Many moons ago I started this site with an intent to name the 50 greatest episodes on TV in the last 20 years. Truth is, the closer you get to greatness the harder it is to measure up, and I've been trying to pick and choose. After several weeks and some analysis, I think I've finally narrowed it down.
So here, in no particular order, are the next five:
Quantum Leap --- Lee Harvey Oswald
Perhaps naturally enough, because it was the seminal event of an entire generation, the events surrounding JFK's assassination are at the heart of two of them. I've always had a soft spot for this show, and I've always considered this episode, it's finest hour. For the first time, Sam leaps into a 'famous' person, and there's a good chance that he's not alone this time We see Oswald in the midst of his long path, and watching Sam become more intermeshed is one of the most frightening events the series did. We see that Sam come this close to committing the ultimate horror, only to fail in the last minute. This takes the more frightening, and (at least in the shows creators mind) more plausible scenario that Oswald was the sole orchestrator of the events of November 22, 1963, and it is by far the most realistic look (from an erstwhile scifi show!).
Once and Again ---- Let's Spend the Night Together
Never mind all the sex and lust that pervade cable about having a relationship. This unjustly ratings deprived so by TV geniuses Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskowitz depicted romance in one of the most realistic ways I've ever seen on any medium. Watching Sela Ward and Billy Campbell as two forty-something divorced parents trying to give love a second chance led to some fairly genius work, and this episode demonstrated how great it could be. Watching them wind their way to their first sexual encounter was good enough, but the last ten minutes are among the most realistically sexual--- and romantic--- moments of TV relationships I've ever seen. It had a good run, considering its ratings, but shows like this don't come around as often as this.
Picket Fences --- The Dancing Bandit
I'd have a special place in my heart for this series even if it wasn't for, a bright shining moment, one of the truly great series of all times. I was fourteen when this episode aired, and found the stories and the character of Marlee Matlin's 'Dancing Bandit' bank robber so engaging, that I started watching this series regularly the following week--- this is the wellspring of my fascination with great television. But even seperate my feelings, this was a great show as David E. Kelley would for the first time demonstrate the true power of his genius. If nothing else this show demonstrated what a brilliant actress Matlin is --- it's hard to imagine some shows without her. This was a great moment in a fine series, and hopefeully, it'll make it to DVD someday
30 Rock --- Rosemary's Baby
Pretty much any episode from Tina Fey's laugh a second series is a masterpiece, but this diamond shown more brightly than most. I'm not sure which plotline is more side-splitting--- Liz getting in an argument with Jack, and leaving the show to write with her favorite idol--- only to realize in the past twenty years, she's gone completely round the bend, or Tracy's decision to take up dogfighting that leads to his therapy session, which leads to Alec Baldwin's hilarious reenactment of the Jordan household in the wildest group therapy session you'll ever see. And we know watching Carrie Fisher that she was going to send up Star Wars somehow, but the waY she does it--- that's comedy genius.
L.A. Law --- God Rest Ye Little Gentlemen
Technically, I shouldn't be counting this because I only watched it in syndication, but that doesn't change the fact that it was one of the formative shows of TV history, and this episode has a good measure of why it was. Of particular interest is Victor's case involving a doctor suffering with Elephant Man's disease. He's on the wrong side for once, and it's interesting to watch the show from that perspective. Or you can just watch Jon Glover's Emmy-nominated performance,; same difference. From watching the death of Roxanne's father (a good one, as he was spared the tortures of Alzheimers) to the annual Christamas party, this episode is one of the few that shows genuinely at peace with eac other. Which is good, because Rosalind Shays is about to reenter their lives, and once they do, disorder and chaso will shake the firm to it's foundation.
Stay tuned for the last ten episodes. Some real greats among them.