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!
20. "better off ted: racial sensitivity" (abc)
(originally aired: april 8, 2009)
When Veridian's new motion-sensor system proves ineffective on people with dark skin - yes, I can't believe I'm typing that sentence either - Ted has to convince Veronica to pull the plug. She nevertheless insists it's not racist, it's just indifferent. The company's solution: have minimum-wage white employees follow them around so the sensors will activate. "Ted" has served up some scathing indictments of corporate practices before, but this one hit it out of the park.
19. "scrubs: my finale" (abc)
(originally aired: may 6, 2009)
About as perfect of a
series season finale as you could ask for, "My Finale" hit all the right buttons. From J.D. giving Dr. Cox a bound book of his rants; to learning the Janitor's real name (or not); to cameos by nearly all of its featured players over the years; all the way up to its wonderful closing sequence, in which J.D. views his imagined home movies (set to Peter Gabriel's "The Book of Love"), "Scrubs" went out (or not) on top.
18. "supernatural: changing channels" (the cw)
(originally aired: november 5, 2009)
"Supernatural" does drama well. "Supernatural" does comedy well. But if there's one thing "Supernatural" does best of all it's being ridiculously insert-praiseworthy-explicative-here clever. Case in point: this installment in which The Trickster traps Sam and Dean in a television universe where they must combat the horrors of Japanese game shows, sitcoms, "CSI: Miami" and, yes, "Grey's Anatomy." Whether it's Dean being revealed as a closet fan of a certain ABC medical drama ("It's a guilty pleasure!"), the sitcom cold open ("Supernatural is filmed before a live studio audience.") or the David Caruso-esque pun-off to distract the aforementioned Trickster ("Well I say... no guts, no glory.") - not to mention the ultimate reveal of who The Trickster actually is - it's hard to walk away from this episode without feeling impressed on every level.
17. "breaking bad: phoenix" (amc)
(originally aired: may 24, 2009)
While we've watched Walt slip further into the darkness with each passing week, he crossed the moral Rubicon in this episode in which he stands idly by as Jesse's girlfriend Jane dies of a heroin overdose. His rationale: their relationship has distracted Jesse from his criminal enterprise. Talk about some dark stuff.
16. "fringe: there's more than one of everything" (fox)
(originally aired: may 12, 2009)
J.J. Abrams and company know all about big reveals - hell the pilot ended with a dead John Scott being sent for questioning - but this one, in which William Bell reveals himself as living in a parallel universe where the Twin Towers weren't lost, was one of their most indelible.
15. "virtuality: pilot" (fox)
(originally aired: june 26, 2009)
A stunningly original concept - imagine a "spaceship" show through the lens of a reality series, all wrapped in a meta-commentary about our dependence on technology - that unfortunately only existed as a one-off airing. Unique and unexpected, "Virtuality" offered up the best kind of science fiction - one that forces us to look inward.
14. "lost: the incident" (abc)
(originally aired: may 13, 2009)
The roads of faith and science converged in the series's penultimate season finale. Jack, the resident skeptic, finds faith in the idea that they - while in the past - can undo the events of the past five seasons if they set off a nuclear explosion on the island, one which will change time in a way that Oceanic Flight 815 never crashed. "Lost" always seems to find a way to end each season with a "well, where do they go from here?"-type of feeling and boy if this time around didn't disappoint.
13. "dexter: the getaway" (showtime)
(originally aired: december 13, 2009)
There's really no other way to say it other than: holy shit Trinity killed Rita!
12. "true blood: i will rise up" (hbo)
(originally aired: august 16, 2009)
While Godric only appeared in four episodes, he left a lasting impression. Weary of two millennia of life and the inherent abomination of his existence, he resigns as Sheriff, strips off his clothes... and lets the sun take him. "A human with me at the end," he tells Sookie in his final moments. "And human tears? 2,000 years and I can still be surprised. In this I see God."
11. "sons of anarchy: balm" (fx)
(originally aired: november 10, 2009)
It was a card you knew would be played at the darkest moment of Jax and Clay's relationship - Gemma, mother of the former and wife of the latter, had been gang raped by Zobelle's goons, a secret she kept to prevent the club from flying off the rails in pursuit of vengeance. And so it came: Jax, done with Clay and his tactics, offers up himself to go "nomad" and the club begrudgingly approves. Rather than lose him to said existence, Gemma offers up her painful experience to them both, reuniting them at last.