The West Wing ranking continues! We have made it through the good, the bad, and the Ted McGinley inPART I and PART II. There are a few flaws with some of these episodes, but on the whole, they’re classic–warts and all. And by warts, I mean Commander Crap Reese. So put on your oversized Josh jammies, grab some whiskey and Blow Pops, and snuggle up with Marion Coatsworth of Marblehay. It’s time for the best!
Here are the Top 50:
50. “Evidence of Things Not Seen” (season 4, episode 20)
I love that Toby’s accoutrements for poker include a giant bottle of whiskey and two Blow Pops. With that noted, let’s play some poker! Oh wait, other things keep getting in the way, including a job interview with an actor who just got out of rehab, a telephone farce with a Russian leader, and a shooting in the Briefing Room (!!). The titular evidence and things not seen relate to each of these distractions, including Josh not seeing Joe Quincy’s (yeesh, what a name!) little Republican sticking out, and suppressing any feelings over the shots fired. The spy plane, the egg, Will hitting the fifth row. Get it? Hope? Faith? Skepticism? Fear? This is Sorkin being a little cutesy, and also trying to scare us a bit. See, we all know the season finale is approaching, but know not what shape the menace might take. Last episode we wondered about a plane crash. Now we wonder about another shooting. In the meantime, this fake spider under the sheets doesn’t move us very far but allows us to enjoy our favorite characters for a bit. That ain’t all bad. Points Lost For: Very special guest star Matthew Perry. Blech. Joe Quincy is written like a pancake. Awkward Suspension of Reality Moment: Remember back in “20 Hours in LA”, when Donna’s at the fancy-pantsy party and she wants to try and meet Matthew Perry? That makes Joe Quincy’s appearance less believable than his name.
The Bartlet fun never stops. We’ve already ranked West Wing episodes #101-155 in PART ONE. Now it’s time to move on from the awful episodes that Curtis had to carry around, to some truly lovely stories, killer lines, and classic moments. Most of these episodes below have some serious flaws, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile. Get ready to enjoy Chicken Bob, a goldfish pin, and Toby singing.
On we march to the top 100:
100. “Han” (season 5, episode 4)
I have han just watching this episode, even though it’s a sweet little LOST reunion of sorts (or was LOST a “Han” reunion? Time riddle!). Listen, this is an episode where PB and Leo are just wrong and so adrift in an ocean of uncertainty that they missed the obvious inevitability that the North Korean talks would fall apart. They sacrificed the young confused musician, and then PB had the nerve to blame the pianist’s lack of understanding of “freedom”. Really, Jed? Teach him freedom. Ack, the writers have positioned the POTUS as doddering, weak, confused, and myopic. Not cool.
99. “The Lame Duck Congress” (season 2, episode 6)
Zzzzzz. ZzzzzzZzzz. This is one snoozer episode. I don’t care a fig about the drunken Russian getting to see the President. And Donna is petulant and ridiculous in this episode about repetitive stress injuries. Nothing about this episode is particularly offensive, it’s just boring and overly focused on procedures.
Well, damn. If I’m going to go to the trouble of ranking every Gilmore Girls episode, then I’d better get on the ball and fire up…whichever digital service has the licensing for… The West Wing as well! This paragon of American political optimism and snark is simply one of my favorite shows of all-time. But, it might also be the trickiest show to rank. See, I have to balance entertainment with political views. That’s dangerous stuff right there. So dangerous I might need the full box of Franzia and a big block of cheese to get through these tough negotiations. And maybe some pie. Definitely all the doughnuts and bagels in the land.
Let’s start with the worst, or as I call it “the Angela Blake end of the list”. The top 54 will take you through some pretty rough territory–Camp David negotiations, Brian Dennehy, heart attacks, some Harry Potter vomit, and human fruit fly.
From the bottom:
155. “Isaac and Ishmael” (season 3, episode 0)
Alternate Title: “The 9/11 Episode” Airing less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, this was never supposed to be an episode. This was thrown together in a matter of about two weeks, from writing to filming to post-production, specially to address the attacks. And it’s awful. Preachy and dark and utterly self-aware. This is an after-school special mixed with a 70s variety show, with a whole lot of racism thrown in. The shockingly prejudiced, rude, and naive teens–who accuse Toby of being a terrorist for wearing a beard, and ask P.B. if he thinks he’s a “man of principle”–are treated to a cast of characters who pop “on stage” one at a time. First Toby drops in! And then it’s C.J. And then a very special appearance by P.B. and the First Lady! The characters are each condescending as shit, using Biblical stories and and patchy WWII analogies to try and explain terrorism in short-prose form. Diarrhea would be more fun than watching this episode. If you ask me to swear on it, this is not West Wing canon. It isn’t even television canon. It does not exist, anymore than does the finger puppet show in which I pretend that Andy accepts Toby’s marriage proposal and loves the house he bought. They eat pie a lot.
