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December 08 2009

10 Small Screen Masterpieces from Joss Whedon. A thoughtful list of one fan's top 10 favorite Whedon TV moments, from Buffy to Dollhouse, with stops in-between.

Some good choices here, but I find it a bit heavily skewed in favor of Firefly compared to some of the tour-de-forces that weren't listed on BtVS and AtS.
There are a lot of great things on that list, thats for sure. I would substitute "Our Mrs Reynolds" with "Restless" though. But I totaly agree with numbre 1# That is probably the best piece of television ever produced.

[ edited by Satai (with Punsch) on 2009-12-08 08:58 ]
Wow, with the exception of Not Fade Away, this has some of the worst and most overrated episodes that Joss has ever done.

Yeah. I really hate The Body. The only thing that could make this list any worse is to add Smile Time and even more Firefly. Chosen and its Slayer rape isn't even in the top 10 of Buffy alone, IMO. And is there really any fan that rates Shiny, Happy People even over its much better counterpart, The Magic Bullet? (I mean, if you really want to celebrate Fred being strong, The Magic Bullet was even better at that!)

Where are Innocence, Becoming, pts. 1 & 2, Passion, I Only Have Eyes For You, Amends, The Prom, Fool For Love, etc...? Where are Forgiving, Lullaby, Reprise, Deep Down, Soulless, Five By Five, Sleep Tight, Waiting In The Wings, etc...?
Seing the glass half empty are we?
I've tried to be an equal opportunity Joss-show lover in the past but I think that I'm going to have to agree in part with this list - that is, it's pretty obvious preference for Firefly eps. I don't know if I agree with all of the episodes chosen but, after a recent marathon of all things Whedon, I've finally come to the realisation that I have a favourite show - and that favourite is Firefly!

I never thought that the day would come when I would choose and I'm actually feeling a little guilty, like I'm letting BTVS down in some way... but I just can't get past how wittily wonderful Firefly is!
Dude, Nile, the article was talking about stuff from this decade, so Becoming, Passion, I Only Have Eyes For You, and Amends are all out of luck.

I agree with most of your Angel picks, and that this list was too Firefly heavy (though Objects In Space is a worthy number one).

I also agree that the Magic Bullet is better than Shiny Happy People. An underrated episode from an underrated season.

However, you think Deep Down, Soulless, and Amends are better than The Body? Really? I would have to say I strongly disagree with that.
I think that "A Whole in the World"/"Shells" is the best content Angel ever produced. I would easily rank that above the finale (even though I really enjoyed "Not Fade Away")
"The Body" - seriously? Overrated?

IMO, "The Body" is one of the best episodes of TV. Anywhere. Ever. Aside from its power to move almost every BtVS fan I've ever spoken with, it's beautifully-crafted - so spare and elegant and stark and passionate.

It's art. It's really fine art. I don't think it can be praised too often or too much.
I agree with every word QuoterGal says about "The Body." It might not be everyone's cuppa, but overrated? I don't think that's possible.

I always vacillate between "Objects in Space" and "Out of Gas" as my favorite Firefly eps, but I'd put either near the top of my list of favorites from the Whedonverses. Otherwise, I'd agree with about half of this person's list.
I would have put 'The Body' top, then 'A Whole in the World', also I would have put 'Jaynestown' and 'Man on the Street' in there too.
A Hole In The World should definitely be up there. It's phenomenal in the way it turns on a dime from light-hearted japes in the wake of Smile Time to the incredible drama of the gang trying to save Fred. One of the most beautifully played, heartbreaking pieces Joss (or anyone) has ever made.

I can understand the not including The Body. Sometimes a tv show can be made so well and affect you so much you can't physically watch it because of the feelings it elicits, and while that says a positive thing about Joss as a writer, it does prevent this guy being able to treat it rationally (which he acknowledges). An interesting, if rather too Firefly skewed, compilation.
I'd put in 'Briar Rose', 'Man on the street', 'Belle Chose (underrated simply because it was a stand alone, but has amazing dialogue and brilliant performances),

... and 'Out of Gas' should really be in there as well.
Hm. Well I guess no-one's ever going to be 100% happy about someone else's favourites list but I'm struggling to see why Shiny Happy People made the list (though I'm also glad Smile Time was absent). Actually I wouldn't even rate Not Fade Away as that great, I can think of a bunch of better episodes from the last series and the first two although I do enjoy the very last scenes from NFA.

