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 Office (UK) vs. Community and Cheers vs. The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
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
Community — “Modern Warfare,” May 6, 2010
In what would come to define Community’s style, the original “paintball episode” is jam-packed with references to action movies, from Rambo to Predator to The Terminator (“Come with me if you don’t want paint on your clothes”). But the original story itself — and the development of Britta and Jeff’s relationship — is enhanced, not bogged down, by these cinematic allusions. It’s topped off with appearances from the reviled Glee Club as well as secondary character favorites Leonard, the Dean and Chang. The episode is funny, but it’s also nostalgic and suspenseful and just plain fun, all the while exploding the boundaries of what a sitcom can do. — Hallie Cantor
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 Mary Tyler Moore Show — "Chuckles Bites the Dust," October 25, 1975
Before list-making became en vogue (and before they copped out and re-did their selections), TV Guide published their rankings of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time. Topping it was “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” the classic sixth season episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The titular clown is chosen as the grand marshal of a parade, and while Mary and her WJM-TV co-workers are watching a newscast of the event, news director Lou Grant bursts into the office to deliver some bad news: Chuckles was killed by elephant…because he was dressed as a peanut. Everyone cracks jokes about the irony of Chuckles’ demise, except for Mary, who’s offended and disappointed by the actions of her friends. During the eulogy at Chuckles’ funeral, Mary finally begins to understand why everyone can’t help but laugh: it’s a clown’s job to make you, well, chuckle, even in death. All Chuckles ever asked for was: “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” “Chuckles Bites the Dust” found a way to even make death funny, and that’s what makes it one of the most human — not to mention hilarious — episodes ever. — Josh Kurp
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