Arrested Development vs. Always Sunny and WKRP in Cincinnati vs. Fawlty Towers

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The Best Sitcom Episode Ever Tournament is pitting 32 of the greatest episodes of funny TV shows ever produced against each other in a single-elimination winner-takes-all (well, takes-nothing) competition. Every day, we’re putting up episodes for you, our loyal readers, to vote on. Today: Arrested Development vs. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and WKRP in Cincinnati vs. Fawlty Towers.

Arrested Development — “Pier Pressure,” January 11, 2004

It’s next to impossible to have a favorite Arrested Development episode when they all intertwine and play off each other so well, but “Pier Pressure” is certainly a good place to start. It has so many things that make AD great – George Michael vowing “I was going to smoke the marijuana like a cigarette,” Lucille 2’s vertigo problems, the 60s hit single “The Big Yellow Joint,” the Hot Cops, and George Sr.’s final lesson to his son using his one-armed friend J. Walter Weatherman. Wrap that up with a one-upmanship double pot bust and you get the tight but ridiculously layered goodness that makes watching this show from start to finish more rewarding each time. And remember: Always leave a note. — Megh Wright

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — “Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person,” October 11, 2007

Honestly, I’m surprised it took 26 episodes for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to use the word “retarded” in one of their explaining-the-plot episode titles; the show’s at its best when it’s playing around with taboo topics (abortion, molestation, dumpster babies, etc.), and there are few subject matters more supposedly off-limits than the mentally handicapped. But what really separates “Retarded Person” from any of It’s Always Sunny’s other “risqué” episodes is the introduction of Chemical Toilet, or more specifically, “Nightman” and “Dayman.” There’s nothing not funny about, “I can’t fight you, man, when you come inside me/And pin me down with your strong hands/And I become the Night/The passionate, passionate Nightman,” and Charlie’s bafflement that Mac and Frank think his song’s about rape. Ah, retardation and rape — we can only about be talking about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. — Josh Kurp

Poll closed.

WKRP in Cincinnati — “Turkeys Away,” October 30, 1978

When WKRP station manager Mr. Carlson feels out of the loop amidst his younger staff, he plans a top-secret promotion and only reveals that it involves twenty live turkeys. Long story short, the episode culminates in a live broadcast in which turkeys fall to the ground “like sacks of wet cement.” The fiasco is all the more hilarious since we don’t see it — we just get the report from befuddled newsman Les Nessman and the reactions of the rest of the station team. It’s one of television’s funniest unseen sight gags, and it’s easy to see Carlson’s influence in Michael Scott and WKRP’s influence in myriad modern shows that translate the small personal conflicts of the workplace into larger-than-life physical comedy. — Hallie Cantor

Fawlty Towers — “The Germans,” October 24, 1975

Fawlty Towers is one of the most revered sitcoms of all-time, and “The Germans” is its most memorable episode. John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty is at his best when he’s completely overwhelmed, and this episode has him dealing with a lot: running the hotel while his wife is hospitalized, struggling to hang a moose’s head up on the wall, holding the least successful fire drill in history (sorry, David Brent!), escaping from a hospital, and desperately trying not to offend some German guests. Like most episodes of Fawlty Towers, “The Germans” is an expertly-played farce. It popularized the phrase “Don’t mention the war” and certainly features the Best Walk in Sitcom History in Cleese’s goose-stepping Hitler impression that echoes the classic Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch. — Bradford Evans

Poll closed.