Our Fourteen Favorite TV Moments
Unlike your favorite films, your favorite TV shows are not ones you necessarily watch over and over. Sure, thanks to syndication, certain sitcoms are always on. At this point, most of us have seen every episode of "Seinfeld" five times. And, if you're really dedicated, you might own DVD boxed sets of your favorite series that you treasure and rewatch and rewatch until the "Buffy" Season Two case is beat to hell and held together by tape and your teenaged tears...you know, hypothetically. But in the age of youtube, most things are accessible to us. Many of our favorite TV moments, the ones that linger, haunt, or crack us up, can be found and rewatched on a whim. These are our favorites. They aren't necessarily scenes from our very favorite shows, but they're the ones that stick. We hope, when you're done reading, you'll share the TV Moment that has stuck with you.
"The Wire": "Old Cases"
We all know that "The Wire" is the single-best show that's ever been on television (hell, one video of 100 "The Wire" quotes barely touched the surface, requiring a second video because, as Dustin put it, "the show is that good"). There are many great and memorable moments from the series, but the infamous "fuck" investigation scene is tops for me. In fact, when I'm selling folks on watching this show and explaining that it's a slow burn that requires patience, I always use this scene as an example of the show's brilliance. Not many shows have the luxury or desire to let an investigative scene like this play out so slowly. It's a smart scene, showing the rigorous detail of a murder scene investigation, but in a very simple way. And in that simplicity, along with its usage of variations of "fuck" as the dialogue, it's also very elegant. And darkly hilarious. It's just a great, perfect scene, and I don't know anyone who hasn't ravenously devoured the whole series after seeing it. -- Seth Freilich
"Veronica Mars": "Look Who's Stalking"
Oh, Veronica and Logan. The teen private eye was just emotionally unavailable enough to be his poison, and they made a go of being a couple more than once despite her trust issues and his general assholishness. Their love wasn't perfect, but watching its story always pulls at the heartstrings -- from their first kiss in Season One as the camera swept around them and '90s alt-rock swelled to this, Logan's alterna-prom at the end of Season Two. They're apart, but he can't help but tell her how he feels. The only thing more memorable than his epic speech is what happens the next morning. Not every relationship lasts, but Logan is right: No one writes songs about the ones that come easy. -- Sarah Carlson
"Battlestar Galactica": "Maelstrom"
I came to "Battlestar Galactica" late in the game. I was flipping channels one night and stumbled across it and decided to watch for a bit. Within 15 minutes I was hooked and went back to watch the series from the beginning. My favorite character quickly became Kara "Starbuck" Thrace, who would be an absolute pain in the ass to deal with in real life but who on screen is compelling and interesting as hell. As the series progressed, forces seemed to coalesce around Kara; a clear destiny for her was emerging, and my "BSG" buddies and I would toss theories back and forth online after episodes, waiting for the big reveal. And then this happened toward the end of Season Three. In the video below, 1:42 is about the exact moment I threw what I had in my hand at the television while yelling "NO!" Luckily for the TV and I, it was an empty plastic bottle. This isn't my favorite TV scene because it's a particularly happy moment, but because of how deeply it moved me. As painful as it was, I was grateful and in awe of the work the writers and actors had done to make the moment possible. -- Genevieve Burgess
"South Park": "Scott Tenorman Must Die"
We all know Cartman is evil. He's done some truly terrible shit. As "South Park" has progressed, he's moved from being a fat ignorant racist redneck podunk whitebread little fool into pulling off full-on Hitleresque atrocities. Exterminating the Jews, kidnapping Butters to go to Casa Bonita, giving Kyle AIDS, faking a Christian rock band -- there was no end to his darkness. Yet, it seemed Cartman had finally met his match when he tangled with ninth grader Scott Tenorman, who repeatedly conned Cartman out of his money in exchange for pubes. Cartman's sweet, sweet Chili Con Carnival revenge on Scott Tenorman is one of my favorite TV moments because of how dark it goes. Cartman dancing and singing, "Nyah nyah I made you eat your parents" combined with him literally licking the tears of unfathomable sadness off Scott's face make it horrifically funny. -- Brian Prisco
"Buffy The Vampire Slayer": "Becoming, Part 2"
