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Best Episodes from the shows I’ve watched this year

Salon is putting up their best episodes of 2011 so that got me to thinking about what the best TV I’ve watched this year has been. I’ll do my own top 15 list! I’m only counting shows that were new to me (sorry, Buffy). I am going to exclude reality shows because as I looked at each I would think “yeah, I like that show, but nothing really stands out to me as a fantastic episode that made great TV” (sorry “Jersey Shore”). Oh, and for the sake of simplicity, I’m only going to count shows where I watched at least a full season.

Here’s what I’ll be choosing from (and not everything will make the list):

Skins: Season 3
Damages: Season 1
Survivors: Season 2
Life after People: Season 1
Pulling: Season 2
Downton Abbey
Life on Mars (the US version)
10 Things I Hate About You
The Pillars of the Earth
Star Trek: the next generation:  Seasons 1-3 (and part of 4)
Ghost Whisperer: Seasons 1
Home Movies Seasons: 2-4
Portlandia Season: 1
Fringe: Season 1
Being Human (UK): Season 3
Leverage: Season 2-current
Community: Season 2-current
Parenthood: Season 1-current
Modern Family: Season 1-current
30 Rock: Season 4
Bones: Season 6-current
Family Guy: Season 9-current
Glee: Season 2-3
Grey’s Anatomy: Season 7-current
Parks and Recreation: Season 3-current
Terra Nova: Season 1
Revenge: Season 1(current)
Grimm: Season 1(current)
How I Met Your Mother: Season 6-current
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Doctor Who: Season 6
The Office:

Combine that with reality tv programming and shows started but not finished…yeah, I’d say I watch a lot of TV. What was the best?

15. Fringe: “In Which We Meet Mr. Jones”
I seriously need to see more of this show because it is just smart SciFi. Not every story is gripping, but it’s always based on some sort of reality. I chose this episode as a favorite because we meet a reoccurring villain. It’s also a tense and exciting episode that highlights what this show does best. Not a watch instantly, but you can catch up via disk through Netflix and watch more recent stuff on Hulu.

14. Leverage: “The Rashomon Job”
This is one of those before they all met episodes crossed with a they’ve crossed paths before story. But in pure “Leverage” fashion it’s funny, interesting, and fun to watch. This episode really won’t hold with anyone that doesn’t know the characters because, really, this show is about them as people and how they interact with each other. It reinforces why each person plays the role they do in the group (or, you know, you could watch the intro credits to see who does what…but this is a more interesting way). I was recently very thrilled to discover that Amazon has recent eps online, so I pay per episode for this show.

13. Home Movies: “Renaissance”
Go watch this show right now. It will make your day. Especially if you’re a nerd and you get to the episode “Renaissance.” SciFi nerds and Fantasy nerds face off. It’s hilarious. It may be my most favorite animated show of all time.  Watch on Netflix!

12. Downton Abbey: “Episode 6”
I can’t wait to watch Season 2 of this show, and it’s hard to pick just one favorite episode. But what is it about penultimate episodes in British series? “Episode 6” was probably my favorite of the series. Political events of the times come to a head as well as two characters finally admitting their love. There’s all sorts of good drama in this episode of a fantastic show. Watch it on Netflix!

11. Sherlock: “The Great Game”
Ok, I don’t mean to litter this list with all British shows, but this is another great one. And again, I can’t wait for season 2. The first season is only 3 episodes long, but my favorite was the third, “The Great Game.” We learn more about both Sherlock and Watson and about their arch rival. It ends in a cliffhanger too! Available to watch instantly on netflix.

10. Community “Paradigms of Human Memory”
If ever there was a hard show to pick a favorite from it would be “Community.” I couldn’t fill this entire list with their episodes so I narrowed it down to two. The first is this one. Or maybe I should have picked “Critical Film Studies”? ARGH too hard! Human Memory is so great because it’s made up of a ton of flashbacks that never actually happened. That’s the genius of this show. And in the end the group comes together-which is what I like best. Hulu it now (yes, I just turned Hulu into a verb).

