[01/05/10 - 10:03 AM]
The 50 Best Episodes of 2009: #40-31
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

It's time once again for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year.

As usual we'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2009 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.

This year actually marks our 10th anniversary of the doing this so be sure to revisit some of our previous picks using the links to the right.

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. "party down: willow canyon homeowner's annual party" (starz)
(originally aired: march 20, 2009)

The inaugural installment of this comedic gem introduced us to the motley crew of Party Down catering - nice guy/former actor Henry, frustrated screenwriter Roman, multihyphenate airhead Kyle, uncensored Constance, sweet-but-insecure Casey and hapless leader Ron. "Are we having fun yet?!" Yes we are.

39. "csi: crime scene investigation: a space oddity" (cbs)
(originally aired: april 16, 2009)

The show's annual "lab rats" installment was a particular hoot this time around as Hodges and Wendy investigate a murder at a sci-fi convention. In addition to appearances by "Battlestar Galactica's" Ronald D. Moore and Kate Vernon, we also got to see Hodges's fantasy life, where in addition to putting Wendy in various stages of undress, he imagined himself on a "Star Trek"-esque television series. Thankfully the silly was balanced by the sweet as Hodges confessed his feelings for her... in a Klingon-esque language.

38. "american dad: rapture's delight" (fox)
(originally aired: december 13, 2009)

This unexpectedly insane installment saw the Smith clan experience the rapture only to have the usually pious Stan furious he got left behind because he and Francine had sex at church. What followed was a surprisingly ambitious parody of post-apocalyptic thrillers with the now grizzled Stan having to team up with Jesus - who's now dating Francine - to slay the anti-Christ. Between the Tangerine Dream-esque music (and yes, I realize I've used the phrase "-esque" three times at this point), the slightly-stunned-they-let-them-slip-by-jabs at Christianity and the touching (yes, I said touching) conclusion, this was by far the show's best episode to date.

37. "kings: judgment day" (nbc)
(originally aired: april 18, 2009)

Shiloh opened up even more in this world building installment, which detailed "Judgment Day," an annual lottery in which citizens can win a chance to have King Silas personally hear their case. Said event coincided with David's attempts to have his treasonous brother spared a death sentence. While we loved "Kings" as a family soap, a political drama and a biblical analogue, the distinctiveness of the world itself impressed us the most.

36. "men of a certain age: pilot" (tnt)
(originally aired: december 7, 2009)

A raw, harsh look at life unfulfilled, "Men's" opener introduced us to Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher each uncharacteristically playing against type: Romano as a sad sack divorcee who's sinking back into his gambling addiction, Braugher as an overweight car salesman whose father/boss looks down on him and Bakula as a washed up actor who knows his best days are behind him. It's an area/theme television has rarely tackled from a male perspective, especially in such an earnest, revealing way.

35. "30 rock: generalissimo" (nbc)
(originally aired: february 5, 2009)

Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy: awesome. Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy and a gay Mexican soap star doppelganger of himself: there are no words.

34. "the unusuals: pilot" (abc)
(originally aired: april 8, 2009)

I can't recall the last time a cop show had such vivid personalities and such a unique voice. Noah Hawley's far-too-short-lived series opened with an episode that introduced us to, among other people, a Sgt. who keeps a spacewalk suit hung on the coat rack in his office, a stone-faced detective who also runs the world's worst diner, a secretive Lt. who interrupts his job to watch "Meerkat Manor" and a dispatcher who dryly reports on the "ninja or a ninja-like figures" and "Puerto Rican males wearing a cape and no pants" that they all have to be aware of. An improbable mix of serious (Kowalski's murder) and ridiculous (a councilman's daughter's cat's murder), "The Unusuals" will be missed.

33. "supernatural: the real ghostbusters" (the cw)
(originally aired: november 12, 2009)

Just when you think "Supernatural" has run out of ways to poke fun of itself, here comes an episode in which Sam and Dean literally attend a "Supernatural" fan convention. Between its panel names ("Frightened Little Boy to Secret Life of Dean," "Homoerotic Subtext of Supernatural") to its LARPing attendees ("Buddy, I have heard that line 17 times tonight, okay?" notes one of the hired actors. "And all from dudes wearing MacGyver jackets. But you seem different."), "The Real Ghostbusters" took it to another level. And yet once again, the silly gave way to the serious as a pair of particularly invested LARPers remind Sam and Dean how, despite their painfully difficult struggles, it really must be cool to be them.

32. "white collar: pilot" (usa)
(originally aired: october 23, 2009)

USA's latest original series is simply a lot of fun to watch, both for its charming leads and its playful take on the whole "mismatched partners fight crime" angle. Whether it be the fact that they actually like each other, their amusing digs at each other (Peter deadpanning, "You look like a cartoon," after a dappered up Neal saunters into the room remains one of the year's funniest moments) or the subtle jealousy for each other's lives, "White Collar" opened in top form.

31. "stargate universe: time" (syfy)
(originally aired: november 13, 2009)

We've seen this genre plot before - the team gets trapped in a seemingly endless time loop and must find a way to send a message to the next loop to show them how to get out of it. Here it's what we don't see that stands out. After finding the aforementioned solution, we the audience are left to fill in the aforementioned blanks on how it was implemented. It was a bold twist for a franchise notorious for repeating itself and another example of how this incarnation will be much different from the ones that came before it.

  [january 2010]  


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