90.1

32. "The Battle of Starcourt"/STRANGER THINGS [2019]

Better than most movies of 2019, a third season season finale to be remembered, especially with the surprise "death" of Jim Hopper (David Harbour). When I first watched the episode, I rewound it afterwards to watch his exact demise. I didn't see it; it wasn't there. Why wouldn't they show the death of a major character, one of the most beloved on the series? I wondered. The credits then rolled, and before I could turn them off, there was a coda set in Russia...and we knew...it ain't over for ol' Jim. Thank God. OVERALL SCORE: 90.2

31. "Murder by the Book"/COLUMBO [1971]

Look at the powerhouses behind this first official episode of COLUMBO starring Peter Falk. Written by Stephen Bochco, who would be responsible for the best TV of the 1980's and 1990's (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue). Created by Richard Levinson and William Link, the men behind Murder, She Wrote. Featuring the ultimate COLUMBO villain, Jack Cassidy. And directed by a twentysomething with quite a vision and a visual flair seldom seen on TV: A very young Steven Spielberg. Wow. OVERALL SCORE: 90.2

30. "Episode 1"/ROOTS [1977]

It captured the imagination of millions of Americans, black and white. Its power in storytelling of the young Kunta Kinte (Levar Burton), from his family life in Africa with his coming of age rituals, to his capture by slave traders and ultimately onto a slave ship destined for America. It's a painful two hours, the start of the most important mini-series in history, but it's well worth it. OVERALL SCORE: 90.3

29. "Pilot"/TWIN PEAKS [1990]

The most beautifully surreal series opener of all time, thanks to David Lynch. Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer is found dead, "wrapped in plastic," and her murder unleashes the odd otherness of this sleepy northwestern town. There are so many iconic things in this very first episode: Agent Cooper's taped recordings to Diane; a fine cup of coffee; a slice of cherry pie; Douglas fir trees blowing in the wind; and a log lady. (The dancing dwarf would be a couple of eps away.) But this is the blueprint for all serious dramas to come; without it, I don't believe you would have "The Sopranos," "Mad Men," "Lost," or "Breaking Bad." It opened the door for a new kind of dramatic series, one not so linear. And it's still a heck of a lot of fun to watch. OVERALL SCORE: 90.3

28. "A Matter of Life and Death"/THE HONEYMOONERS [1955]

Ralph (Jackie Gleason) thinks he's dying of acute Arterial Monochromia, a deadly disease. Actually, he had mixed up his medical exam with that of his mother-in-law's collie. Ralp decides to sell his story to a weekly magazine, but soons learn the truth. What to do? If you guessed "have Norton (Art Carney) pose as an Oxford-educated doctor," then you wouldn't be off the mark. By far the greatest Honeymooners ep, which also means it's one of the 1950's finest shows. OVERALL SCORE: 90.4

27. "Eye of the Beholder"/THE TWILIGHT ZONE [1960]

While watching this for the first time, I kept wondering why all the doctors and nurses were filmed from the back, or their faces shadowed in darkness. I recently showed it to a group of middle school kids and they loved it and could identify with its anti-conformity angle. Great shows never grow old and speak to every generation. OVERALL SCORE: 90.4

26. "The Two Mrs. Cranes"/FRASIER [1996]

It's like a highbrow episode of Three's Company, a Noel Coward farce directed by Jean Renoir and set in Seattle. OVERALL SCORE: 90.6

25. "Full Frontal Nudity"/MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS [1969]

Although it's a regular ep, it plays like Python's greatest hits, with the infamous pet shop/dead parrot sketch, the Hermit skit and Hell's Grannies in the same episode. OVERALL SCORE: 90.8

24. "Episode #238"/THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW [1976]

How long did it take you to stop laughing at Scarlett's drape rod shoulder pads in the Gone with the Wind parody, "Went with the Wind"? You're probably still laughing just thinking about it; I know I am. OVERALL SCORE: 90.9

23. "Season Finale"/SURVIVOR BORNEO [2000]

Reality shows existed before Survivor, but after this episode, they became the biggest thing in TV Land. If you like Big Brother, The Bachelor, or The Amazing Race, then thank the Survivor Gods. And the final episode of Season 1, with Sue going off with her "rat and snake" speech and Richard Hatch being an unlikely winner, kept us on the edge of our seats. With its historic run and influence, this should probably be even higher on the list, but syndication is limited for any reality show. OVERALL SCORE: 91.0