9. Grey’s Anatomy “Song Beneath the Song”
Aka the musical episode. Not every song is a hit, but Sara Ramirez’s rendition of “The Song” by Brandi Carlile moved me so much I asked my husband if we could include it as a reading at our wedding. We did. Any episode that can touch me personally is a good one in my book. This episode in particular is haunting and moving like the best Grey’s episodes are. I believe this is on Netflix, but it’s also a Hulu show.

8. Modern Family “Dude Ranch”
This is one of those shows where I say that I like it, but it’s hard to point to any one episode that really does it for me. Yet, there is “Dude Ranch” which opens up the 4th season. It’s kind of like the epitome of a “Modern Family” ep. Cameron is a drama queen, Mitchell is awkward, Phil just wants recognition from Jay, and Clare is a control freak. Yet they all come together as a family at the end…after an episode full of pithy one liners and tons of wit! Older seasons are available through disk via Netflix, but new stuff is on Hulu.

7. Parks and Recreation “Citizen Knope”
I’m not sure if I picked this episode because it is the freshest in my memory or not, but it’s still a great one. It’s the latest episode to have aired and in perfect Christmas spirit it’s incredibly sweet and shows all the Parks and Rec crew coming together to honor Leslie. It, of course, displays the same brand of humour the show always brings. I watch it on Hulu.

6. How I Met Your Mother: “Disaster Averted”
I think that this episode does what HIMYM does best. It utilizes the flashbacks in a smart way and also recalls past actions by the characters (2 slaps in this ep!). Kevin seems like a natural addition to the show which helps, and we get to see how Baby Eriksen came to be. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have to pay per episode on Amazon for this show.

5. Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife”
Penned by Niel Gaiman, it’s a sun in a season full of stars. I can’t think of an ep that I hated this season, but this one is definitely one of the best. The TARDIS takes human shape! How cool is that? It was a weird and wacky episode with the Doctor being very Doctor like. Amy and Rory are there which is cool too. In fact their scenes are really kind of creepy. Such a good example of what this show does best! I get my in-laws to DVR this for me, but now I own the 6th season on DVD and will definitely give it a re-watch!!

4. The Office: “Goodbye Michael”
Ok, I cried during this episode; the one where Steve Carell leaves the show. How touching was it to see everyone sing for him? And his farewell with Pam when he says (although we can’t hear  it because his mic has been given back) “that’s what she said.” The previous couple of seasons leading up to this weren’t exactly stellar, but it’s like I had a history with these people and the emotional impact of Michael Scott leaving was pretty great. You can catch up on Netflix or watch via Hulu. Your choice!

3. Doctor Who: “The Wedding of River Song”
I love getting the answers to questions that a show has set up all season long, and this episode answers a lot of them (not all, because that wouldn’t be fun). I also love how they bring back a lot of familiar faces. I can’t go into too much detail of the plot because that would take a ton of space, but I do like how everyone comes together in the end and things seem to work out.

2. Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Best of Both Worlds Parts I and II”
Oh man, what can I say about the season 3 cliffhanger and season 4 opener? I’m sure this episode tops a lot of lists for best TNG eps. I knew Picard’s transformation was coming, I just didn’t know how it would go down. There have been other episodes that feature the fine acting by Patrick Stewart, but this one really does a great job at highlighting his skills. Aside from the acting (which, really, was great all around) the story was pretty intense, smart, and compelling. It’s everything I look for not only in good SciFi, but in good television. All of Star Trek (classic to current) is on Netflix watch instantly.

1. Community “Regional Holiday Musical”
From Troy and Abed rapping to Annie subtly (?) mocking sexy Santa songs the last episode to air (for a long time) not so subtly pokes fun at “Glee.” It’s really a great example of their usual storytelling. It combines aspects from Human Memory by planting fake flashbacks and really shows how these characters all have an effect on each other. Also, completely hilarious! I think this episode really got me to laugh the most during this season. Go watch it right now on Hulu!

This was wicked hard to do! I had more than 15 but couldn’t quite make it to 20 so I had to pare it down. But I want to give an honorable mention to “Portlandia” for that song in the first episode. I also cut “Survivors” but that deserves a mention too.

