Wednesday, March 17, 2021

EP216: Perfect Shows (in my opinion)

Ken answers a listener’s question and lists all the TV shows and pilots he thinks are as close to “perfect” as possible. 

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Unknown said...

As you said, you could not possibly cover all the choices in 40 minutes. My additions:

- Faulty Towers - “The Germans”
- Faulty Towers - “Basil The Rat”
- Seinfeld - “The Contest”
- Big Bang Theory finale

VincentS said...

Wonderful examples, Ken. I was laughing out loud remembering some of the ones you mentioned. FYI - Lucielle Ball said that the woman in the grape-stomping scene was an actual Italian grape stomper they brought in from Napa Valley who did not speak English, so when Lucy started shoving and pelting her she took it seriously and when she grabs Lucy's head and pulls it down out of sight that wasn't in the script but the director thought the other woman was improvising and kept yelling, "Great! Keep doing it!" not knowing that she was actually holding Lucy's head under the grapes in anger!

Tommy Raiko said...

When thinking of really good pilots, one that comes to mind is NewsRadio, an underappreciated sitcom from the 1990s. You probably couldn't say it was perfect since there were some non-trivial cast changes from the pilot to the series, but in terms of setting the stage, introducing characters, making them interesting, making you want to tune in again, and so on, the pilot (directed by James Burrows) did all that fantastically.

(And, it's also a delightful, absurd comedy series worth checking out, so I'll take any opportunity to mention it...)

Andrew said...

The Newhart episode you mentioned, Over the River and Through the Woods, is available online at Dailymotion.

maxdebryn said...

Any episode of THE FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN is perfect.

Brian said...

Wonderful choices and some I need to see!

I would stump for:

Modern Family: - "Pilot". The show is funny, to be sure and the characters are well-defined, but the last scene does an amazing job telling you the relationship between all of the characters in such a smooth way you find yourself saying, "Ohh...!"

Frank's Place - The whole run was great, but the first episode sets up the premise nicely, because it puts anyone not from New Orleans in the same shoes as the main character. It also did a rare thing, by not having a character that was the "dummy", or a character that could be counted on to say silly or odd things. "The Bridge" episode won two Emmys...and the show was gone in a year.

As for why the Mary Tyler Moore dress rehearsal didn't go well, according to the "Making of..." documentary, here are some of the reasons this was a bad show night:

- It was one of the hottest days of the year in Los Angeles AND the air conditioning in the studio broke.

- The microphones were not working properly.

- There was a bomb scare on the lot that day.

- James Brooks and Allan Burns did the warmup and by their own admission, they said they were the "...two shyest guys in the world". Lorenzo Music did the warm-ups after that. The audience couldn't hear THEM, either!

After the show, Moore thanked the audience and "...sobbed all the way home".

Grant Tinker called the writers and basically said, "Mary's very upset. Fix it. Thanks.", and then he hung up.

They did change one thing: they had Bess (Phyllis' daughter) endorse Rhoda to soften her character's yelling at Mary to "get out of my apartment!", by having her say, "Aunt Rhoda's really nice!"

Jay Sandrich (the director) said, "Let's rehearse some more, but we're not changing anything." Valerie Harper said the cast was never blamed or castigated for the reaction.

When the did the show on show night (with the mics and A/C fixed and no bomb scares), the audience laughed out loud and heartily.

...and the network test results STILL said it was "average" and called Mary's character "a loser". Pity. I think it could have gone six or seven seasons!

Rob Greenberg said...

Your 'Cheers' episode 'The Big Kiss-Off'

Bob Paris said...

Two Frasier episodes come to mind:

ROOM SERVICE by Ken Levine & David Isaacs


perfect in every way and even with many repeated viewings!

Lyense said...

The Shield is on Hulu in case you were wondering. Or at least it was last time I checked

keith brodkorb said...

Glad that you mentioned Hustle. Thought I was one of the few that watched. Since your sweet spot is half hour comedies was glad to hear a few hour long dramas, one that is consistently overlooked is the pilot episode of the 1986 show Crime Story.Just pull up the cast list from the pilot and you will see quite the roll call of yet to be discovered actors.This show grabs you from the first 20 minutes and that is before the credits roll. Available on IMDB tv,Amazon prime, Pluto, Tubi and others.Or just buy the complete show on DVD.

71dude said...

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS - pilot and "The Son"

THE MIDDLE - finale

CHEERS - "Coach's Daughter"

ALL IN THE FAMILY - "Two's a Crowd"

pilots of THE COSBY SHOW and ROSEANNE (yeah, I know...)

Brian said...

An obscure choice: "Wish You Were Here" starring Lew Schneider and created by Steven Bawol, which lasted six weeks on CBS. It was about a stockbroker (Danny Cogswell) who leaves his job to travel the world. The show consists of his family viewing his VHS movies shot in foreign locales, making this something of a SITcom.

I only saw the last episode. Danny visits the village his grandfather came from in the Balkans. His grandfather has bored his family with many stories of how he used to walk and walk and how difficult his life was. Danny then finds out that not only was his grandfather not poor, but they were wealthy and his family was universally hated, so much so that Danny is almost assaulted at the mention of the ancestral family name. After he deems his grandfather a liar, someone in the village asks his about grandfather first name and upon hearing it they say, "Oh, HIM! We liked him. He rejected the wealth and the power and he would go walking and walking in the village..."

The first version of Grapevine (created by David Frankel) had a great episode in the "Lisa and Billy Story", which was great and unique, because it was an anthology show.

Mike Doran said...

The finale of WKRP In Cincinnati 1.0 (you know, the good one).

I don't know if the producers were still counting on a pickup or not.
That said (or speculated), they sure came up with a punchline for the whole series that was educational as well as hilarious.

A favorite moment for me was when Dr. Johnny, who'd never been in Mother Carlson's home before, got his first look at the painting over her mantelpiece (if you're a fan, you know what I'm referring to; I'm not spoiling this for anyone). Howard Hesseman knew how to make even a brief reaction count.

The Big Reveal (of why 'KRP was changing formats again) was a little tour de force by Hesseman, Carol Bruce, and especially Ian Wolfe as MC's wonderfully insolent "houseboy".

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if CBS had changed its mind and picked up WKRP for another season - "... what might have been ..."

MikeM said...

I have not finished the podcast yet, but how about a show about Perfect Last Episodes? Also, my choice for a perfect MASH episode was Captain Tuttle!

Joe said...

Did you watch "The Americans," Ken? It was a great show with a fabulous finale.

Glad you mentioned "The Shield." That was a great ending.