Favorite Episodes of Favorite Shows

Hi, guys. I’ve been working on this for, uh, a couple days now. It wasn’t the most effortless list I’ve put together, but it was still fun to write, and I hope you like it and stuff.

WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS!

Battlestar Galactica, “Blood on the Scales”

It’s very difficult to settle on standout episodes in a series that is so terrific from beginning to end. From the heart-pounding opening of “33” to the last dancing robot in “Daybreak, Part 2,” there’s nary a miss in the entire run. One of the series’ greatest triumphs is “Blood on the Scales,” the second episode devoted to a coup conducted by the typically reserved, obedient crew member Felix Gaeta. It’s impossible to describe this. It’s emotionally charged, gripping, and downright anxiety-inducing at times. Just watch it, OK? This show is the best. And this episode will show you why.

Honorable Mentions: “Colonial Day,” “Unfinished Business,” “Maelstorm”
“Colonial Day” balances lighthearted fun with an assassination attempt in classic BSG fashion. “Unfinished Business” gives viewers further perspective on one of our favorite relationships, Lee Adama’s and Kara Thrace’s, and “Maelstorm” takes a gorgeously depressing look at Kara’s death (or does it?).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Lies My Parents Told Me”

This show, it seems, can’t go wrong with a Spike-focused episode, and for me, this is the most emotionally charged one. Here, the writers explore what amounts to the most important relationship Spike/William has ever had: with his mother. It shows us just how much he cared for her, and how it destroyed him to see her become a monster after he sires her, and the turmoil with which he deals upon staking her. In addition, we see Spike pull back from killing the son of a slayer he once murdered. What he does–he tells said son, Robin Wood, that Wood’s mother never truly loved him–might actually be worse, but this is one of the only times Spike shows mercy, and we can thank his mother for that. As he says, his mother loved him, and now, he’ll pass that on, albeit cruelly as ever. Beautifully directed and containing some of James Marsters’ best acting in the entire series, “Lies My Parents Told Me” is an episode that properly outlines Buffy’s strengths.

Honorable Mentions: “Hush,” “Once More, With Feeling,” “Tabula Rasa,” “Storyteller”
Both “Hush” and “Once More, With Feeling” are fan favorites, as well they should be; they’re the most unique episodes of the series–a kind of homage to silent films and a musical, respectively. They clearly took a lot of time and effort, and that paid off. “Tabula Rasa” is highly comical, a look at how the Scoobies perceive their relationships when their memories are wiped, and “Storyteller” is another unique one, half-framed as a film a pseudo-Scoobie is making, half-devoted to why reality is necessary and has its own bearings on fiction.

Community, “Comparative Religion”

Community feels unlike any other sitcom, and while this is more obvious in episodes like the mini-action movie “Modern Warfare” and the metafictional “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples,” the filmic feel is still there in “Comparative Religion.” In this episode, this focus is on Christmas and what it does and doesn’t mean to our beloved study group. As per usual, there’s nothing that isn’t sharp, witty, and bizarrely profound about the writing, and in the end, equality becomes key, as the study group all but demolishes a gang led by mustache-sporting Anthony Michael Hall and devout Christian Shirley rewrites “Silent Night” so everyone can enjoy it. After all, it’s just December 19.

Honorable Mentions: “Debate 109,” “Contemporary American Poultry,” “Modern Warfare”
“Debate 109″ kicks off every shipper’s dream: 30-something, jaded former lawyer Jeff and 18-year-old recovering Adderall addict Annie kiss at the conclusion of a debate–a debate they win, but only because Jeff, in a moment of Community’s brilliant absurdity, drops a paraplegic after Annie kisses him. “Contemporary American Poultry” frames itself as a Goodfellas parody with fan favorite Abed at the helm, and “Modern Warfare” might be one of the best half hours of television we’ve seen in years, a zombie movie with paintball guns in place of blunt objects and axes.

