50 Greatest Episodes of the 21st Century

Part 6: 25–21

25. Inside Amy Schumer — ‘Twelve Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer’ -

Season 3, Episode 3

This is one of the most hysterical sketch comedy series Comedy Central has ever produced — and considering its track record, that’s remarkable. But it says a lot about brilliant this series really is that the funniest and most remarkable episode was one where Schumer was almost nonexistent. Put on trial for not be pretty enough to have her own comedy series, Schumer’s fate is decided — in black and white — by twelve of the better character actors (read: ugly people) working in Hollywood. With John Hawkes playing Henry Fonda, Paul Giamatti, Nick DiPaolo and Vincent Kartheiser arguing for the oppositions, I’m really not sure what’s the most remarkable about this sketch — how funny, how relevant it is (even three years later) or how very close to the original source material it is. (Though I seriously doubt Reginald Rose would have had the major confrontation involve dildos.) Whatever your personal views on Schumer (and, if anything, she’s become more of a flashpoint in the last year), this episode in particular demonstrates that she is as great a hyphenate as many of the other showrunners on this list.

24. The Sopranos — ‘Long Term Parking’ — 5.12

I’ve been all over the map when it comes to this groundbreaking series. At one point, I considered it the most overrated TV show in the history of the medium, but that may have been more due to the fact that I didn’t realize what a revolutionary show it was at the time. And my biggest complaint about it — that the characters never really made any attempt to change — now seems ridiculous now that I know that this was one of the bigger points that David Chase was trying to make — that change is hard, and given the opportunity, most people, even wiseguys will take the path of least resistance. So, having reached this conclusion, I realize I would be wrong to not have The Sopranos on the list. But I’ve decided to go a little different. My choice for the episode that was perhaps its best moment is the episode that sealed the fate of Adrianna. Christopher’s fiance started out the series as basically arm candy, but the second she was made by the FBI, her character became the most gut-wrenching one to watch on the series. We’ve seen more often than not what being a rat meant on this show, we knew when Christopher found out her fate was sealed. But it is a measure of how truly heartbreaking Drea De Matteo played the role, that when it seemed that she was being driven to her ultimate death, we hoped there was some way out for her. (Hell, some fans lived in denial because we never saw her get killed) The series was never the same afterwards, and neither was Christopher.

23. Stranger Things — ‘Holly, Jolly’ — Episode 1.3

One of the full-blown Netflix masterpiece is also that utter streaming rarity — a series young children should definitely be watching. Yes, its a nostalgia piece that brings us back to the 1980s, but it also remembers so well what it was like to be an adolescent or an outsider. This episode marked the point for me when I realized just how special this series really is. The scenes where (Justice for) Barb disappears to an alien landscape. The moments we get to see the really torture that Eleven has been going through before she appeared in Hawkins. (Matthew Modine, evil? Who’d have thunk?) Her slow entering into the party of wonderful boys who make up the landscape. And of course, Winona Ryder’s finest (and freakiest) hour, where, trying to communicate with Will, she puts up Christmas light all over her wall, and has a conversation that is incredibly terrifying. Every episode is a joyous flashback, incredibly scary, and remarkable. Picking one episode from it is a hard sell. All I can say is: I can’t wait for the Duffer Brothers to bring us Season 3.

22. Sherlock — ‘The Sign of Three’ — 3.2.

It’s very hard to argue that this series wasn’t one of the premiere accomplishments in TV history, as it put Sherlock Holmes in a modern setting in a way that no other medium has every done anywhere as effectively. Every element of Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis’ remarkable reinvention of the most famous fictional characters was remarkable, particularly in the way it brought its classic stories into the new millennium. Yet I don’t think anyone would disagree that the series finest hour (alright, hour and a half) was based on a moment in Holmes and Watson’s life that Conan Doyle never showed us — John Watson getting married. Every single second of this episode is perfect — Sherlock calling Lestrade away from a major case to help with his wedding toast, Sherlock’s wedding planning in every detail, the ‘bachelor party’, which actually has a moment so perfectly apt, you’d be astonished it was improvised by Benedict Cumberbatch himself. And of course, the single greatest wedding toast that has ever been given in the history of matrimonial events. It’s so hysterically funny and well done, it actually comes as a shock when a crime happens, and Sherlock manages to solve it in a way that demonstrates just how much his humanity has come to serve since the arrival of John in his life. Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and the episode itself were deservedly rewarded with Emmys for one of the great stories of the show that is simultaneously completely atypical for Sherlock and yet somehow sums up the great detective — at least this version of him -perfectly.

21. Glee — ‘Preggers’ — 1.4.

Say what you will about the mess the series turned into in its second half, the fact remains Ryan Murphy’s musical creation was one of the great accomplishment in TV, particularly in its first couple of seasons. Picking out a truly perfect moment from that period is difficult, but for me, the most incredible moments came when the series breakout star Kurt Hummel (brilliant portrayed by Chris Colfer) finally came out of the closet to his father. Burt’s reaction (Mike O’Malley’s finest hour) was so simple and perfect, it no doubt made millions of teenagers across the country wish that he was their father. The series also set up its most well done storyline when high school Cheerio Quinn announces to her boyfriend that she’s pregnant — which comes as a shock to Finn because they never actually had sex. The mess would play out far better than any storyline that the series did in its entire run, and led me to think this was one of the great series in the medium. It may never have truly won nationals, but it was a contender that made me feel the title emotion a lot, never so frequently as in this episode.

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After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.

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