Also not that keen on Our Mrs Reynolds, possibly my least favourite Firefly episode.
I'm with QuoterGal here. I think The Body, painful as it is, is simply the best hour of TV ever broadcast. Given that the author here states outright a love for Firefly no one should be surprised to see the eps listed. I agree that Objects in Space is critical TV, and it ransk among my fave Whedon eps. Otherwise, I am always happy to see such lists, and it makes me realize that on any given day, I might change my own list- which will always include New Moon Rising (which no one ever picks).
I'd also pick apocalypse now-ish as my Angel pick (along with "Not Fade Away", but I'm reasonably happy with the "Shiny Happy People" choice.
I think this list just proves that no list (or review for that matter) is objective - that it is all based on who the observer is and what they bring to the table. What resonates most with one person will leave another cold.

I thought the list-maker did a good job in explaining why he picked each choice. I wouldn't expect anyone else to have the same ones.

I would have had Fool For Love on my list, but that may just show MY bias.
Don't agree with a lot of his picks ('War Stories' over 'Out of Gas' ? Not in this 'verse*) but I do like that it's not yet another list of all the usual suspects, if I had to sum it up in a word it'd be "idiosyncratic" and if I had to sum it up in a fruit it'd probably be quince. Or maybe pomegranate.



* where "this 'verse" = "my opinion"
That's probably true about objective. Just looking at this list, Our Mrs. Reynolds and Objects in Space don't rank with me at all. Not because they weren't good, I just can't point to what could make them artistically superior to the others and I'm not sure I found them more enjoyable either. Then again, I completely avoid ranking, so maybe if I actually did it, I would have them in my top 10, just not in my top 5.

Plus, I always have trouble figuring out how these are supposed to be ranked. Are they the stories that we like the most, or the most flawless bits of television? They always seem mixed together in a haphazard fashion.
Probably ? Yeah, I think it's reasonable to just go ahead and assume that a personal list of favourite episodes isn't objective (now trying to imagine what an "objective" list of personal favourites would even look like. I'm deathly afraid that predicate calculus might appear on it somewhere ;).
I think this list proves you can't limit yourself to Ten Episodes when your topic is Joss. :D
I think it's a bit soon to be rating Dollhouse eps against other Joss work, but my top Dollhouse eps would include "A Spy in the House of Love," "Briar Rose", "Belonging", and possibly "The Left Hand." And maybe "Epitaph One." So there's half of a top-ten list right there.....

Speaking of overrated eps, the top of my list is "Hush". It's a remarkable achievement in many ways, but just not hitting my top "n+1" list.
I think this list proves you can't limit yourself to Ten Episodes when your topic is Joss. :D

Heck, in the Chosen Collection, Joss's personal top-ten list of episodes he hadn't directed (taking a lot of leading contenders out of... contention...) had twelve episodes on it. And, as he commented at the end of it, the list was already changing.

Plus that was just Buffy!
Disappointed to not see A Hole In The World on there, I'd count that as one of the top Angel episodes because of the incredible performances, particularly by Amy Acker. I agree with Not Fade Away but not too sure about Shiny Happy People.

For Buffy eps, I don't really agree with Chosen, I would've chosen The Gift instead. Totally agree with OMWF though.

My top Dollhouse eps would probably be Epitaph One, Belonging and The Left Hand. And maybe Vows because although the main story wasn't the best, the scene with Topher and Saunders was so amazing.

Haven't watched the entirety of Firefly yet so can't comment on that, but I do feel the list was a bit swayed towards those eps.
Ooooo... Can't beat a good list. Nosiree.

I'd certainly take The Gift over Chosen. A Hole In The World and Shells over any other Angel selection. Serenity/Out of Gas/Objects in Space for the Firefly selection. I could never really buy the torture scene in War Stories and it takes me out of the episode horribly.

Out of curiosity, am I the only person who watches the commentary of OiS as much, if not more than the actual episode?
Hey guys, the "list maker" here. Yep, I'm a Whedonesquer from way back though I mainly lurk these days. I do have to say that, in a way, I'm not as qualified as you guys because, since I follow a whole of things as a critic, it's a sad fact that, while I've seen pretty much everything the Whedon has done, I haven't been able to repeat that many episodes. Also, an all-time list would, of course, have had more "Buffy" and, sorry for those who think it's overrated "Hush" would definitely be one of them. Also, remember, however, that I saw it when it first aired, when it hadn't really had time to get "overrated" yet. So much of the whole business is taste if preconditioned by the taste of others. (No movie is so hated online as such "universally acclaimed" Oscar winners as "Crash," "American Beauty" and "Titanic," but that's a separate debate).

And, obviously I have prejudices, as I mentioned in the piece. I'm a huge "Firefly" fan and pretty much love every episode. Also, my two favorite genres are westerns and musicals and look how well they did on my list! (I've probably seen OMWF and "Dr. Horrible" more times than just anything ever made for the little screen.)

