The 100 Greatest
TV episodes of all time!

as chosen by the staff of TV Guide
and Nick at Night TV Land

...as of as of 6/25/97


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The 50 greatest

MOVIE moments of all time!

as chosen by the staff of TV Guide March, 2001


100
FRIENDS February 1, 1996

How to put Ross and Rachel in each other's arms after a season and a half of false starts? Give them an audio-visual aid. Looking at footage from high school in "The One With the Prom Video," Rachel finally recognizes Ross's long-suffering devotion to her. Ever so slowly she crosses the room and kisses him. The fateful video also reveals a chunky teenage Monica (Courteney Cox). When she insists that the camera adds 10 pounds, Chandler (Matthew Perry) asks, "So how many cameras are actually on you?"

99
THE UNTOUCHABLES
October 13, 1960

In "The Rusty Heller Story," Elizabeth Montgomery took Prohibition-era Chicago by storm as Heller, a seductive Dixie damsel who pits a newly arrived mob faction against Al Capone's teetering empire and then plays both against the cops. "Now don't you go appealing to my decency, because I ain't got any," she drawls to a clearly smitten Ness (Robert Stack). This episode records Capone's arrest and conviction, but it's the glint of a grin Heller brings to Ness's granite mug that carves this episode in TV history.

REWIND Montgomery "was about the last choice for this part," Stack says, "because she was a Foxcroft girl from a society family. How in the world could she play a Southern hooker? But she surprised the bejesus out of everybody. She should have won an Emmy."

98
THE OUTER LIMITS
December 30, 1963

In "The Zanti Misfits," our military forces have cordoned off a California ghost town awaiting the arrival of a spacecraft from the planet Zanti. The leaders of that world have decided that Earth is the perfect place to exile their undesirables. They threaten "total destruction" if their penal ship is molested. But a bank robber on the lam (Bruce Dern) crosses the cordon and approaches the Zanti ship, triggering an ugly jailbreak. Earth's nervous soldiers launch an anti-Zanti attack, killing all the aliens -- and fearfully awaiting the expected reprisal. Instead, they get a message of thanks from the Zanti leaders. It seems they can't execute their own kind, so they sent them to the experts on killing -- us.

We now return control of your TV Guide to you -- until next time.…

97
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE
February 6 & 13, 1978

Under trying frontier conditions, Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon) does the best he can for his wife and four daughters. And he is usually up to the challenge, except in the two-part "I'll Be Waving as You Drive Away" -- when he learns that his beloved eldest daughter, Mary, is going blind, the result of an arduous bout with scarlet fever. The devoted father almost comes undone when he has to give the girl the news. Television series, even those that pride themselves on realism, rarely make the afflictions of leading characters permanent conditions. But however gentle Little House's spirit, the show doesn't take the easy way out here. Blind Mary is, and blind she will stay; both she and her family learn to cope and hold on to hope in this deeply affecting episode.

96
PICKET FENCES
October 27, 1995

What happens when you explore the "Heart of Saturday Night" in Rome, Wisconsin? Nothing much…just love and death and friendship and dreams and stars. Just life. Young Matthew Brock (Justin Shenkarow) goes cruising with the guys, ends up at a party with the in-crowd, and acts as a go-between in a domestic dispute. Jimmy and Jill (Tom Skerritt and Kathy Baker) try to rekindle their romance until a zipper accident douses their ardor. Judge Bone and Wambaugh (Ray Walston and Fyvush Finkel) see a friend die and end the night standing in a lake, their pants rolled up like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, contemplating eternity. Saturday night in Rome: boring, sad, frustrating, ethereal -- a miracle. And based on this marvelously subtle, sweet, and profound episode -- which has the strength and integrity of TV's Golden Age dramas -- it's hard to imagine a better place to spend an evening.

95
THE MOD SQUAD
February 17, 1970

Pete, Linc, and Julie (Michael Cole, Clarence Williams III, and Peggy Lipton) were the grooviest TV detectives ever -- long-haired hipsters in bell-bottoms who should have been throwing pots in a commune but became crime-solvers instead. In the audaciously Oedipal "Mother of Sorrow," a deranged young man stages a mock murder to gain the attention of his neglectful artist mother (Lee Grant). Film actors Dreyfuss and Grant sizzle as emotional adversaries who share a Victorian house and an intense hatred of the father and husband who walked out on them. Part therapy session, part whodunit, this episode was innovative entertainment for a generation hell-bent on self-discovery.

94
MORK & MINDY
May 6, 1980

Robin Williams' outrageous, turbo-comic brilliance has never been better showcased than in "Mork's Mixed Emotions."A kiss from Mindy uncorks the entire gamut of the space cadet's long-pent-up feelings. What follows is a dizzying, dazzling display of Williams' unfettered inventiveness and versatility. One after another, Mork's carefully repressed emotions come ricocheting out, each of them punctuated by a different voice. He is by turns loving, fearful, joyful, guilty, envious, hopeful, disgusted, and grateful. And that's the warm-up. Thank goodness for the commercials, or you'd never have a chance to catch your breath.

93
NAKED CITY
June 7, 1961

In the sinuous "Sweet Prince of Delancy Street," Richie Wilkins (Robert Morse) has no sooner confessed to killing a factory guard and stealing $15,000 of industrial diamonds than his father (James Dunn) walks into the police precinct. "I don't know what my boy told you," he says. "I killed the guard." The cops don't believe either guy. We soon meet the real culprit, played by a young man with a mop of dark hair and a distinctive, nasal voice.

It was Dustin Hoffman's first major TV role.

92
STAR TREK
April 6, 1967

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) travel back to Earth during the Great Depression to correct a temporal anomaly. While there, Kirk falls in love with the altruist Edith Keeler. But a makeshift computer, rigged by Spock from his Tricorder and some vacuum tubes, informs them that Keeler must die or Nazi Germany will prevail in World War II. In the provocative "City on the Edge of Forever," Kirk balances his one true love against the lives of untold millions. No adventure ever affected the captain -- or us -- so deeply.

91
L.A.LAW
March 21, 1991

Leland McKenzie (Richard Dysart) has just rejected a marriage proposal from steely Rosalind Shays (Diana Muldaur). She rings for the elevator, steps in…and plummets down the open shaft. As the firm's partners fret over being sued while "her body's not even cold," Shays' attorney jokes, "If anything, death probably warmed her up a few degrees." Black humor and a tender love scene between Susan Dey and Jimmy Smits -- that's what viewers get in "Good to the Last Drop."

REWIND
"A gal that's been doubling for me for 25 years took the fall," says Muldaur. "I think they made her do it 11 times! But I must say that people still worry if I'm in an elevator with them."

90
MIAMI VICE
October 18, 1985

Boasting Hugo Boss suits, two-day beard growth, and a sleek Ferrari convertible, Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) and Rico Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) were the first TV cops to have as much flash as the bad guys they chased. In "Out Where the Buses Don't Run," series creator Michael Mann updates Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" with glitzy visuals and a throbbing rock-music soundtrack (The Who, Dire Straits). Former vice cop Hank Weldon (Bruce McGill, center, with Johnson and Thomas) tags along with the squad to catch a cocaine kingpin who disappeared long ago, Hoffa-style. Is Weldon nuts? Says Crockett: "My head tells me he's stone-cold insane, but my gut says let's go with him on this." The chilling finale proves Crockett's gut wrong: A guilt-wracked Weldon rips down a wall to expose the corpse of the drug king he actually murdered six years earlier.

89
SPEED RACER
FALL 1967 (U.S.)

OK, maybe it isn't quite up there with "Who shot J.R.?" But for aficionados of Speed Racer, the irresistibly cheesy Japanese-import cartoon of the '60s, "Who is Racer X?" (the mysterious Masked Racer, who always seemed to cause disaster) was just as tantalizing a mystery. In this pivotal, two-part episode, we learn of the existence of Speed Racer's older brother, Rex -- and see in flashback how he cracked up in a race he had entered (against his father's wishes) and left the family after a bitter quarrel. This is a Speed Racer of unusual emotional nuance and narrative complexity. But there's more: a midnight duel between Speed and Racer X and the climactic Trans-Country Race, in which every rule of international racing and physics is shattered in one unforgettable sequence.

88
HAPPY DAYS
October 14, 1975

A top 20 series for eight of its 11 seasons, Happy Days often focused on the brotherly relationship between two '50s stereotypes: Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard, right, with Pat Morita), the clean-cut boy next door, and his idol, Fonzie (Henry Winkler), the coolest motorcycle-riding high school dropout in all of Milwaukee. "Richie Fights Back" finds straight- arrow Richie being tyrannized by a pair of bullies. "I'm going to teach you the secret of being tough," Fonzie assures Richie, who has already tried studying jujitsu with Arnold (Morita). "Of course, with that Howdy Doody face, you can only be so tough." The secret is nothing earthshaking: Act tough, sound tough, and maybe people will think you are tough. But in the end, it works. Richie stands up to the bullies all by himself. Howdy Doody gets his self-respect back -- with a little help from his leather-clad friend.

87
CHINA BEACH
January 25, 1989

A series set in Vietnam could hardly ignore the Tet Offensive, the turning point of the war. "Tet '68" opens with Wayloo (Megan Gallagher), the ambitious TV personality, cheerily describing the upcoming holiday as "the Vietnamese Fourth of July, Christmas, and New Year's Eve, all rolled into one. We can sense the magic of the new year." Then the shooting starts. Beckett (Michael Boatman) is held hostage by his lady friend's VC brother; McMurphy is stuck at headquarters with the strung-out K.C. (Marg Helgenberger); Dr. Dick (Robert Picardo) and Dodger (Jeff Kober) are at an Evac Hospital; and Red Cross worker Cherry (Nan Woods) is caught in a bunker. Morning finally breaks, and all have survived. But then Cherry, stepping outside the bunker, is killed by a bomb. It's an unflinching look at the indiscriminate ruthlessness of war, one that viewers would not soon forget.

