The Best Sitcom Episode Ever Tournament is pitting 32 of the greatest episodes of funny TV shows ever produced against each other in a single-elimination winner-takes-all (well, takes-nothing) competition. Every day, we're putting up episodes for you, our loyal readers, to vote on. Today: The Cosby Show vs. Cheers and The Office (US) vs. The Office (UK).
Cheers — “Pick a Con…Any Con” (1983)
This classic Cheers episode, from the inaugural season of the single-setting sitcom, sees the Cheers gang hiring con man Harry the Hat (played by a pre-Night Court Harry Anderson) to win Coach’s money back from a card hustler. It’s a sharp episode that features a fairly elaborate plot for an 80’s sitcom and great moments from everyone in the show’s original ensemble (complete with Diane and Coach). Even though "Pick a Con" was produced early in Cheers' run, the characters are fully defined and comically potent, as evidenced by memorable bits like mailman Cliff Clavin attempting to gamble with commemorative stamps when he's run out of money and Diane trying her hand at bartending for the first time, only to be baffled by the process of making a Bloody Mary. The storyline is full of twists and turns, defying predictability by pulling off the kind of surprises that few other TV comedies are capable of delivering, even now. — Bradford Evans
The Cosby Show — “A Shirt Story,” October 18, 1984
In this classic Cosby episode, Theo learns the importance of inner confidence over outer appearance when Cliff and Clair make him return the expensive designer shirt he bought to impress a girl. Guest starring Kadeem Hardison who would later star in the Cosby spinoff A Different World, "A Shirt Story" is a sweetly hilarious and heartfelt episode that explores the teenage hunger for high-end name brands and the key to true trendsetting, as related in Cliff's story about the embarrassing yellow light-up tie Theo once bought him for Father's Day. “No 14-year-old boy should have a $95 shirt," Dr. Huxtable notes, "unless he is on stage with his four brothers!” — Megh Wright
The Office (US) — “Diversity Day,” March 29, 2005
"How come Chris Rock can do a routine and everyone finds it hilarious and groundbreaking, and then I go and do the exact same routine, same comedic timing, and people file a complaint to corporate?" That's the question The Office tackled during its second episode, "Diversity Day,” in March 2005 following a pilot that stayed true to the UK original. Office writer Larry Wilmore guest stars as diversity sensitivity trainer Mr. Brown, Mindy Kaling makes her first appearance as Kelly, and Jim forgets about losing his biggest sale of the year thanks to his growing crush on Pam. Many memorable and cringeworthy Michael Scott moments followed this episode, but it all began with his Chris Rock impression and race index card game, in which Dwight can't guess that he's Asian. — Megh Wright
The Office (UK), “Training,” July 30, 2001
I have never laughed harder than when I first saw David Brent perform “Free Love Freeway,” and I have never winced as hard as when Tim asks Dawn out for a drink in front of their coworkers, only to have his charming advances rebuked because she’s back with her forever-fiancée, Lee. Few shows could balance the humor/cringe scale quite as well as the original Office, and no episode of the show was as good as “Training” (Ricky Gervais has called it his favorite). But there’s a third element on the scale, too: drama. Tim’s boldness was the first time you really felt for one of the show’s characters (oh God how we felt for him), a development that lasted until the show’s tearjerker of a finale. “Training” was the beginning of the best will they-won't they relationship in TV history, and it also included the line, “I got some hot love on the hot-love highway.” — Josh Kurp
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