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!
10. "in treatment: oliver - week four" (hbo)
(originally aired: april 27, 2009)
A trifecta of moments - Bess, Oliver's mother, essentially confessing her resentment over being a mom; Oliver suggesting that his parents literally would be better off without him; and Paul, while doing the simple act of making a sandwich, realizing he's more of a parent to Oliver than Bess and Luke - made this the most soul crushing half-hour of the past year.
9. "the office: niagra" (nbc)
(originally aired: october 8, 2009)
Pam and Jim's dual wedding - one, for the guests, recreating the YouTube video set to Chris Brown's "Forever," and the other, for them, in which a captain marries them alone at sea - has to be the funniest, and most touching, three minutes and change all year.
8. "curb your enthusiasm: seinfeld" (hbo)
(originally aired: november 22, 2009)
The karmic mulligan for the real "Seinfeld" finale delivered on every level. From the digs at the aforementioned swan song; to respecting wood; to the meta orgy of Larry David playing Larry David playing George Costanza; to Larry's inherent curmudgeon-ness ultimately ruining his own happy ending, "Curb's" "Seinfeld" was nothing short of extraordinary.
7. "big love: come, ye saints" (hbo)
(originally aired: february 22, 2009)
The Henrickson pilgrimage gave us a litany of funny, dramatic and painful moments as Margie and Ben catch each other naked, Nicki and Bill both have to think of other people to have sex, everyone hates the time capsule, Nicki confesses to using birth control, Sarah has a miscarriage and Bill cries out for God in the wilderness... and gets answered.
6. "the good wife: pilot" (cbs)
(originally aired: september 22, 2009)
Anchored by a stunning performance from Julianna Margulies and a timely hook, "The Good Wife" opened with an episode that was refreshingly... dare I say adult? Alicia's journey proves to be a surprisingly grey one as the duality of wanting to keep her family together and the awakening of life on her own nipped at her heels in equal portions. Throw in a meaty supporting cast - filled with great-to-see-veterans and where-have-you-been-newcomers - and you have the recipe for one of television's most promising procedurals in recent memory.
5. "mad men: shut the door, have a seat" (amc)
(originally aired: november 8, 2009)
In what's probably the most active episode of the series to date, the Sterling Cooper gang stage a coup against their British masters. It's an hour filled with tons of great let's-get-the-band-back-together scenes, from Don and Roger finally reconciling; to Peggy saying no, then yes; to Pete finally getting the type of respect he craves; to Lane giving his former bosses the metaphorical middle finger; to the return of Joan. That - coupled with the official end of Don and Betty - made 1963 go out with a bang.
4. "friday night lights: the son" (directv)
(originally aired: december 2, 2009)
Matt Saracen, the show's resident Charlie Brown, struggled to keep it together in this installment, in which he must bury his absentee father. Between realizing he doesn't know his father at all (he was funny?) and melting down at the Taylors' dining room table, we watched a lifetime of anger and resentment pour out of this poor kid who rarely gets the winds to blow his way. And if those weren't enough reasons for we the viewers to reach for our tissue boxes, we catch Julie imagining life without her father and him responding with a brief moment of kindness that Matt will never experience. Seriously, how insert-your-favorite-explicative-here good is this show?
3. "house: broken" (fox)
(originally aired: september 21, 2009)
The awesomeness that is Hugh Laurie and the wonderfulness that is David Shore's (and company's) pens once again reached new heights with this break-from-the-norm installment, which followed House's summer in the loony bin. After five seasons of taking somewhat inconsistent stabs at what House's problem ultimately is, fixing it and then watching it blow up again, this time we took the more existential route - all any of us can really do is apologize to those we've hurt, forgive ourselves and try to move on. House's journey to that conclusion was a thing to behold.
2. "glee: pilot" (fox)
(originally aired: may 19, 2009)
There's no other way to say it other than "Glee" simply changed what we could expect from television. A teen show on network television, about a glee glub, and they actually have three or four flat out musical numbers in each episode? And with a biting edge at that? Somehow, almost improbably, it all came together in its premiere installment which introduced us to a murderer's row of high school archetypes, all with their own distinct personalities - not to mention Sue Sylvester, currently TV's greatest villain. The bottom line: I don't want to be your friend if you didn't at least smile once during their bring-down-the-house rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Belivin.'"
1. "modern family: pilot" (abc)
(originally aired: september 23, 2009)
"Modern Family's" pilot was not only greater than its parts, but it also had the added effect of reminding the television audience as a whole that it was okay to love comedy again. Sure there have been comedic successes in the past couple of years, but to spearhead an entire night's lineup on a network best known for its dramas? Almost unheard of. And when your parts are a pitch perfect cast, a so real it almost hurts script and a sense that it's been on the air for years, that's a master achievement, let alone the best episode of 2009.