86
BATMAN
March 16 & 17, 1966

In his first two months in prime time, the Caped Crusader battled the Joker, the Riddler, and the Penguin -- and became a national obsession. But when Catwoman steals his heart (not to mention two priceless gold cat statues) in "The Purr-Fect Crime" and "Better Luck Next Time," Batman (Adam West) meets his match. Pursuing the lost treasure of pirate Captain Manx, Catwoman lures Batman and Robin (Burt Ward) to her hideout. She nearly does them in, but they break free and track her down. In the chase, she falls off a rocky ledge into a bottomless pit. But Catwoman had nine lives and appeared in eight more episodes. Although Newmar turned over her cat ears to Eartha Kitt, the first Catwoman remains the best. Meow and forever.

REWIND
Says West: "Burt was suspended over tigers. The director kept urging him to get closer. It was dangerous! I finally had to say something."

85
DRAGNET
January 12, 1967

When Dragnet returned to prime time after an eight-year absence, Jack Webb's hard-boiled cop show had clearly left the '50s behind. The story we were about to see was not only true, it was ripped from the headlines: Sergeant Friday and his new sidekick, Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan), must investigate the spread of a new hallucinogenic drug among L.A. teens. The episode plays like a more subdued version of "Reefer Madness," highlighted by director Webb's version of a "psychedelic" party and Friday's hip lingo. "You're pretty high and far out. What kind of kick are you on, son?" he grills his prisoner, Benjie "Blue Boy" Carver (Michael Burns), an 18-year-old who paints half his face blue and the other half yellow. Do we have to tell you how "The LSD Story" ends up when the final dum-de-dum-dum is heard?

84
MAD ABOUT YOU
February 16, 1995

"The Alan Brady Show" turns reality inside out and brings to life the fictional Alan Brady (Carl Reiner), who once terrorized the characters of The Dick Van Dyke Show. But when Brady threatens to bail out as the narrator of Paul's documentary on the history of -- what else? -- TV, Mad really goes mad: Jamie gets so upset she bursts into tears the way Laura Petrie used to, sobbing, "Oh, Paul." Where is Mel Cooley when you need him?

83
HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL
April 12, 1958

Cultured, dapper, and literate, Paladin (Richard Boone) was a professional gunslinger with a sense of honor. The series was not afraid to use controversial issues as plots, even painful chapters from America's past, such as the exploitation of Chinese immigrants. In "Hey Boy's Revenge," Paladin's Chinese friend Hey Boy gets into trouble for trying to solve the murder of his brother, a new immigrant who protested the deplorable working conditions of his railroad gang -- and was killed for it. Always using his might for right, Paladin not only frees Hey Boy, he brings the killer to justice.

82
THE LOVEBOAT
October 12, 1985

Andy Warhol is on board the Pacific Princess, and he wants to paint a portrait of Kansas housewife Mary Hammond (Marion Ross). But Mary will be sunk if her conservative husband, George (Tom Bosley), finds out she once had 15 minutes of fame as a green-haired bohemian named Marina Del Rey who appeared in a Warhol art movie, "White Giraffe." Perhaps the campiest of all Love Boats, "The 200th Episode" not only reunites Happy Days stars Ross and Bosley, it features a then-unknown Teri Hatcher as one of the ship's singing-and-dancing Love Boat Mermaids.

REWIND
"I told Andy, 'You know, you're a really terrible actor, but I will help you!'" says Ross about working with the king of pop art. "He was very scared to be an actor. He was very sour-looking and damaged-looking, but he turned out to be the sweetest guy in the world. I feel so privileged; he wrote in his [now published] diary, 'I really love [Marion] so much. She's a wonderful person, and she helps me.'"

81
MAVERICK
November 23, 1958

No episode better exemplified the mellow maneuvering of Bret and Bart Maverick -- the Brothers Grin -- than "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres." Swindled out of $15,000 by a banker, Bret (James Garner) pulls up a rocking chair and starts whittling, assuring everyone who comes by to make fun of him that he'll get his money back. Bart (Jack Kelly) lures the banker into a stock swindle, then rides into the sunset -- after giving Bret the money. "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time," concludes Bret, "and those are very good odds."

80
M*A*S*H
February 24, 1976

The heart of this superlative series was Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce (Alan Alda), an insubordinate surgeon whose tongue was as sharp as his scalpel. While his surgical tools were used to put young soldiers' bodies back together, his rapier wit was usually employed to skewer military pretension and hypocrisy. Hawkeye puts both his cutting instruments to optimal use in "The Interview," in which a television correspondent visits the 4077th to shoot a documentary. The episode, filmed in black and white, records staff members giving their alternately amusing, moving, and painful takes on everything from the madness of war to what they miss most about home. The "film" ends with the inevitable arrival of a new batch of casualties and the unit mobilizing to do the work it does best, but which it would rather not be doing at all, in a place it would rather not be.

REWIND
"We had a roundtable where everyone contributed suggestions," says Gary Burghoff, who played Radar. "Very few television shows have been created with that kind of mutual respect. It was Camelot."

79
LAW & ORDER
April 13, 1994

In Harlem, a 12-year-old African-American boy is fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver. The boy's friend (Omar Sharif Scroggins) tells the police, "It was a Jew." "What, was he wearing a little hat?" asks Detective Briscoe. "You don't think I know a Jew when I see one?" says the boy. That's the provocative opening of "Sanctuary," a powerhouse episode. The incident escalates into a race riot, and an innocent man (Italian, as it happens) is killed by an African-American youth. When the prosecution of the youth ends in a mistrial, the DA, in a controversial decision, elects not to retry the case in order to let the city heal. Fittingly, this all-too-real dramatization of society's deep racial rifts has a conclusion in which no one wins.

78
THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY
January 29, 1971

In "Soul Club," a plucky, ambitious road trip, the singing family finds itself mistakenly booked into a black nightclub in Detroit. Complication: The club's broke owners (Richard Pryor and Louis Gossett Jr.) will lose their business if the night's turnout isn't huge. When only one customer shows up, Mrs. Partridge decides to throw a block party the next day and charge admission. Keith (David Cassidy) even writes a song for the occasion, declaring, "It's sort of an Afro thing." Everyone from local merchants to a Pantheresque group in black berets attends the event, and the club is saved. This may be the most outlandish episode on our list; it's certainly one of the best-intentioned.

77
BARNEY MILLER
December 16, 1976

Wojo's hippie girlfriend bakes a batch of brownies, which the amiable detective (Max Gail) shares with his fellow cops in the 12th Precinct. What he doesn't know: The sweets are laced with hashish. Before long, dour Detective Yemana (Jack Soo) wobbles by, saying with a giggle, "Anybody seen my legs?" The reserved Harris (Ron Glass) greets a jailed suspect with "What's happening, baby?" Stooped, stone-faced Phil Fish (Abe Vigoda) even chases a robber across a rooftop. This humane series always treated its working-class detectives as real people, not stereotypes. That's why "Hash" remains so raucously relevant.

REWIND
"There was a lot of talk about whether the, uh, props we used were going to be authentic," says Glass. "Some of us were hoping for a little boost."

76
LOST IN SPACE
February 28, 1966

Hey, plants have feelings, too! This is the theme of "The Great Vegetable Rebellion." The Jupiter II module is orbiting a planet that appears to consist only of flora when Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) jumps ship. Down on the planet's surface, the scheming stowaway is captured by an overgrown talking carrot. It may look like it stepped out of a bad commercial, but on this planet, veggies rule! The Space Family Robinson saves the mewling doctor just before he is turned vegetative himself. Lettuce be thankful.

Go to number 50.......or back to the top 75
3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN
September 29, 1996

While High Commander Dick (John Lithgow) and his beloved Mary (Jane Curtin) are at a sci-fi convention in Cleveland where Star Trek's George Takei (Mr. Sulu) is plugging his new book, Warp Speed, Dammit! The Complete Rants of William Shatner, the rest of the crew is back at the hotel discovering the ineffable joys of room service -- massages, robes, bubbly, chocolates, lobster, and more lobster. And what's this -- a Cleveland phone book? No, that's the bill. Welcome to "Hotel Dick."

74
COMBAT!
March 12, 1963

The talents of director Robert Altman and actor Vic Morrow blend beautifully in "Survival," a strikingly cinematic episode of this 1960s World War II drama. Sergeant Saunders (Morrow) gets separated from his platoon behind enemy lines. Instead of dialogue, we get stark images: Saunders staggering in shock out of a burning farmhouse; a soldier without boots struggling in agony to keep up; Saunders staring hungrily at an apple that dangles enticingly out of reach of his scorched hands. In a medium of constant, relentless talk, Altman lets the pictures tell the story -- memorably.

73
MISTER ED
September 29, 1963

With the Los Angeles Dodgers in a slump, manager Leo Durocher gets a helpful dugout phone call from architect "Wilbur Post," but in fact he's getting advice straight from the horse's mouth. Mister Ed's tip works: The Dodgers win. Before you know it, Wilbur (Alan Young) and Mister Ed are at Dodger Stadium, where the golden palomino takes batting practice. Stepping to the plate against Sandy Koufax, Ed hits one to the outfield wall and gallops around the bases. When Johnny Roseboro sees the hard-charging charger round third and head for home, the Dodgers' catcher immediately climbs the backstop to avoid him. This could be an inside-the-park homer. Slide, Mister Ed, slide! OK, an ersatz Ed may have been yanked down the third-base line by visible wires, but there's certainly nothing fake about the place "Leo Durocher Meets Mister Ed" has in sitcom-sports history.