22. "On the Beach"/ER [2002]

The last days of Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) as he dies of a brain tumor. Highly depressing but extraordinarily powerful. His dream-stroll through the hospital corridors to the tune of "Over the Rainbow" is too much. I need a handkerchief just thinking of it. OVERALL SCORE: 91.0

21. "The Puppy Episode"/ELLEN [1997]

"Yep, I'm gay," read the Ellen DeGeneres cover of Time magazine when this episode aired. Ellen's coming out became one of LGBTQ's landmark moments and one of the 1990's pop culture touchstones. OVERALL SCORE: 91.0

20. "Coast to Coast Big Mouth"/THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW [1965]

Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) appears on a television program ("Pay As You Go") and informs the world that star Alan Brady (Carl Reiner), her husband's boss, is bald. Alan Brady to his numerous toupees, indicating Laura: "Fellas...there she is. There's the little lady who put you out of business!" OVERALL SCORE: 91.0

19. "Two Cathedrals"/THE WEST WIND [2001]

President Bartlett's monologue to God in the National Cathedral after Ms. Landingham's funeral may be Martin Sheen's finest moment as an actor. On Inside the Actor's Studio, host James Lipton cited "Two Cathedrals" as "one of the best episodes in the history of American television." OVERALL SCORE: 91.7

18. "Downer Ending"/BOJACK HORSEMAN [2014]

From "Bojack Horseman" aficionado Michael Mekus: "'Downer Ending' is one of the most effective episodes of television from the last decade. Bojack's drug-induced binge is a staggering look at how depressed people are willing to do anything at all to cope, even put themselves in awful and precarious environments. His hallucinations are horrific and terrifying and a true masterclass in animation, and even scarier than his hallucinations, his final monologue that he delivers to Diane may be the most devastating moment from the entire series. All Bojack seeks is validation and acceptance and to feel loved, and in a moment of yearning and desperation, all he can seem to receive is recognition for the show that cursed him to his miserable drug-and-alcohol riddled, depressed existence." OVERALL SCORE: 91.8

17. "The Last Newhart"/NEWHART [1990]

For the sheer brilliance of its last minute, its final series finale moment, when Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) wakes up next to Bob in bed and we're suddenly no longer in '90's Newhart but thrust in the old 1970's sit-com The Bob Newhart Show. Perfection. OVERALL SCORE: 91.8

16. "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1"/STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION [1990]

This is may be the greatest pure Science fiction episode of all. You are made of tougher stuff than I if the Borg doesn't make you quake in your boots. The final moment here, where Picard becomes one of those dreaded Borg, was a season finale cliffhanger for all time. My brother in law, a Star Trek fanatic, saw this in 1990, and proclaimed, "That is the greatest episode of television ever!" OVERALL SCORE: 92.0

15. "Death and All His Friends"/GREY'S ANATOMY [2010]

A shooter (Michael O'Neill) roams the hallways of Seattle Mercy Grace West Hospital, gunning down victims including series regulars Dr. Reed Adamson (Nora Zehetner) and Dr. Charles Percy (Robert Baker). An unrelenting, harrowing, edge-of-your-seat, can't-take-a-breath 86 minutes of television. OVERALL SCORE: 92.1

14. "Sammy's Visit"/ALL IN THE FAMILY [1972]

Sammy Davis Jr. visits the house of bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor). The first thing Archie tells his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is not to mention that Sammy Davis has one eye. And the first thing Archie asks Sammy? "Would you like some cream and sugar in your eye?" But Sammy gets the last laugh when he tells Archie: "If you were prejudiced you would, like some people, close their eyes to what's going on in this great country that we live in. But not you, Archie, your eyes are wide open. You can tell the difference between black and white...And if you were prejudiced, you'd walk around thinking you're better than anybody else in the world. But I can honestly say, having spent these marvelous moments with you... You ain't better than anybody." He seals it with a kiss on Archie's cheek; Archie's expression here is in and of itself worth such a high placement on this list. OVERALL SCORE: 92.6

13. "The One with the Embryos"/FRIENDS [1998]

