The 100 best TV show episodes of all time, and no Jack Benny? No Jim Rockford? No "Masterpiece Theatre"?
For shame, for shame.
To be honest, TV Guide did a pretty fine job with the Top 100 list it published in this week's edition. You'll get no argument here that the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" deserves to be No. 1; nowhere else has great writing and great acting come together so seamlessly and so hilariously. And the Vitameatavegamin episode of "I Love Lucy" is a worthy No. 2, as Lucy gets drunk while making a commercial for a magic elixir that's mostly alcohol.
But you have to wonder: Does any episode of "The Brady Bunch" or "The Love Boat" or "Gilligan's Island" belong on a best-of list of anything? And how can you include the "I Love Lucy" episode where she's stomping grapes in Italy, but leave out her memorable teaming with Harpo Marx? Or the "Cheers" episode that introduces Kirstie Alley's Rebecca Howe, but not John Cleese's Emmy-winning turn as a marriage counselor who realizes Sam and Diane are doomed -- not to mention darned irritating?
Thus, submitted for your approval (to borrow a phrase from Rod Serling), 10 classic episodes that should have appeared somewhere on TV Guide's list:
The Addams Family
"Christmas With the Addams Family," Dec. 24, 1965 (ABC)
Pugsley and Wednesday are beginning to doubt the existence of Santa Claus, and it's up to the adult Addamses to convince them he's real. So each of them -- Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Lurch and Cousin Itt -- take turns dressing up like the jolly old elf. Hilarious; the sight of Lurch (Ted Cassidy) playing Santa Claus alone makes this a candidate for TV immortality.
"Angels In Chains," Oct. 20, 1976 (ABC)
A camp classic nonpareil! Jill, Sabrina and Kelly are sent undercover to a women's prison (where Kim Basinger is the good-girl prisoner), and we all know what happens at a women's prison. Even chained together, the Angels never let their hair get mussed.
The Jack Benny Show
"The Johnny Carson Show," Oct. 22, 1963 (CBS)
It's hard to pick a single best from Benny's 15-year run, but how about this one, in which a young Carson wonders how Jack maintains the pace he sets for himself, and the master reveals his secret: He's really a robot with a replaceable head. As always, Benny's timing -- an inspiration to every comic who's come along since -- is impeccable.
"The Six Wives of Henry VIII," Jan. 1, 1972 (PBS)
So much wonderful drama to choose from -- "I, Claudius," "Upstairs, Downstairs," "The Jewel In the Crown" -- but few made an impression to match "The Six Wives of Henry VIII." No historical figure dominated his stage more than Henry VIII, Britain's gluttonous and oft-wed Tudor king, and Keith Mitchell brought every inch of him to life (even when Henry had grown so large he had to be hoisted onto his horse with a crane). Rarely has history been dramatized more masterfully or more entertainingly.
"The Last Newhart," May 21, 1990 (CBS)
Japanese investors buy up the entire town, save for Newhart's inn, which now finds itself in the middle of a golf course. Bopped on the head by an errant golf ball, Bob wakes up to discover that he's not Dick Loudon, innkeeper, but Bob Hartley, psychiatrist (from "The Bob Newhart Show"), and the entire Vermont adventure has been a dream. No other series has ended so surprisingly.
Premiere episode, Dec. 16, 1970 (NBC)
If the entire series had maintained the standards set by this initial trio of stories (written by Rod Serling), "Night Gallery" would be ranked among television's finest dramas. Everyone remembers the middle segment, in which a Steven Spielberg-directed Joan Crawford, blind since birth, is given a few hours of sight -- just as New York is thrown into a night-long blackout. Then there's segment three, with Richard Kiley as a Nazi war criminal obsessed with the bucolic lakefront scene depicted in a museum painting. Pursued one night by police, he drops to his knees in front of the darkened painting, praying to God to be placed inside it. The next morning, it's revealed that his wish has been granted, only the tranquil painting he so loved had been moved, replaced with a crucifixion that now bears his face.
The Outer Limits
"A Feasibility Study," April 13, 1964 (ABC)
A square block of our planet, complete with its inhabitants, is transported to the planet Luminos, as an experiment to see what will happen once the entire population is taken prisoner and brought to this alien world. The eerie hour ends with one of the humans picking up a deadly virus -- and the rest of the guinea pigs joining hands with her to ensure that they, too, will die, thus foiling the experiment and saving Earth.
"Vintage Steele," March 15, 1983 (NBC)
A dead body refuses to stay put in this homage to Hitchcock's "The Trouble With Harry," as Steele and Laura try to prevent one of her old flames from being ruined by a murder he didn't commit. Much of the action unfolds inside the walls of an abbey hTC run by the Order of St. Costello, simply so Remington can utter the immortal line, "If that's the truth, that makes Harry the Abbott of Costello." Never as self-absorbed as its chief rival, "Moonlighting," "Remington Steele" is an unduly neglected gem.
The Rockford Files
"Nice Guys Finish Dead," Nov. 16, 1979 (NBC)
Jim Rockford finally gets the recognition he deserves, an award as P.I. of the year, but he's still upstaged by smooth-as-silk Lance White, whose life unfolds so perfectly -- he's always one step ahead of the bad guys, nothing ever happens to him and he's so gosh-darn wholesome -- it makes Rockford sick. James Garner's droll, earthy Rockford remains the definitive TV private investigator, while Tom Selleck's Teflon-coated Lance is his perfect comic foil.
"The Outing," Feb. 11, 1993 (NBC)
A college journalist (Paula Marshall) interviews Jerry, and comes away believing he and George are lovers. Of course, this horrifies both of them -- not that there's anything wrong with being gay, they hasten to add, repeatedly -- until George figures a way to use the misunderstanding to his advantage. Classic George, classic Jerry, classic set-up.
Pub Date: 6/28/97