72
THE X-FILES
April 20, 1997

Fans patiently waiting for the sparks between Mulder and Scully to explode are finally rewarded in "Small Potatoes" -- sort of. A loser named Eddie (Darin Morgan) uses his "striated muscle tissue" to bed women by morphing into the men they love -- leading to a rash of babies born with tails. When Mulder uncovers the scam, Eddie knocks him out and assumes his shape. What follows pokes fun at every hallowed X-Files tradition, with Eddie, now played artfully by David Duchovny, slouching into Mulder's shoes and ridiculing everything from his first name (Fox) to his geeky friends. He even discovers a message from a phone-sex operator on Mulder's answering machine. The finest touch comes after Eddie (as Mulder) is busted while putting the moves on Scully over a bottle of wine. Eddie disappointedly confides to Mulder, "I was born a loser, but you're one by choice." A superbly twisted, yet oddly unsettling, romp.

71
THE PATTY DUKE SHOW
May 24, 1964

This episode re-creates the first meeting between those "identical cousins" Patty and Cathy Lane, in which cultured Cathy gets her Uncle Martin (William Schallert) fired from his job as managing editor of the New York Daily Chronicle and breaks up Patty's romance with Richard (Eddie Applegate) -- all before the second commercial. This frothy family comedy boasted good writing and clever camera work, but its real distinction was Patty Duke's extraordinary dual performance -- never more noticeable than in "The Cousins," in which she plays Cathy imitating Patty and vice versa. You can lose your mind when cousins are two of a kind.

REWIND
"I always had the impression that I was working with two different people," recalls Schallert. "Patty created two such totally different girls. What was amazing was that she could do that with such subtle changes. It really was marvelous acting on her part."

70
STAR TREK:
THE NEXT GENERATION
Week of June 18, 1990

Star Trek: The Next Generation, the whippersnapper spin-off that few took seriously at first, triumphantly came of age with "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I." This third-season finale saw the villainous Borg enter Federation space, kidnap Picard, and transform him into one of its own. The surprise-a-minute teleplay by Trek producer Michael Piller -- who broke Gene Roddenberry's number-one rule by allowing intense conflict among the Feds -- climaxes with Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) weighing the lives of his crew against that of his beloved captain. He issues the command to destroy the Borg ship carrying Picard. Three of the most frightening words in Trek history -- Mr. Worf, fire! -- are followed by three of the most exultant -- to be continued -- for, with this episode, TNG boldly went into a fourth season, a feat the original series never managed.

69
BUFFALO BILL
January 5, 1984

No sitcom was ever edgier than this one: Its pre-P.C. humor was so dark that some never saw it. In "Jerry Lewis Week," the browbeaten station manager, Karl Shub (Max Wright), finally stands up to his star's bullying. He steals a stuffed bear that Bill (Dabney Coleman) has been using on-air to plug his mechanic (in exchange for free repairs). This insurrection occurs during WBFL's tribute to Jerry Lewis, which has brought on a locustlike infestation of Lewis lookalikes, all braying "Hey, lady!" One is played by an unbilled, 21-year-old Jim Carrey. Plenty more would be heard from Carrey, but sadly, Buffalo Bill would last only 12 more episodes.

68
FAMILY TIES
March 12, 1987
Alex P. Keaton, whose life revolves around himself, money, family, money, school, money (and money), realizes the value of life in the one-hour "'A' My Name Is Alex," written by Alan Uger and series creator Gary David Goldberg. A friend is killed in a car accident, and Alex is overcome with grief. In "Our Town"-like flashbacks, he talks to an unseen psychiatrist and grapples with big questions about God and a person's place in the grand scheme of things. Great sitcoms are not always all about jokes. The best make us laugh till we cry, and sometimes, when they mix in tragedy with the comedy, we cry till we laugh.

REWIND
"I was sound asleep and woke up with this idea," says Goldberg. "I saw Michael talking, trying to make sense of his life. I saw it in shadows and fragments, the way it looks in dreams. I got up and started writing."

67
GET SMART
January 13, 1968

Would you believe the far-out opening of "The Groovy Guru"? Agent 86 (Don Adams) -- wearing a Beatles wig, shades, and a Nehru shirt, and brandishing a sign exclaiming "Drop Out!" -- exchanges passwords with a courier. What he doesn't know is that the courier actually works for evil KAOS's newest recruit, a renegade disc jockey (F Troop's Larry Storch) who's planning to use subliminal messages in songs to brainwash teens into overthrowing the establishment! Of course, Max and 99 (Barbara Feldon) stop this fiendish plan -- but not before we get to see 99 frug madly amid a psychedelic light show. Groovy, man.

66
THE SIMPSONS
May 13, 1993

Krusty the Clown has always beaten the competition. "I slaughtered the Special Olympics," he muses. But that was before the arrival of Gabbo, the ventriloquist's dummy. "Gabbo Is Fabbo," gush the trade papers. Krusty is soon reduced to standing by the road with a sign that says, "Will Drop Pants For Food." Bart and Lisa to the rescue! They plan a comeback special and recruit Johnny Carson, Hugh Hefner, Bette Midler, Luke Perry, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the show. It's a smash, and so is "Krusty Gets Kancelled."

65
NORTHERN EXPOSURE
August 30, 1990

Who wouldn't want to live in Cicely, Alaska, the most mystical oasis in TV history? Something unusual is always happening in this border town that brims with imagination, but never more than in "The Aurora Borealis." When Bernard (Richard Cummings Jr.), a befuddled accountant, motorcycles into town, he and Chris, the DJ (John Corbett), discover they share more than a few genes. Meanwhile, Dr. Fleischman (Rob Morrow), stranded in the wild, comes face to face with the region's feared and mythical "bigfoot," Adam -- who ends up grudgingly teaching the doctor how to cook Chinese dumplings.

64
THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS
October 6, 1959

Dobie Gillis (Dwayne Hickman) was nothing if not ardent, and he was most ardent about the blond, avaricious Thalia (Tuesday Weld). In "The Best Dressed Man," Dobie, a grocer's son, only has eyes for Thalia, but she only has eyes for rich, fashionable Milton Armitage (Warren Beatty). Determined to beat the clotheshorse at his own game and win Thalia's heart, Dobie convinces the local haberdasher to outfit him in snappy duds as an advertisement for the man's store. To his sorrow, though, Dobie learns that, as far as Thalia's concerned, it takes more than clothes to make the man -- it takes deep pockets.

63
TAXI
September 25, 1979

"Reverend Jim" Ignatowski, a remnant of the '60s who's eaten one magic mushroom too many, is sitting at the bar in Mario's. Bobby (Jeff Conaway) comes up to him and says, "Hey, Jim, my friends and I were wondering if you'd like to come over and join us." Jim replies, "What did you decide?" "Reverend Jim: Space Odyssey" is a rolling snowball of laughs. First the cabbies have to persuade Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito) to take Jim on. Louie takes one look at the wild-eyed ex-hippie and says, "Get him outta here!" But Jim slips a tranquilizer into Louie's coffee, and the pint-size tyrant of Sunshine Cab Co. is soon crooning, "We were sailing along…on Moonlight Bay.…" Reverend Jim is in. All he has to do now is take a driver's test. He sits down, reads the first question, knits his brow, and whispers to the waiting cabbies, "What does a yellow light mean?" "Slow down!" Bobby whispers back. "OK," says Jim, "what…does…a…yellow…light…mean?"

62
THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES
October 14, 1964

Part sitcom, part silent movie, "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood" features the legendary Hollywood columnist, who convinces Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen, below, with Nancy Kulp) to buy a movie studio. She tells Clampett that to make "great pictures" he'll need "great stars" and takes him to Grauman's Chinese Theater. "Somebody has sure gone and messed up this poor man's cee-ment," Jed says. Soon he and Jethro (Max Baer Jr.) are paving over even Mary Pickford's prints. They're arrested. Hopper springs them, only to climb onto Jed's bulldozer herself: "Someday, Hollywood is going to thank me for this!"

61
CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?
February 15, 1962

Nat Hiken, one of the great comedy writers of TV's early years, had a commanding knowledge of men in uniform: Before creating New York City patrol-car cops Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon, he gave Sergeant Bilko marching orders. Joe E. Ross plays Toody, the stocky, nonsense-spouting motormouth; Fred Gwynne is Muldoon, his tall, thin, dour, college-educated partner. In "How Smart Can You Get?" the NYPD's personnel department decides that Toody and Muldoon are too mismatched to be partners and pairs Muldoon with a rookie named Corrigan (Richard Morse), a Harvard graduate. Muldoon eventually becomes so preoccupied with Corrigan's highbrow conversation that he drives right past crimes in progress -- and ends the episode pleading to be reunited with Toody. That's the deal with great TV odd couples: Nothing breaks them up, no matter how odd they are.

60
MURDER ONE
September 19, 1995

This galvanizing courtroom thriller comes on like gangbusters. "Chapter 1," its first episode, introduces a decadent Hollywood bad boy (Jason Gedrick), an evil millionaire (Stanley Tucci), and an underage blonde found murdered in her bedroom. Called in to plumb this moral cesspool is Teddy Hoffman (Daniel Benzali), a lawyer of irreproachable integrity. Benzali is the most commanding TV presence since John Houseman. But this incisive debut is also equipped with startlingly glossy visual panache and a brisk, Byzantine script, courtesy of creator and executive producer Steven Bochco. It all adds up to a television program as slick, stylish, and satisfying as anything you're likely to see at the local cineplex.

