As you’re well aware now, we’re in the midst of our Best of the Decade Lists, and this week has been all about television (we have one more TV-related list going up today that I think y’all are gonna dig). But let’s put aside best and worst for a moment, and let’s look back on the most popular episodes of television this decade. All of these come from earlier parts of the decade because, of course, television viewing is more fractured now, and it’s not really possible to swindle 40 million people into watching a bad fucking reality show (see #3, and then shake your head and then hide it in your ass. Our own asses are the only safe havens left in the world — let us all hide in them).
Anyway, THR gets the honors for compiling this list, but I’m going to replicate it here cause I don’t want you to have to click away. It’s entirely too much energy to expend this early in the day. There’s pictures and YouTubes over there, though, if you’re interested.
10. “Spin City.” Airdate: May 24, 2000. Viewers: 32.8 million. Not the finale, but Michael J. Fox’s final episode.
9. “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Airdate: May 16, 2005. Viewers: 32.9 million. This was the finale. I don’t think I saw it.
8.”Frasier.” Airdate: May 18, 2000. Viewers: 33.7 million. The 7th season finale, where Niles finally confessed his love to Daphne. Awwwwww.
7. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Airdate: May 3, 2000. Viewers: 36 million. Talk about a show that flamed out quickly. Way to run a good thing (ratings-wise) into the ground, ABC.
6. “Grey’s Anatomy” post-Super Bowl episode. Airdate: Feb. 5, 2006. Viewers: 38 million. If I’m not mistaken, this one was the Pink Mist episode with Coach Taylor.
5.”American Idol.” Airdate: Jan. 16, 2007. Viewers: 38.1 million. The sixth season premiere — the one with Sanjaya. Otherwise known as the year that millions of us finally stopped watching.
4. “ER.” Airdate: Feb. 17, 2000. Viewers: 39.4 million. Apparently one of the most tragic eps of the series. I think somebody died.
3. “Joe Millionaire.” Airdate: Feb. 17, 2003. Viewers: 40 million. The finale of that show where it was revealed that Joe wasn’t actually a millionaire; he was a construction worker, as I recall. Embarrassingly, I was one of the 40 million, though I don’t remember the woman’s reaction.
2. “Survivor: Borneo.” Airdate: Aug. 23, 2000. Viewers: 51.7 million. The finale of the first season, where Richard Hatch was awarded a million dollars. I think the show averages around 15 million viewers now, and it’s still one of the top rated shows on TV.
1. “Friends.” Airdate: May 6, 2004. Viewers: 52.5 million. The finale. Was something of a letdown, as I recall.