It's time once again for our annual list of the 50 best episodes of the past year. (For previous lists check the links to the right.)
As usual we'll be counting down 10 episodes a day until we get to the best episode of 2008 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.
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!
20. "pushing daisies: bzzzzzzz!" (abc)
(originally aired: october 1, 2008)
The show's second season opener cast aside even the vaguest notion of a sophomore slump as the premise, relationships and character arcs were delightfully reintroduced after 10 months off the air. Plus: Olive doing her best Julie Andrews on a mountain top! Man we're going to miss this show.
19. "breaking bad: ...and the bag's in the river" (amc)
(originally aired: february 10, 2008)
Walter's (Bryan Cranston) episode-long struggle with what to do about his "prisoner" Krazy-8 took the show - and the character - to even darker levels. Watching Walter's options devolve into simply kill or be killed... well, that's exactly why Cranston won the Emmy.
18. "how i met your mother: sandcastles in the sand" (cbs)
(originally aired: april 21, 2008)
Revisiting Robin Sparkles - the Canadian teen pop star persona of Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) - is reason alone to put this on the list, but darn if they didn't raise the stakes by having her turn schoolgirl over fellow Canadian teen pop star-turned-sad sack Simon (James Van Der Beek) and then open up the pairing of Barney and Robin. The "How I Met Your Mother" universe will never be the same.
17. "the office: weight loss" (nbc)
(originally aired: september 25, 2008)
An hourlong "how I spent my summer vacation" paper, "Weight Loss" not only made us fall in love with Holly Flax (Amy Ryan), it also gave us Michael in a fat suit, Phyllis auctioning off one of her hugs, Holly learning Kevin isn't mentally challenged and the return of Ryan.
16. "30 rock: believe in the stars" (nbc)
(originally aired: november 6, 2008)
One of those rare super-hyped guest appearances that actually, you know, lived up to the hype - "Believe in the Stars" gave us not only Oprah but Tracy and Jenna in white/blackface, Liz in a Princess Leia costume and more quotable lines that we can remember (Tracy: "I watched Boston Legal nine times before I realized it wasn't a new Star Trek."). "Cooter" won the Emmy but "Stars" took home our hearts.
15. "in treatment: sophie - week three" (hbo)
(originally aired: february 13, 2008)
On its surface, the idea of two actors in the same room for 30 minutes - let alone for almost 50 episodes - sounds like it could get boring fast but this installment made us believers. Watching Paul (Gabriel Byrne) probe Sophie (the revelation that is Mia Wasikowska) about her relationship with her parents and her coach was simply mesmerizing.
14. "friday night lights: the giving tree" (directv)
(originally aired: december 10, 2008)
Featuring not one - but four - emotionally charged plotlines, "The Giving Tree" perfectly exemplified the multi-layered awesomeness that is "Friday Night Lights." Whether it was Eric walking in on Matt and daughter Julie, Buddy losing Lyla's college fund, Landry finally standing up to Tyra's selfishness or J.D. wrestling over whether to pursue a relationship outside of football, each one of these could have been its own show.
13. "eli stone: pilot" (abc)
(originally aired: january 31, 2008)
Hands down the best pilot of 2008, "Eli Stone's" unabashed zest for life's possibilities showed that being idealistic in a cynical world can be a beautiful thing. Funny, charming and dare I say touching, the pilot opened us up to a world we're going to sorely miss.
11/12. "dexter: i had a dream/do you take dexter morgan?" (showtime)
(originally aired: december 7, 2008/december 14, 2008)
"Dexter" continues to write the book on how to wrap a season, in this case his relationship with friend-turned-enemy Miguel (Jimmy Smits). Watching Miguel proclaim, "I accept you. I accept you, Dexter, like a brother," during his final confessional and having Dexter respond, "I killed my brother. I killed yours, too."... I still get chills. And if that wasn't enough, the season closed with the image of a freshly married Dexter dancing with his bride Rita... dripping blood on her dress.
COMING TOMORROW: #10-1