Desert Island TV – 5 Episodes

Friday before last I went to a Melbourne Writers Festival session with Emily Nussbaum, the New York Times TV critic. It was a small session at ACMI, only about sixty or so people, and the topic was Desert Island Films, which is part of a series that ACMI does with well-known people where they come in and discuss the five films they’d take with them to a desert island. Because Nussbaum is the TV critic, they asked her to choose five episodes from TV shows that she loves. She chose episodes from My So Called Life, 30 Rock, The Wire, Buffy, and Englightened. She was quick to tell us that these episodes are representative of some of her favourite shows that were formative for her as a TV viewer, rather than a critic.

It got me thinking. I like TV. I have favourite episodes. If I could only take five episodes of a TV show with me to a desert island, what would they be? Some were a no brainer. Some I really had to think about. Herein lie my choices:

SeinfeldThe Puerto Rican Day Parade

This episode is my favourite Seinfeld episode ever. EVER. The entire episode takes place outside Jerry’s apartment, as the Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer drive back to Manhattan from a baseball game, only to encounter a backlog of traffic due to the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. The thing I love about Seinfeld, and about this episode, is the masterful way they have so many storylines running concurrently, and then weave them all together seamlessly. The above clip is a perfect example. The scenes in the apartment for sale are probably some of my favourite scenes from a sitcom, ever. The other thing I love is the way their pseudonyms occur throughout the series. Everything about the scenes in the apartment is perfect: the timing, the introductions, the odd quirks Kramer invents about his character. It’s just comedic perfection, and I can (and have) watch this episode endlessly and find it amusing in a variety of ways.

EROn The Beach

I watched ER from the beginning. I think I was in year 8 or so when it started, so Dr. Greene was a well-loved character for me. I’ve always been glad that when Anthony Edwards decided to leave the show, it was done in such an elegantly sad way. No big death scene (coughDrRomanohelicoptercough), so horrible divorce from Dr. Corday, just an unfortunate illness that ran its course. This episode, and the episodes in Hawaii that led up to this one, was beautifully done, and the use of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s song accompanied by Mark walking through an empty ER department was such a perfect good bye.

FelicityGimme an O!

I love the TV show Felicity, but I particularly love season 1 when she’s a naive college freshman who’s still figuring out how to be an adult. Felicity and Noel’s relationship never quite took off, which I was always somewhat disappointed about. Everytime I rewatch the show I flip flop back and forth between being Team Noel and Team Ben. After watching these clips, I’m DEFINITELY Team Noel. He’s just so cute and dorky in season 1, and his late nineties sweaters and hair are totes on trend for that time. This epsiode, where, as you can tell, Felicity and Noel schedule having sex for the first time is so sweet and so funny. I couldn’t find the other clip I wanted, which is where Elena is telling Felicity how to focus and have sex properly, which makes Felicity completely neurotic (well, more so than usual. Girl loves to worry. A LOT), and as a result she tries to rush through the whole experience. This episode always makes me blush with embarrassment for her and laugh at her efforts simultaneously. Such a sweet episode.

FriendsThe One Where Everybody Finds Out

It’s no secret that Friends is one of my favourite shows. I’ve always felt that it really hit its stride around season four and five, and Monica and Chandler’s relationship really helped give the show a bit of drive after Ross and Rachel broke up. I was really glad they didn’t drag out the secret relationship for the entire fifth season, and this episode is one the best of the series. Much like Seinfeld, the writers on Friends were always so brilliant at writing episodes where multiple storylines would intersect seamlessly at the end of the episode, and this one is a perfect example. I included this scene because Chandler and Phoebe’s one-upping each other about how fake excited they are to have “all the sex” is hilarious. References to Phoebe’s bendiness and Chandler’s sweater vest being ripped off in the heat of passion are so oddly out of place in a sexy discussion that it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of those two characters Doing It. Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow shine in this episode, and I would watch this over and over again. And I have. No regrets, people, no regrets. Plus, it’s always fun to scream “MY EYES! MY EYES!”the way Phoebe does when she first finds out about Chandler and Monica.

Buffy, The Vampire SlayerGraduation Day

I would never go to the desert island without an episode of Buffy. It’s one of my favourite shows, and I know a lot of people found fault in it after season 3, but rewatching it as an adult I’ve found a lot more positives in seasons 4 and 5 in particular. Still, I wanted to include an episode from season 3, specifically the finale, because it’s one of my favourite finales from the show. Obviously the Scooby gang’s (and the rest of the student body) destroying of the school is highly symbolic of them leaving high school, becoming adults and having to make difficult decisions, and that’s what I love about it. Everyone in the group faces the challenge of leaving childhood behind and being thrust into an adult world where everything isn’t so cut and dried. One of these tough decisions is Angel telling Buffy he’s leaving Sunnydale so she can get on with her life, and it’s a turning point for Buffy’s character. The difficult adult decisions that are made, followed by the dramatic fight scene with the Mayor/Snake, coupled with a beautiful score (which Buffy was always great at) make it a really perfect finale. Plus, to this day, I still covet Buffy’s red/brown leather trenchcoat like nobody’s business. She did wear some awesome coats, didn’t she? Kind of makes up for all the high-waisted trousers that were too short at the ankles they put her in. Ahh, late 90s fashion, I love/hate you.

These episodes are some of my favourites, of course, but, like Emily Nussbaum, I think these shows as a whole played a big part in the forming of my TV viewing tastes as an adult. I will always have a soft spot for shows where TV characters come of age, either sweetly or in Big Dramatic Ways (with or without fight scenes), and I will always love watching a brilliantly crafted comedy that cleverly creates storylines that involve an ensemble cast, so this is why I love these five shows and would definitely want them on a desert island with me to watch.

Although it must be said I would never go a desert island without a mobile phone, my passport, and leave an extremely detailed itinerary with a family member about where I was, but that’s fairly obvious. I would also probably make sure I had a four star or higher hotel, but that’s probably another blog entry altogether….

Which TV shows/episodes would you take with you to a desert island?

Until next time,

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