My list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2010 is also up at time.com. See my post about my Top 10 TV Shows picks for some explanations and general thoughts on listmaking. After the jump, some particular comments about the episode list, the quick-and-dirty version of the list, and some honorable mentions:
* My episode list is more fun to make, and I think more interesting, than my TV shows list, because there are more candidates and fewer absolute no-brainers. It also lets me recognize shows that have had fantastic individual episodes, but for whatever reason, as overall larger works, do not add up to make the Top 10 shows list. (Community, for instance, or Treme, both of which didn’t quite made the shows list.) There really is a difference between the whole and the sum of the parts, which is one reason I like doing this list.
* Time.com finalizes its lists early. Really early. Which means I pretty much had to cement my lists back in November. So some late-airing episodes fall through the cracks. Last year, Friday Night Lights’ “The Son” was one of those—it aired on DirecTV after our lists were done, so I noted it in my honorable mention blog post last year. I decided to put it on this year, because it had its first NBC run in 2010, and because it was so awesome. There were other late-2009 episodes I might have done the same for (e.g., Modern Family’s “Fizbo”), but I didn’t, figuring that fair or not a best-of-2010 list needs to be limited to 2010. That’s not a great solution either, though, and I may yet reconsider next year.
* This list also serves as kind of supplement to the best-shows list, so I probably gave a bump to episodes of shows I very nearly put on that list (e.g., Justified). Conversely, while there is some overlap with the best-shows list, I probably raised the bar a bit for shows that already made the other list.
* I observed a one-episode per series rule, without which a few of the series here may have placed more than once. You may argue that that means this is not truly a best episodes of 2010 list. You would be correct. But too bad. I prefer to have a list, imperfect as it is, that gives a little broader sense of what was great on TV this year, and I don’t think we need to read why Breaking Bad is awesome 4 or 5 times in the same list.
* This list, as it sometimes does, leans toward the first half of the year. That may, I admit, be partly because I’ve kept a running list, which may just make it harder for a fall episode to unseat one that aired in the spring. And it may be tougher for a new fall show to place on this list, because it’s harder to tell yet which episodes best capture the overall strengths of the show, since they’re still developing.
* TV critics can’t physically watch everything, and I there may have been a spectacular episode of Burn Notice that I never saw and never will. So this list is necessarily more idiosyncratic than the top 10 series list. I welcome you to post your own.
* Finally, time.com did a bang-up job formatting the lists, but they had 50 of them to produce, so they may have made mistakes–and I almost certainly did. If you find any, note them and I’ll get them fixed. (Note: failing to pick your favorite show not a “mistake” except in the moral sense.)
Now, the short version of the list (but please read the full version for my explanations and praise):
1. Friday Night Lights, “The Son” (DirecTV/NBC)
2. Mad Men, “The Suitcase” (AMC)
3. Community, “Modern Warfare” (NBC)
4. Breaking Bad, “One Minute” (AMC)
5. Fringe, “Peter” (Fox)
6. Louie, “Bully” (FX)
7. Lost, “The End” (ABC)
8. Treme, “Do You Know What It Means” (pilot) (HBO)
9. The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, final episode (NBC)
10. Justified, “Fire in the Hole” (pilot) (FX)
And finally, a very incomplete–more or less off the top of my head–list of honorable mentions, in no particular order:
The Walking Dead, pilot
Treme, “Wish Someone Would Care”
Party Down, “Party Down Company Picnic”
Glee, “Dream On”
Breaking Bad, “Fly,” “Half Measures,” “Full Measure”
Boardwalk Empire, “Nights in Ballygran”
Parks and Rec, “Sweetums,” “The Master Plan”
Rubicon, “Look to the Ant”
Friday Night Lights, “I Can’t”
Terriers, “Hail Mary”
Dollhouse, “Epitaph Two: Return”
Mad Men, “The Summer Man”
Community, “Mixology Certification”
Modern Family, “Manny Get Your Gun”