Monday, December 12, 2011

Best of 2011: Top 10 Episodes of 2011

Welcome to my first post on the best of 2011! This is a series of posts that will publish over the next three days. These will highlight what I think was the best of television to air over the past year. (*)

(*) Disclaimer: I cannot say that I have seen everything, or even the vast majority of what is on television. This is purely coming from my sample of TV.

The first list will be my top ten episodes to air over the past year. My process was this: I picked one episode from each show that I thought was worthy of consideration, and then I narrowed down that list to ten episodes. It led to some very difficult decisions and the cutting of some very good episodes of television.

The final ten that I picked are after the jump. (They are presented in alphabetical order by episode title.)

Credit: HBO
"Baelor"-Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones was a show that had its moments, and the death of Ned Stark was one of the best moments on television this year. While it did not come as a surprise because I read the book beforehand, it was still extremely powerful. It was a series both a series and character defining moment that was better then anything the show did that year. It also had Tyrion and the prostitute telling stories. Peter Dinklage was amazing in the scene that revealed a lot about his character's past.

Credit: FX
"Brother's Keeper"-Justified
The second season of Justified was so good that it made it very difficult to pick a single episode. On another day, I could have easily picked the finale or the penultimate episode of the season. Instead, I went with an episode that had an extremely memorable ending. The beginning of the episode had the party at the Bennett's residence. While it provided some important information, it wasn't my favorite part of the episode. My favorite part of the episode was when Loretta found out that something happened to her father. The continuation of that plotline through the end of the episode was what made this episode great. The episode built up tension in a fantastic way and it all paid off fantastically with Coover's death.

Credit: NBC
"Chuck versus the Push Mix"-Chuck
There were many Chuck episodes that were great this year, but one stands out over all of the others. That episode is the one that gave payoff to the first half of the fourth season. Chuck vs. the Push Mix did a fantastic job giving payoff to the Volkoff arc. The conclusion in the cabin was very well acted by both Zachary Levi and Timothy Dalton. It also featured the birth of Clara Woodcomb with Jeffster as background music. Linda Hamilton was fantastic in the scene where she was at Ellie's bedside. It also had my favorite moment of the season, with Chuck proposing to Sarah with only the cleaner in the background. It was a fantastic episode of what is my favorite show on television.

Credit: NBC
"Do Not Sleep With Your Autistic Nephew's Therapist"-Parenthood
Parenthood had a fantastic stretch of episodes in January and February, and much what made them great was brought to a head in this episode. When I reviewed it, I wrote "Rarely do shows pack the emotional punch that this episode did." It had many angry fights that were very well performed by the cast. This is a show that has a cast that does these loud arguments very well, and this episode was no exception. Parenthood often has me close to tears, if not in tears, but this episode took that one step further. It was a very emotional episode of television that was the best the show did this year, and one of my favorite episodes of television this year.

Credit: FX
Louie had an amazing season this year, but there was one episode of the show that stood out among all of the great ones. That was Duckling, which was the one when Louie went to Afghanistan on a USO tour. Not only was this the episode of Louie that had the biggest scope, it also had the great emotional depth of the episode. It clearly shows the positive impact that a USO tour person has on the soldiers. It also has a great payoff to the duckling aspect, with the duckling creating peace between the troops and the Afghans. It was a fantastic hour of television that had great motivation and emotion behind it.

Credit: NBC
"Fancy Party"-Parks and Recreation
There is one episode of television that took me by surprise in the best way possible, and it was this one. At that point, I didn't watch Parks and Rec until on a television, so the promo did not ruin surprise wedding of Andy and April. It was one of the best surprises on television this year. Beyond that, it was one of the funniest and most heartfelt episodes of comedy this year. Andy and April's wedding provided great material for everyone in the cast, especially Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza. It was full of little character moments that made for a fantastic episode of television.

Credit: BBC/BBC America
"A Good Man Goes to War"-Doctor Who
Doctor Who had a very up and down run this year, but the highs were so good that they outweighed the lows. A Good Man Goes to War was the high point of the season for me because it provided a thrilling conclusion to the story arc while opening up the rest of the season. The Doctor attacking the ship to save Amy made for some very compelling television. I also liked how the plotline addressed the perception of the Doctor across the universe. It also had a cliffhanger that opened up the season in a way that I was not expecting. It was an amazing episode of television that was executed almost to perfection.

Credit: NBC
"Goodbye, Michael"-The Office
This year on The Office there was only one episode that could qualify anywhere near great, and that's this one. The Office brought its a-game to say goodbye to the character who defined the show, which hasn't been the same since Carell said goodbye. This  episode was full of emotion and full of sentiment, even if it wasn't sappy. It gave Michael the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone in the Office with grace. It also gave us the final moments with Jim and Pam. Jim giving a tearful goodbye and Pam running to the airport to say goodbye to Michael. The show gave a fantastic goodbye to one of the most iconic characters of the NBC brand.

Credit: HBO
"Mister Softee"-Curb Your Enthusiasm
This was the first season of Curb that I watched, and it was very hit and miss. However, one of the biggest highs of the season was this episode. It was the episode of Curb which brought the best payoff for everything it tried. Bill Buckner catching the baby was one of the most ludicrous and one of the best moments on television. After all of the jokes made at his expense, it was a great payoff. It also gave us Leon looking smart with glasses, the vibrator seat in Larry's car, and the Mister Softee ice cream truck. Larry being traumatized with the Mister Softee ice cream truck was absolutely hysterical. It was the best episode of Curb this year because it was a hysterical hour of television that paid off everything it started brilliantly.

Credit: NBC
"Paradigms of Human Memory"-Community
There were many episodes of Community I could have picked for this slot, but I chose this one because it was one of the most fun episodes of the year. It gave me everything I would want from a TV comedy: laughs, fun character moments, and a heartfelt ending. It was also one of the best "weird" episodes of the series. It took the idea of a clip show and executed it perfectly. This is also the episode that gave us the Glee parody which they turned into a full episode this year and the phrase "Six Seasons and a Movie." This was a very fun episode of television and in my opinion it was the best episode of Community this year.

That's the ten. If you would like to suggest other  episodes that are worthy of a spot on the list, feel free to suggest them in the comments.

(My top 10 series list is right here.)

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