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: Cheers vs. Fawlty Towers.
Cheers — “Pick a Con…Any Con” (1983)
This classic Cheers episode, from the inaugural season of the single-setting sitcom, sees the Cheers gang hiring con man Harry the Hat (played by a pre-Night Court Harry Anderson) to win Coach’s money back from a card hustler. It’s a sharp episode that features a fairly elaborate plot for an 80’s sitcom and great moments from everyone in the show’s original ensemble (complete with Diane and Coach). Even though “Pick a Con” was produced early in Cheers’ run, the characters are fully defined and comically potent, as evidenced by memorable bits like mailman Cliff Clavin attempting to gamble with commemorative stamps when he’s run out of money and Diane trying her hand at bartending for the first time, only to be baffled by the process of making a Bloody Mary. The storyline is full of twists and turns, defying predictability by pulling off the kind of surprises that few other TV comedies are capable of delivering, even now. — Bradford Evans
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