154. “Here Today” (season 7, episode 5)
My Toby. My brilliant and beautiful Toby. What have they DONE TO YOU? Let’s do a quick rundown of this episode: It’s crammed packed with Charles Frost (zzzzzzzzz), Oliver Blabbish questioning (please god nooooooooo!), the President reprimanding and firing Toby (sniffle), and the introduction of fucking Vic the Human Fruit Fly (ewwwww!). I thought Vic was super-duper skeezy and icky when he was banging Miranda on Sex and the City. And now he has impregnated Ellie? Gross! If I’m looking for something to believe in, my only hope is that Josh fired Negative Ned.
From the sick mind that ranked every episode of The West Wing comes the biggest, dopest, Stars Hollowy-ist ranking of every last freakin’ Gilmore Girls episode ever made–all 157.
This was no easy feat, mind you. Ranking these episodes required months of re-watching every season (for the upteenth time) and countless hours of careful thought, criticism, and plenty of coffee, my friends. Let me tell you right off the bat that I’m a Jess fan, and I thought Digger wasn’t so bad. There. Phew. I got that out there. And Christopher? King of the Ruiners. I hate him the way Taylor hates the long-haired town troubadour (I just start pulling at my hair and mumbling to myself about vegetable soup, carts, kiosks, and cart-kiosks.). But more than focusing on a single character, I did my best to weigh how much I enjoyed each episode, and how much they fit in with the show and characters that we know and love. Lorelai playing racquetball? No. Mrs. Kim serving tofurkey? Yes. Rory going to the gym? No. Taylor convincing the town to build a giant haybale maze? Yes.
Ah, the modern Doctor Who episodes. So many handsome Doctors, so many companions, so many catchphrases! Oh, how can one glorious human attempt to rank each and every (modern) episode of the arguably greatest show in television history? Basically with a lot of coffee, maybe some wine, and an incredibly patient spouse.
Be forewarned that I do have a lot of affection for light-hearted romps and historical / literary episodes. Oh, and I play favorites with certain companions. It’s no secret that I simply adore Rose and Doctor Donna with every beat of my single human heart. And while I have a gentle fondness for Mickey, Rory, Craig, Clara, Nardole, and Bill, and a meager tolerance for Amy and her narcissism, there is no quibbling about how much I loathe Martha.
Yes, I said it. Love her as you will, Marthites! But the woman couldn’t keep her mouth closed most of the time and spent most of her episodes bumbling in confusion and requiring rescue over and over. Her puppy dog crush was just pathetic to watch, and Freema Agyeman’s acting skills were cringe-worthy. Worst of all though, she becomes a soldier. A soldier!
Anyway, where was I? Is it hot in here? Yes, I’m sweating. Stupid Martha.
Well, what I have achieved is, quite humbly, magnificent perfection and probably the final word on the subject. Right? I’m sure no one can disagree with me. And should you feel tempted to allow outrage to course through your veins, remember that your cup of tea may not be mine. Maybe you’re a Marthite, or a confused Donna Hater. And if you haven’t invested the hours in organizing your thoughts on the matter into a very thoughtful list that was endlessly tinkered with, then your opinion should be shushed! This project was a lot harder than it looked at the outset.
113. “Daleks in Manhatten” / “Evolution of the Daleks” (season 3, episode 4-5)
Pig-men. Vapid caricatures of 1930s New Yorkers. One ridiculous Dalek in a pin-stripe suit. More pig-men. Love story. Martha. More pig-men. I’ll confess to you right now that I really love nearly every Dalek episode, mostly because I find their angry tin voices and quizzical eye stalks just adorable. But also because, respect. But these two episodes sullied the name of Dalek with this insultingly ridiculous beauty-and-the-beast style plot cloaked in a forced thematic setting. There was so much ripe fruit in the 1930s era for the writers to pick from–serious topics that would do justice to all of the economic turmoil, innovation, bravery, and terrifying warfare. And this is what they gave us. And worst of all, they made us sit through it in two agonizing long parts. With Martha Jones. Almost unwatchable.