The star-crossed, doomed teen lovers is a trope that has been bastardized and perverted by wimpy writers pandering to a very specific type of naive stupid. Where it works best is as tragedy. Where it fails is as sweetened romance, as something to be admired or desired. This scene, this moment, might as well be subtitled with the words "Go fuck yourself, Bella and Edward." Because can you imagine, for a single second, Bella Swan, all pouty-lipped and vacant, actually choosing to kill Edward Cullen to save the world? Buffy didn't just kill Angelus, Angel's awesomely evil iteration. That would have been too easy. Instead, she had to make the choice, as if she truly had one, to kill the good Angel, the Angel she loved, and had to stare him in the face as she did it, with him staring back in confusion and terror. That is powerful, that is doomed love, that is good goddamn television. It's also why I could never get behind Spuffy (that and, you know, attempted rape) and why I still to this day cry at "Full of Grace" by Sarah McLachlan every time I listen to it (which is a lot more than I need to admit to you people, but that's between me and my god). -- Courtney Enlow
(skip to 7:42)
"Lost": "Through the Looking Glass"
Though it burns my butt that "Lost" can still make me cry (seriously, watch it), Charlie's act of utter selflessness is emotional and unforgettable. After all his highs and lows, struggles with addiction and trying to prove he was somebody -- both to himself and everyone else - -Charlie Pace finally found redemption. Wiping away every selfish thing he had ever done, Charlie instinctively sacrificed himself, saving Desmond and alerting him that Naomi hadn't been sent by Penny. Dominic Monaghan gave those last moments the wordless poignancy and profundity that Charlie deserved. -- Cindy Davis
"Star Trek: The Next Generation": "Tapestry"
I loved watching Jean-Luc Picard's fussy, confident manner throughout the '90s on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." He was so charismatic, so sexy, so complex and so, well, so gay. No matter, he was the born leader and the swaggering Riker was little more than Sarah Palin dressed up in a Federation uniform. In Picard, we could all see our imperfect selves rising to Alpha status through sheer force of will. He was different and he was inspiring, but even so, he sometimes got just a little too precious, a little overbearing in his unflinching rectitude, which is why it was such a joy to watch Q give him his comeuppance. Through one of those omnipotent twists of time, Picard was allowed a do-over and didn't participate in a life-altering bar fight from his youth. This resulted in a mediocre Picard, stripped of his vivid, red Captain's uniform and clad in the ineffectual baby blue outfit of a bureaucrat. He was a timid subordinate, his ambition thwarted by his lack of passion. Q, dressed in God clothes, delivers unto him a sermon worthy of the Ghost of Christmas Past. It was a surprising episode, one that was charming, satisfying and even a little bit elevating, and as such it's one of my favorite TV moments. --Michael Murray
"Batman: The Animated Series": "Beware the Gray Ghost"
Batman's latest case involves a serial bomber that has ties to "The Gray Ghost" TV show, a serial Bruce Wayne watched as a small boy and that inspired him to fight crime as an adult -- in much the same way Batman creator Bob Kane was inspired by The Shadow's comics and radio program. Ironically, young Bruce fell asleep watching "The Mad Bomber" episode, meaning a grown Bruce can't wrap the case up as easily and neatly as he should. In the course of the investigation Batman meets his boyhood idol played by Adam West (in a deft meta touch) and obtains the original tape from the long-forgotten episode. He sits down to watch the old show in the Batcave, with large soda and a bowl full of popcorn dutifully delivered by Alfred. Instantly, Bruce Wayne is transformed from hard-boiled detective into his innocent adolescent self, and he's not just taking a stroll down memory lane, but is reliving the night he first watched "The Mad Bomber." Watching this scene play out as an adult myself, experiencing very much the same emotions that Bruce is having onscreen, is very different from watching as a child. Then, it was just cool to see that Batman liked the same things we liked, now it reveals how much those things we liked as children shape who we eventually mature into as adults. Often in ways we might never expect. Pretty deep for a Saturday morning cartoon, huh? -- Rob Payne
"Arrested Development": "Top Banana"
Picking a favorite TV moment -- just one single scene or sequence -- is impossible for me. Hell, I could do Top 20 lists for every other show on this list. That's the wonderful thing about living through a modern television renaissance. We're drowning in wealth. So know going into this that my pick is but one of hundreds of favorites that have made me happy or sad or shocked or you name it over the years. Right now, today, as of this morning, my favorite-moment-of-many is the "Fire Sale" scene from "Arrested Development." It's the best modern comedy (and that's really saying something) thanks to its amazingly layered stories, comic characters, and the expertly managed wackiness. Tobias's audition for the "Fire Sale" commercial is one of many absurd and brilliant moments in the show's run, and it gets my pick for favorite TV moment because it's endlessly rewatchable and completely hilarious. It's impossible not to laugh. --Daniel Carlson