59
GREEN ACRES
April 3 &10, 1968

It is the theatrical event of the season: the Hooterville Barn & Repertory Co.'s staging of "Who." (The full title of the play was "Who Killed Jock Robin?" -- but only one word will fit on the marquee, an old wooden plank.) Sophia Loren is supposed to star in the 12-act mystery, but she is unavailable. Newt Kiley's police dog, Columbo, is set to appear but bows out. Arnold the pig steps in. The big ham gets rave reviews, and in "A Star Named Arnold Is Born," he's off to Hollywood for a screen test. Arnold doesn't last long in Tinseltown, but for one shining moment a star is born. And why not? Arnold has nearly as much range as Eva Gabor.

58
THE ODD COUPLE
November 12, 1971

In "Fat Farm," Felix (Tony Randall) somehow convinces junk-food junkie Oscar (Jack Klugman) to join him at a health spa run by a dictatorial diet guru and staffed by large, humorless attendants. The show's usual great one-liners -- "I watched him eating six hot dogs during the game, and he only chewed two" -- are supplemented with terrific physical gags. When Oscar smuggles in deli contraband, Felix blows the whistle on him, guards confiscate Oscar's pastrami, and the doctor expels him. It's a perfectly seasoned recipe for delicious, high-calorie comedy.

57
ON THE AIR
June 20, 1992

In this hellzapoppin' parody of live TV in the '50s, a show starring matinee idol Lester Guy (Ian Buchanan) is nearing airtime. The director spews orders in an incomprehensible German accent. The broadcast of The Lester Guy Show (also the episode's title) is a debacle. At one point, a jealous, gun-wielding husband rushes home to catch his wife with Lester, who has somehow managed to step into a noose and is slowly swinging across the room. "It's not what you think," he croaks. Sure it is: inspired burlesque.

REWIND
"There was a lot of laughter on the set," says Buchanan of the series, which lasted threeepisodes. "Maybe we were too happy. Everybody I knew on successful shows was miserable."

56
THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW
March 29, 1954

It was a foolproof formula. George was the straightman; Gracie's scatterbrained sense of logic and inability to match pronouns with their antecedents did the rest. Case in point: "Columbia Pictures Doing Burns & Allen Story." The studio wants to make the couple's life stories and sends a team of screenwriters to the house for background. Getting nowhere with Gracie ("Were you the oldest in the family?" they ask her. "No, no. My mother and father were much older"), they inquire about George's old vaudeville partners. Announcer-pal Harry Von Zell, in all innocence, mentions Jimmy Pierce. "They worked together several months, then Pierce left George when he got married. George told me he has a wife and four sons in San Diego." That's all Gracie has to hear. TV comedy's greatest broken-field runner is off to the races -- certain George is a bigamist.

55
THE PRISONER
September 21, 1968

In this radical series, Patrick McGoohan played a character known only as Number 6 -- who, after angrily resigning from a top-secret organization, is abducted to "the village," a high-tech prison disguised as a placid English resort. Each week saw him resist the efforts of a different warder, always designated Number 2, to break his spirit. Who was Number 6? Why had he resigned? Who were his captors? In "Fall Out," the haunting finale, McGoohan finally meets Number 1 and tears a monkey mask from the man's face only to confront -- himself! What did it all mean? Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly may have put it best: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

54
THE COSBY SHOW
October 10, 1985

Cliff Huxtable's parents, Russell and Anna (Earle Hyman and Clarice Taylor), are celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary, and Cliff and Clair (Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad) want to do something nice for them. In "Happy Anniversary," they commission a portrait and surprise the couple with a cruise to Europe. They also throw a dinner party in their Brooklyn brownstone, and after the meal, Cliff and Clair's children, college student Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), 16-year-old Denise (Lisa Bonet), 14-year-old Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), wisecracking 8-year-old Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe), and irrepressible 5-year-old Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam) join their parents and entertain Grandma and Grandpa by staging an impromptu production number on the stairs, lip-synching favorite tunes such as Ray Charles' "Night Time Is the Right Time." By showing the three generations of Huxtables together, this episode -- heartwarming without being sappy -- made implicit the series' underlying message: Strong, positive children are parents' most important, invaluable legacy.

53
THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
November 15, 1955

Always looking for an angle, Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Phil Silvers) is delighted when Corporal Ed "The Stomach" Honigan transfers into his troop in "The Eating Contest." Bilko quickly arranges a high-stakes eating contest at Fort Baxter. But Honigan -- played hilariously by a boyish, rail-thin Fred Gwynne (in his TV debut) -- eats only when he's miserable, and he's already over the girl from Tulsa who jilted him. This predicament sets Bilko, the unregenerate con man, into his most glorious, manipulative overdrive.

52
GILLIGAN'S ISLAND
October 3, 1966

In "The Producer," Hollywood deal-maker Harold Hecuba (Phil Silvers) is looking for talent in "out-of-the-way places" when his plane crashes on our favorite tropical isle. To impress the impresario, the castaways mount a musical version of "Hamlet" with Gilligan (Bob Denver) in the title roll. It ain't Shakespeare, but it does get the producer's attention.

He quickly rechristens it "Harold Hecuba's Hamlet" and swipes all the singing parts for himself (a quicksilver bit of shtick for Silvers, above, with cast). At the end of this inventive episode, Hecuba steals away -- and steals the idea -- leaving a sadder but wiser Gilligan to pronounce the moral: "Well, that's showbiz."

51
PERRY MASON
October 17, 1963

Weren't all Perry Mason mysteries basically the same? Didn't the burly barrister (Raymond Burr) do the same thing every week: gain an acquittal? Not in "The Case of the Deadly Verdict." After almost 200 consecutive courtroom victories, Mason actually loses a murder trial to prosecutor Hamilton Burge. No need to alert the media; Perry's loss is already headline news. Client Janice Barton (Julie Adams) is convicted of murder and sentenced to the gas chamber. Perry and his ace sleuth, Paul Drake (William Hopper), use the rest of the hour to find the real killer. A gripping, precedent-setting episode in which Perry really earns his fee.

Go to number 25.......or back to the top. 50
THE BOB NEWHART SHOW
February 12, 1977

After a close call in the office elevator shaft, deadpan Bob takes on the panicky manner of his phobic patient Mr. Herd (Oliver Clark). "Death Be My Destiny," a deft blend of the dramatic and daffy, has a great running gag about the correct name of the Grim Reaper, from Uncle Death to Old Father Time. "I felt icy fingers up and down my spine," says Bob of his experience. That wasn't death, wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) reassures him. "That's old Black Magic."

49
HILL STREET BLUES
February 2, 1984

Henry Goldblume (Joe Spano) is wrapping up the morning turnout when Captain Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) announces that Sgt. Phil Esterhaus has died of a heart attack at age 55. "This is going to be a difficult day," he says. "I know the caution Phil would urge you: Be careful out there." It would be a terrible day for the grieving officers, especially Joe Coffey (Ed Marinaro), whose girlfriend (guest star Linda Hamilton) is raped. Esterhaus's death was no ratings stunt -- Michael Conrad, who played him, had died just two months before. But "Grace Under Pressure" gives Phil a droll exit: His last act was making love. It's just the kind of offbeat and human touch that made Hill Street one of TV's most inventive cop series.

REWIND
"I remember Michael's last day on the set," says Charles Haid, who played Renko. "He was very weak; he worked for about a year with cancer. But we took an event that was sad and profound and got a laugh out of it. That's the way life ought to be."

48
BEWITCHED
May 5, 1966

Facing a tight deadline on the Stern Chemical account, overworked adman Darrin Stephens (Dick York) has to cancel a vacation with his beautiful witch of a wife Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery). Or does he? "It's a pity you can't take the fun side of him and leave the work side at home," ponders Samantha's prankish, Pucci-clad mother, Endora, who promptly splits her son-in-law in two. In an athletic double performance by York, Darrin's hedonistic half becomes a Watusi-ing mass of irresponsibility, while his workaholic half is so all-business he nearly runs client Sanford Stern (Frank Maxwell) and boss Larry Tate (David White) into the ground. "Divided He Falls" was so delicious that when Dick Sargent replaced York on the show in 1969, the first episode he filmed was a remake of this one.

47
ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS
July 24, 1994 (U.S.)

"Chanel! Dior!…Gaultier, darling! Names, names, names!" Thus spake Edina (Jennifer Saunders) to Patsy, summarizing the essence of their existences. Not so much victims of fashion as of their own excesses, they are the drunken, drug-soaked detritus of once-swinging London feeding off the rag trade -- Edina as a PR rep, Patsy as a fashion editor. The pilot of this British import sets up Edina's topsy-turvy relationship with her prim daughter (Julia Sawalha): It's Mom who sneaks drinks and drugs behind the teenager's back. Saunders and Lumley are unafraid to look shabby; Edina and Patsy are swaddled in designer labels, but their shriveled souls are laid hilariously bare.

46
BROOKLYN BRIDGE
September 20, 1991

Grandpa (Louis Zorich) has been telling whoppers about the old country again. There's nothing uncommon about that in this sitcom about three generations of a Russian-Jewish family assimilating to life in Brooklyn in 1956. But in "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," after Grandpa has bragged to his younger grandson (Matthew Louis Siegel) about how back in Russia he had played baseball against Brooklyn Dodgers star Gil Hodges, the youngster goes to a Hodges autograph session and asks the Dodger about the old Russian Bears. Gil gamely plays along. The grandfather tells the great first baseman, "You should know what a mensch is. Because that's you."

That kind of sweetness and nostal-gia suffused this resonant series, the brainchild of Family Ties creator Gary David Goldberg. The American melting pot has never looked as warm and inviting.