How I Met Your Mother, “Something Borrowed”

I can’t resist a sitcom that makes me cry once in a while, and I’m fairly sure HIMYM is the only one on air right now that does so. “Something Borrowed” has it all: a failure-prone wedding, a sweet mini-ceremony with the main cast on their own, and Marshall shaving part of his head in a fit of highlights-induced mania. It’s that mini-ceremony that sticks with you, though. Here, viewers are reminded of just how close these characters are, and how much we wish we could be part of a group like theirs, celebrating milestones in a low-key, sincere kind of way.

Honorable Mentions: “The Pineapple Incident,” “Arrivederci, Fiero,” “Girls Versus Suits”
“The Pineapple Incident” follows Ted over the course of an evening he can’t quite recall. Though the pineapple is never explained, all other manner of debauchery is, and hilariously so. “Arrivederci, Fiero” takes us on a journey through the greatest moments in Marshall’s first car’s history, and “Girls Versus Suits” contains a musical number of epic proportions, and an appearance by TV’s Tim Gunn.

Lost, “The Constant”

This is so predictable, but I don’t care.¬†For me, “The Constant” defines Lost. It contains supernatural elements, gripping suspense, pockets of humor, and one of the most romantic phone calls you’ll ever overhear. As with “Blood on the Scales,” to describe its plot does it no justice. Suffice it to say that there’s nothing about “The Constant” that isn’t wholly satisfying. You’ll grin, you’ll cry, and you won’t soon forget why Lost is important a series as it is.

Honorable Mentions: “S.O.S.,” “Greatest Hits,” “Not in Portland,” “Dr. Linus”
“S.O.S.” explains the sweet simplicity of Rose and Bernard’s marriage. They’re a couple you can always count on, and in this episode, you find out why. “Greatest Hits” contains the best tribute to any of the many doomed characters, tracing the five best moments in beloved former junkie, one hit wonder Charlie’s life. “Not in Portland” provides the first of many glimpses into Juliet’s past, and “Dr. Linus” takes a deeply emotional look at what Ben Linus could’ve been.

Mystery Science Theater 3000, “Pod People”
“Pod People” is, without question, the episode of MST3K that took me from fan to lifetime devotee, or something like that. Not only is the movie a complete train wreck, with which Joel and the ‘bots have a field day, but the in-between segments are the best you’ll ever see, recreations of the movie’s most ridiculous scenes with the added personalities of the wonderful Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Kevin Murphy. Many MST3K eps are quotable, but none are quite as quotable, and remarkable, as this one.

Honorable Mentions: “Manos: Hands of Fate,” “The Beatniks,” “Soultaker”
“Manos” is a classic, and it has a right to be, an extraordinarily low budget horror film with a difficult to discern plot and long stretches of silence filled with unrelated witticisms. “The Beatniks” is a hidden gem, a movie that has nothing to do with beatniks and everything to do with a group of kids who cause trouble while eating dishes of ice cream and dancing to the tunes on the jukebox. And “Soultaker” is a fairly coherent movie still rife with non sequiturs, but the episode’s real charm comes along with guest appearances by Joel and TV’s Frank.

The X-Files, “Triangle”

This is the closest The X-Files ever gets to film noir. When Mulder is transported to the 1940s after crossing into the Bermuda Triangle, he encounters a vampy Scully, a turncoat A.D. Skinner, and (surprise!) a Nazi commander Cigarette Smoking Man while aboard a cruise ship filled with millionaires and military coups. Large portions of this episode are done in one shot, and even if it wasn’t so staggeringly impressive production-wise, the sharp writing and typically impressive acting would make this episode stand out among the rest. It’s one of the most unique and thoroughly entertaining episodes of the series.

