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: Friends vs. Fraiser and The Dick Van Dyke Show vs. Get Smart.
Seinfeld — “The Marine Biologist,” February 10, 1994
The final moments of “The Marine Biologist,” in which George heroically recounts saving a beached whale in order to continue lying about being a marine biologist, is one of the funniest scenes in Seinfeld history. The reveal of George pulling out Kramer’s blowhole-obstructing golfball is such a simple moment, but it’s the convergence of two seemingly unrelated storylines — a Larry David trick — that’s so amazing. One of Seinfeld’s great strengths (and a device that David later used on Curb) was bringing its storylines together in unexpected but perfect ways, and this attention to complex storytelling was rare in sitcoms at the time and would pave the way for the intricately-plotted comedies that populate the airwaves today. — Bradford Evans
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
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 Larry Sanders Show — “Flip,” May 31, 1998
When a long-running show comes to a close, it can be a daunting task to create a finale that wraps up all of the narrative threads, gives the audience one last jolt of what they loved about the show, and tells a self-contained, honest story. The Larry Sanders Show’s two-part finale, “Flip,” pulls off the impossible, offering up a send-off to both the show and the show-within-the-show that feels conclusive, funny, and raw. A cavalcade of big-name guest stars drop by to bid Larry adieu, including Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Sean Penn, Tom Petty, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jon Stewart, amongst others. As with typical Sanders episodes, though, the stars are just the icing on the cake. The main attraction is the the killer trifecta of Larry, Hank, and Artie, and the finale’s final moments deliver an emotional and hilarious goodbye to the trio, three of the best characters in TV history. — Bradford Evans
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