49) Thanksgiving Orphans (Cheers)

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Cheers takes place in a dive bar, because, ultimately, all of the characters are people who need to be in a dive bar. They’re a collection of failures. Sam (Ted Danson), the owner/bartender, drank himself out of a major league career. Carla (Rhea Perlman), the waitress, hates her family and most people in general, both in the bar and out of it. Diane (Shelley Long), the other waitress and Sam’s ex, is a constant failure as an intellectual, and really only stays at the bar because it’s the only environment in which she is the smartest person… unless you count Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), who’s only there because he’s alone (and, at this point, divorced once and left at the altar once). Norm (George Wendt), probably TV’s biggest alcoholic that isn’t animated, is there to escape his wife, and Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) is there because he’s an oft-wrong know-it-all who…

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50) The British Invasion (Dexter)

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Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a serial killer on the side of “good.” He kills other serial killers and manages to escape detection, because he was trained to do so by his father in order to harness his violent instincts. To be fair, Dexter isn’t really that good at getting away with killing people, it’s more that the rest of the Miami Metro police force is unbelievably incompetent. As the show went on, that became sadly more apparent. But, however he keeps it going, Dexter makes for good television… for 5 seasons.

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Just stab him and save us the pain, please.

SUMMARY

The story so far: Dexter has a method for his hunting. He finds the serial killer, abducts them, confronts them with their crimes, and then “dispatches” them. He does not consider himself human, but merely a thing pretending to be a person. He fakes all of his…

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51) Manos, the Hands of Fate (Mystery Science Theater 3000)

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 has a very simple premise, summarized in the epic opening song: Two mad scientists (Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff) launch Joel Hodgson, a janitor, into space and force him to watch B-movies in order to find out if there’s a B-movie bad enough to be used for world domination. I know it sounds crazy, but even the theme reminds you to “just repeat to yourself, ‘it’s just a show, I should really just relax.’” In order to deal with the strain, he builds four robots for company: Crow T. Robot, Tom Servo, Gypsy (Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Jim Mallon), and Cambot (who films silently). They proceed to sit through terrible B-movies and mock them endlessly, in a process they call “Riffing.” With some people, this would create an awkward experience. Fortunately, this was a team of professionals who turned the movies into fascinating works of satire.

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52) Once More With Feeling/Hush (Buffy, The Vampire Slayer)

This is the latter of the two combined episodes. The truth is, these two episodes each deserve to be on this list, and very well could have been, but I consider them to be two halves of the same coin. They’re both episodes about honesty and communication, and they both have devastating results on the characters in the series.

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And how could you devastate such a beautiful crowd? You monsters.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer  worked because it presented everyday problems, but represented them with supernatural villains and demons. This created a show where everyone could simultaneously relate to the cast, while being entertained by the alien natures of their problems.

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Though, sometimes it missed the mark. “Beer Bad” ironically requires a lot of alcohol to watch.

SUMMARY

“Hush” was the result of writer and creator Joss Whedon hearing that the key to the success of Buffy was its dialogue. In response, he wrote the story of a group of demons, called “The Gentlemen,” who steal the voices of the townspeople in order to carve the hearts out of their victims without anyone hearing them.

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Usually this is metaphorical. Oh, wait…

The Gentlemen are among the creepiest things ever allowed on television. I recommend finding a picture of them if you haven’t seen them, because the fact that they are perfectly silent and elegantly dressed only makes them that much more unnerving. Also, they surgically remove your heart while you’re alive, which probably is the most horrifying way to die that an episode could directly imply, if not outright depict. They seem to be a metaphor for Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) own hesitance to engage in physical intimacy with her new paramour Reilly, after her last two encounters resulted in A) her boyfriend losing his soul (literally) and B) a boy using her as a conquest. They’re male figures who carve out hearts and are only shown to be killed by a woman’s scream. Nobody said the analogy was subtle.

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Congratulations, you’re going to die enlightened.

The entire episode has only 17 minutes of dialogue, and it features the cast communicating solely through their actions, which, surprisingly both to the characters and the audience, is much more effective than their attempts to talk to one another. Three different couples finally connect because they stop talking their way into bad places and instead act on their hearts. In this episode, honesty brings people together.