Honorable Mentions: “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” “Small Potatoes,” “Hollywood A.D.”
“Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” is perhaps the only truly CSM-centric X-Files, with a beautiful performance by William B. Davis and some remarkable fantastical elements in a fascinating character’s back story. “Small Potatoes” and “Hollywood A.D.” are both on the comical side, peppered with humor and some great acting by both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Less Likable Protagonists

Last night, my ever-so-compliant husband and I were watching “Once More, With Feeling,” one of the greatest triumphs in the history of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As we admired Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunning good looks and surprisingly impressive vocals (for those of you who don’t know, “Once More, With Feeling” is a musical), I noted that Buffy is actually one of my least favorite characters on the show, even with all her charm. Scott then suggested that I make a list of lead characters who aren’t, in fact, as likable as the characters who surround them. So, away we go, starting with Ms. Summers herself.

Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I think it’s certainly worth noting that Buffy is by no means a bad character. She’s strong, she’s independent, and her wit is razor sharp. However, when you’re surrounded with such endearing supporting players, and your character suffers from issues with maturity and control, it’s hard to keep up. She’s certainly not as empty as Riley or infantile as Dawn, but she’s far from perfect, and her imperfections are much less interesting than a character arc like Xander’s or Willow’s.

Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

Like Buffy, Ted is constantly surrounded by more interesting, endearing characters. But he’s also just flat-out annoying. He’s both hung up on himself and pretentious, and his hopes for great romance went from “Aw, that’s cute” to “Ugh, shut up” seasons ago. He flip flops on just about every decision he makes, and it’s usually because of some woman’s external influence, a woman we’ll never see or be asked to care about again. In truth, the fact that we’re still being asked to care about Ted is tough on its own. But give Josh Radnor credit for filling that role as best he can. (Note: all I wanted to write was “Just look at him!” after I found that picture.)

Angel, Angel

This is the first case where I have to add the disclaimer that I really appreciate the character of Angel. Just as the show took Cordelia and Wesley and made them into intricately written characters, it did the same with Angel, formerly just a broody, hunky guy best kept in the shadows or turned evil. Like Buffy, it’s a case of better characters all around him, but there’s also a flaw that keeps coming back: that darn brooding. Sure, plenty is thrown at him in the run of the series that justifies sulky behavior, but it gets pretty trying every now and then.

Jack Shephard, Lost

First, it’s essential that I point out how hilarious this picture is. Look, it’s Jack … balanced between some rocks … raising one foot like a gimpy flamingo, the ocean’s waves crashing behind him. How is that not funny?

Anyway, Jack is another character I don’t have any glaring problems with straightaway. However, after a riveting glimpse into his past in the first season, he becomes less of the focal point and more of a somewhat grating background player. By the time he’s addicted to pain pills and yelling about how WE HAVE TO GO BAAAACK, he’s fallen somewhere between Juliet and Kate on a character likability scale. I will say that his lack of charisma doesn’t stay the course of the series; by that final moment, you love Jack as much as you did at the very beginning. Still, he’s not a consistent hero, earning him a spot on this list, certainly not as cringe-worthy as Ted Mosby, but occasionally worthy of scorn nonetheless.

Jeff Winger, Community

Look, just because I want to date him in a fictional universe doesn’t mean he’s a likable person. When the first two words on your Wikipedia entry are “snarky” and “glib,” chances are you’re not going to be the friendliest guy at Greendale Community College (though it hasn’t been determined whose honor that is just yet). Jeff isn’t the only character with undesirable traits. Britta is shrill and a causehead, Pierce is flat out offensive, and Senor Chang is … well, he’s Senor Chang. But he’s still a jerk. An attractive jerk you’d like to kiss, sure. But a jerk nonetheless.

Jim Halpert and Michael Scott, The Office

(At series’ beginning, Michael is the focal point; somewhere down the line, Jim steps into the spotlight.)

At some point in time, Jim Halpert was very, very likable. He was equally goofy and charming, and you, the viewer, were always rooting for him. Get the girl, Big Tuna! We know you can! And then, after he did, something shifted. He became more like the character with whom he shares the spotlight most, Michael, the worst boss in TV history. (I’m going to go ahead and say his British equivalent, David Brent, is better, but that’s just one girl’s opinion.) Their jokes are bad, their social skills are questionable at best, and their respective levels of self awareness are nonexistent. This was never cute on Michael and, now, it’s never cute on Jim. The Office’s appeal is lost on me of late, and that’s due, at least in part, to Jim and Michael, who just keep on letting me down.

