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 2004 on Friday. The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself and regular visitors to the site 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. "significant others: episode 206"
(originally aired december 19, 2004)
It's hard to pin down exactly what makes this "under the radar" series so enjoyable, but this episode made its best case yet. After all, if you don't find the idea of a husband singing about his wife's "milky white boobies" or another couple getting accidentally remarried by Satanic priest funny, well, you're going to hate the rest of this list.
49/48. "friends: the last one" & "frasier: goodnight, seattle"
(originally aired may 6 & may 13, 2004)
Sure we've all said it - the last couple of seasons of "Friends" and "Frasier" were nowhere near as funny as they used to be - but it's definitely worth celebrating that even after 200 episodes and change apiece, we still cared about these characters and they were still worth a half-hour of our time. That was definitely the feeling I got after each of their respective finales, which unlike many other swan songs, felt like an actual episode of the series instead of just a bloated send-off. Some eight months later, we're still waiting to fill the comedic hole these two left behind.
47. "will & grace: queens for a day"
(originally aired november 25, 2004)
Probably the show's strongest outing in years (and not surprisingly also featuring the least distracting special guest stars in years), this installment felt like the "old" "Will & Grace" as Will struggles to make the perfect Thanksgiving dinner for his boyfriend Vince's family. Making matters worse - Vince's sister wants to come out of the closet, Grace and Karen are both chasing an underage boy and Vince's mom blames him for injuring her leg.
46. "deadwood: here was a man"
(originally aired april 11, 2004)
Sure we all knew he was going to die, but damn if it didn't make it that much harder. The murder of Wild Bill Hickock (a great Keith Carradine) made us physically angry as such an interesting character sadly gets offed over something stupid. But such is life in Deadwood, and we wouldn't want it any other way.
45. "the king of queens: tank heaven"
(originally aired april 7, 2004)
Sure it seems like they're remaking the same episode over and over - Doug does something stupid, his wife finds out, she gets mad, wash, rinse and repeat - but one can't help but be smitten by the relaxed, goofy way the show gets away with the formula week after week. This episode in particular - in which Doug (the vastly underrated Kevin James) tries to scare off Carrie's co-workers so he won't have to deal with having new friends - is side-splitting funny. I mean, he asks them to rub his hairy belly. That's comedy gold.
44. "scrubs: my old friend's new friend"
(originally aired august 31, 2004)
Any episode of television that features "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang and the following monologue (Dr. Cox to J.D.) deserves to be on everyone's list: "I don't really have one ready, but I suppose I could riff a list of things I care as little about as our last week together. Let's see: low-carb diets, Michael Moore, the Republican National Convention, Kabbalah and all Kabbalah related products, high definition TV, the Bush daughters, wireless hot spots, 'The O.C.,' the U.N., recycling, getting Punk'd, Danny Gans; the Latin Grammys, the real Grammys, Jeff the Wiggle that sleeps a lot, the Yankees payroll, the red states, the blue states, every hybrid car, every talk show host, everything on the planet, everything in the solar system, and everything that exists, past, present and future in all discovered and undiscovered dimensions. Oh, and Hugh Jackman."
43. "star trek: enterprise: the forge"
(originally aired november 19, 2004)
It's probably not too much of a stretch to say this episode was executive producer Manny Coto's coming out party for "Star Trek" fans. Coto (best known for creating the late, great "Odyssey 5") has found the right mix of action, drama and suspense this season, a balance that's been fairly scattershot for the "Star Trek" franchise as of late. This was especially evident in this episode, penned by Judith Reeves-Stevens and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, which set up the revolutionary "Vulcan" trilogy of episodes.
42. "smallville: run"
(originally aired october 20, 2004)
After what has seemed like an endless parade of incestual plotlines (can we go three weeks without visiting the caves again?), "Smallville" finally broke out of its mythology rut and came to life in this episode which featured the introduction of Bart Allen (Kyle Gallner) a.k.a. The Flash. Said installment brought a different dynamic to the show and, God help us, make the usually dreary "Smallville" fun for once.
41. "everybody loves raymond: the home"
(originally aired september 20, 2004)
The quiet celebration of Ray, Debra, Amy and Robert upon hearing that news they've been waiting for years to hear - Frank and Marie are moving out - might be one of the funniest moments in the show's history. I mean, Ray threw Debra into the refrigerator folks.