Overall, I simply chose the ones I love the most, obviously. "Out of Gas," which would have been a more typical choice, is fabulous, truly. But I've noticed a tendency within me to always go for the somewhat lighter touch of the Whedon written/dominated episodes than the somewhat more serious Minear shows. (I did think long and hard about including "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been" which is an especially interesting show given Minear's contrasting politics from Whedon.)

I said "Shiny Happy People" wouldn't get any support from Whedon fans -- I knew that because everyone but me seemed to dislike it at the time! Sometimes, we love the orphans more than any others.

Anyhow, this is fun and brings me back to old times. Thanks Mr. SNT for including me in the party!
bobster, thanks for 'fessing up. Obviously, the fun in having your ten episodes list is that everyone here can say what theirs are. So, well done, for stimulating discussion.

Out of curiosity, am I the only person who watches the commentary of OiS as much, if not more than the actual episode?

Nope. You aren't alone.
Going strictly by the article's criteria, here is my Top 10 list of favorite Whedonverse moments:
10. The Magic Bullet (One of my favorite episodes from Season 4 of ANGEL, and an episode that I think is rather underrated; yes, it tends to get dismissed because it's part of the Jasmine arc, which, as the article noted, gets a lot of crap from portions of the fandom, but one of the many reasons I like it is because of what it has to say about our characters, particularly Fred)

9. Apocalypse Nowish (I'm one of a distinct minority who actually liked the Connor/Cordelia relationship and arc, and, although there were certainly elements of it that could've been handled better, Apocalypse Nowish is one of the two best episodes (along with Inside Out) of the arc, and, IMO, one of the best episodes of ANGEL's entire run; I particularly like the juxtaposition of imagery with the rain of fire happening right as Connor and Cordelia are getting it on.)

8. Two to Go (Season 6 is and will forever remain my favorite season of Buffy, even surpassing the brilliance that is Seasons 5, 3, and 2, but, of the numerous 'standout' eps of S6, Two to Go stands out as a personal highlight; I particularly love the image of Willow riding on top of a semi truck chasing Xander, Jonathan, and Andrew as they try to flee.)

7. Spiral (One of my favorite episodes from Season 5, Spiral is one of the few BtVS episodes that breaks the series' established storytelling mold and goes almost full on 'action movie'; it also breaks the established Buffy mold because it is one of the few 'penultimate' episodes from the series that doesn't take place immediately preceding the season finale.)

6. Jaynestown (Although I wouldn't say there's a 'dud episode' in the entirety of Firefly, Jaynestown is the one episode that stands out, to me, as being far and away one of the best, if not THE best, and is, IMO, a perfect statement of what Firefly is, even moreso, IMO, than Objects in Space; one of my personal favorite aspects of the episode is how it tells us a lot about Jayne's character that we didn't know, but without changing what we DID know about his character at that point in the show)

5. The Train Job (Although this episode is certainly not without its problems, it does stand out to me as one of the better eps from any of Joss's series, and, while it certainly repeats information in places that ultimately was presented in Serenity - the episode - it does so in ways that compliment said information; I particularly enjoy the way that it allows Simon to demonstrate that he's more than just a 'pretty boy', much moreso than in Serenity or some of the later episodes.)

4. Shindig (Jane Espenson is one of my favorite television writers EVER, and Shindig is one of her best efforts; it's also one of the few Jossverse episodes she wrote that was a full-on character study, both of Mal and of Inara.)

3. Smile Time (To me, this episode deserves as much attention as episodes like Hush, The Body, or Once More with Feeling], but doesn't get nearly as much attention as them for one reason or another. One particularly satisfying aspect of it for me is the fact that it allows David Boreanaz to break out of his usual 'acting mold' when it comes to portraying the character of Angel and offer us a new glimpse into the character and his own skills as an actor in a way that we rarely got to see during either BtVS or the rest of ANGEL.)

2. A Hole in the World (I love this episode for a myriad of different reasons, amongst them being the brilliant performances turned in by Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof; Denisof in particular is able to offer us a glimpse into Wesley's character that is completely different from anything we'd seen previously; the episode also stands out because of just how pivotal it is to the rest of the season in terms of dictating each of the characters' motivations for taking the actions that they take going forward.)

1. The Gift (Although Season 6 is, as stated, my favorite season of Buffy, Season 5's The Gift is hands-down my favorite episode from the series, and for a myriad of different reasons. Not only is it one of the best season finales Joss ever wrote, but also a perfect representation of everything that BtVS is and was about, even moreso than Chosen.)