To me, there are no other glaring examples. I can think of shows with no sole protagonists on which I love each and every character (BSG, duh, and The West Wing), in addition to some truly excellent protagonists (30 Rock’s Liz Lemon and Flight of the Conchords’ Bret & Jemaine). Honestly, even with an unlikable main character, these are quality programs, and I can look past a showblocker or two for their sake. (Except The Office, which I haven’t stopped watching, and don’t know why.)

Delay of a Salesman

First: oh, hi, cardio and crunches, it’s nice to see you again. I’ve been slacking, not necessarily on diet, but certainly on exercise, so I decided today was as good as any to get back into it. At the end of August, I hit my lowest weight since early high school; basically, in seven years, I’ve been able to get back down to where I was, and even lower than that. My doctor says I deserve a medal. Enough confidence to wear a bikini next year would be sufficient for me.

Second: I got contacted by an insurance company today. They pushed me into setting an appointment for an interview next week. I thought I’d heard of the company before, and I wasn’t even certain what they did, so I looked them up and found out some of the most negative things a company can possibly do. These are people who seek out the unemployed and cold call them, offering them classes in sales and training in how to use scare tactics to sell your product. They tell you nothing about the position pre-interview and tell you to “dress professionally,” as though that’s not something you would do for an interview already.

ANYWAY, my point here is that I tire quickly of getting treated like prey. So I don’t have a job. This makes me no worse than others with jobs. I have a bachelor’s degree and office experience. If I wanted a master’s degree, I could get one. I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m smart enough to do so. And yet, because I’m not receiving a bi-monthly paycheck or a yearly salary, I’m somehow more susceptible to scams.

This is not a place I ever wanted to be, but I’d rather be unemployed and content than selling insurance and unhappy. And I am content. No matter how many times I get discouraged, I’m happy with what I have. And that’s something no scam can take away from me.

However, they did take away my privilege of sleeping in by calling before Scott left for work. So I think I’ll shower (gotta get the stink of exercise off) and go back to bed for a while. Listen to Cat Stevens while I’m gone.

Married to the Sea

Life has been a little bit adrift in the past few months. The few promising leads I had in the wonderful world of employment evaporated, so here I am again, applying for jobs in a number of different states and gritting my teeth and moving on after every rejection e-mail (of which there are many). I prefer the rejections to never hearing anything at all. An editorial assistant position opened up on Tell Me More, an NPR show, and while I got an e-mail from the recruiter the day I submitted an application, I’ve heard nothing since. That was over a month ago now.

I’d like to think it’s getting easier, that it doesn’t still hurt when I hear nothing or I hear something and it’s strictly negative. But honestly, I’m beginning to think it gets harder. There comes a point when you start to wonder if this is worth it, the countless cover letters and resume revisions and “Thank you for your time” empty sentiments. And that, I suppose, is when you start thinking about grad school again.

I’d love to be a librarian by day, potentially at an elementary or middle school, and a critic by night. But before I can do anything like that, I have to take the GRE, get into an ALA-accredited school, and study there for two years till I get my slip of paper, at which time I’ll apply for jobs. My chief worry there is that I’ll have just as much success looking for a librarian post as I have in my current line of work (that is, hardly any success). You never can tell how these things will work out, which makes it a lot more difficult for me to go ahead and try my hand and head at a standardized test with which I know I’ll have a hard time.

In much lighter news, Scott got us a Netflix subscription in honor of the 23rd anniversary of my birth. (Does 23 count as mid-twenties? I think so!) Today, we discovered that we can stream a whole lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is excellent, considering the depth of our love for it. One of the highlights of Dragon*Con, for me, was meeting Joel Hodgson, and my smile grows ever wider when he delivers a classic line. The first movie we got is Some Like it Hot. I’ve seen it and consider it one of the best comedies ever made. Scott hasn’t seen it, and for this reason, I’m really looking forward to watching it again.

