Six Feet Under --- Everyone's Waiting
This is another of those shows which I think where the sum of its parts was far smaller than the whole. The acting was fabulous, the characters erractic. That said, the series finale is probably the benchmark of how series should end. Having seen everything the Fishers have gone through for these five seasons, showing them at the end of their lives, and (for the most part) finally having the peace that they deserved, created a final five minutes that were truly haunting. Seen independent of everything the series did, it still puts chills down my spine.
Joan of Arcadia --- Pilot
This series never got its due. It premiered with the odds stacked against it--- a teenager who talks with God?-- and CBS never marketed right. I'm amazed it managed to last two seasons. But Amber Tamblyn proved herself with the right amount of wit and verve for the subject, and made the journey through high school--- an ordeal in itself--- engaging and entertaining. By combining the show with a far more interesting police procedural than half of the shows that ended up on CBS, they utilized Joe Mantegna far better than he got on criminal minds, and a family unit that was probably the least dysfunctional on TV. I only wish we learned what it was God really wanted of Joan.
Alias --- Phase One
One of the most undervalued shows ever. Sydney Bristow was the most kick-ass female on TV since Buffy (we're getting to her) and this episode used her to the best of her abilities. But more than that, this episode demonstrated what a game changer J.J. Abrams was. ANy other writer would wrap up the action laid out in the Pilot and have a scheduled endgame. The fact that he did so halfway through Season 2--- aired right after the Super Bowl, no less!--- showed what a rule breaker he was going to be. And even if he did eventually come back to the pot a bit too often with this show, it doesn't change the fact that the last two minutes prove that he was ready to play for keeps.
Seinfeld --- The Opposite
I've already admitted I've never been wild about this show, but after years in syndication, certain episodes have begun to appeal to me. And I've got to admit that this particular episode where sad sack George finally starts to enjoy success in life by going completely against his better instincts and judgment is hysterical to watch. And his monologue where he chews out George Steinbrenner in a fashion that must have been every Yankees fans fantasy is a high point. And watching poor Elaine immediately suffer horrible reversals because of Jujyfruits to become George, well that was priceless in its own way too.
Big Love --- Come, Ye Saints
Is it possible to really like a series even when you completely disagree with the main character's motivations? I've always felt that Bill Hendrickson walked too fine a line when trying to balance his plural marriages, and this episode shows the family absolutely reeling because of the implosion of his fourth marriage. The family continues to go through a horrible breakdown that shows Paxton, Jeanne Trippelhorn, Chloe Sevigny, and the shows secret weapon Amanda Seyfried giving some of the best performances they ever gave on a show dealing with them. The last few minutes where Sarah suffers a miscarriage (perhaps because of the strain of what's happening) are absolutely devestating. And yet none of the actors or writers got an Emmy nomination for one of the best moment of that series. That's highway robbery