Community – “Paradigms of Human Memory”
Season two of Community expanded on the parodies of various genres, from documentaries to fantasy. But nothing topped “Paradigms of Human Memory,” a perfect spoof of television’s most reviled concept: the clip show. In what may be the most meta episode of television ever produced, the Greendale study group argues about the past year and all the various situations they’ve put themselves into. We watch these shenanigans in flashbacks – flashbacks we’ve never seen before, yet are presented as normal clips from past episodes. “Paradigms of Human Memory” requires knowledge of Community’s joke format and characters to fully appreciate just how clever it is. But for the show’s loyal fans, it is an absolute blast that gets better with multiple viewings.
Breaking Bad – “Crawl Space”
There was no better show in 2011 than Breaking Bad. It had the best acting, best writing, best directing and one of the best season finales on television in a long time. But that exquisite cap to the season was topped by “Crawl Space,” especially in the final three minutes. As meth-chef Walter White (Bryan Cranston) returns home to retrieve $500,000 in order to go into hiding, he discovers most of the hidden stash of money is missing, taken by his wife, Skyler, to help a friend pay off his tax debts. Upon hearing this, Cranston locks up his fourth Emmy victory. Lying on the ground, Walter screams, and then begins to laugh. The laugh rises from a simple chuckle to a full-on maniacal breakdown. Cranston’s performance in the scene is chilling and scary, as Walter seemingly turns insane right before our eyes. There are only 16 episodes of Breaking Bad remaining, and they can’t come soon enough.
Beavis and Butt-Head – “Werewolves of Highland”
After 14 years away, Beavis and Butt-Head returned this October and was as funny as ever. The idiotic duo watches “Twilight” and decides to become werewolves in the hopes of being more attractive to girls. Creator Mike Judge pulls no punches in his return to MTV; he has no problem quickly mocking the network’s most popular series, Jersey Shore. Beavis and Butt-Head became popular in the 1990s for its spot-on satires of anything popular at the time, similar to South Park in the 2000s. If “Werewolves of Highland” is any indication, Beavis and Butt-Head will have no problem settling in to a new decade and laughing at whatever is in the mainstream eye.
Louie – “Duckling”
There are few shows that can manage to make an episode in the Middle East. There are fewer still that could make it shocking. There are an elite few that could also make a hysterical episode. Louie managed all three in a brilliantly low key trip when the eponymous character is hired to perform for the troops. It’s an off key episode for the show, but it’s tense and it’s rare a show would be able to make a single cheep into one of the most agonizing moments on television this year. It’s a deep look at how the character has changed, his continuing neurosis and the power a duck has in changing U.S. and Afghani relations.
Parks and Recreation – “Lil’ Sebastian”
Parks and Recreation brilliantly built up to the coupling of Leslie and Ben and their relationship is in full force as Pawnee’s favorite miniature horse dies. It’s an episode packed with emotional moments, but it’s also hilarious. Between Donna reading “Inferno,” Jean-Ralphio and Tom’s slideshow, Ron burning his eyebrows off, Andy’s rendition of “5,000 Candles in the Wind” or the total breakdown of Chris’ microchip, “Lil Sebastian” became the perfect finale for season three and probably the best episode of Parks and Recreation yet.