Nick at Nite and TV Land executives recently got together with the editors of TV Guide to debate and identify what they felt were television’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.”
It’s an exercise that invites comparison and argument - and, boy, do we have an argument. Some of their selections wouldn’t even break into a legitimate top-1,000 list.
Selected programs from the list will appear in prime time next week on Nick at Nite and its sister network, while the complete roster of “100 Greatest Episodes” is printed in the TV Guide issue on newsstands now.
Many genres, including game shows and variety shows, were excluded, but most sitcoms and drama series were fair game.
Some entries in the list - episodes of “Murder One,” “The Partridge Family,” “The Love Boat” and “Speed Racer” - reveal a lack of either maturity or perspective in most of the voters. Others, like the finale to 1968’s “The Prisoner” and an episode of the British import “Fawlty Towers,” show a good deal of taste and bravery. Most baffling, perhaps, is the exclusion of “Marty,” even though a fellow Golden Age anthology drama, “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” makes the cut.
But even when limiting the focus to the TV Guide-Nick at Nite Top 10, presumably the greatest of the greatest, there are still plenty of reasons to strongly disagree. According to this group of judges (some of whom I know and respect), here are TV’s 10 greatest episodes:
1) “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (Chuckles the clown dies); 2) “I Love Lucy” (selling Vitameatavegamin); 3) “ER” (Greene blows a baby delivery); 4) “Seinfeld” (the “Boyfriend” episode with Keith Hernandez); 5) “The Odd Couple” (Felix and Oscar compete on Password); 6) “The Honeymooners” (Ralph freezes during game show); 7) “Cheers” (Thanksgiving episode); 8) “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (Laura blabs about Alan Brady’s toupee on national TV); 9) “The Bob Newhart Show” (drunken Bob orders Chinese takeout); and 10) “The X-Files” (Peter Boyle as a psychic in “Clyde Buckman’s Final Repose”).
About half of this list, of course, is madness, and not just because “Jose Chung’s from Outer Space” is a much better “X-Files” episode.
There are at least eight “Twilight Zone” episodes that ought to be acknowledged before a single episode of “The Odd Couple,” not to mention a bunch of “Picket Fences,” “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue” shows.
Limiting myself to one episode per series, and excluding such otherwise dominant miniseries and telemovies (“The Singing Detective,” “Duel”), here is my own list of TV’s 10 Greatest Episodes.
1) “Taxi” (the Rev. Jim gets his driver’s license), the most perfectly written and performed sitcom episode ever; 2) “Homicide: Life on the Street” (the ultra-intense “Three Men and Adena” interrogation); 3) “M.A.S.H.” (the ersatz documentary, “The Interview”); 4) “St. Elsewhere” (the final episode, representing about a dozen other brilliant hours); 5) “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (same episode as on TV Guide-Nick at Nite list); 6) “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (ditto); 7) “The Honeymooners” (ditto again); 8) “I Love Lucy” (the “Job Switching” episode at the chocolate factory); 9) “Seinfeld” (“The Contest,” with the Master of My Domain phrase); and 10) “The Simpsons” (“Itchy and Scratchy and Marge,” a brilliant satire of children’s TV censorship).
Now fight with me. …