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 2008 on Friday. The episodes on this list are based on nominations by myself, the staff and you the readers as to what we think the standout moments of the year were.
Obviously our final list will differ from the ones you sent in - but that's half the fun! So sit back, relax and enjoy the countdown!
40. "how i met your mother: the naked man" (cbs)
(originally aired: november 24, 2008)
This truly "Seinfeld"-esque installment proposed the theory that if you take off all your clothes at the end of a ho-hum date, two out of three times it'll lead to sex. It was good news for Ted and Lily. Not so much for Barney. And if that wasn't enough: Lily presents 50 reasons for having sex.
39. "the unit: sudden flight" (cbs)
(originally aired: october 5, 2008)
They really do make a little movie each week on "The Unit" - in this case, a flight gets hijacked while the team tries to follow a scientist. From the team's MacGyvering skills to its crackerjack dialogue (Jonas: "Who here has flown a 767?" Beat. Jonas: "Who here would like to fly a 767?"), this is a show that's definitely worth keeping on your radar.
38. "the mentalist: pilot" (cbs)
(originally aired: september 23, 2008)
Hands down the best - not to mention the most-watched - new show on the fall season "The Mentalist" made launching a new show look easy. Charming lead. Check. Procedural gimmick. Check. A mix of silly and serious. Check. Viewers. Check.
37. "californication: the raw & the cooked" (showtime)
(originally aired: october 19, 2008)
The Moodys' dinner party started with Hank and Karen together and ended with them apart. In between we got Hank going all shotgun on Becca's new beau, Marcy and Charlie's sexual escapades making everyone uncomfortable, Lew Ashby (someone get Callum Keith Rennie his own show) turning up with the victim of Hank's mouth raping and Sonja dropping the bombshell of all bombshells.
36. "30 rock: milf island" (nbc)
(originally aired: april 10, 2008)
Worth a spot on this list alone for the amazingly meta development of getting NBC itself into hot water over its content.
35. "the office: employee transfer" (nbc)
(originally aired: october 30, 2008)
Wait, wait - you're going to give us Michael's perfect mate (Amy Ryan, you will be missed) and then going to send her away? Comedy never felt so cruel.
34. "fringe: the arrival" (fox)
(originally aired: september 30, 2008)
You could almost see the creative gears on "Fringe" shift into overdrive during this installment, which introduced "The Observer" and featured everything from a mysterious cylinder to ray guns that can knock you ten feet in the air. There's nothing quite like seeing J.J. Abrams and company reach into the toybox and go crazy with what they pull out.
33. "gossip girl: the dark knight" (the cw)/32. "chuck: chuck versus the break-up" (nbc)
(originally aired: september 15, 2008/october 13, 2008)
Not one but two shows this year wrote master theses on how to keep its two lead characters apart without betraying their chemistry or using some artificial deus ex machina - and they both came from the same guy, Josh Schwartz. In "Chuck," it was a culmination of a three-episode arc which actually put Chuck and Sarah together, showed how work may perennially get in the way and ultimately, even when that hurdle is overcome, how life may really have two different paths in mind for them. In "Gossip Girl," it was the realization by Dan and Serena that underneath their deep feelings for each other was a deep resentment over the events of the past year. Sure both couples will inevitably get back together, but kudos for Schwartz and company for continuing to keep the dance interesting.
31. "brothers & sisters: prior commitments" (abc)
(originally aired: may 11, 2008)
Any hint of happiness for the Walker clan is reason to celebrate - here, the much deserved nuptials between Kevin and Scotty - but as is always the case, there's a new storm around the corner - in this case, William's latest big secret. To quote my Television Without Pity friends, "Damn you, Berlanti!"
COMING TOMORROW: #30-21