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: Curb Your Enthusiasm vs. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Taxi vs. Fawlty Towers.
Curb Your Enthusiasm — “The Doll,” November 4, 2001
It’s possible that there are other shows that would feature their main character beheading a doll, getting a rash on his penis from the hairs of that doll’s head, and accidentally giving a little girl an inappropriately erect hug all in one episode. But none would make all this behavior seem as reasonable, and the protagonist so unfairly maligned, as Larry David in this classic Curb episode. Larry digs himself deeper and deeper into trouble throughout the episode, until multiple subplots collide in an incredibly cringe-worthy final moment. Plus, Susie Green screaming “bring me the head” for a full minute? Sold. — Hallie Cantor
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — “Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person,” October 11, 2007
Honestly, I’m surprised it took 26 episodes for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to use the word “retarded” in one of their explaining-the-plot episode titles; the show’s at its best when it’s playing around with taboo topics (abortion, molestation, dumpster babies, etc.), and there are few subject matters more supposedly off-limits than the mentally handicapped. But what really separates “Retarded Person” from any of It’s Always Sunny’s other “risqué” episodes is the introduction of Chemical Toilet, or more specifically, “Nightman” and “Dayman.” There’s nothing not funny about, “I can’t fight you, man, when you come inside me/And pin me down with your strong hands/And I become the Night/The passionate, passionate Nightman,” and Charlie’s bafflement that Mac and Frank think his song’s about rape. Ah, retardation and rape — we can only about be talking about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. — Josh Kurp
Taxi — “Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey,” September 25, 1979
Taxi hit its stride in its first season, but the show’s ensemble wasn't completely fleshed-out until Christopher Lloyd joined the cast as spaced-out relic of the hippie era Reverend Jim Ignatowski. "Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey," written by Cheers co-creators Glen and Les Charles, wasn't the character's first appearance, but it was the episode that saw Reverend Jim being hired by the Sunshine Cab Company and becoming a part of the repertory cast. The scene from “Reverend Jim” in which Jim takes his driving test (see above) is one of the most famous scenes in sitcom history and easily the best-known moment in Taxi's entire run, but there's a lot to like in the rest of this episode too. Other highlights that are overshadowed by the Abbott and Costello-esque driving test sequence include Danny DeVito's curmudgeonly Louie DePalma bursting into an impromptu rendition of "On Moonlight Bay" after being slipped a tranquilizer and Reverend Jim's disastrous first outing as a cabbie. — Bradford Evans
Fawlty Towers — “The Germans,” October 24, 1975
Fawlty Towers is one of the most revered sitcoms of all-time, and “The Germans” is its most memorable episode. John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty is at his best when he’s completely overwhelmed, and this episode has him dealing with a lot: running the hotel while his wife is hospitalized, struggling to hang a moose’s head up on the wall, holding the least successful fire drill in history (sorry, David Brent!), escaping from a hospital, and desperately trying not to offend some German guests. Like most episodes of Fawlty Towers, “The Germans” is an expertly-played farce. It popularized the phrase “Don’t mention the war” and certainly features the Best Walk in Sitcom History in Cleese’s goose-stepping Hitler impression that echoes the classic Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch. — Bradford Evans
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