45
CHEERS
September 24, 1987

"Home Is the Sailor" begins when Sam Malone (Ted Danson), back from his disastrous attempt to sail around the world, walks into his former bar and barely recognizes it -- most of the regulars are gone. Only Carla (Rhea Perlman) and Woody (Woody Harrelson) are left, uncomfortably outfitted in the polyester uniforms required by Cheers' new owner. Sam wants work, but Carla warns him that the new manager "eats live sharks for breakfast." Enter intoxicating Rebecca Howe, a confident and capable bar belle. Sam brags about his sexual prowess, and she rebuffs him, unable to decide if his lame come-ons are "disgusting or merely pathetic." Sam is momentarily shaken and most definitely stirred. Hey, wait a second, hadn't we already sampled a brew-haha like this? Yeah, but we couldn't wait to be served another round.

44
ST. ELSEWHERE
February 19 & 20, 1986

The past is the bridge to the present -- and you never stop paying the toll. So suggests "Time Heals," a masterwork of dramatic writing that proves this most-eccentric medical series was also the most mature and imaginative. The saga of St. Eligius Hospital's 50-year history is told mostly through the flashbacks of longtime employees. Every move, every utterance activates our twenty-twenty hindsight: When Dr. Westphall forgets to bring home ice cream one night, we already know that the action will trigger the tragedy of his life; when the maintenance man stuffs insulation into the new emergency room's ceiling, we know it's filled with cancer-causing asbestos. This two-parter underscores the lie of its title: On St. Elsewhere, time merely puts a bandage on the wound and hopes you find your way home.

43
FRASIER
October 4, 1994

Deftly using assumptions about sexuality as grist for farce, "The Matchmaker" details a mixed-up first date. Hoping to fix up Daphne (Jane Leeves), Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) invites his station manager, Tom (Eric Lutes), to dinner, unaware he's gay. During the meal, delicately used pronouns fuel Tom's misconception that he's dating Frasier, who misreads Tom's interest for an attraction to Daphne. When Frasier learns the truth, he's stunned. "What on earth could have made him think I was interested in him?" he says. "All I did was ask him if he was attached, and then we talked about the theater and men's fashions.…Oh, my God!"

42
LEAVE IT TO BEAVER
October 11, 1957

The gentle tone of this definitive '50s series was already set by its second episode, "Captain Jack." Raw eggs, Mom's beauty cream, and Dad's brandy have been disappearing for weeks before June and Ward Cleaver (Hugh Beaumont and Barbara Billingsley) figure out that Wally and "the Beav" are hiding something big -- a pet alligator. The suburbs are no place for the scaly beast, however, so Ward and June make the boys return Captain Jack, as the creature is called, to his namesake, a crusty alligator-farm operator (Edgar Buchanan). And rather than grounding Wally and the Beav for getting a gator behind their backs, Ward and June buy their sons a puppy. So much for pet peeves.

41
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
March 13, 1960

It's 8 A.M. in Las Vegas, and a desperate gambler (Steve McQueen) is down to $1.86 and one last chip. A strange man proposes an even stranger wager: If McQueen gets his cigarette lighter to ignite 10 times in a row, he wins Lorre's convertible. And if he can't? He forfeits the little finger on his left hand. One. Two. Three. Four. The suspense builds in "Man From the South." Five. Six. Seven. At eight, the Zippo fails. But before Lorre's cleaver falls, his irate wife (Katherine Squire) appears. All bets are off. "He has no car! It is mine. I managed to win it all…in the end," she gloats, brandishing a hand missing three fingers. A deliciously macabre twist, even for the master.

40
WKRP IN CINCINNATI
October 30, 1978

TV shows traditionally greet holidays with a hug, but not WKRP. In "Turkeys Away," which was based on a true story, station manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) announces plans to unveil a secret promotional event, and newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) shows up at the local mall to cover it live. A helicopter comes into view. Mr. Carlson is aboard. So are 20 live turkeys -- which, to Les's horror, are hurled to their deaths. "Oh, the humanity," Les wails, evoking the Hindenberg while fowl balls plummet to the parking lot. Mr. Carlson is shocked. "As God is my witness," he says, "I thought turkeys could fly."

REWIND
"Richard had tapes of the Hindenberg disaster," says Loni Anderson, who played Mr. Carlson's secretary, "and practiced his broadcast to sound real. He was a perfectionist."

39
THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW
November 13, 1996

Larry (Garry Shandling) is convinced that upcoming guest David Duchovny has a crush on him. When D.D. sends him a jacket emblazoned "The Truth Is Out There," Larry panics -- until he realizes it's The X-Files' motto. Duchovny, deftly toying with his leading-man status, continues to send mixed signals and progressively unnerve Larry. Finally, Larry confronts his guest, who says he's sorry, he wishes he were gay because he finds Larry so attractive. The truth is out there: "Everybody Loves Larry," which also features a subplot about Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) feuding with singer Elvis Costello over a sports car, is a standout, even by Sanders' perfect-pitch standards.

REWIND
"I'm supposed to be this racing-car guy," says Costello, "but I didn't even learn to drive a car till I was 35, which I know is completely unbelievable to Americans: Don't you learn to drive when you're, like, 9?"

38
MY SO-CALLED LIFE
November 10, 1994

A far cry from Happy Days, this series took on the anguish and anticipation of high school in the '90s. "Life of Brian" begins with a dance. No one wants to go. Everyone wants to go. Geeky Brian (Devon Gummersall) wants to ask Angela (Claire Danes). She wants to go with cool Jordan (Jared Leto). Rickie (Wilson Cruz), who's gay, has a crush on Corey (Adam Biesk), who likes Rayanne (A.J. Langer). But the counselor doesn't think Rayanne, who has a drug problem, should go. It's sad and embarrassing, like high school if you're still in it, and hilarious, which is what high school becomes after you've survived it.

37
THE BRADY BUNCH
December 10, 1971

Hey! Hey! She's a Brady -- and the president of her local Davy Jones fan club. Marcia cockily promises to get the singer to play at the prom. She and her sibs try several subterfuges, and she finally gets her man. She even gets to peck his cheek. The unstated joke, of course, is the show's choice of teen idols. The Monkees had split up two years earlier, and Jones was desperately trying to jump-start a solo career. But that sense of terminal unhipness -- filtered through Marcia's sunny personality -- is precisely why we love The Brady Bunch, and especially "Getting Davy Jones."

36
NYPD BLUE
October 12, 1993

Before David Schwimmer became a household name as Ross on Friends, he left his mark on this dynamic series in "True Confessions." His twitchy, nebbishy lawyer Josh Goldstein was a neighbor of Det. John Kelly's estranged wife. When Goldstein, whom Kelly calls 4B (his apartment number), is mugged, he becomes obsessed with revenge. Though Kelly (David Caruso) tries to get him to give up his gun, 4B doesn't listen and, in a shoot-out with a mugger, gets blown away. We, too, were blown away by the emotional finality of losing a character with whom we had empathized so deeply.

35
ELLEN
April 30, 1997

Ellen (Ellen DeGeneres) is getting ready for a date. Finally, Paige (Joely Fisher) asks through the door, "Ellen, are you coming out or not?" Indeed, Ellen's coming out to her therapist (Oprah Winfrey) and Susan was actually three years in the making and cause for much media hype. But what distinguishes this hour-long show, dubbed "The Puppy Episode" to keep its plot secret, is some of the sharpest comedy TV can offer. When an offended Ellen accuses Susan of recruiting her to homosexuality, Susan says, "I'll have to call national headquarters and tell 'em I lost you. Damn -- just one more, and I would have gotten that toaster oven!" And after Ellen accidentally blurts "I'm gay" over a loudspeaker, she says, "That felt so great -- and it felt so loud." It sure did.

REWIND
"For a lot of people, this was like Jackie Robinson in the major leagues," says David Anthony Higgins, who plays Ellen's coworker Joe. "I feel like, in my tiny part, I kind of made a little television history."

34
MOONLIGHTING
October 15, 1985

Hosted by Orson Welles, who died just five days before it aired, this stylized, mostly black-and-white episode of Moonlighting blended the series' trademark banter and sexual tension with an unusual homage to film noir. In "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice," a visit to a once-hot nightspot prompts Maddie and David to dream their own versions of an old, unsolved murder. In Maddie's mind, her songbird character falls for David's horn-blowing charmer, who schemes to kill her husband; his version paints him as the innocent, framed by a conniving woman. In both dreams they make love, something that would remain merely fantasy for the characters for another two years.

33
SEINFELD
October 30, 1991

In this series that set the TV industry on its ear by boasting, proudly and subversively, that it was "about nothing," "The Parking Garage" is the ultimate nothing episode. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer can't find their car in a mall parking garage and walk around looking for it. That's it. But we've come to know the idiosyncrasies and neuroses of these characters so well that we enjoy seeing them splash down in the shallow pond of a minor dilemma and sink to the bottom, while arguing about the best stroke to use to get to shore. It's theater of the absurd: "Four Characters in Search of an Exit Ramp." The whole requires remarkable writing and acting, and a pact with the audience never to take anything too seriously. That's not nothing -- that's everything.

32
HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET
October 18, 1996

An actor at his peak, a script that burns with intelligence and compassion, and an opportunity to have art imitate life in a way that blurs the line between fact and fiction. It's all here, as the Baltimore homicide department takes on a double killing at the state prison. Lifer Elijah Sanborn witnessed the murder, but won't snitch -- until the cops dangle the future of his long-estranged son, now in trouble, in front of him. It's a heartless squeeze that propels the past back at Sanborn like an exploding rocket. What gives "Prison Riot" its teeth is Dutton, who actually spent seven and a half years in prison for killing a man on those same Baltimore streets. There's hard-earned truth in his acting, and it takes this outstanding series to a new level.

