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Home > Feature > TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time: #10-1
TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time: #10-1

TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time: #10-1
June 19, 2009 09:45 AM EST

From I Love Lucy to Lost and everything in between, we're counting down TV's finest. Check out the top ten episodes that made our list. Where does your favorite rank?

10. 24
"Season 1: 11PM-12AM" 5/21/2002

The actors were appalled, the network fought to stop it, but as the clock ticked toward midnight that first season on 24, everyone knew. “We had to kill off Teri Bauer,” says cocreator Joel Surnow. Fans had spent all season watching Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) sweat to save his wife, Teri, their daughter and the future president. “Usually on TV, goodness prevails and tragedy is averted as our hero wraps things up, but we took away the predictable,” Surnow says. Producers spent weeks arguing with Fox suits and convincing the cast that offing a major character made sense. The episode, says Surnow, “cast 24 as a show where anything could happen and anyone could die. It was like, “Oh, my God! What did I just see? I want to see more.”

"Cousin Maude's Visit" 12/11/1971

“We wanted to bring in a heavyweight who could belt Carroll O’Connor’s Archie as he deserved,” says creator Norman Lear, “and no one could be a cousin with a grudge like Bea Arthur.” The sparring began when Edith’s liberal cousin Maude arrived to bring relief to the flu-stricken Bunker household. “We knew two days into rehearsals that there was a show in Maude,” Lear recalls. The night the episode aired, network chief Fred Silverman called with an order: “That woman! That’s a series!”

"Nixon Vs. Kennedy" 10/11/2007

The penultimate episode of Mad Men’s first season was undoubtedly its climax: Adman Don Draper, aka Dick Whitman (Jon Hamm), is forced to confront the revelation of his false identity by nasty little blackmailer Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). The action unfolds on Election Day 1960, a notable date in creator Matthew Weiner’s metaphor-rich mind. “It was a great way to tell how Don was more like Nixon than Kennedy—an outsider and a self-made man,” he explains, while Pete and JFK shared youth and Ivy League cachet. The episode had two stunning set pieces: a poll-watching office party that gets out of hand and a battlefield flashback that explains Don’s macabre reinvention. Says Weiner, “Nixon lost and Don won, but it doesn’t feel like it. He’s just this poor, haunted guy.”

"Better Living Through TV" 11/12/1955

Here’s the template for generations of working-stiff big mouths brought low by their own bluster. Jackie Gleason’s self-deluding Ralph Kramden comes up with a surefire plan to make easy money—a gadget called the Handy Housewife Helper. (“It cores apples, it scales fish, it sharpens scissors, and there’s a little thing here that takes corns off your feet.”) Despite the advice of wife Alice (Audrey Meadows), he and true-blue sidekick Ed Norton (Art Carney) stage a hilariously disastrous commercial. “The genius of Gleason’s Kramden,” says ’Til Death star Brad Garrett, who played Gleason in a 2002 CBS biopic, “was that his schemes and frustrations were always a by-product of his desire to make a better life for him and Alice.” Garrett’s exactly right. “You can’t put your arms around a memory,” Ralph says to Alice, threatening to walk out if she doesn’t go along with his latest bad idea. She just gives him that look and says, “I can’t even put my arms around you.” But she does—every time. In other words, baby, they were the greatest.

6. ER
"Love's Labor Lost"

This heart-pounding race to save the life of a pregnant woman and her soon-to-be-born baby also offered a profoundly moving study in the moral growth of cocky young teaching doc Mark Greene (an outstanding Anthony Edwards). “I was on set watching the scene in the trauma room where the chaos escalated,” recalls executive producer Christopher Chulack. “There was a real high-intensity emotion in being there three feet away, and what came over the air was just as emotional. That’s a rare thing.”
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6/23/2009 3:14:06 AM
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