Best Episode of Television in the Past Season


It's been a while since the 2010/2011 season concluded, but as they say, absence makes the heart forget about half the crap you watched in moments of complete boredom/laziness. Luckily I didn't have too many such moments, and my television viewing seems considerably less, on reflection, than in years past.

Which makes the challenge to choose my favorite scripted television episode of the past season, posed by Andrew at Encore Entertainment, considerably easier for me than it might be for others.

I didn't even need to review what I'd watched -- as soon as I was challenged, there were two episodes that came immediately to mind, two episodes that made my world a happier place merely by existing.

In the Northeast Corner we have Neil Gaiman's Doctor Who episode, "The Doctor's Wife."


No one knew anything about this episode apart from the title, so when it aired, there was the potential for total geek-mageddon. Thankfully, the Gaiman and Doctor Who alchemy proved more magical than anyone could ever have hoped. What a beautiful concept too, a being that lives off of Tardis energy, who accidentally transfers the soul of the Tardis into a living, breathing, sexy thing.

The episode rests almost entirely on the witty dialogue between the Doctor and Idris, the human incarnation of the Tardis. There have been loads of references throughout the series that the Tardis is alive, but for the first time we are allowed to see what that actually means. It's a very elaborate fan-fiction, proving that the Doctor's OTP is the Tardis herself.

We learn, once and for all, that despite the commitment in prior series to the Doctor's eternal loneliness, that he does in fact have one constant companion. Gaiman takes us right back to the beginning, when the Doctor enters this Tardis and runs away on his many adventures. She has been there the whole time, through the best and worst times of his life, always silent but always there. And you must have a heart of steel if you can't see the beauty in being able for once in your life, to speak to that being, to know him or her, and be reassured of their presence.

And in the Midwest Corner we have Amy Poehler's Parks and Recreation episode, "The Fight."


In this episode, Tom enlists the Parks department to come out to his club and help him promote his Kahlua-style liquor, Snakejuice. Meanwhile, Leslie tries to get Ann a job at City Hall so they can work together. Naturally, this does not go well, so the kids get into a big drunken brawl at the Club.

"The Fight" is jammed to the hilt with delightful nonsense, like how Andy and April's idea of role-play is a bizarre mish-mash of every Agatha Christie novel ever crossed with Tom Clancy. It also introduced the very exciting concept of "angry dancing." Poehler really does write her own best material, mining the considerable humor in her own peculiar physicality.

I don't think there's any other show that manages so many moving pieces so well, with one of the deepest comedy casts around, and still maintains a narrative. Because, despite all the alcohol-inspired silliness, the show continues to demonstrate one of the most realistic female friendships ever seen on television, based on mutual love and respect, but, like all close friendships, often travels on that special road paved with good intentions.


It's incredibly tough to call it, and to be honest, my decision keeps changing ever five minutes, but for now I'm giving it to Gaiman. Parks is still young, and likely has many years to keep outdoing itself (and with Leslie running for office next season, is definitely not running out of creative steam).

But there's just something special when an episode of a show that's almost 50 years old, that I've been watching for all of my 26 years, completely surprises me. There have been a few episodes this series that address the internal logic of the entire concept of Doctor Who, but none more so than learning that the Tardis always taking the Doctor where he needs to go, explaining why he's constantly running into trouble.

Gaiman answered a question that I never even thought to ask: who is the Tardis? And I am glad of the answer.


-The Good Wife season finale: ::melts:: ::swoons:: ::dies of happiness::

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9 Responses to “ Best Episode of Television in the Past Season ”

  1. Thanks for participating, I swear with all the people who's opinion I value that keep talking about DOCTOR WHO I really should get on board, but I feel like I'd be ridiculously late to a cool party. Glad to see Parks and Rec and The Good Wife as runners up (even if I preferred the penultimate episode with all the Kalinda drama.)

  2. OMG. OMG. YOU TOOK THE EPISODE I WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT. I mean I can't blame you, because this episode was THE EPISODE, but DAMN YOU! :-D

  3. Andrew, it's never too late to start on Doctor Who. I have a ton of friends who actually started this season and found it a great jumping off point.

    Good Wife was difficult, I think if I had to pick best series it would have won, but since they had such an overarching narrative it's difficult to pick one that's the best. Though in terms of story, I think the one where we find out about Kalinda wins (when she and Blake meet in the parking lot).

    @Ryan ::sticks tongue out:: that doesn't mean you can't write about it also!

  4. I feel terrible - I don't watch either of these shows! I have heard so many good things about Park & Recreation, but I admit that I tried the series premiere when it first aired, wasn't impressed, and didn't bother following it. I know that the show has apparently improved miles from there, so I really should give it a shot again. Especially since Netflix streams the first two seasons.

    Same goes for Doctor Who. Well, not exactly the same. My husband and I started watching the reboot via Netflix because I'd heard so much good stuff, but we only made it to the episode "World War Three" (the one right before "Dalek"), before stopping because we just weren't impressed. I know we probably gave up just before it got good (maybe that is not at all true!), but we just weren't sure if we wanted to keep making the time investment.

  5. Yeah! Doctor Who!
    I think that Steven Moffatt has been an EXCELLENT show-runner and the episodes have been wonderful these past two series. Initially I was a little saddened with David Tennant left the role and a bit hesitant when Matt Smith took over. But I have been proved wrong. I cannot wait to see Series 6, Part 2 later on this summer!

  6. Steph, with Parks and Recreation you have to skip straight to season 2. They hadn't found their legs in Season 1.

    As with Doctor Who, I'd start with this season if you're just getting into it. Season 1 of the reboot is highly problematic at best (and veers heavily into an overly childish direction)

  7. @iluvcinema Moffat has been AWEsome. RTD had completely ruined Tennant's doctor by the end, and Matt Smith has been fantastic. Series 6.5 looks amazing!

  8. That's okay! I ended up picking an episode from Sherlock so I still get to talk about a character created by Moffat!

    As for everyone asking when to start watching certain shows, I'm just a bit anal and thus have to highly recommend starting from the very beginning. Yes, P&R's first season is skippable, BUT it's only 6 episodes and it'll probably make your enjoyment of subsequent seasons all the better. As for Doctor Who, no need to watch anything before 2005. And in fact you CAN jump into this new Doctor (S5 and current S6) and be OKAY and I know people who've done this. But the earlier seasons are worth it.

  9. Ok, thanks for the tips! One of the huge problems we had with Dr Who was that it felt juvenile and childish... which I have nothing against normally, but this felt overly so. Will see if I can convince Tony to try again with a later season!


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