To the list-maker: You're not the only ANGEL fan who appreciates Shiny Happy People; I thought it was interesting and, while I wouldn't call it a 'favorite' episode of mine, I do think it's rather good, and has a really interesting story to tell.

Edited to add: I've never seen Dr. Horrible, and haven't seen enough DH to rate it, so that's why they weren't included in my list.

[ edited by DigificWriter on 2009-12-08 23:14 ]
It's simply... Imposssible to do. I could maybe, MAYBE do a top 10 Joss episodes list, if I couldn't include Buffyverse, or Dr. Horrible. With Dollhouse and Firefly, it's possible.
NileQT87: "Slayer rape"? Yes, I agreee, the lack of majority infomred consent in "Chosen" is problematic in itself, with the other choice being the whole world going ash-can it becomes a forced choice, and over-all a Bonhoeffer-level moral problem and not classifiable with simple categories.
Yep, only 10 favorite episodes from 7 + 5 + 1 + 1.5 seasons of television (and one internet musical)? For me, that'd equate impossible. I'd have to leave too many of. And how would I compare between shows? Is 'Once More With Feeling' better than, say, 'A Hole in the World'? Is 'Out of Gas' better than 'Surprise/Innocence'? My mind would explode, as there is no real basis for comparison. I can just about rate episodes within a single season of one of the shows. I could also, maybe, rate the separate seasons of all the shows together (and say: Season 5 of Angel rates higher than Season 7 of Buffy, and the one season of Firefly rates higher than Buffy season five, for instance) and make some kind of list. But otherwise: there's just too many episodes.

Put more simply, I wouldn't feel good leaving off any of the following episodes (which constitute my favorites of the various shows, in completely random order):

Buffy
-------
S1: Angel
Prophecy Girl
S2: Surprise/Innocence
Passion
Becoming pt. 1/2
S3: The Wish
Doppelgangland
Graduation Day pt. 1/2
S4: Wild at Heart
Hush
Restless
S5: The Body
The Gift
S6: Once More With Feeling
S7: Selfless
Conversations with Dead People
Storyteller

Angel
-------
S1: Five by Five/Sanctuary
S2: Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?
Reunion
Epiphany
S3: Waiting in the Wings
Forgiving
S4: The Magic Bullet
S5: Smile Time
A Hole in the World
Not Fade Away

Firefly
---------
Serenity
Ariel
Out of Gas
Objects in Space
War Stories

Dollhouse
------------
S1: Echo (unaired pilot)
Spy in the House of Love
Briar Rose
Epitaph One
S2: Belonging
The Left Hand

Interestingly enough, the episodes that make the list, are usually the ones that stand out but are also recognizable as separate entities of goodness. For instance: the arc in Buffy season five is outstanding and strong, but it didn't make for memorable seperate episodes. Same thing goes for Angel's second and third seasons, even if they do have the occassional stand-out arc episode like 'Forgiving' or 'Epiphany', which have enough 'character' as a seperate entity to end up in my favorite-episodes list. All in all, my favorite seasons don't equate 1-on-1 with 'most good single episodes'.

I've also noticed I've left off many of the 'funny' episodes, like 'Jaynestown', 'Guise will be guise' or 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered', even though they are some of my favorite episodes on rewatch; I'm probably instinctively selecting for more 'gravitas', even if that probably isn't fair (there's nothing that says heavy drama is somehow 'better' than comedy, after all). Also missing are re-watch favorites like 'Bag Eggs', which I really do like a whole lot, but aren't in any way special or even good (maybe even a bit bad), which means that, according to me, they can't be on this list ;).

But all in all: I love these shows just a little bit too much to be any good at choosing and picking favorites, although I can say that - with the possible exception of 'Belonging' and 'Echo' - pretty much every Dollhouse episode would end lower than the aforementioned episodes of the other shows. Which is not in any way condemning Dollhouse; it just means that 'Dollhouse' isn't as emotionally engaging or satisfying to me as three of my four all-time favorite shows (the other one being 'The West Wing'). But considering the competition, that's not saying much. In the end I really do like/admire quite a few episodes (if only for nothing more than the acting of someone like Enver Gjokai, who is probably the best Whedonverse actor to have popped up in quite a while and who regularly gives an incredible performance, culminating in his tour-the-force in 'The Left Hand').
Apocalypse Nowish makes me want to spork out my eyes. Which may just mean it's a success in what it aims to accomplish.
Uh... spoiler tag? Please?

I wasn't expecting to run straight into stuff about this week's Dollhouse episode.

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