31
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
November 3, 1961

The premise of "It's a Good Life" is simple. A tiny town is cut off from reality by 6-year-old Anthony Freemont, who combines a child's naturally amoral selfishness with limitless mental powers. Trapped in a nightmare where a mere negative thought can get them "sent to the cornfield" (i.e., winked out of existence), the terrified townspeople struggle to stay cheerful in hell. The show's impact has never lessened: On a recent episode of The Drew Carey Show, Drew's visiting parents go missing. "Oh, no," he says, "I hope I haven't wished them into the cornfield." It was a tribute to a classic.

30
PLAYHOUSE 90
October 12, 1956

It's Thursday night, nearly 9:30 in New York City, and backstage the cast is nervous: After all, it's live TV. We fade to a boxing arena as a fight ends, and Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" steps into the ring. Jack Palance is all angles and pain as the childlike coulda-been-a-contender "Mountain"

McClintock, needing to remake his life and reeling from a low blow by a manager who'll humiliate him to square a gambling debt. The glory of the Golden Age of Television rests on the broad shoulders of this single show, which proved the medium's power and what it could do when it, like "Mount," refused to take a dive.

29
THE WONDER YEARS
March 29, 1988

No series captured that tender, awkward waltz of the father-son relationship better, and especially in "My Father's Office," as it asks: What does my father do on the job, and why does he come home so grumpy? To find out, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) accompanies his dad (Dan Lauria) to work. There, as Kevin thrills to his dad's command and power, the boss rips his father to mortifying shreds. Later, as the Arnold men gaze at the suburban night sky, Kevin has a bittersweet realization: This wasn't at all what his dad wanted to be when he grew up. It's enough to make you cry…every time.

REWIND
"Fred came up with the funniest thing," recalls Lauria. "When I walked into the house all mad, he followed in right behind me the same way. Everyone fell on the floor!"

28
GUNSMOKE
October 1, 1966

Guest stars on TV shows are usually window dressing. Only once in a very great while do they put their indelible stamp on an episode and make it theirs, and almost never does their one appearance elevate the entire series to a whole new level of excellence. But that's precisely what Bette Davis did for Gunsmoke in "The Jailer" as a crazed woman poisoned by revenge fantasies against Marshall Dillon (James Arness). From Davis's entrance -- that widow's black dress, that hoarse and crackling voice biting off and spitting out lines like, "Don't talk flippant; y'ain't in no position" (and, yes, those Bette Davis eyes) -- you can feel the power come roaring from the picture tube across the room at you. Davis takes a simple role and plays it like Medea, turning an ordinary horse opera into something akin to Greek tragedy. A peach-fuzzed Bruce Dern and an impossibly young Tom Skerritt peek out from Davis's shadow.

27
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
September 15, 1973

The Twin Cities become the Sin Cities when Betty White makes her MTM debut in "The Lars Affair" as Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker. Actually, happy home wrecker is more like it. Invited to one of Mary's classically disastrous parties, the ever-smiling Sue Ann offers her hostess some cleaning tips, then sweeps up Phyllis's never-seen dermatologist husband, Lars, and leaves the party with him. Mary and Rhoda (Valerie Harper) are baffled -- Sue Ann, after all, is an unlikely seductress. In fact, she's exactly the sort of woman you'd leave for someone else. But Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) has the perfect explanation for her husband's unfaithfulness: her own inexhaustible feminine allure. "I've been too much of a real woman," she declares. In the '70s, adultery was not an issue frequently handled on television, certainly not on a sitcom, but this cheating heart was served up with wit and style.

26
THE HONEYMOONERS
October 1, 1955

Alice (Audrey Meadows) is dying to have a TV set. But cheapskate Ralph (Jackie Gleason) lamely claims he's holding off until 3-D TV is developed. He finally agrees to go in halfsies with Norton, rigging a coin toss so the set stays in the Kramden apartment. No sooner is the set plugged in than Ralph becomes a total zombie to the new medium, the very archetype of the couch potato: scientifically determining (in a priceless piece of physical comedy) exactly where to place his snack food so no effort is required to reach it; fighting with Norton, who wants to sit in front of the set with his space helmet on to watch Captain Video; and finally falling asleep with the tube on. "TV or Not TV" was the first episode in The Honeymooners' one and only season. All 38 shows that came after met its brilliantly simple, hilarious standard.

Go to number 1

25
TWIN PEAKS
April 8, 1990

A bird cocks its head. Smokestacks belch exhaust. A sawmill's blades shoot sparks. A guitar plays a dreamy, sensuous adagio as white water crashes over the falls and then gently flows to Laura Palmer, the golden girl of Twin Peaks, washed up dead onshore, wrapped in plastic. This is how the self-titled premiere episode ushered us into the shocking, surreal, sui generis world of Twin Peaks, a piney realm populated with bizarre characters -- barking teens, a mystical FBI agent, a finger-snapping, dancing midget. Director David Lynch's risky, murky, over-the-top amalgam of murder mystery, soap opera, and phantasmagoria left an indelible impression on the medium.

REWIND
"The town, Snoqualmie, Washington, didn't like us being there," recalls M -- dchen Amick (Shelly) of the show's location. "But when we went back to do the film, they greeted us with open arms."

24
THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW
September 30, 1963

This series was at its down-home best when it focused on the sweet relationship between Sheriff Taylor (Griffith) and Opie (Ron Howard), a bond endearingly explored in "Opie the Birdman." After accidentally killing a mother bird with his slingshot, Opie dutifully raises her three nestlings until they are big enough to fly. After releasing them, Opie sadly notes how empty their cage looks. "It sure does," answers his proud and knowing pa as he watches the birds swoop skyward, "but don't the trees seem nice and full?" And aren't our lives nicer and fuller for having dallied in Mayberry?

23
THE FUGITIVE
August 29, 1967

After a four-year marathon of running and chasing and hiding -- always one step ahead of the tireless Lieutenant Gerard (Barry Morse) and one step behind the nefarious one-armed man (Bill Raisch) -- how would it end for Dr. Richard Kimble? On a warm Tuesday night, 25.7 million American households tuned in to find out. What they got was a flashback to a senseless murder; a cowardly eyewitness who could have cleared Kimble; a suspenseful fight atop a tower in an abandoned amusement park; a confession; and, ironically, Kimble's obsessed pursuer, who becomes his sharpshooting rescuer. "The Judgment, Part II" was one of those rare TV events that the whole country seemed to share.

22
THIRTYSOMETHING
May 15 & 22, 1990

The signal achievement of "The Towers of Zenith," a two-part episode about a hostile corporate takeover, is that it turns dry boardroom machinations into an electrifying suspense thriller: "All the President's Men" meets "Wall Street." Michael (Ken Olin) and Elliot (Timothy Busfield) are caught up in an age-old play of ambition versus loyalty in their attempts to wrest control of their ad agency from their ingeniously calculating boss, Miles Drentell (David Clennon). It's chilling, unforgettable television with dazzling work on every level.

REWIND
"I was a hit-and-run type of character," says David Clennon. "I'd drop in and do these tight, powerfully written scenes."

21
ROSEANNE
October 5, 1993

When Roseanne finds a baggieful of pot in one of the kids' rooms, she's angry -- and worried about how Dan (John Goodman) is going to react. (He has been in a foul mood since being promoted to foreman.) He does go ballistic -- until he realizes the stash is a 20-year-old relic of his and Roseanne's youth. Inevitably, they roll a joint for old times' sake, and before you can say "Like, wow," Dan, Roseanne, and her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), are adrift in a Cheech-and-Chong time warp. At first, they have fun sneaking around like they did in the '70s, hoping not to get busted by their children. But then adult realities stick a sharp pin in their buzz. "A Stash From the Past" is a wise, waggish, and exceedingly daring episode from a sitcom renowned for its unflinching audacity.

20
M*A*S*H
March 18, 1975

If war is hell, the staff of the M*A*S*H 4077th unit was in the inferno's innermost circle. In "Abyssinia, Henry," the hospital's beloved commander, Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), is going home to his family in Illinois. After a night of wine, wontons, and song, and a touching good-bye with his surrogate son, Radar, Henry takes off on a plane that is shot down over the Sea of Japan. When Radar stumbles into the operating theater with the news, it is a shattering moment -- a measure of just how precious these characters had become to us.

19
TAXI
May 21, 1981

Poor Latka -- sick and tired of being the lovable, but lonely, grease monkey at the Sunshine Cab Co. All he wants is to become "an American fun guy taking each day in high gear" -- which for him would require inventing a whole new type of transmission. And that's just what he does. Laden with copies of Playboy and a tape of a smooth-talking FM DJ, Latka (Andy Kaufman) goes off "to alter my lifestyle to fit the fast lane." He returns with a flashy new lounge-lizard alter ego: Vic Ferrari -- slick, suave, oversexed, and beyond obnoxious. Showing off Kaufman's genius for utilizing multiple personalities (Latka started out as Foreign Man, one of Kaufman's uncanny comedy-club guises), "Latka the Playboy" was an inventive, outrageous episode that led to equally imaginative sequels -- and even more splintering of Latka's breakaway ego. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice a pre-Cheers George Wendt in a bit part as an exterminator in this wonderful episode.

18
I LOVE LUCY
April 16, 1956

We could describe this episode as the one in which the famous redhead gets into trouble trying to break into show business. But that synopsis would cover almost every I Love Lucy. So let's amend things to say that in this outing Lucy gets into a bunch of trouble. On the train to Rome, site of one of Ricky's European gigs, Lucy is spied by an Italian movie producer who thinks she'd be perfect for a role in his new film, "Bitter Grapes." Determined to research her role, Lucy hies herself to a vineyard where she's assigned the job of stomping grapes. That leads to some uproariously funny folk-dance moves -- and a near stomping by her testy co-worker. "Lucy's Italian Movie" is a vat of fun, stirred up by Ball's inimitable, extravagant flair for slapstick.

