The suggestion for this has come our way a buncha times, and what once felt like a thankless chore now feels like a thrilling challenge. I guess the time or the mood was right, who knows. Still, though, it does present some challenges here and there - depending on where you're standing, certain shows manage to be so dense and cohesive that sometimes it's tough to champion a standalone segment. Like picking a favorite scene in a movie: it's not impossible, but on its own, it's just ketchup & mustard.

But this is dumb; this series barely needs an intro, nevermind getting all philosophical about it. Anyway, this first round goes to me, and right off the bat I'm bringing out some heavy hitters (though I don't see us doing many Public Access shows in the future). You may agree with my top picks, but with any luck, you won't - I'm lookin' for a fight.

- Paul

Curb Your Enthusiasm
"Shaq" (season 2)

Amazing that a show that spans ten seasons and two decades made absolutely no progress as far as a story arch. But if there'd been any growth, it wouldn't be Larry David.

Obviously what I'm driving at here is that the themes and the attitude of the show largely remained the same throughout, and this is very much one of those situations (the best situation) to point to and say, "That's what this show's about." Immediately after being inundated with menial tasks and forced pleasantries, Larry accidentally trips and injures Shaquille O'Neal at a Lakers game. Following this, Larry becomes socially unpopular enough that everyone no longer requires any favors from him of any kind, and his relief and joy in the wake of his newly acquired bad reputation creates an exhilarating sense of empathy and jealousy for every viewer.

It's just the best, because most of what I've just described would align with the entire series.

Mystery Science Theater 3000
"Riding With Death" (season 8)

Alright, we're gettin' into the McLarge Huge of it now! This is one of those shows that doesn't have a continuing narrative (I mean, c'mon, it really doesn't), so that makes it all the more easy to pick a standout. Of course, at the same time, it's hard to choose just one. But the joy of this is that I have the freedom to pick a favorite episode and then change my mind anytime I want - because that's the power of love.

Many things have occupied this highly coveted Top Spot, but for the past 5 or 6 years, my go-to experiment has been this TV Movie Turkey from 1981 that was actually just two episodes of the NBC Action/Adventure show Gemini Man edited together into a structureless, lopsided "film." Sound stupid and irritatingly convoluted? Excellent! All riffing aside, the biggest laughs come from how ineptly this already-half-assed idea was stapled together, as well as its cast of lovably loathsome heroes and villains. The dialogue consists solely of trucker lingo, honky-tonk hee-haw, and faux bureaucratic jargon, which all crescendos into one of my favorite Crow moments as he shouts at the screen, "Shut up! Everybody SHUT UP!"

Tales From The Darkside
"Halloween Candy" (season 2)

An episode directed by Tom Savini, written by Michael McDowell, and all about Halloween night! What could go wrong? Well, for character actor Roy Poole, everything.

Every episode of Darkside was small-scale, and this one was no exception. But... some stories were better suited to their claustrophobic, single-room setup than others, and this blissfully simple fable absolutely fucking nailed it.

The premise: a curmudgeon old man, with a hatred for Halloween, torments young treat-or-treaters that unknowingly knock on his door, until one little real-life monster sets him straight... straight to the morgue! *maniacal laughter*

It's very cathartic when the viscous creature is the protagonist in any story. But on an even more personal note: there's a scene in which the old man pours a concoction of mayonnaise, Elmer's glue, and other round-the-house slop into some poor kid's candy bag - destroying his entire loot. And the little boy just walks away, hanging his head in sadness. No joke: there are very few other moments in fiction that break my heart as carelessly and completely as that moment. And never has revenge been so satisfying.

The Legend of Zelda
"Doppelganger" (season 1)

Ok, so, clearly some of these are gonna be just for me.

Legend of Zelda was sort of a sub-series to The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and only a handful were made - which is probably a good thing. Even at a glance, the show was pretty horrible; if for no other reason than Link and Zelda were portrayed as awful, awful characters with no redeeming qualities. But I kept coming back, because from a distance the whole vibe of the show (the music, the landscapes) pretty closely matched what I took from the games.

This episode, on the other hand, introduced us to an "evil" Zelda imposter sent by Ganon to steal the Triforce. She dressed all in black and basically used her sexuality to coerce Link into doing whatever. Even as a kid - apart from the kinda turn-on of the idea of a naughty Zelda - it occurred to me that they could make these characters interesting and likable if they'd so chosen. And for this brief moment, they kinda did.

Twin Peaks
"What Is Your Name?" (season 3)

I realize I already went on and on (and on and on) about The Return a few years back, and even then I concluded that my biggest takeaway was this final episode. However many years later, that sentiment stands firmer and taller.

Its strangeness and deliberate pace makes for an engrossing hour of television, but in the context of the entire series, it's almost impossibly awesome. In a show that explored other worlds, different planes of consciousness, and various-colored lodges, it was always predictably unpredictable - that was a slice of its charm. At the very least, we felt a little safe in the consistency of the mood - which made this episode so terrifyingly jarring; the bulk of this final "Part" is an uninterrupted free fall into oblivion, and the entirety of the once-self-aware quirkiness we were so familiar with is stripped away in favor of a true-to-life existential nightmare.

It's become one of my favorite things.

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