112. “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” (2016 Christmas Special)
Superheroes. Ugh. One of the many beauties of Doctor Who is that we didn’t need a human with oddly specific superpowers prancing around in masks, disguising his voice, and saving energetic, but naive damsels. We just needed an alien being to show us that humans are, sometimes, powerful in their own right, without radioactive spiders, nuclear accidents, etc. So, holy balls, was I disappointed that Moff decided to cash in on the superhero movie craze. It seemed lazy and jarringly out of place. And all for a Christmas episode! This wasn’t holly or jolly, and it was an insulting gimmick episode that really pissed me off. Worst. Christmas. Episode. Ever. Points Lost For: American episode. Not really sure why superheroes have to be from New York. And continues the trend that American episodes are the worst.
111. “Sleep No More” (season 9, episode 9)
I am mostly speechless after watching this episode. I mean, eye crusty monsters? EYE CRUSTY monsters? No. That makes no sense. And The Doctor agrees with me, because he said as much. But, since canonically speaking, nothing in this episode happened, it’s okay that it didn’t make sense?…? See? It’s even confusing to hate and review this episode. We must have been very bad fans this year and the writers wanted to punish us by asking us to sit through 40+ minutes of this Blair Witch-style eye crusty warning.
110. “Planet of the Dead” (2009, special 1)
What show am I watching? Who is this awful be-wigged woman with far too many convenient talents? Well, if Lady Christina de Souza was auditioning for the role of future companion, she failed miserably. Even the lonely Doctor looked at her and said, “Yeahh, but…I have to wash my hair tonight. And feed my cat. No companions. I’m allergic to humans. And wigs. Bye now.”
109. “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” (season 7, episode 10)
I swear, I want the TARDIS to have an excellent backstory, but this isn’t it. Sexy is a victim here, as much as we are, of not just the insultingly stupid Van Baalen brothers, but also a worthless reset-button resolution. Worst of all, Clara is reduced to a bumbling damsel in distress. Where is our Warrior Clara? Where is our Warrior Sexy? A glimpse of the library and pool may be worth the price of admission, but the ladies of contemporary Whodom deserved better tributes and a chance to really show what they can do.
108. “The Next Doctor” (2008 Christmas special)
So here we are in a yuletide mope because The Doctor is without a companion, having just lost Donna Noble. In trade, the writers decided to tease the audience whilst bringing in Col. Brandon…I mean, David Morrissey…as a temporary companion. But his brain damage is barely endearing, and the whole episode comes off as a not-so-clever audience prank that just won’t end. Even the Fake Doctor’s Companion, Rosita, was just a little bit insulting. She has the crassness of Donna, the incompetence of Martha, and nothing but the name of Rose. And don’t forget that hiddeous wig. (What is it with wigs on the guest stars during Ten’s companionless swan song?) Plus, Cybermen. Yawn. Even the chief villain, Ms. Hartigan, is lazily named. Yes we get it: In her final moments she briefly had a heart again. Yawn. And more yawn. Overall, this was one of the lousiest Christmas specials for lacking substantial emotion, a viable plot, or anything like holiday spirit. The only redeeming bit: The Doctor speaking of his companions. “They break my heart.” So much sadness and misery. But why must the writers spread it to us?
107. “In the Forest of the Night” (season 8, episode 10)
In defense of a very hated episode: The protective forest growing in the middle of London is a cool idea, and the special effects were very beautiful. I was also glad to get to know Clara’s students a little better, and for once I actually liked some kids on this show. There. I said something nice. So now I can get to the truth. This episode was a disaster of silly writing. Where were all the people of London? Why the hell was Annabelle hiding in a shrub? Clara really wouldn’t save her students just so they can go die in their parents’ arms, right? And she couldn’t use her damn spaceship/time machine to go get the parents? And shut the fuck up, Danny Pink. Man. Soldier Dan can seriously go fuck himself with his jealousy and douchiness.
106. “Into the Dalek” (season 8, episode 2)
Does anyone else hear Van Morrison singing when they read this episode title? Anyway, here we have Innerspace, but with a Dalek instead of Martin Short (look it up). This was a drawn out, whiny crisis for the Doctor as he tries to still decide whether he’s good or not. And what does “good” mean anyway? Apparently it means boring. Missed opportunity for a lot of fun and wonder being inside a Dalek. Too heavy and too long.