17
THE SIMPSONS
April 15, 1990

A Simpsons episode très extraordinaire! Principal Skinner ships Bart off to France as an exchange student because of a cherry-bomb-in-the-toilet incident. ("I have a weakness for the classics," the young vandal explains.) This allows The Simpsons' creative team to deal with a few classics of their own, as Bart rides through a French countryside that looks suspiciously like famous paintings, one after another. "We had to figure out a way to draw those paintings in a Simpson style," recalls director Wes Archer. That eye-popping sequence helped push this episode past all the other crackerjack Simpsons clamoring for a spot on this roster. Even without it, "The Crepes of Wrath" is more savory than Provençal cuisine, as Bart is enslaved by his wine-making sponsors while, back home, an Albanian exchange student-spy relieves Homer of countless nuclear secrets. And while foiling a plot to lace the Beaujolais with anti-freeze, Bart discovers he can speak fluent French! Incroyable! "The Crepes of Wrath" is vintage Simpsons.

16
COLUMBO
September 15, 1971

"'Uh, sir? There's only one more thing I'm not clear about.' 'Uh, ma'am, I'm making a pest of myself, but.…'" These words were like nails on a chalkboard or, more to the point, nails in the coffin for Lieutenant Columbo's suspects, murderers who constantly made the mistake of overestimating their smarts and underestimating his. Behind the scenes of "Murder by the Book," the first Columbo episode of the regular series (two earlier mysteries starring the disheveled detective were made-for-TV movies), star Peter Falk almost underestimated the talent of his young director (whose scant credits included an installment of Rod Serling's Night Gallery). He was some kid named, uh…uh…Steven Spielberg. But Falk gave him a chance and reaped the reward: Spielberg turned out a sleek, stylishly shot, and suspenseful thriller. The masterful script, written by another kid named Steven Bochco, centers on a smarmy coauthor of best-selling mysteries who kills his more-talented partner to prevent him from going solo. The cunning cat-and-mouse interplay between Falk and Cassidy set the tone for the entire series. Cassidy went on to be the culprit in two other Columbos. As for Spielberg and Bochco -- well, where are they now?

15
THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
February 6, 1963

Of The Dick Van Dyke Show's characters, Rob Petrie was the one who usually kept his head, while Sally, Buddy, Laura, and Mel were losing theirs all around him. That's a big part of the appeal of this utterly surreal episode, in which Rob seems to be losing not just his head but his imagination -- and both his thumbs. He stays up late one night watching a thriller about an alien from the planet Twilo who wants to take over the world. The extraterrestrial has eyes in the back of his head, eats walnuts, speaks with a British accent, and looks just like Danny Thomas -- in fact, the creature is played by Thomas himself, who, insiders know, co-owned the company that created The Dick Van Dyke Show. People who are exposed to Absorbitron, a chemical the alien possesses, lose their thumbs and their imaginations. When Rob wakes up the next morning, he finds the living-room carpet strewn with walnuts. In the kitchen, a smiling Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) opens an egg carton and offers him a walnut omelette for breakfast. At work, Buddy (Morey Amsterdam) is eating walnuts, not his usual pistachios, and there are walnuts in Rob's typewriter. Is Rob, pardon the expression, cracking up? He thinks so -- until he wakes up from his nutty nightmare. Seventeen-hundred walnuts were used in "It May Look Like a Walnut"; the ones that didn't open on cue were sent back, and that is what executive producer Sheldon Leonard wanted to do with the extravagant script when he first read it. But when Leonard saw how well the inventive walnut episode played in front of an audience, he gave it the thumbs-up.

14
WISEGUY
February 22, 1988

On its surface, Wiseguy was just one more action show created by Stephen J. Cannell (Hunter, The A-Team), this one about undercover Fed Vinnie Terranova. But the series pioneered an unusual structure: multiepisode arcs that unfolded like miniseries within the series. Over the weeks, viewers, like Vinnie, came to know and even identify with the bad guys, sharing the peculiar intimacy the undercover agent has with his quarry. Wiseguy was about the seductiveness of evil, and rarely has evil been more appealing than in the form of sinister siblings Mel and Susan Profitt. Played with almost gleeful intensity by Spacey, Mel runs guns, topples governments, shoots dope, believes in the power of crystals, and admires 19th-century economist Thomas Malthus -- as well as his own sexy sister (Severance). In "Blood Dance," Mel cracks when an agent shatters the crystal he believes harbors his soul. "Send me home," he begs his sis. She obliges, giving him a drug overdose and a Viking funeral.

13
ALL IN THE FAMILY
February 19, 1972

Six months before Sammy Davis Jr. hugged Richard Nixon at the Republican National Convention, he kissed America's most lovable bigot. Davis's guest appearance raised the groundbreaking sitcom's level of racial repartee to new heights. In "Sammy's Visit," Davis comes to Archie Bunker's home to retrieve a briefcase he left in Archie's cab. The script captures the mixed feelings someone like Davis might elicit from someone like Archie: Respect (Archie lets Davis sit in his chair) and awkwardness (the classic gaffe, "Do you take cream and sugar in your eye?") mingle with prejudice (Archie refuses to drink a toast from a glass that has touched Davis's lips). "If you were prejudiced, you'd go around thinking you're better than anyone else in the world, Archie," says Davis. "But I can honestly say you've proven to me that you ain't better than anybody!" This dis is followed by that kiss -- planted on a startled Archie. Davis, incidentally, was a huge AITF fan; he considered his guest shot here as thrilling as his first big break in showbiz.

REWIND
"I loved the statement this episode made," recalls Jean Stapleton, who played Archie's wife, Edith. "Sammy Davis Jr. was great. I've always had doubts about the use of a real-life person in a fictitious story, in terms of playwriting. But the whole thing worked, and that surprised me and opened my mind."

12
FAWLTY TOWERS
1980 (U.S.)

One of the rock-ribbed rules of American programming is: Nobody wants to watch a show about someone who isn't likable. (This is sometimes called the Dabney Coleman rule, after the actor who has had a few critically acclaimed but low-rated sitcoms about less-than-admirable characters.) Thus it falls to the British to give us an Absolutely Fabulous (see number 47) or a Fawlty Towers. Basil Fawlty -- the English innkeeper cocreated and portrayed by Monty Python alumnus John Cleese in 1975 (the U.S. debut came in 1980) -- is definitely not likable. He is, in fact, sly, sarcastic, suspicious, rude, raging, and resentful, particularly of his wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales). When Sybil starts a three-day hospital stay for an ingrown toenail -- coinciding with the arrival of German guests -- Fawlty's faults run riot in an achingly funny episode. "The Germans," which includes a talking moose head and a fire that breaks out during a fire drill, climaxes when Basil gets a concussion and cannot follow his own urgent advice to the inn's staff about their new guests: "Don't mention the war!" Not only does the befogged Fawlty mention it, but he launches into a hysterical Hitler impression; and the unforgettable sight of the 6'5'' Cleese goose-stepping through Fawlty Towers and shrieking in mock German puts "The Germans" high in our pantheon.

11
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
March 2, 1962

"Respectfully submitted for your perusal: a Kanamit," intones Rod Serling in his distinctive voice. "Height: a little over 9'. Weight: in the neighborhood of 350 pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs a tale." Serling's teasing introduction notwithstanding, the Kanamits' origin is obvious enough: They're from outer space. As for their motives -- well, they're here to help. At least that's what their "spokesman" -- a big, bald fellow with hugely protruding brain lobes -- tells the United Nations. A day after arriving, these well-meaning aliens are demonstrating new fertilizers that will eradicate famine. Thanks to Kanamit force-field technology, the nations of Earth no longer need armies, and in the spirit of transgalactic understanding, earthlings by the thousand soon rocket off on all-expenses-paid vacations to Kanamit. Too good to be true? You bet. The one real clue we have to Kanamit motives is a book of theirs. A government cryptographer, played by Lloyd Bochner, and his crew have translated the title as To Serve Man (also the name of the episode). It's only as Bochner himself is about to board the ship for Kanamit that his assistant (Susan Cummings) comes up with the episode's punch line -- and with it, the essence of edginess and bitter irony that made The Twilight Zone such a memorable place to visit: To Serve Man is a cookbook!

10
THE X-FILES
October 13, 1995

Though alien abductions, freaks of nature, and sinister conspiracies among governments-within-governments are its stock-in-trade, The X-Files is never more profound and moving than when it explores the heart in darkness: "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" is the finest achievement in a series that continues to break, then rewrite, the rules. It's a scary, sad, often marvelously goofy tale of a life-insurance salesman whose ability to predict people's deaths puts him in a serial killer's path; the premise serves as a jumping-off point for heavy-duty subjects like life after death, predestination, and the possibility of grace in a world of insane violence and despair. Peter Boyle gives an astonishing performance in this quirky death of a salesman -- his transitions in and out of trances are simply breathtaking. The episode marches to an unavoidable, but nonetheless amazing, conclusion. And when Scully (Gillian Anderson), who will soon be diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, asks Bruckman how and when she will die, he looks at her and mysteriously replies, "You don't." How can that be? How can she avoid the inevitable? What's in store for her…and us? For hard-core fans, it's The X-Files' supreme moment.

REWIND
Playing Bruckman was "a deep experience, not without struggle," says Boyle. "I'm in Vancouver, it's a cold August day, and I'm not smiling. When I play a character who has to die, it gets me a little depressed."

