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Jan. 5th, 2007

So, I've been thinking a lot about television lately, more specifically about great episodes of television and what makes them so great. In the course of searching online for the script for "The Body" (which I never found--if anyone knows where I can read the actual Joss-penned teleplay, not just a transcript, I'd be your BFF) I found Creative Screenwriting's list of the seven best dramatic television episodes on DVD and I was surprised by how much their list overlapped with mine.

Their List:
1. Star Trek - "The Cage" by Gene Roddenberry
2. Twin Peaks - Pilot by Mark Frost & David Lynch
3. The X-Files - "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" by Darin Morgan
4. ER - "Love's Labor Lost" by Lance Gentile
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - "The Body" by Joss Whedon
6. The West Wing - "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" by Aaron Sorkin
7. The Sopranos - "Employee of the Month" by Robin Green & Mitchell Burgess
* Star Trek - "The City on the Edge of Forever" by Harlan Ellison
* Wiseguy - "No One Gets Out of Here Alive" by David J. Burke
* Quantum Leap - "M.I.A." by Donald P. Bellisario
* Alias - "Truth Be Told" by J.J. Abrams
* The Shield - Pilot by Shawn Ryan

My List:
1. M*A*S*H - "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" by Alan Alda, Burt Metcalfe, John Rappaport, Thad Mumford, Dan Wilcox, David Pollock, Elias Davis, Karen Hall
2. Lost - Pilot by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - "The Body" by Joss Whedon
4. The West Wing - "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" by Aaron Sorkin
5. ER - "Love's Labor Lost" by Lance Gentile
6. Veronica Mars - Pilot by Rob Thomas
7. Firefly - "Out of Gas" by Tim Minear
* House - "Three Stories" by David Shore
* Northern Exposure - "Cicely" by Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
* The X-Files - "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" by Darin Morgan
* Twin Peaks - Pilot by Mark Frost, David Lynch

The DVD restriction really helps narrow it down, because it excludes some truly great television, like Hill Street Blues, China Beach, thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, the amazing Law & Order season six episode, "Aftershock," (the one ending with Claire's death where they completely broke out of the show's formula), and all of David E. Kelly's best work.

So I'm dying to know what's on ya'lls lists? Which singular episodes (dramas only) stand out over the course of your television viewing lifetime? What am I criminally leaving off my list? Discuss.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
My So-Called Life,

Wait, but that's on DVD. (And I could swear Hill Street was, too.)

I would kill a puppy for China Beach on DVD.
Jan. 5th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
They released MSCL, but it's out of print now and pretty much impossible to get anywhere except on eBay for like $300. Netflix doesn't even have it. :(

Oh, but you're right about Hill Street Blues, I must have typed it in wrong when I was searching for it on Netflix. My bad!
Jan. 5th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
Did you need a copy of MSCL? I could, perhaps, be of assistance. (Also? $300? I should totally sell mine! *g*)
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
Assistance? Yes, please. :)

I saw one once being offered used by a 3rd-party vendor on Amazon for $800. I can't believe anyone would pay that much, though.
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
Email me your address and I'll hook you up. :)
Jan. 5th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
I would kill a puppy for China Beach on DVD.

I can't imagine it ever will come out on DVD. Which is why my all-but-two-episodes-on-VHS tapes are so precious to me. The music rights would be astronomical, and it's not a show that you can really temp different music in and have it work, it's too integral to the show. And I don't see Broyles and Young being willing to fork over the funds themselves a la "Freaks and Geeks", so I doubt we'll ever get to see the true love that was McMurphy and Dodger on DVD. ;)
Jan. 6th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
so I doubt we'll ever get to see the true love that was McMurphy and Dodger on DVD. ;)

Oh, no, not this again. heeheee
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:26 pm (UTC)
Do you know anything about how syndication rights work? After a show's initial syndication run is over can another channel pick up the rights affordably years down the road? There are a lot of shows that aren't in syndiation anymore that I'd love to see back on the airwaves.
Jan. 7th, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
I don't know for sure, but I would assume yes as syndication is where the studio actually makes back it's money on a show. However, there is a feeling that one-hour shows other than procedurals like L&O don't syndicate very well. And I'm not sure what effect the TV on DVD market has on that. The way things are currently structered, the studio make something like 80% of the profit on a DVD sale (compared to the writer who makes something like five cents...literally). They haven't changed the formula since videos first came on the market, back when buying a single movie on tape cost like $80 because they were so expensive to produce. So there might be a feeling on the studios part that they'd rather keep a show in the vault until they are ready to put it out on DVD rather than syndicate it again.