105. “42” (season 3, episode 7)
Wouldn’t it have been better if I could’ve ranked this episode 42nd? Huh? Eh? Yeah, no. That’s not gonna happen, because this was a really bland trapped-on-a-ship episode. In fact it’s so forgettable, I keep thinking, “Wow, remember that other trapped-on-a-ship episode that was so much better? I wish I was ranking that one right now.” Plus, Martha. To the credit of the Marthites, I will say that she was somewhat less obnoxious here than in other outings. Wait, never mind, the whole thing ends with her mom, Francine, being a giant douchey snitch. Marthites, you get no credit here.
104. “A Town Called Mercy” (season 7, episode 3)
Whew boy, it’s another Americana-themed episode. Think, Robocop meets some terrible western movie. Setting aside my respect for themes of reality and regret, both with the one-off characters, and our normally bouncy Eleven, this is a sleepy outing. And worst of all, it feels like the Ponds have stayed too long. Points lost for: Bad makeup effects. Points lost for: Doctor wielding a gun.
103. “The Lazarus Experiment” (season 3, episode 6)
Ugh, a super Martha-centric episode. I’ll get to the terrible scorpion monster and formulaic bite-sized plot in a moment. But first, it’s Martha…and her family. To anyone who ever criticized Jackie Tyler for being shrill or obnoxious, I’ll say at least she didn’t directly and purposely endanger the Doctor. In fact, Jackie went to great pains multiple times to save him. But now we meet Martha’s mom who is nothing short of Super Asshole. And it turns out Tish, much like sis Martha, is really good as baddy bait (see also: “The Sound of the Drums”). Ugh. The writers must really, really hate Martha to draw her family so terribly. But oh, yes there was a plot here, too, right? Ehh. This plot. Even Lazarus, in his mind, had to be like, “Man, this is a really terrible idea, this miracle of mine. I mean horrible. So many awful things are going to happen to me and people around me. But I’m bored. And I could endanger multiple members of the Jones family, so, eh, why not? Call the caterer.” Not only is this episode lazy, but it fuels my Martha rage.
102. “Utopia” / “The Sound of the Drums” / “Last of the Time Lords” (season 3, episode 11-12-13)
While “Utopia” would’ve been a decent story on its own-tho, by the time we get down to the real business of The Master and his reign as Saxon-tho, I find that I actually sort of liked Martha. Yeah, I said it. She actually kicked ass in this run, and that is really, REALLY rare for her. She only was kidnapped once! (…although her family continued to prove their worthlessness.) The Master was a pretty darn interesting arc, and I adored his portrayal. BUT the conclusion depicting the Doctor as a Christ-figure was waaay over the top. But then, Captain Jack! Face of Boe! Goodbye, Martha! But then, ewww, what is with the fetal Doctor makeup? Creepy. And, COM’ON WRITERS–this was yet another case of “we’ll sing you out of danger!”. Instead of singing, of course, it was thinking of the Doctor and how he died for our sins, or something like that. I don’t know. My ears were bleeding at this point-tho. Boy, this episode trio is really a mixed bag for me. Worth watching, with some beautiful nods to recurring story arcs and characters, but some heavy-handed religious symbolism that was pretty gross-tho.
101. “Gridlock” (season 3, episode 3)
Here we are again with badly wedged social commentary as a plot device–it was even a two-for-one commentary on how shitty we all are. Round and round the vehicles go, unaware they’ll never make their destination. Why? Because we like our mood altering drugs a bit too much, of course. Such sheep we are. Okay, seriously, some fantastic guest stars and one hella-stirring rendition of “Abide With Me” almost pull us away from the clutches of the evil Macra that live in our souls. And it mandatorily has to be ranked higher than it would otherwise because, The Face of Boe. Ah, it’s his final meeting that he promised the Doctor, and our unknowing goodbye to Capt. Jack. But just as I start to jack this episode up the list, because “Don’t go, Boe!”, then Martha stumbles in, immediately figures that a bad prop skeleton on the floor is the Doctor (yeah, pop your eyes out there, sweetie), and then stumbles onward in phony relief toward the Doctor’s voice, where she finds the FOB. And isn’t that just the piss in my Cheerios? After all his travels and accomplishments, after all his years and sacrifice, you know who the FOB sees among his last? Fucking Martha Jones and her flippant “Who’s he?” Sure, you’re at someone’s deathbed, just keep facially overacting and don’t be polite and address him directly or anything. What a waste of a tender goodbye at the end of a very long journey. And did I mention that most of the episode’s plot was centered around Martha getting kidnapped and needing rescue? Ugh. Won’t someone please get her back to her hospital already? Rest in peace at long last, Face of Boe.