You made over 100 separate nominations for the second readers choice pick for our TV Roundtable series. Some of them were for things we’ve already covered. Some of them were for things we’ve already covered in this very feature. And some of them had nothing to do with competition, as far as we could tell, unless you want to get really nebulous about it and say that “all conflict is competition” or something.
But there were still lots of really good nominees! As always, we cut down on the stuff we’ve already covered, the stuff we will cover very soon, and the stuff that just didn’t make sense. Then, we made some tough choices to arrive at the 10 nominees below. They represent a wide swath of types of TV shows and a broad cross-section of TV history as well. Take a look and vote for your favorite below!
Battlestar Galactica, “Unfinished Business” (season 3, episode 9; originally aired 1/1/2006; nominated by jbel99): One of the most controversial episodes of this acclaimed sci-fi series, “Unfinished Business” revolves around a boxing tournament that unlocks painful memories for two of its competitors. Layered with flashbacks and densely edited, you either think it’s one of the series’ very best episodes or one of its worst.
Clone High, “Episode Two: Election Blu-Galoo” (season 1, episode 2; originally aired 11/3/2002; nominated by Le Beef DeHume): What could be more competitive (or American) than an election for student-body president? When Cleopatra steps down from the position in this episode of the weird, wacky show about clones of historical figures attending high school, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy face off to fill the seat.
Everybody Loves Raymond, “The Game” (season 1, episode 17; originally aired 2/21/1997; nominated by Joe Propinka): When the family’s forced to spend quality time together, it breaks out Scruples, and things go about as well as you’d expect. From the series legitimately groundbreaking first season, this episode features the fine ensemble cast performing at top level, as well as a frank consideration of how terrible Scruples is for family bonding.
Father Ted, “A Song For Europe” (season 2, episode 5; originally aired 4/5/1996; nominated by ApathyMonger): Apparently, Europe has this weird reality competition show called Eurovision that’s wildly, wildly popular. If you’ve ever seen footage of it on YouTube, you’ll know just how weird it is. In this episode, the gentle, funny sitcom about Irish clergymen offers a satirical take on the phenomenon with its own EuroSong.
Frasier, “IQ” (season 6, episode 19; originally aired 4/8/1999; nominated by LurkyMcLurkerson): When Frasier and Niles discover who of the two men had the higher IQ score as children, it provokes exactly what you’d expect: an over-the-top battle of the wills between the two brothers, in an attempt to one-up each other. Considering how many episodes of Frasier that describes, we’re pleased to offer yet another slightly different take on it.
How I Met Your Mother, “Slap Bet” (season 2, episode 9; originally aired 11/20/2006; nominated by Cyrus of the Gramercy Riffs): Let’s go to the mall, everybody. (Today.) Yes, this is the first Robin Sparkles episode, but it also features the memorable (and ongoing) bet between Barney and Marshall, the one that’s been paid out in slaps throughout the rest of the series. Go back to where it all began by casting your vote for this episode.
Little House On The Prairie, “Founders Day” (season 1, episode 24; originally aired 5/7/1975; nominated by WhimsyGoesWithEverything): Walnut Grove, Minnesota, the small town of this series based on the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, goes nuts for its history by celebrating its founding via a series of elaborate games. This is almost certainly the only entry on this list that features a logging contest with an aging lumberjack.
The Odd Couple, “Password” (season 3, episode 11; originally aired 12/1/1972; nominated by Optramark): One of the greatest sitcom episodes ever made, this half-hour sends Felix and Oscar—those unlikely roommates—onto a game show where their differences in personality result in some hilarious television. The episode also features an appearance by Betty White, which seems all but obligatory for this feature at this point.
Press Your Luck, The Michael Larson episodes (originally aired 6/8 and 6/11/1984; nominated by James Callan): From a fictionalized version of a real game show to an actual game show, if you haven’t seen the Michael Larson episodes of Press Your Luck, here’s your chance. In one of the most famous incidents in U.S. game show history, Larson discovered a fatal flaw in the design of Press Your Luck and exploited it for all it was worth.
SpongeBob SquarePants, “Jellyfish Hunter/The Fry Cook Games” (season 2, episode 19; originally aired 9/28/2001; nominated by Nathan Ford’s Evil Twin): Finally, we have an episode of Nickelodeon’s longest-running animated series, in which SpongeBob and friends first try to capture and tag every type of jellyfish, then enter a fast food-themed version of the Olympics. We’d say that’s nothing like the real Olympics, but we’ve all seen how thoroughly McDonald’s inundates those with advertising.
Vote below! And make your case for your pick in comments! The winner will be announced Thursday.