You know that movie Groundhog Day? If you don’t, please go watch it now. Then watch it tomorrow, if you get there.
But, there have been a ton of TV episodes that have used the set-up of repeating the same series of events over and over again, and I’ve decided to list my 5 favorites.
Runner Up: Same Time Last Week (Angry Beavers)
This one has the premise that one of the Beaver Brothers, Norbert, can get so upset that he literally knocks his brother Daggett into last week, restarting the loop. Daggett tries to game the system, but is ultimately too stupid to pull it off. He finally breaks the loop by being so annoying that Norbert is angry enough to “bop him back to the dawn of time” so he meets his own cave-beaver ancestors.
Runner Up: Cause and Effect (Star Trek: TNG)
Space Explosion sends everyone back in time just enough to ensure that they cause another space explosion. This one is pretty standard, although it takes them a while to realize they’re in a time-loop. The main reason I love it is that the first time it was broadcast, a bunch of stations re-used the same promos during each commercial break. I didn’t catch that one, but I did catch it a few years later when a local station used the same gimmick on Groundhog’s Day.
5) Mystery Spot (Supernatural)
This one is hilarious and brutal. It just contains Dean Winchester dying in a number of increasingly ridiculous ways so that a trickster god can teach Sam a lesson about how to move on when Dean dies. After the loop is broken, however, Dean dies permanently, and the audience is shown that Sam does the opposite of get over it, he instead becomes a ruthless monster-slaughtering psychopath. Fortunately, they get one last loop for old time’s sake.
4) Been there, Done That (Xena: Warrior Princess)
This one is caused by a pair of doomed lovers praying for someone to stop their warring families. Aphrodite grants their wish by forcing Xena to re-live the day over and over again until she solves all of the families’ problems. Hilariously, she finds out that the loop starts only about 3 minutes before most of the stuff she’s supposed to prevent happens, so she spends several loops doing the math on how to solve it. The answer, as is usually true with Xena, is “throw a chakram really, really hard.”
3) Judgement Night (The Twilight Zone)
This isn’t a funny one. Not even close. Instead, this one is told from the perspective of a man on a passenger boat in the Atlantic in 1942 who knows that the boat is going to be sunk by a U-Boat, because he’s lived through it sinking before. However, unlike many examples of Groundhog Day episodes, he can’t effect any meaningful change on the events. It’s revealed in the end that he will relive this awful day for eternity, because he was the captain of the Nazi sub that sank it.
2) Heaven Sent (Doctor Who)
Also not funny, but by far the longest loop in any of these shows. The Doctor is stuck in a prison, and for most of the episode, is just trying to figure his way out, until he finally finds the exit… behind a wall of “a substance 400 times harder than diamond” that’s 20 feet thick. Unfortunately, it’s only then that he realizes he’s in a time-loop. Realizing that he has to die to restart the loop, but that the wall is the only thing that doesn’t re-set, he punches it a few times, then re-starts the loop. However, it takes him 4.5 Billion Years to punch his way through the diamond wall to freedom. One of my favorite Doctor Who episodes.
1) Window of Opportunity (Stargate SG-1)
This isn’t just my favorite time-loop episode, it’s also my favorite episode of Stargate SG-1. It has everything. First, it has the loopers, Colonel O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) and Teal’c (Christopher Judge), trying to figure out what is going on, then it has them trying to solve it, then it has them learning a bunch of useful skills to help solve it, and it has them taking a few loops just to goof off, including the scene of the pair hitting drives through the Stargate, messing with some random people around the base, and O’Neill finally kissing Carter (Amanda Tapping) after resigning from the army for 14 seconds. It even has a decent villain scheme causing the whole thing. Really, the perfect Groundhog Day episode.
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