Ranking the 20 Best TV Episodes of the Week
20. Downton Abbey — You know what? I did the Best 20 Episodes this week instead of the Best 10 for one reason: So I could rank “Downton Abbey” this low. I hated the Christmas special. I hated what they did to Mr. Bates, and I disliked most of season two. However, the I did rather enjoy the Matthew/Mary plot line. I am only human, after all. My dislike of season two overall, moreover, won’t dissuade me from watching Season 3.
19. House of Lies — The Showtime series is good for some creative soft-core sex scenes, but the show itself has gone from average to not very good and it’s not helped by the strong competition during the night.
18. How I Met Your Mother — Oh, Ted. Just when we thought we couldn’t dislike you more, you pull out that? Courtney will have much more on “HIMYM” at the end of sweeps. It may include the phrase “cunting fuck puppet” again.
17. Eastbound and Down — I really should like this show more than I do, but the fake bluster grows weary. I did, however, like how the season premiere ended last night, setting up a more compelling season three than season two.
16. Archer — “Archer” has been killing it all season long, but this week’s episode — which was actually an animated bottle episode — was a bit on the weak side.
15. Life’s Too Short — I honestly didn’t follow much of the promotion for “Life’s Too Short,” the new Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant show. From the few promos I’d seen, I thought it was just about famous celebrities coming into their office and parodying themselves. There was some of that last night with Liam Neeson (I loved that scene, too) but the rest of the show is a documentary about Warwick Davis, whose character is basically every other Ricky Gervais’ character, only he’s a dwarf. That is to say, it’s part funny, part annoying.
14. Survivor — The “Survivor” producers pulled out all the stops this year in an effort, apparently, to cast the most obnoxious, loathsome cast in the history of the show. I hate every goddamn contestant so far, but I won’t deny that it makes the show a little more interesting than the usual opening episode.
13. The Good Wife — What? What? (SPOILER) Is Josh Charles leaving the show for a while? What’s he going to do during his disbarment? This does explain why Matthew Perry is joining the series for a multi-episode arc, but Charles is my favorite part of “The Good Wife.” I don’t like the idea of a show without him for any period of time.
12. Shameless — I’m a little confused: Karen just threw her husband out in what looks to be an irreparable separation, but the actor who plays him has just been made a series regular for season three. I hate that guy, too. I’m not keen on seeing more of him. Also, Fiona will take in any goddamn stray off the street, and she denies Amy Smart a place to crash? Because of a little lesbian crush? Ridiculous.
11. Saturday Night Live — The best episode of the season, edging out the Melissa McCarthy episode. (See the recap)
10. Happy Endings — I’m still watching all of ABC’s Wednesday night lineup, but “Happy Endings” is really the only must-see offering of the night. “Revenge” is now wretched, “Modern Family” is more miss than hit these days, and both “Suburgatory” and “The Middle” are only OK, but “Happy Endings” is the night’s hilarious constant.
9. Luck — I am really enjoying David Milch’s HBO series, but I still don’t really know what’s going on, especially Dustin Hoffman’s storyline. What I do know, however, is that horse-racing sequence was goddamn magical. If nothing in the series ever coalesces, it will be worth it for that race alone.
8. Parenthood — I’m not positive, but I think there are only two episodes of “Parenthood” left this season, which is barely enough time for Amber to resolve her relationship with Bob Little, Jasmine and Crosby to reunite, Haddie to go off to college, and Zeke to close out the season with a heartbreaking stroke or something (it’s coming, and it’s going to hurt). Next week: Will Zoe take the baby and run? I think she’s going to run, but leave the baby behind.
7. The Walking Dead — Don’t look now, but “The Walking Dead” has turned a corner. It’s good again. TK will have his full review up tomorrow.
6. Parks and Recreation — NBC had a fairly weak Thursday night this week (“Up All Night,” “30 Rock” and “The Office” all missed the top 20 this week), but even a relatively weak episode of “Parks and Rec” merits top 10 inclusion. I loved Louis CK and the Mouserat performance, but the pairing of Ann and Tom feels so very wrong. The only funny part about it so far is Ann’s frustration.
5. New Girl — “New Girl” has gone from OK show to pretty great show ever since Lizzy Caplan arrived, and the weird Schmidt/CC/Jess dynamic just made it twice more interesting. Even Winston had a nice plotline this week.
4. Justified — Where’d Winona go? Where did she go? (See Joanna’s full recap)
3. Raising Hope — Honestly, given the already crowded Tuesday night schedule, I’d nearly given up on “Raising Hope,” but this week’s Valentine’s Day episode has convinced me to stick it out. The show likely won’t be renewed for season three, and I think that Gregory Thomas Garcia knows that, which is why he finally pulled the trigger on Jimmy and Sabrina with this episode’s super-sweet and rousing finale.
2. Cougar Town — We really missed you, but that proposal made the wait totally worth it. We haven’t ranked television’s best proposals yet, but when we do, that one is going straight into the top five.
1. Southland — I recognize that few of you watch this show, but those of you who do will almost certainly agree that this week’s episode deserves the top spot. The cop drama quietly continues to astound, and the low key way in which the show has dealt with Officer Cooper’s sexuality has been nothing short of graceful. Unfortunately, I think this week’s very personal episode was a set up for a heartbreaking one next week.