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: Community vs. Party Down and South Park vs. The Simpsons.
Community — "Remedial Chaos Theory," October 13, 2011
Community has done a lot of beloved "thematic" episodes, but none played with the form and structure of the 23-minute sitcom episode quite like "Remedial Chaos Theory." With each roll of the die we saw how the study group's dynamic changed based on who left the room, from the positive to the downright-disastrous (that troll, oh god, that troll). While in other hands a conceit such as this could have gotten bogged down in logistics and its own cleverness, writer Chris McKenna was able to have each different timeline say something new about these characters, elevating it above its structural gimmick. It's what gets people so obsessed with this show: beyond the frequent thematic and structural fireworks, there are real, wonderful characters here that people really connect with. Being around to be able to watch this show, well, that's the best possible timeline. — Adam Frucci
Party Down — "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday," May 21, 2010
Party Down was a comedy about a group of people who were stuck in jobs that they really didn't want. Everyone had their dream job — from actor to Souper Crackers franchisee to sci-fi screenwriter — but somehow all of them were stuck serving cocktails in pink bowties. "Steve Guttenberg's Birthday" is so good because it allows for us to see them all let their guard down a bit and actually focus on their dreams. Of course, it's all in the setting of Steve Guttenberg's house, played by the Police Academy star himself, who had forgot to cancel catering for a party he had scrapped. It's meta, it's hilarious, it's surprisingly touching, and it's one of the best episodes of this short-lived gem of a show. — Adam Frucci
South Park — "Scott Tenorman Must Die," July 11, 2001
To me, this is the perfect South Park episode. Sure, there are some topical latter-day episodes that are brilliant, putting the twisted South Park stamp on everything from Scientology to drawings of Muhammed, but this one just distills the wonderful fucked-up nature of the show into its most pure form. It's a tight episode that focuses on just one storyline: Cartman has been wronged by Scott Tenorman (he sold him his pubes after convincing him that "getting pubes" will mean he's hit puberty), and he wants to enact revenge on him. And he does so, methodically and brutally (and with the help of Radiohead, naturally). By the time the full, horrible scope of Cartman's plans are laid bare at the end of the episode, and Cartman is licking the "tears of unfathomable sadness" from Tenorman's face after tricking him into literally eating his own parents, you realize that there's nowhere Parker and Stone are unwilling to go in service to a joke. And thank god for that. — Adam Frucci
The Simpsons — “Marge vs. the Monorail,” January 14, 1993
There are many reasons why “Marge vs. the Monorail,” one of three Simpsons episodes solely written by Conan O’Brien, is THE episode of THE greatest sitcom of all-time — including Phil Hartman’s fast-talking monorail man, Lyle Lanley; Leonard Nimoy’s fittingly random guest appearance; “The Monorail Song”; Springfield’s quintessential mob mentality-over-reason decision; Homer’s correlation between scientists and Batman; donuts getting the well-needed PR push they’d needed for years, because really, is there anything they can’t do?; the world-expanding inclusion of Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway; and a opossum named Bitey — but the biggest one is: it’s really fucking funny. — Josh Kurp
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