It's time once again for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year. (For previous lists check the links to the right.)
As usual we'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2006 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.
Obviously our list will differ from the ones you sent in - but that's half the fun! So sit back, relax and enjoy the countdown!
10. "24: day 5: 7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m." (fox)
(originally aired: january 15, 2006)
All it took was one gunshot to make it Jack's most personal - and riveting - day since season one.
9. "dexter: pilot" (showtime)
(originally aired: october 1, 2006)
100% not the show I expected to see, "Dexter" was a genuine surprise. An even bigger surprise? Its "I need to check the locks and under the bed" ending - in which the ice truck killer leaves a present for Dexter in his refrigerator. I literally can't wait for season two of this show to start.
8. "smith: pilot" (cbs)
(originally aired: september 19, 2006)
The awesome start to the unfortunately short-lived series was a true pleasure to watch from start to finish. From its taut action sequences to its only-when-necessary dialogue to its unabashedly "we are bad people" attitude, there was so much to love - and now miss - about this show.
7. "veronica mars: not pictured" (upn)
(originally aired: may 9, 2006)
The end of season two's imposing plot labyrinth was simply mind blowing - Logan's father (Harry Hamlin) being released from jail, the mayor (Steve Guttenberg) on the lam from being exposed as a pedophile, an alternate reality in which Lilly Kane never died, Weevil getting arrested, Wallace trying to track down Jackie and Beaver being exposed as the guy behind the bus crash and - has your mind exploded yet? - that he actually raped Veronica last year. Excuse me while I pick up the pieces of my brain.
6. "friday night lights: pilot" (nbc)
(originally aired: october 3, 2006)
"Lights" TV debut was everything that was so great about the film and so much more - it's attention to small, fleeting moments (a brief shot of the crowd all holding up crossed fingers when one of their heroes goes down), an "unknown" ensemble cast that feels like real teenagers (Scott Porter, Zach Gilford, Taylor Kitsch, Gaius Charles and Minka Kelly your names are certainly known now) and gut punching plot developments (Jason Street's soul crushing injury).
5. "the office: casino night" (nbc)
(originally aired: may 11, 2006)
Who knew such an offbeat, often times irreverent show had the emotional beat of emotional beats of 2006 - the Pam/Jim kiss - in it?
4. "how i met your mother: slap bet" (cbs)
(originally aired: november 20, 2006)
I'm sure plenty of people have called it before me but this was "Mother's" "The Chinese Restaurant" episode, i.e. the one where it made the leap into greatness. As Robin Sparkles says, "Let's go to the mall... today."
3. "the shield: post partum" (fx)
(originally aired: march 21, 2006)
I was this close to putting episodes 3-13 as every episode of "The Shield" this season but somehow that felt very Time's Person of the Year is "You." Nevertheless, the show's 11 installments this season were about as close to perfection as you could get from a TV show. But its finale, in which Shane covers up the Strike Team's wrongdoings - by putting a grenade in Lemansky's car and then watching him die, pushed buttons I didn't know TV could. I literally am getting chills writing this.
2. "the wire: final grades" (hbo)
(originally aired: december 10, 2006)
David Simon did it again. He made us think these four boys - Namond (Julito McCullum), Michael (Tristan Wilds), Randy (Maestro Harrell) and Duquan (Jermaine Crawford) - could have at the very least a future and ripped the rug out from under nearly all of them. He gave us a voice in Bodie (JD Williams), who rallied against the current state of "the game," only to silence it. He gave us a saintly mayor (Aidan Gillen) only to muzzle him with bureaucracy. In the end however he did give us the "old" McNulty (Dominic West) back and the promise to fight the good fight once again. And I'm sure he'll make us believe again - and rip the rug out from under us again. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
1. "battlestar galactica: exodus: part 2" (sci fi)
(originally aired: october 20, 2006)
When television can make our jaw drop, pick it up and make it drop again a few minutes later it deserves to be the top episode of 2006. Such was the case for this episode, in which Galactica attempts an impossible rescue mission on New Caprica - complete with a jump into the planet's fraking atmosphere - only to get rescued at the last minute by the Pegasus - which suicide runs itself into a Basestar, blows up and has its pieces smash into another Basestar. Holy shit people - this is what TV should be.