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The Top Ten TV Episodes of 2008

Consider this the companion piece to my Top Ten TV Shows of 2008 list. Unlike that list, this one is a more standard year end list, only covering episodes that aired January 1 to December 31. Because I'm judging thousands of episodes, there was a bunch of contenders for this list, many of which were bunched pretty closely near the end of the list, so I used the 8-10 spots for shows that missed my other list just to change things up.

NOTE: Since I'll be talking about specific episodes, the write-ups will be necessarily spoilerish. For people who want to skim but remain unspoiled, the pictures are fairly unspoilery. On that note, I'll reiterate that I haven't caught up to The Shield, so please don't spoil it for me by telling my how amazing the finale was and how dumb I am for leaving it off this list. (Well okay, you can tell me that it's awesome. Just please don't tell me why.)

10. "Nothing Tastes Better Than Five Hundred Dollars", Survivor: Gabon – Season 17, Episode 10, Airdate: June 3

Gabon wasn't one of the best seasons of Survivor, in fact, it was pretty much instantly forgettable (well, in my case, I mean that figuratively, as I seem to remember everything about this show — which I'm not proud of). But this was one of the better episodes of the past 17 seasons (yes, there have been 17 seasons of this show, which will shock those of you who stopped paying any attention 15 seasons ago), mostly because it offered something that scripted TV can't: the complete and utter comeuppance of a real life bully.

After spending most of the season as one of the most mean-spirited, ungracious, bigoted contestant in the show's history, Randy found himself on the outside looking in after a few game twists and miscalculations left him with only one ally (the even more detestable Corinne). His big plan for survival? Be an even bigger ass to everyone, trying to get everyone to vote for him so he could use Bob's hidden idol. The problem? Bob didn't have a freaking hidden idol, Sugar did. And had it for weeks, but Randy was so dismissive of her and her intelligence that it didn't occur to him that she could have it. Instead, Bob had a fake idol, which he gave to Randy on Sugar's behest, all so Randy would look like an idiot at Tribal Council. And he did, and it was GLORIOUS. He smugly played the fake idol, had it thrown in his face, had those whose previous losses he never failed to throw back in their faces get to laugh in his, while Randy remained bitter and awful until the end.

9. "Mac & Charlie Die" (parts one and two), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season 4, Episodes 4 & 5, Airdate: May 3

It's Always Sunny can be one of the funniest shows on TV when it's on, but it's generally hit or miss. This one was mostly hit throughout the two-part episode, with the manic energy of the cast resulting in some inspired bits like Charlie's easily pulled teeth, his wild card reaction to Mac's plan (complete with a chair thrown through the window), Mac's crazy car scheme, their funeral, Sweet Dee's harrowing bus ride, and "the shadow". The only problem I had with the episode (well, besides Frank, who I could completely do without) was that I was watching it on my iPod, and bursting out laughing uncontrollably was a bit embarrassing.

8. "Hello, Goodbye", Friday Night Lights – Season 3, Episode 4, Airdate: October 22

After a wildly uneven second season that largely got by due to affection the characters had earned in the first season, this third (and probably final season) has been largely improved, given the characters we fell in love with a proper send-off. The show started with the official send-offs with the fourth episode of the season, with the departure of the now graduated Smash Williams (they would repeat the trick later with Jason Street). It was classic FNL, in that if you didn't nearly choke on the lump in your throat that developed about halfway through and only grew until the beautiful finish, then you lack a proper functioning soul. (PS: Yes I know that picture doesn't do the true highlights of the episode justice, it's just the best I could do. This season doesn't have much of a web presence yet, as I imagine NBC doesn't want too many spoilers out there until it's had a chance to air it.)

About Andy Sayers

  • Shannon Howard

    Thank you for including “Goodbye, Toby” on the list. I was so pleased with the unpredictability of the episode’s plotlines and the fun performances given by Carrell and Helms.

    I recall thinking that Andy’s character was strangely absent from all the goings-on during the hour finale, but it wasn’t glaringly obvious.It was more like a tickle in the back of my brain.

    The payoff at the end was reason enough to let Ed Helms stay in the shadows until the precise moment he took center stage.

    THE OFFICE, I think, gets stronger every year. Not all shows can do that.

  • El Bicho

    All I will say is I believe you will update this list in the comments after watching the last season of The Shield.