What shows in particular are you thinking of?
Jan. 5th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
I've always thought Mimi Leder wrote Love's Labor Lost, but she directed it. All these years I've been giving her credit for someone else's work. Shame on me!

Note: The Alias pilot is on their list. Further proof that you need to watch this. So I'm insisting on it the next time we hang out. Also, I need to watch The Body.

If I had to add something to this list, I'd pick The Sopranos' "Whitecaps". The Six Feet Under pilot was also excellent.
Jan. 6th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
You've never made her watch the Alias pilot? For shame, austin360! ;)
Jan. 8th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
You don't understand. She's never been a fan of that show. She probably would have sat through it because she loves me, but she would have been grumbly about it.
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:20 pm (UTC)
All right, our assignment next time we're together is to watch the Alias pilot and The Body. I warn you, though, there will be lots and lots of crying.
Jan. 8th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
I'll bring tissues, you bring the booze.

Speaking of, I think you should come to Austin for our next frolick. We can hit that new yarn store. And try out our new usual at Kerbey: the one pancake.
Jan. 5th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
A few of mine
I don't know that I could come up with ten episodes, but I could add a few to the ones we agree with. Like you, I would put HSB, MSCL, CB and thirtysomething episodes on the list. But alas.

In agreement: ER "Love's Labor Lost"; The West Wing "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen"; Lost "Pilot"; Buffy the Vampire Slayer "The Body"

Would put in the top 10:
The X-Files "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose"; Northern Exposure "Seoul Mates" by Diane Frolov & Andrew Schneider--maybe "Democracy in America" by Jeff Melvoin or "Burning Down the House" by Robin Green
Alias "Truth Be Told" by JJ Abrams
Deep Space Nine "In the Pale Moonlight" by Michael Taylor
Battlestar Galactica "Kobol's Last Gleaming (Pt. 1 & 2)" by Ronald D. Moore

Gilmore Girls "They Shoot Gilmores Don't They" by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Everwood "The Last of Summer" by Greg Berlanti and Rita Mimoun
Everwood "Home" by Michael Green, Rita Mimoun The West Wing "Take This Sabbath Day" by Aaron Sorkin
Joan of Arcadia "Silence" by Barbara Hall

Guilty Pleasure: Christy "Pilot" by Patricia Green

Not on DVD but I'm going to cite them anyway:
I'll Fly Away "The Hat" by David Chase
I'll Fly Away "Rules of the Game" by Barbara Hall
Jan. 7th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
Re: A few of mine
There were so many stand-out episodes of Northern Exposure that it's hard to choose between them. And I can't believe I didn't include any BSG on my list! I knew I was forgetting something.
Jan. 8th, 2007 09:44 pm (UTC)
I'm both astonished and thrilled that this exercise suggests I haven't seen enough TV in my life. Ahem.

I'm intrigued that a lot of stuff on our lists seems to boil down to two categories (with a few notable exceptions): pilots and episodes that completely blow up the show's typical format (I know the vamp at the end of "The Body" is controversial, but I'd argue he's kind of neat both in underscoring that the ep has had a distinct lack of monsters and in introducing the question of whether death, tragic though it is, is not the worst that can happen to a person). Say what you will about Aaron Sorkin (and I've said a lot about him), but those attempts at fracturing the narrative (shifting the timeline, writing letters to deaf people, having Big Block of Cheese days, etc.) came up all the time on TWW. That's...pretty amazing, now that I think about it. And I really, really miss Darin Morgan.

Along those lines, as much as I love "The Body" (and I do--possibly their best use of Anya outside of "Selfless"), I'd suggest "Hush" as the bigger derivation from Buffy's typical narrative. How on earth do you manage to snark without any dialogue? They did it, and knocked the heck out of the theme at the same time. Although it's less flashy, Homicide's "Three Men and Adena" breaks their typical narrative structure (such as it was five episodes in) by locking three characters in the box--it's their version of a submarine episode.

I'd also rank the pilots of both Veronica Mars and Dead Like Me above stuff like Lost and Alias, because while the latter were absolutely mind-blowing, they set up premises so hefty that the their shows buckled under the weight within the first ten eps. In that way, the pilots were actually bad for the shows.

I'm intrigued, though, by the fact that we give so little credit to the workaday ep, the one that doesn't go outside the typical narrative but is just a perfectly written movement forward of the show's normal plot and characters. Whither "In Excelsis Deo" or "Colony/End Game" from X-Files or "Resurrection Ship" from BSG? So interesting.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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