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 Simpsons vs. NewsRadio and Party Down vs. The Bob Newhart Show.
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
NewsRadio — “The Cane,” December 12, 1995
NewsRadio was a show that could always take something seemingly small — like Bill McNeal buying a cane and using it to irritate Dave — and manage to turn it into a fully realized and funny story. The best moments in "The Cane" involve a battle between Bill and Dave over a cane ("hand-carved mahogany with a solid brass tip”) that Bill started using as an affectation, but there's great stuff here from everyone in the show's well-oiled ensemble. The cane plotline is a chance for Phil Hartman to run wild and show off his comedic prowess, but amazing comedy straight man Dave Foley and Stephen Root shine here too. — Bradford Evans
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
The Bob Newhart Show — “Over the River and Through the Woods,” November 22, 1975
TV is littered with classic Christmas episodes, but what about the holiday that comes a month beforehand, the one with the turkey and stuffing? There aren’t many great Thanksgiving episodes, but the few there are — like WKRP in Cincinnati’s “Turkeys Away” and Cheers’ “Thanksgiving Orphans” — are, well, great. But the best of the bunch is “Over the River and Through the Woods,” the beloved fourth season episode of The Bob Newhart Show. Bob makes up an excuse to his wife to not have to see his in-laws, so he can instead hang out with his friends, including Jerry (Peter Bonerz) and Howard (Bill Daily), on Thanksgiving. They get piss drunk, watch football, and order Chinese food. It’s funny because it’s true, a Newhart specialty. — Josh Kurp
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