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See? They found out they share hobbies.

“Once More, with Feeling,” on the other hand, is all about honesty driving people apart. Best of all, it’s about honesty driving people apart in song. Yes, “Once More, with Feeling” was one of the first musical episodes by a non-musical show, and it is still the best, in my opinion (though, following the original writing of this, the episode “Duet” of the Flash is damned good, including a song sung by Jesse L. Martin, Victor Garber, and John “I’m so amazing” Barrowman, and if it weren’t for all the great original songs in this episode, that one would be better).

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Best thing on UPN.

The plot is that there is a demon named Sweet (Hinton Battle), who, when summoned, makes people sing and dance until they combust, and then leaves with a bride. In the meantime, all of the songs people sing will expose their innermost secrets, often to the very people from whom they’re hiding them. It’s because of this modus operandi, that Sweet is the only villain who ever really beats the Slayer and the Scooby Gang (her friends), even though he chooses to waive the bridal clause of his summoning (upon finding out that it would be a guy). He ruins their relationships, then leaves, having killed at least 3 people in the process. Nothing happens to him at all, except for the loss of his dancing minions.

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Literally ends with a chorus line asking “where do we go from here?”

“Once More, with Feeling” and “Hush” tell the story that honesty can be a force for great good or for great evil, it just depends on how it is conveyed.

PREVIOUS – 53: The Honeymooners

NEXT – 51: Mystery Science Theater 3000

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Here’s my favorite part of Once More With Feeling:

And here’s an incipient nightmare:

Futurama Fridays – S3E2 “Parasites Lost”

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Fry eats a bad egg salad sandwich and finds himself infected with awesomeness.

SUMMARY

While at a gas station, Fry (Billy West) buys an egg-salad sandwich from the men’s room vending machine. Despite the awful taste, he ends up eating the whole thing. While she’s cleaning the windshield, several truckers insult Leela (Katey Sagal). Fry tries to defend her honor, but ends up insulting her more. When they get home, Fry and Bender (John DiMaggio) are sent to fix the building’s boiler, because Scruffy (David Herman), the Janitor, is too busy reading pornography. The boiler explodes and a pipe is lodged in Fry’s abdomen. Surprisingly, Fry seems fine, until the pipe suddenly is cut in half and the hole in Fry’s stomach regenerates. Zoidberg (West) gives Fry a deep colonoscopy and determines that his body is actually filled with superintelligent worms, which were actually the eggs in the egg-salad.

S3E2 - 1Bathroom Best…

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53) Better Living through Television (The Honeymooners)

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The Honeymooners lasted for one season. Granted, it was one season of 39 episodes (actors used to actually have to work) and there were other sketches featuring the characters on other shows, but it’s still only one season. The main reason it’s remembered is that the show The Flintstones was directly based off of it. Also, it was one of the funniest things on TV in the 1950s that didn’t have Lucille Ball.

TheHoneymooners-1Cast.jpg Dear Hollywood: Let the show stay dead. It doesn’t need a reboot.

SUMMARY

This episode has 3 things going for it. The first is that it’s the funniest of Ralph Kramden’s (Jackie Gleason) famous “get rich quick” schemes. The second is that it mocks pretty much every telemarketing product, including ones that didn’t even exist yet. The last is that it had a moment that can’t happen much in TV anymore. Since The Honeymooners was always filmed…

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54) The Inner Light (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

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Star Trek: The Next Generation had several things going for it over the original Star Trek. Advances in special effects, an audience who was more open to science fiction, an established semi-continuity to rely on, etc., but one of the biggest advantages they had was Patrick Stewart, a man who constantly combines classical Shakespearean level drama with his own natural humor. I love Shatner as Kirk, but my captain will always be Stewart’s Picard (apologies to the others I neglected to mention… oh, hell, Janeway, Sisko, Lorca, and Archer. I’m not doing the others, but yes, I know them. Happy?).

StarTrekTNG-1Picard.png Me, whenever Picard is onscreen.

SUMMARY

“The Inner Light” starts with the Enterprise encountering a probe, which sends out a beam of light that knocks Picard unconscious. Picard awakens on an alien planet far outside of the Federation’s territory, finding a woman tending to him who identifies herself as…

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