Also, I watched The Royal Tenenbaums today, and was reminded why it’s one of my favorite movies. The smallest details in that film–the Javelina, Mordecai’s white feathers, the smile on Chas’ face when he finally loosens up and rides the garbage truck–can be so painstakingly beautiful. To me, it feels like a series of films squeezed into one, introducing these smaller characters that become part of a far-reaching, thoroughly entertaining whole. It made me miss writing about movies. I think I’ll start doing that again. There are habits we should never avoid; for me, writing about pop culture is one of them.

It’s good to be back.

Televised Crushes

By my very nature, I am a list maker. When I can’t sleep, I make lists. When I’m bored, I make lists. When I was in class, I made lists, and sometimes, when there are far more important things to do, I make lists anyway. Last night, after a lovely, low-key birthday celebration with Scott, I made a list that falls into the category of “can’t sleep.” These lists never carry much water, as I often forget list items since they were thought up in a hazy, half-asleep state. However, after a bit of struggle with number four, I was able to remember everything that made its way onto the list–or, rather, everyone.

So, without further ado…

Television Characters I Would So Totally Date, Given the Chance in a Fictional Universe

Danny Concannon, The West Wing

Now, I haven’t finished The West Wing yet (not even close, actually, just concluded season one last night), so for all I know, Danny transforms into a despicable human being by the second episode of season two. But I’m counting on that not happening. So far, I gauge that Danny would be the perfect boyfriend. He’s adorably persistent, he gives thoughtful gifts (the image of him and the goldfish bowl comes to mind), and he’s highly professional, whether it helps the object of his affection (CJ, duh) or hurts her. Granted, Danny is probably somewhere far out of my dating age range, but no matter. This is all made up anyway.

Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, Lost

Hurley is consistently one of the most likable characters on the island, if not the most of all. He cares deeply about everyone around him, he attempts to make peace among them when conflict breaks out, and he has a deep sense of trust for his peers, even if that trust is sometimes misplaced. He’s got a little bit of the crazy going on, so that adds a nice touch of mystery. Plus, at series’ end, he lands a pretty awesome job, so he’ll always be able to support you. Further, can you imagine the kind of hugs this guy gives? I bet they’re amazing.

Jeff Winger, Community

Someone I know once told me that if she met Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother in her everyday life, there’s no way she wouldn’t fall for his jerky charms. That’s exactly how I feel about Jeff. Though he has a kind streak running through him, Jeff is generally not a nice guy. But he makes up for it in equal amounts of charming and smarmy. He has an excellent sense of humor, particularly in deadpan, well-timed form. Plus, he’s almost disconcertingly good-looking, which is always a plus.

Xander Harris, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Initially, it was hard for me to settle on a Whedon geek. Angel’s Wesley Wyndham-Pryce is probably the best-looking and most kindhearted, Dollhouse’s Topher Brink is the most adorably cocky and the most intelligent (even eking out Wesley’s intimidating book smarts), and Hoban “Wash” Washburne from Firefly … well, he’s Wash, for goodness’ sake. But again and again, I keep coming back to Xander. Xander’s character arc is largely based around his insecurities, and how secure he becomes in being this non-gifted, still extraordinary guy over the course of seven years. He’s affable, and tolerant, and a fiercely loyal friend, no matter how many times he gets pushed aside. Also, he’s great with a pun or a punchline, and the guy suffers through the loss of an eye and can still make jokes about it. “Party in my eye socket and everyone’s invited!” is one of my favorite lines in the entire series. Also, it’s worth noting that Xander, far and away, reminds me most of my husband, and that’s going to get him points every time.

Honorable Mentions: Freaks and Geeks’ Nick Andropolis, Boy Meets World’s Shawn Hunter, The West Wing’s Charlie Young, DeGrassi: The Next Generation’s J.T. Yorke, and Battlestar Galactica’s Galen Tyrol