Phoebe's storyline may get the title, but it's something else in this episode that puts it over the top: The Friends Trivia Game! In it, the gang plays a question-and-answer game (emceed by Ross) where the stakes are surprisingly high: The winner gets Monica's apartment. Along the way, we learn the following: that Monica's biggest pet peeve is animals dressed as humans; that Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance scares the bejeezus out of Chandler; that "Chanandlor Bong" appears on the subscription label of Chandler's TV Guide; that Chandler's father headlines an all-male burlesque called Viva Las Gaygas; that Monica's nickname on her childhood hockey team was Big Fat Goalie; that Rachel says her favorite movie is Dangerous Liaisons but in reality it's Weekend at Bernie's; that Monica has 11 categories for her towels; that Joey's favorite food is sandwiches; that Chandler was 19 when he first touched a girl's breast; that Joey had an imaginary childhood friend named Maurice, Space Cowboy; and that nobody knows what Chandler does for a living. As Entertainment Weekly claimed, "Thanks to the trivia contest alone, 'Embryos' is quite possibly Friends' finest moment." OVERALL SCORE: 92.7

12. "Show #4530"/THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON [1992]

People usually mistake this as Johnny Carson's last episode; actually, it's his second to the last ep. This features Robin Williams, who's never been funnier, and Bette Midler, who's never been more poignant. Her version of "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)," will make you get quite wistful, like Carson as he watched on, knowing his amazing thirty year journey was coming to a close. Midler says when she exited the stage after the song, she cried her eyes out. She was not alone. OVERALL SCORE: 92.8

11. "Pine Barrens"/THE SOPRANOS [2001]

Murder in the woods doesn't go so smoothly. Off-beat, wickedly funny and very dark, the latter the way we like our coffee and the way we like our Soprano's episodes. OVERALL SCORE: 93.6

10. "Good-Bye"/THE WONDER YEARS [1990]

Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and his math teacher, Mr. Collins (Steven Gilborn), were the subjects of three Wonder Years episodes. But it's the last one, "Good-Bye," that swings the hardest and hits the out of the park homerun. Kevin works hard in math, trying to improve his grade so he can get a "Good job, Kevin" written on his tests; he even starts going to afterschool tutoring with Mr. Collins. He finds himself liking the teacher very much. But when Mr. Collins can't make their sessions anymore, Kevin wonders why. "I thought you were my friend," he says. "Not your friend, Mr. Arnold," Mr. Collins says. "Your teacher." Kevin is hurt that the teacher hasn't been around, and on Friday's test, he purposely messes up, drawing pictures and writing rude comments on the paper. He leaves defiantly as Mr. Collins calls out to him to no avail. When Kevin returns to school on Monday, he is informed that his teacher, Mr. Collins, had passed away over the weekend. A heart attack. For the next few days, Kevin was tormented, lost in his own personal hell. But when given the chance to make-up the test, he aces it in honor of his teacher. It ends with Kevin imagining Mr. Collins sitting behind his desk, smiling. "Good job, Mr. Collins," Kevin tells his teacher as "Goodbye, My Friend" by Linda Ronstadt plays. And there's not a dry eye in the house. "Good-Bye," the greatest work about the teacher-student dynamic, should be required viewing for all educators. OVERALL SCORE: 93.7

9. "The Suitcase"/MAD MEN [2010]

Two of the finest performances in the history of television occur near the end of this episode-when Don Draper (Jon Hamm) learns of a death and breaks down to Peggy (Elizabeth Moss). According to Hamm, "I've never ever worked on something and felt the way I felt after we shot the episode in Season 4 called 'The Suitcase'. That one ... I can't even put it into words." OVERALL SCORE: 93.8

8. "Chuckles Bites the Dust"/THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW [1975]

Few understand the power of TV better than Mary Tyler Moore. You want proof, then watch this episode. In it, Lou Grant (Ed Asner) announces a tragedy to the newsroom: "Chuckles the Clown is dead. It was a freak accident. He went to a parade dressed as Peter Peanut, and a rogue elephant tried to shell him." Everyone in the newsroom makes fun of his death. Except Mary. She chastises her friends for being so insensitive to the dead. But at the funeral, which starts off very somber, Mary tries to suppress her laughter. But she loses it when, in the eulogy, the reverend says, "Remember how, when his arch-rival, Senor Kaboom hits him with a giant cucumber and knocked him down? Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off, and say, 'I hurt my foo-foo!'" Mary can't stop laughing. The reverend stops the ceremony and addresses her: "You feel like laughing, don't you? Don't try to stop yourself. Go ahead, laugh out loud. Don't you see? Nothing could have made Chuckles happier. He lived to make people laugh. He found tears offensive, deeply offensive. He hated to see people cry. Go ahead, my dear-laugh!" And on that note, Mary breaks down crying. OVERALL SCORE: 93.8

