It's time for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year. (For previous lists check the bottom of this column.) We'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2003 on Friday. The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself and the staff as to what we think the standout moments of the year were. In some cases while we were fans of certain series we couldn't pin down a particular episode we thought was of special merit so don't be stunned to see a few of our regular favorites missing from the list. Anyway, on with the show...
50. "buffy the vampire slayer: chosen" (upn)
originally aired: may 20, 2003
Despite a promising start (how cool were all the cameos by the previous "big bads" in the season opener?), we weren't huge fans of how the final season of "Buffy" panned out. Nevertheless the final "Buffy" from Joss Whedon's pen was a reason to celebrate in 2003: back was the snappy dialogue we've come to expect from the show over the years. In essence the show came to life just as its run drew to a close. Not a bad way to go out.
49. "gilmore girls: the festival of living art" (wb)
originally aired: november 4, 2003
We'll just fess up to it: we love Kirk (Sean Gunn) here at The Futon Critic and this episode featured one of the funniest Kirk moments of 2003. When Stars Hollow is called upon to host the Festival of Living Art, Kirk is saddled with the role of Jesus in The Last Supper. The problem is Kirk goes way overboard with the role, getting unnecessarily upset at the man playing Judas.
48. "futurama: the sting" (fox)
originally aired: june 1, 2003
One of the things we've come to enjoy about "Futurama" is not only the great sense of humor the show has about itself but also its surprising amount of heart. This episode, in which Fry seemingly dies after a bee sting, grasped at our heartstrings as well as tickled our funny bones. Okay, so yes that's the cheesiest description ever.
47. "andy richter controls the universe: the maid man" (fox)
originally aired: january 12, 2003
Two episodes of the short-lived comedy sneaked into 2003, one of which made an impression on us that lasted until 2004. While the A-plot of Andy dating his cleaning lady felt like recycled "Seinfeld," you had to love the B-story of Wendy (Irene Molloy) being frustrated by Keith's (James Patrick Stuart) lack of insecurity. After lots of prodding, he finally fesses up to the one thing he's insecure about: his freakishly small feet. Wendy's reaction - she literally gets ill - is about as funny a moment as you'll find in the past year.
46. "arrested development: key decisions" (fox)
originally aired: november 23, 2003
It took us a few weeks to fall for the critical hype surrounding "Arrested Development" and it was this episode that won us over. Gob (Will Arnett) decides he's going to pull a publicity stunt and break himself out of his father's prison. But his stunt (and his attempt to reconnect with his father) is brought to a halt as he's shanked by an inmate he inadvertently pissed off earlier. Sure this all sounds horribly morbid, but by God was it funny.
45. "k street: #10" (hbo)
originally aired: november 16, 2003
"K Street" laid out all of its cards on the table in its season finale and boy were they doozies. Before the show even "started," we're told Tommy Flannegan (John Slattery) had an affair with a woman who decided to kill herself after which he left the scene and was strongarmed by the feds to working for them. You won't see this on "Judging Amy" next week.
44. "keen eddie: pilot" (fox)
originally aired: june 3, 2003
Sure it was overdirected to death by Simon West, but my what a fun show "Keen Eddie" was. It's here we're introduced to the world Eddie Arlette (in a star making turn by Mark Valley) complete with bizarre partner (Julian Rhind-Tutt), a dog and bickering flatmate (Sienna Miller).
43. "the simpsons: mr. spritz goes to washington" (fox)
originally aired: march 9, 2003
Probably one of the funniest episodes of "The Simpsons" in years, if only for its much talked about jab at Fox News. A ticker appeared during the episode which read: "POINTLESS NEWS CRAWLS UP 37 PERCENT ... DO DEMOCRATS CAUSE CANCER? FIND OUT AT FOXNEWS.COM ... RUPERT MURDOCH: TERRIFIC DANCER ... DOW DOWN 5000 POINTS ... STUDY: 92 PERCENT OF DEMOCRATS ARE GAY ... JFK POSTHUMOUSLY JOINS REPUBLICAN PARTY ... OIL SLICKS FOUND TO KEEP SEALS YOUNG, SUPPLE ... DAN QUAYLE: AWESOME... ASHCROFT DECLARES BREAST OF CHICKEN SANDWICH "OBSCENE" ... HILLARY CLINTON EMBARRASSES SELF, NATION ... BIBLE SAYS JESUS FAVORED CAPITAL-GAINS CUT ... STAY TUNED FOR HANNITY AND IDIOT... ONLY DORKS WATCH CNN ... JIMMY CARTER: OLD, WRINKLY, USELESS... BRAD PITT + ALBERT EINSTEIN = DICK CHENEY ..." Comedy gold folks.
42. "the o.c.: the best chrismukkah ever" (fox)
originally aired: december 3, 2003
Let's put the "guilty pleasure" label away for good folks: "The O.C." is a damn fine show. This episode, in which Seth (Adam Brody) introduces Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) to the holiday where "Jesus and Moses combine their powers" had us rolling for days. All holiday episodes on any show should be this good.
41. "scrubs: his story" (nbc)
originally aired: january 30, 2003
Hearing Dr. Cox (John C. Maspxnley) take over the show's narration is worth the price of admission alone in this episode as he finds himself in the psychiatrist's (Eric Bogosian) chair. Even better: having the psychiatrist throwing Cox's trademark long-winded speeches back in his face. And let's not forget the introduction of Rick Schroder as Nurse Paul Flowers.