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...
30. "dead like me: sunday mornings" (showtime)
originally aired: august 22, 2003
George's (Ellen Muth) family coming to terms with her death has frequently been touched upon but this episode saw a rare glimpse into her father's grief. It's here he, a college professor, finds solace from a student whom George befriended. And it's also here that George learns a bit more about her father than she assumed over the years.
29. "star trek: enterprise: impulse" (upn)
originally aired: october 8, 2003
About as solid of an action-adventure hour you could find in 2003, thanks largely to David Livingston's stellar direction. The Enterprise crew stumbles upon a distress call from a Vulcan starship in the Expanse. What followed was pretty standard "horror/zombie" fare but damn if it wasn't executed well and fun to watch.
28. "frasier: the doctor is out" (nbc)
originally aired: september 30, 2003
A return to fine form for the comedy as Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) inadvertently starts dating Alistair Burke (Patrick Stewart), the head of the Seattle opera guild. The "mistaken identity" plot has always been one of the show's strong points and it was nice to see it back in full form here.
27. "alias: the two" (abc)
originally aired: september 28, 2003
Kudos to the "Alias" crew for a ballsy season opener in which Sydney (Jennifer Garner) wakes up to find her world turned upside down - not has two years passed and Vaughn is married but her dad is in prison and Sloane is again on the side of the angels. You have to love the twists and turns this show gives you.
26. "without a trace: are you now or have you ever been?" (cbs)
originally aired: may 1, 2003
In a follow-up to one of 2002's best episodes ("Suspect"), the F.B.I.'s case against an alleged child molester (Conor O'Farrell in full creepy mode) is called into question as well as Jack's (Anthony LaPaglia) own job. The revelations come left and right here, including Jack's affair with Sam (Poppy Montgomery). "Trace" continues to make the case that personal storylines and stand-alone plots can work well together.
25. "angel: peace out" (wb)
originally aired: april 30, 2003
Any episode that has a character punching through another one's face certainly will make it stick in our memories, but "Peace Out" gets our high marks for throwing some interesting elements into the typical "Big Bad" showdown. The Angel crew learns that if they defeat Jasmine (Gina Torres), they'll be destroying the peace she's provided for the world. No big cosmic reset button here folks as Connor (Vincent Kartheiser) surprisingly takes care of business, releasing pain once again into the world.
24. "stargate sg-1: fragile balance" (sci fi)
originally aired: june 20, 2003
A young actor named Michael Welch absolutely rules in this episode as a young version of Colonel O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson). Welch gets all of Anderson's mannerisms and voice inflections dead on perfect and helped prove that despite Anderson's decreased presence on the show, O'Neill's presence can still be felt on a weekly basis.
23. "mi-5: nest of angels" (a&e)
originally aired: september 9. 2003
An episode that's the emotional equivalent of a swift kick in the gut as the MI-5 team learns that young boys from a Mosque in Birminham are being trained as suicide bombers. Unflinching in every respect, "MI-5" really gets under your skin in this episode which also featured some great guest work by Alexander Siddig.
22. "smallville: rosetta" (wb)
originally aired: february 25, 2003
Christopher Reeve guest star. End of story.
21. "c.s.i.: lady heather's box" (cbs)
originally aired: february 13, 2003
The return of Lady Heather (Melinda Clarke) was certainly reason to celebrate in this episode as she once again provided a great foil for the always even-headed Grissom (William Petersen).