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Like most television viewers, I have my favorite episodes of particular programs and play them if I have the show on DVD or watch them when the episodes are on television.
The following are my top 10 favorite comedy show episodes of all-time. Some of them I thought brought credit to the medium. Others I just thought were laugh until you can’t breathe funny.
1. WKRP in Cincinnati – “Turkeys Away” (Season 1) – The radio station held a Thanksgiving promotion to drop free live turkeys out of a helicopter and of course it’s a disaster. I think the line from Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump), “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”, is the best line ever written in a television comedy. The last 5 minutes or so of the episode where everyone is back in the office explaining what happened is a television masterpiece.
2. Married with Children – “You Better Watch Out” (Season 2) – Santa is supposed to parachute over a Chicago mall and give out gift certificates when he lands. Well, his chute doesn’t open and he lands dead in the Bundy’s backyard. One of the most twisted takes on Christmas ever and one of the funniest. Ed O’Neill (Al Bundy) said in an interview that he had a hard time keeping a straight face during filming of the scene where everyone in the Bundy family room is watching TV coverage of Santa falling. They hear the breaking of tree branches in the backyard and turn around to see Santa land. O’Neill barely suppresses a smile in the take the director used.
3. MASH – “Tuttle” (Season 1) — Hawkeye (Alan Alda) creates fictional Captain Tuttle to get extra supplies to a local orphanage. Some at the 4077th think he’s real and others don’t want people to think they didn’t know about him and look bad. It almost blows up in Hawkeye’s face when General Clayton (Herb Voland) wants to give Tuttle a medal for his work.
4. MASH – “A Smattering of Intelligence” (Season 2) – Two intelligence officers including the notorious Col. Flagg (Edward Winter) invade the 4077th trying to be the first to get the dirt on Hawkeye, Col. Blake (McLean Stevenson) and the rest of the crew. Hawkeye and Trapper fix the personnel file of Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) to give the intelligence officers something to do.
5. Frasier – “Agents in America, Part Three” (Season 2) – Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) unintentionally sleeps with his agent Bebe Glazer (Harriet Sansom Harris) after she successfully renegotiates his contract. Frasier is horrified at what happened because Bebe is the type of agent that would negotiate a deal with Satan if the price were right. David Hyde Pierce’s expressions when Niles comes to Frasier’s apartment the next morning are priceless. He says to Frasier (I’m writing this from memory), “I’m glad you’re okay. I would have thought she would kill after mating.”
6. The Simpsons – “Kamp Krusty” (Season 4) – While Krusty the Clown is spending the summer at Wimbledon and getting knighted by Queen Elizabeth, Bart and the gang are at his summer camp that makes Alcatraz seem the height of luxury. They are served (and again this is from memory) Krusty brand imitation gruel – with the product slogan being 9 out of 10 orphans can’t tell the difference. Bart leads a rebellion with hilarious results.
7. The Simpsons – “A Streetcar Named Marge” (Season 4) – The week after “Kamp Krusty” came this classic. Now, the main plot line of the episode, Marge participating in a community theater musical version of “A Street Car Named Desire” is okay, but what makes this episode classic is what happens to baby Maggie. While Marge is rehearsing, Maggie gets put in the Ayn Rand School for Tots where they try to develop “the bottle within the baby.” Pacifiers are banned at the school and Maggie leads the babies in an attempt to free the pacifiers from a locked cabin in a fashion similar to the movie “The Great Escape” with the memorable theme also playing. Maggie is caught the first time and put in a playpen as punishment called “The Box” and she bounces her ball against the side just like Steve McQueen did. Later Homer picks her up at the school and in a reference to the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”, babies are perched everywhere just staring at Homer and his kids.
8. The Sopranos – “Proshai, Livushka” (Season 3) – There are sad moments at the end when Tony (James Gandolfini) is alone and deals with the fact that his mother, Livia, didn’t love him. I mean she tried to have him killed. But before that, you get the best in dark comedy. All are gathering to go to a funeral of a person no one liked. Tony tells people who come to pay their respects, “What can you do?” Silvio’s (Steven Van Zandt) reaction to missing the New York Jets game because he has to go to the funeral is priceless as his Carmela’s (Edie Falco) blowup during a gathering after the funeral as she in a drunken state describes the whole thing as “a crock of s***.”
9. NCIS – “Devil’s Trifecta” (Season 10) – NCIS is a drama with a good dose of humor. But 95% percent of this episode is all humor and it’s the funniest episode ever. Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and FBI agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) have to work with their ex-wife (yes, they were both married to her, at different times) Diane (Melinda McGraw) on a smuggling investigation. She is about as pleasant as an impacted wisdom tooth. One of the best lines, courtesy of tvfanatic.com, comes from Fornell about his ex-wife, “She never gets sick. Even germs avoid her.”
10. Keeping Up Appearances – “Daisy’s Toyboy” (Series 1) – I go across the ocean to my favorite BBC program. Daisy (Judy Cornwell) parades around with a 17-year-old lad in an attempt to make husband Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes) jealous. Meanwhile, Hyacinth (Patricia Routledge) wants to be a big hit at the ladies’ luncheon at the local church. Both situations collide and the outdoor prayer scene caused laughter that made my eyes water the first time I saw it.