7. "Lucy Does a TV Commercial"/I LOVE LUCY [1952]

One word: Vitameatavegamin. OVERALL SCORE: 94.0

6. "The Constant"/LOST [2008]

Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) gets unstuck in time, zipping between 1996 and 2004 in a rollercoaster ride where there seems to be no difference between the past and the resent. It's exhilarating television, using time travel in the most unique way and adding another twist to it-an abundance of heart. The relationship between Desmond and his "constant," Penny, the love of his life, will melt your heart. OVERALL SCORE: 94.2

5. "The Beatles First Appearance"/THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW [1964]

In life there always seems to be a Before and an After. Before February 9, 1964, the United States was in collective mourning over the death of a President. A little over two months later, four mop tops from Liverpool appeared on TV and changed the world forever. Nothing would be the same. For the record, the Beatles played a total of five songs: "All My Loving," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Not that you could really hear them over the screaming teens. We forget that other guests appeared that night: Banjo great Tessie O'Shea, magician Fred Kaps, future-Riddler Frank Gorshin, and members of the Oliver! cast, including a young pre-Monkees Davy Jones. But they were all eclipsed by the Fab Four in a night to be forever remembered. OVERALL SCORE: 94.2

4. "The Contest"/SEINFELD [1992]

Who is "Master of their Doman"? That's the question in the show's title, "The Contest," where four friends at Monks COFFEE SHOP bet on who can go the longest without self-pleasure. Each of Jerry's gang are forced to face their own temptations, like disrobing neighbors, virgins holding out, silhouetted sponge baths, and John F. Kennedy, Jr. The word "masturbation" is never used, and that makes the whole affair work better: a squeaky-clean look at utter debasement, an ode to onanism denial, a masterpiece of pud-pulling stoppage. OVERALL SCORE: 94.7

3. "The Rains of Castamere"/GAME OF THRONES [2013]

PLEASE NOTE: SPOILER ALERT! "The Red Wedding," where we see fan favorites Robb Stark, his bride, his mother, and his men slaughtered. It's been seven years, and I'm still not over it. And my guess is, neither are you. OVERALL SCORE: 94.9

2. "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen"/M*A*S*H. [1983]

To live in 1983 when this aired, to be at a M*A*S*H party, to celebrate one of TV's finest comedy-dramas. We were so lucky back then, weren't we? It still holds the record, with a Nielsen rating of 60.2 and a 77 share , boasting 125 million viewers. And that doesn't take in account the number of people at 4077 parties across America, the ones dressed like Hawkeye or Hot Lips. It was a two and a half hour epic, and those of us who were able to see it at the time, to experience it as a nation, as a one...yep, we consider ourselves exceptionally lucky. OVERALL NIGHT: 96.8

And now...drum roll, please...for the #1 greatest TV episode of all time....

1. "Ozymandias"/BREAKING BAD [2013]

Pretty amazing that two shows in the all-time top three came out in the same year. I remember watching this episode of Breaking Bad, crying out at the screen, biting my fingernails, not just on the edge of my chair, but almost falling off it. I knew then what I know now: This is the best episode of television ever. I don't know if it will ever be topped. It not only contains the shocking death of a major character, but that happens even before the opening credits. It also showcases the most harrowing fight between Skylar (Anna Gunn) and Walt (Bryan Cranston), ending with Walt abducting their baby. And it ends with Walt going away, seemingly vanishing from the world. My favorite moment is when, in the desert, Walt grits his teeth and talks to his protégé, Jesse (Aaron Paul), almost gleeful as he recounts how he watched Jesse's girlfriend, Jane, die. It's a villainous masterstroke, so awful and yet so perfect. And with Cranston and Paul, it's the best acting on TV that you'll encounter. TV doesn't get better than this. The way I felt when I watched the final M*A*S*H is the way I felt when I watched this episode of Breaking Bad: I'm so lucky to be alive with shows like this on the air. OVERALL SCORE: 96.9


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From This Author Peter Nason