Technology Fail

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After the cliffhanger of last week’s “Walking Dead” I was really excited to see this current week’s episode. How would it all resolve? (Ok, probably not resolve so much as move forward. I mean, nothing is really going to resolve in the second episode of the season).

Since we watch this show via Amazon Instant Video and pay for it per episode we watch via a widget on the Samsung TV. For some strange reason Yahoo! partnered up with Amazon for this widget which was then put on our 3D television. Apparently some Samsung TVs don’t come with the widget and they have definitely stopped putting it on. Our BluRay player can’t get the Yahoo! widget on it at all which sucks because that means we can’t watch any Amazon content on our other TV – only Hulu and Netflix conent.

Why am I bringing this up? Because the widget (it’s not a proper app) stopped working last night. I called the 1-866 number that it suggested I call in the error message (an Amazon number), but I got cut off mid call because of poor cell phone reception. Another technology fail. Basically what the help desk guy was going to have me do anyway was power cycle through everything anyway. So that’s what we did. It didn’t help.

We Googled the heck out of the problem and the only thing we came up with was….it happens. It apparently started happening to a lot of people back in February/March of this year. We just have to wait it out because the widget seems to have miraculously come back on for some people. I really hope it does for us because not only did I miss “Walking Dead” but now I have missed “How I Met Your Mother” AND “Community” this week! I am totally bereft!

The bright spot seems to be that someone reported hearing that Amazon is developing their own app. It’s really the only smart thing to do. Why even partner with Yahoo! in the first place? I guess they couldn’t forsee how popular internet ready TVs would be.

Premier week round 2

I’m not done catching up yet, but this is a start. It’s been all shows I’ve watched previously; nothing new. Look for another post tomorrow or maybe early next week with my thoughts on “Community” “The Office” “Parks and Recreation” and “Modern Family.”

How I Met Your Mother

Two episodes of  “How I met your mother”  premiered this week- both excellent intros to the new season. There was a teaser for Barney’s wedding. Who is he marrying? Robin or Nora? Or possibly neither. Robin came close to telling Barney that she still had feelings for him, but telling Lilly was as close as she got. Speaking of Lilly, she and Marshal spilled the beans about their upcoming addition to the group. It was too tough having Marshal drink for two, and in the end he ended up spoiling Punchy’s wedding by inadvertently revealing the bride’s pregnancy. Hey but at least he pulled attention away from Ted who was in the spotlight because he apparently has a history of crying at every single toast he gives at friends weddings. They just happen to coincide with bad breakups. They just also happen to be filmed and end up on a Finnish YouTube-like website.

In the second episode Barney makes an attempt to win back Nora. She makes it pretty clear she doesn’t like liars, and Barney’s case is pretty hurt when he shows up wearing a fake neck brace. She tricks him with a ta-ta fake out. Barney is such a boob guy! But in the end he winds up telling her most (because, really, I’m sure there’s a few he left out) of the stories he told women to get them into bed. And as he pointed out, she didn’t leave. So Barney isn’t leaving the diner until she agrees to go on a second date. Crazy? Yes. It also sets us up for a scene with Barney another day into staying at the 24 hour diner (and still not having ordered anything) with the rest of the gang visiting at the booth behind him.

Oh yes, Martin Short shows up to give Marshal a job at an environmental firm but first Marshal goes through hell trying to get a rather embarrassing video of himself off the web before his new employer finds it.

Overall I loved these two episodes. They were a great intro to the season and they set up great plot lines for the season. By Season 7 everyone is super comfy in their roles but no one is phoning it in. Everything is running smoothly. I’m trying not to take it for granted because I’d hate for this show to end anytime soon.

I should mention that I purchase HIMYM through Amazon. Yeah, it sucks. If I want to keep up-to-date with it then I need to pay since it’s not on Hulu+.

Prediction: I’m still living with the memory of the Stella season (which was the worst in my opinion), but I think this will top it. I liked Victoria and if she makes a return this season then I’m fine with it. She’s much better than Stella and Zoey IMO!

Let me be honest: I had to force myself to watch this episode. I really didn’t want to, but it was like morbid curiosity. I knew that AV Club gave it a D+, but Jezebel seemed to not mind it so much.