"Friends": "The One Where No One's Ready"
Because of budget constraints, this entire episode was filmed in one setting (Monica's apartment) and in what appears to be just one take. Essentially, the episode runs much like a short play with several small plot points revolving around Ross' desire to get everyone dressed on time to attend one of his boring paleontology speeches. Naturally, the interactions between Joey and Chandler are the funniest: Joey steals Chandler's chair; Chandler demands that Joey relinquishes said chair; Joey gives up chair but steals the "essence" (cushions); Chandler steals Joey's underwear; Joey promises to do the "opposite"; Joey shows up simultaneously wearing all of Chandler's clothes; Joey adds that he's going "commando" (in another man's fatigues) and proceeds with "lunging." Forget Ross and Rachel -- the relationship between Joey and Chandler was the best one of all. -- Agent Bedhead
"Late Night With David Letterman": Aug. 26, 1987
Television is great when things go right, but it can be even better when things go wrong. Given my general aversion to humor involving flatulence, groin impact and their many cousins, this choice might seem lowbrow. But there is simply something magical about the reliability of comedy involving monkeys, and these eight minutes from Late Night With David Letterman in 1987 bring that magic to its absolute fruition. I remember well watching this for the first time with my mother way back then. We were both laughing so hard that we were in tears, and I was on the verge of peeing my pants. Watching it again today it does not affect me that strongly, but I still cannot stifle my laughter. The absurdity of the monkey tea party, the expression on the monkeys' faces (particularly that of Sandy), and Dave's uncertainty and genuinely skittish body language in reaction to the unpredictability of the animal kingdom turn this into television entertainment platinum. -- C. Robert Dimitri
"Deadwood": "A Lie Agreed Upon, Part 1"
There are only a handful of moments in television that truly, fully encapsulate just what makes a show so damn great. The brutal battle that concludes HBO's "Deadwood's" Season Two premiere demonstrates perfectly all of the pieces that made the whole of "Deadwood" just brilliant fucking television -- scheming machinations, bloody-knuckle politicking, intense and intelligent dialogue, ulterior motives, and surprising moments of innocence -- all wrapped around a viciously violent, unrelenting brawl of a fight. It showcases the absolute genius of the show's two leads -- Timothy Olyphant as the stoic yet temperamental sheriff Seth Bullock, and Ian McShane's profane yet profound whoremaster and criminal mastermind, Al Swearengen. Both actors demonstrate why they're perfect for their roles, as Swearengen mercilessly baits the furiously noble Bullock. But what really makes the scene perfect -- what makes it one of my favorite moments ever -- is the final 15 seconds, where an entire story is told with nothing but a series of looks: the horror of Bullock's wife and stepson, the agony of Bullock himself, and the realization of Swearengen that their arrival changes his entire plan. And, of course, that spectacular final line delivered with a ferocious glower by McShane. Because that is what sums up the show so well, and what makes the moment so absolutely breathtaking. It's everything you need to know about "Deadwood." It can be combative. -- TK
"Freaks and Geeks": "Dead Dogs And Gym Teachers"
As much as I love Paul Feig and Judd Apatow's short-lived show, I would never call it my favorite. But there's something about this one scene that cuts me right to the core. There's zero snappy dialogue and a complete lack of eye candy and yet my heart belongs, in this moment, to Bill Haverchuck. It might be the lonely Latchkey Kid vibe, or the reflexive experience of connecting with a TV character who's connecting with a TV character (BWWUUAAAMM), but I have literally watched this one scene over twenty times. According to the DVD commentary, Apatow and Feig pulled such a natural performance from Martin Starr by standing just out of frame, telling filthy jokes and filming his reaction. And as funny and dorky as Starr is here, there is a moment of genuine pathos when Bill raises his glass to the screen. Gets me every time.-- Joanna Robinson
"Friday Night Lights": "Pilot"
I don't know how many times I've seen the "Friday Night Lights" pilot -- I know I saw it three times the first week it aired -- but it never seems to lose its power. To me, it still stands as one of -- if not the -- best pilot episode in network TV history. And it was the "We All Fall" speech the clinched it. It encapsulates everything I would grow to love about the series: Coach Taylor's soft-hearted strength, the way the entire town of Dillon, Texas, would rally around each other, and the theme that would resonate throughout all five seasons of the show: Life is fragile, and at some point in our lives, we will all fall. It is then that we will be tested. "Tested to our very souls." -- Dustin Rowles