9
THE BOB NEWHART SHOW
November 22, 1975

"Over the River and Through the Woods," the craziest Bob Newhart Show episode of all time, begins sanely enough: Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) announces her intention to visit her family in Puget Sound over the Thanksgiving holiday; psychiatrist Bob begs off, saying he wants to be available to his neurotic patient, the endlessly depressed and depressing Mr. Carlin. But Carlin can't be happy unless he's making others miserable, so he invites himself over to watch football with Bob, Jerry (Bonerz), and ever-present neighbor Howard (Daily). Of course, there are certain customs that must be observed. "We take a slug of this every time the other team scores," says Jerry, offering an enormous jug of grain alcohol to Bob. Soon things get loco; it's a high-scoring game. Smashed, starving, and facing a frozen turkey, the boys consider cooking the bird at 2,000 degrees for a half hour -- but the oven only heats to 500. "Then we'll use four ovens," suggests Howard. That's when they decide to call out for Chinese food -- to be precise, for Moo Goo Gai Pan (to be more precise, for Moo Goo Goo Goo Gai Pan). And lots of it. So much that it has to be delivered with a hand truck. Luckily for Bob, Emily arrives just in time to pick up the tab -- and put on a pot of coffee.

8
THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
September 15, 1965

History's three best-kept secrets were the location of King Solomon's mines (never disclosed), the plans for D day (made manifest on June 6, 1944), and the fact that Alan Brady wore a toupee, which suddenly became common knowledge when Laura Petrie accidentally blabbed it to a national audience as a contestant on the "Pay As You Go" TV game show. Big oops. "What do you think Alan will do?" asks a quivery lipped, impeccably coiffed Laura (Mary Tyler Moore). "It's not what," replies her stammering husband and possibly soon-to-be-ex-Brady employee Rob (Dick Van Dyke), "but how." And indeed, in the bright, witty, Emmy-winning script for "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" that kicked off this magical series' fifth and final season, hell hath no fury like an egomaniacal TV star who's had the rug pulled out from over him. Series creator Carl Reiner, in one of his 12 appearances as Brady, is incensed and cutting, especially when addressing a desktop of heads, each sporting one of his wigs: "Fellas," says Reiner (who revealed his own baldness in this episode), "there she is -- there's the little lady who put you out of business." More than 30 years after it aired, "Big Mouth," a caustic meditation on male vanity and office etiquette, is still one of the most precise, cohesive, and funny half hours of TVever produced.

7
CHEERS
November 27, 1986

In "Thanksgiving Orphans," the holiday is looming, and most of the Cheers gang has nowhere to go. Diane's solution is simple: Why don't they gather at Carla's house? "What could be more enjoyable than opening your heart with holiday cheer?" she asks. Carla (Rhea Perlman) responds, "Opening yours with a can opener?" Nevertheless, Woody (Woody Harrelson), Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) agree to spend the holiday with Carla. As the afternoon wears on, they're joined by Sam (Ted Danson), Diane (Shelley Long), and Norm, who arrives with "birdzilla," a turkey so huge it takes all day to cook. Before this episode ends, nerves will fray, and the famished guests -- arguably the most adept sitcom ensemble ever cobbled together -- will indulge in the funniest food fight in TV history. The final arrival at the party is Norm's never-seen wife, Vera -- who winds up getting smacked in the kisser with a pie just before we catch sight of her face.

REWIND
"Throwing food is the most fun that you can possibly have," Perlman says of Carla's chuck-and-duck feast. "I don't know why we don't throw it at each other all the time. The world would be a better place."

6
THE HONEYMOONERS
January 28, 1956

Ralph Kramden's get-rich-quick schemes were a Honeymooners staple, but the pipe dream in "The $99,000 Answer" may be the funniest. The episode plays off the then-popular mania for quiz shows: Convinced beyond all reason that he will triumph on The $99,000 Answer, popular-music expert Ralph intensely prepares at home, aided by piano-playing pal Ed Norton (Art Carney), who warms up for each song with a few bars of "Swanee River." Of course, the second he's on live TV, Ralph's bravado vanishes. Going into the classic Kramden meltdown -- the eyes bugging, the lips quivering, the tongue stuttering "humminahummina" -- he identifies the composer of "Swanee River" as Norton before being escorted off-stage, reduced to an object of pure pity. Unlike most Honeymooners episodes, there's no redemption, no "Baby, you're the greatest" clinch with wife Alice. Of course, no actor could shift from humor to poignancy as deftly as Gleason.

5
THE ODD COUPLE
December 1, 1972

The password is "hilarious." Felix Unger and Oscar Madison were always perfectly mismatched. The two men -- one a neurotic neatnik, the other a compulsive slob -- had absolutely nothing in common except a Manhattan apartment. In "Password," Felix (Tony Randall) and Oscar (Jack Klugman) make the worst team since oil and water. The popular game-show host Allen Ludden is a fan of Oscar's sports columns, and approaches him to be a celebrity panelist playing against Ludden's real-life wife, Betty White.

Felix is ecstatic; he can be his roommate's partner. Oscar takes some convincing -- first to be on the show and then to be on it with Felix -- but he finally agrees. As bad choices go, this is right up there with Lincoln's decision to go to Ford's Theater. Speaking of the Great Emancipator, during one match, Felix hears the word mayonnaise and comes back with "Lincoln." Lincoln? Lincoln? As Felix explains, it's a well-known fact that Lincoln loved mayonnaise. The pair's utter failure to com-municate finds its fullest, most sidesplitting expression in this sparkling episode.

REWIND
"Hearing Jack and Tony talk to each other off-camera was hysterical," recalls White. "They both barked at each other in a grumpy way. You'd think they were fighting, but it was just small talk."

4
SEINFELD
February 12, 1992

How do we treasure "The Boyfriend"? Let us count the ways. This is the episode in which Jerry "dates" former New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez but eventually loses him to Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus); in which George (Jason Alexander) tries to get an extension on his unemployment benefits by fabricating a bogus job selling "latex and latex-related products"; in which Kramer (Michael Richards) ruins George's scam by forgetting to answer the phone as "Vandelay Industries," forcing George to come scurrying out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles; in which George sinks so low he even dates his caseworker's ugly daughter to ensure that his benefits continue; in which a pair of pixilated new parents keep nagging Jerry and Kramer, "You gotta see the baby"; in which Jerry sneers "Hello, Newman" for the first time; in which Kramer and Newman (Wayne Knight) unveil their own conspiracy theory in a brazen satire of the J.F.K./Zapruder film. Just about every other current TV comedy prays that it could come up in its entire run with as many time-capsule highlights as this single, one-hour episode contains. Seinfeld makes this funny, smart, ingenious, and risk-taking hour look effortless.

REWIND
"I was so nervous in front of a live audience," says Hernandez. "The cast was like, 'Why are you nervous? You have to get up in front of 50,000 people with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.' But doing that show was very nerve-racking."

3
ER
March 9, 1995

Sure, we know it's just actors speaking lines from a script on a soundstage.…But tell that to your pounding heart and explain it to your rocketing blood pressure and your dry throat and your panting lungs. After the explosive, almost-too-painful-to-watch "Love's Labor Lost" -- perhaps the most riveting, harrowing, and visceral hour of medical drama ever aired -- we all could use a stay in the recovery room. What seems like a routine day in the ER -- gunshot wounds, hemorrhoids, a guy who tries to remove one of his tattoos with a power sander -- turns sour for Dr. Mark Greene. Normally a steady hand at the throttle of the racing locomotive that is the ER, Greene derails: Distracted by personal and professional problems, he misdiagnoses a pregnant woman and begins a downward spiral of missteps and questionable procedures that continues until all present are in over their heads, panic is thick in the air, and, just as in real life, bad things happen to good people -- with shocking speed. Edwards' performance in this unforgettably scorching episode is his best work in this extraordinary series.

2
I LOVE LUCY
May 5, 1952

Fittingly, the show is pure Lucy -- sidekick Ethel (Vivian Vance) doesn't even have a cameo. As the Vitameatavegamin Girl on a TV variety show, Lucy Ricardo is supposed to "spoon her way to health," but instead gets totally snockered on the health elixir she's promoting. In the classic "Lucy Does a TV Commercial," Ball's talent for physical comedy is at its most vibrant and resourceful. Using her usual treachery to get the job, Lucy begins to run through her spot for the director (Ross Elliot). From the first spoonful she squeamishly swallows to her early, slightly sloshed queries -- "Do you pop out at parties? Are you unpoopular?" -- to her final drunken swig right out of the "bittle lottle," Ball builds the mirth to a riotous climax. After mangling the product's name in every imaginable way, Lucy finally resorts to calling it "this stuff." By any name, this heady concoction continues to make "happy, peppy people" of us all.

1
THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
October 25, 1975

One little miscalculation can just ruin your whole day. Take Chuckles the Clown, WJM-TV's kiddie-show host. Named grand marshal of the circus parade, he shows up dressed as Peter Peanut, and, as news director Lou Grant (Ed Asner) later explains to his troops, "a rogue elephant tried to shell him." And so begins "Chuckles Bites the Dust," unquestionably the best remembered, most discussed, most supremely influential episode of all time. Chuckles' nutty demise becomes the source of dark jokes for everyone in the office -- except somber Mary, who can't see the absurdity of the incident, the humor in the clown's passing…until the funeral when, in a sublime example of poor timing, it suddenly hits her during the eulogy. Surrounded by stony-faced mourners, striving to maintain proper decorum, squirming for control, trying to cover her giggles with coughs and throat clearings, Mary, finally lets loose. Surprisingly, the preacher encourages her unseemly outburst as something the deceased would have wanted. No sooner does he say, "So go ahead, my dear, laugh for Chuckles," than Mary breaks down in tears. This unforeseen final twist, and Moore's bravura bipolar performance, make this exquisite episode a sitcom landmark and proof positive that TV can explore a social taboo with sophistication, wit, irreverence, and impeccable good taste.

REWIND "During rehearsals," recalls Moore, "I cracked up every time I had to refer to one of Chuckles' characters: Mr. Fe-Fi-Fo. That would have confused the audience terribly. We didn't know right up until the camera was on if I was going to be able to pull it off without laughing."



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