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August 14 2009

"Hush" cited as one of TV's most unique, creativity-inspiring episodes. Smashing Magazine praises the Buffy episode for its "less-is-more" approach to storytelling.

Love this episode SO much, probably more than OMWF! It's scary, funny especially the meeting in the lecture hall and moves the series along as Buffy finds out about who Riley really is.
I love Smashing Magazine. Can't wait to pick up the Smashing Book.
I haven't watched the episode in a long time, I think I shall get round to seeing it this weekend.
I've met the writers of two of the shows on this list! Whoohoo!

Though a comment like "Whether you cringe at or are even offended by the demonic elements portrayed in Buffy..." suggests they don't actually think much of the rest of the show and consider Hush a one-off "good" exception.
zz9; Maybe. However, they're speaking to an audience here, and in the form of offering advice. A comment like that might just be a way to encourage a reader of the column who other wise avoids BtVS to check into "Hush." Maybe.
I dunno zz9, they could mean they did cringe themselves but still thought BtVS was great TV despite that.

Also need to re-watch 'Hush', IIRC i've only actually ever seen it twice which makes me a bad, bad fan. Great TV though.

On my own list i'd have 'Three Stories' from 'House' - it's technically pretty but it doesn't trip over its own technique and let it get in the way of telling a great story that really reveals the characters.

And 'Out of Gas', similar idea in that it's quite technical but never less than emotionally true. Really an almost perfect meld of structure, dialogue, score, cinematography, acting, everything - I bet Craft Services were right at the top of their game for that one too ;). Regards inspiration, if you ever needed to be shown how a collaborative medium can and should become greater than the sum of its parts then that's the episode to watch I reckon.
I haven't seen the Dawson's Creek episode, but if you're going to name one episode in this multi-perspective style, let's throw it out there: Dollhouse's "A Spy in the House of Love," which (SPOILER) takes the Rashomon/Pulp Fiction trope of splitting a larger narrative into mini-stories telling different (not always chronologically organized) parts from different perspective, splits each act/imprint into an entirely separate genre (November: domestic drama, Sierra: Alias-spy story, Victor: near-Harlequin seaside romance, Echo: Sherlock Holmes-style mystery, plus a final act to deal with the ramifications), and actually undercuts previous acts' information with new revelations (i.e. the superficial, silly, ludicrously well made Sierra spy story is just Dom's cover) underlining the falseness of engagements from just a few acts ago. It also is explicitly framed by being about the dolls' imprints but the primary revelations are all about the non-dolls (November about Paul, Sierra, after the fact, somewhat about Dominic, Victor about Adelle, Echo about the whole staff and also Topher in particular). A great structural conceit that moves the story forward.

(There's a lot to be said for "Man on the Street's" so-free-form-it-doesn't-even-seem-written style, which brings to mind "Our Mrs. Reynolds" with its almost plotlessness, and "Epitaph One" taking the flashforwards featured often on Lost and the disastrous "alternate futures" of many sci-fi shows, and giving it the intensity of a single unified story detailing in broad strokes the fall of the House and the world while paying heed to every single character--in the middle of an unrelated plotline!)

(Also worth noting: the Coupling Rashomon episode, "Nine and a half minutes," which is certainly less emotionally affecting but features some of the most impeccable timing I've seen.)

Oh, yeah, and "Out of Gas" and "Objects in Space" and "Hush" and "Restless" and "The Body" and "Once More With Feeling" and "The Zeppo" are unique too.... (Angel, though I love it so, doesn't have as many structurally fascinating individual episodes.)

I haven't seen too many of the episodes on this list, and I'm not all that crazy about the selections I have--as an example, the Seinfeld episode was certainly effective and funny, but I don't remember it being really a standout for the series in spite of its gimmick. Anyway, certainly one of M*A*S*H's huge formal experiments (probably "The Interview" or "Dreams," or maybe even plain old "Abyssynia, Henry") would belong on here. There's also BSG's wonderful, kinda controversial, sometimes problematic boxing episode ("Taking a Break From All Your Worries"), which to me is the best personal character melodrama the show ever did. Maybe Star Trek: TNG's "Darmok."
Many excellent points WilliamThe B, but if we're mentioning the excellent Coupling then I'd put Split above Nine And A Half Minutes. The "Same Events Told From Different Viewpoints" was done superbly but has been done before. I can't recall anyone doing Split before.
(For non Coupling fans, Split had two characters split up in the first few minutes, and as the girl walked off one camera stayed on her while another stayed on the man, split screen. The rest of the episode stayed like this following "The Girls" and "The Boys" dealing with the breakup in their own ways before merging again at the end. Fantastically well done.
Coupling did a few unusual things like this, and all from the man who will be running Doctor Who next season!)
Nice post WilliamTheB.

In film 'Timecode' did the split screen thing (not sure if it was before or after though) and you see it in snippet form quite often ('24' used to do it as a scene transition for instance, dunno if they still do). But yep, 'Coupling' was the first time i'd seen it done over an entire episode (more or less) and so effectively.

And yeah, the "Rashomon" episode is one of my genre show strange attractors, it crops up so often (though you also see it a lot in mainstream TV, maybe partly because mainstream TV creators are, more and more, SF&F fans too - as with The Moff for instance). One of my personal favourite's is the 'Batman: The Animated Series' episode "POV" where we see Batman as man and myth, depending on who's telling the story (they revisited the idea, maybe even as a direct homage, in one of the "Gotham Knight" shorts and it worked pretty well there too).

Re: alternate future stories, I have a huge soft-spot for the 'Stargate: SG1' episode "2010". About as far from art as you can get, full of cheese (it even has a slow-motion last stand FFS ;) but if you know the characters emotionally very true and besides that, great fun.

ETA: Been trying to think of a 'Farscape' episode that would fit BTW, it was a very experimental show too but my memory of it is getting fuzzy, only watched it through the one time. It had a cartoon episode though, not many shows can say that (unless they're cartoons obviously ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2009-08-15 09:51 ]
I'd forgotten about Timecode, and it does predate Coupling.

Coupling still wins for me. Remember This, another "Same Story Told By Different Witnesses" episode where a drunken Sally remembers seeing Munch's The Scream hanging on a wall and remarking how much she hates that painting, only for someone (far more sober) to reveal it was actually a mirror.
WillianTheB: how was Our Mrs Reynolds almost plotless? I'm curious
Hell, Maude did a Rashomon episode, and Les Girls was almost (only almost!) a musical comedy version of it. And HIMYM has it as a running feature. (Okay, I've only seen the first two seasons so far.) It's almost a cliche by now (and I hated it when I read a Spider-man version) but, as Linwood Carter said, "A good idea is still a good idea a hundred years later."
Let Down: "Almost plotless" in that, for the first half of the episode, the entire "plot" was just: new person on ship, how do people react? There's some creepiness, some hints that something isn't right (mostly Zoe's reaction), but mostly the episode's first half didn't suggest a story that was heading towards any obvious climax. It's a bit of an exaggeration, I guess. Whedon episodes are very strongly structured, and so the way "Our Mrs. Reynolds'" structure doesn't become obvious until halfway through is exciting. I feel a bit similarly about "Man on the Street," which in its Paul plotline is kind of a series of somewhat disconnected events, from his perspective, but which form an emotional progression.

I do like the Coupling "Split" episode, although I don't remember loving it per se; I can't think of any specific criticisms though. I might rewatch the series at some point. The episode examining different perspectives on Sally and Patrick's first meeting was very good. (I particularly enjoy the way Patrick's memory completely wrote away the, from his perspective, less-attractive girl.)

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