I can’t really bring myself to write even a little bit of a recap of the episode. It starts the same way it always starts….blah blah blah Nationals blah blah. Rachel and Finn are still together. Sam and Mercedes are not (because Sam is off the show). Mercedes now has a new bf. Quinn is a “skank” now. That’s what she’s calling herself….I just called her that before. Shue and whatsherface are living together in a sexless relationship and Sue has reverted back to the beginning of Season 2 terribleness. Ummmm…I think that’s it. Otherwise I broke it down into good and bad things about the episode.

Good things: Rachel and Kurt’s friendship and less Rachel and Finn relationship. Less Quinn. Great Anything Goes number!

Bad. Sue reverting back to stupid villain. What happened to all her good character development??? BLAINE!!!!!!! HATE BALINE. STUPID. OVER THE TOP BLAINE SINGING! Seriously, I do not get his appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Kurt gets a cute relationship, but I do not like who it’s with. Also, EW NO SOCKS! For a show  that treats most things with sensitivity (bisexuality, bullying, death), they didn’t treat Aspergers with any sensitivity. I mean wtf was Sugar? There are seriously no repercussions about her going around claiming she has a serious diagnosis just so she can insult people?

Prediction: Blerg. I don’t even know. I wanted to quit this show, but it shows up automatically in my queue in Hulu+ because it was there from last season. Despite what Ryan Murphy says and despite bringing on board talented writers like Marti Noxon (!!!! of Buffy fame!!!!) I’m just not sure about this season. This episode felt like it could have come straight out of last season. IF I continue with this season we may be in store for another uneven one. I’ll keep up with reviews before I bother watching. Fox isn’t cancelling this show any time soon though. It’s like their darling/cash cow. And, yet, somehow there are still tons of Gleeks out there. People are still really dedicated to this show for some strange reason. Please, if you can, explain it to me.

Grey’s Anatomy
Apparently we’re picking up not long after the season finale. I really could have used a refresher, but luckily the beginning pretty much caught me up. Christina and Meredith are living together to raise MerDer’s adopted daughter. Apparently Christina hasn’t gotten her abortion yet. Both marriages are still strained. Communication seems to be a foreign concept to these people.

Professionally, Mer has been fired for her stunt that compromised the Alzheimer’s study. Teddy is staying and will work with Christina but in some effed up way that slightly tortures her. Kepler sucks at being Chief Resident. Are we surprised? Meanwhile Little Grey is rocking at the job right under her nose. I think that might be a running thing for a few episodes.

That was just the first episode of the night.

Apparently Meredith is a baby stealer. Christina is a Gunther…or maybe Avery is? Basically this just means Avery stepped up and lead the charge when the group was tasked with coming together on a case (a woman pulled from a sinkhole whose leg had to be amputated on the scene. Don’t get me started on the sinkhole in Seattle. Ridiculous. Hated that). And hey, subtle reference to George by Derick! BTW Mer gets her job back by the end of the episode. I guess the Chief figured he owes it to her what with her tampering with the study for his wife in the first place.

I guess the theme of the second episode was motherhood? Normally the theme is a bit easier to pick out, but I had trouble with this one. Still, I have to applaud “Grey’s” with handling Christina’s abortion with maturity and going so far as to showing her in the doctor’s office. I’m sure they’re getting hate mail on that one. My heart broke for Meredith as she and Derick lost custody of Zola. It sucks when capable parents are chosen to adopt or be parents for children yet so many crappy parents are out there.

I wasn’t wowed by this set of episodes, but they provided a smooth into back into the season.

Prediction: If you’re a loyal “Grey’s Anatomy” fan then I think it will be a pretty good season. We know that Patrick Dempsey’s time is limited so that could prove to provide some interesting story lines. I wonder if this show is nearing the end. Could this be the last season?

Other Stuff:
– I’m not watching “Ringer” the second week (at least not until it appears on the CW’s website. They FINALLY put the first ep up. But I’m so not paying for another one). It got D on AV club and not much better review anywhere else.

-I am apparently alone in not loving “New Girl” Jezebel, PopWatch, AV Club all thought it was great! Maybe worth watching the second ep?