Friends vs. Frasier and The Dick Van Dyke Show vs. Get Smart

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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: Friends vs. Frasier and The Dick Van Dyke Show vs. Get Smart.

Friends — “The One With the Embryos,” January 15, 1998

The One With the Embryos has a simple plot: a competition between the guys (Joey and Chandler) and girls (Monica and Rachel) to see which side knows the other better. The jokes are plentiful and soundly funny, because they all stem directly from the identities of the characters (who else but Chandler Bing would let his TV Guide be delivered to “Miss Chanandler Bong”?). The subplot in which Phoebe finds out she’s going to be a surrogate mother for her brother (guest star Giovanni Ribisi) adds heart to an episode that does what this show did best: let us have fun just hanging out with characters who’d become our own friends. — Hallie Cantor

Frasier — “The Dinner Party,” March 11, 1999

It’s not easy to maintain steady humor in a continuous living room scene for 22 minutes, but “The Dinner Party” does just that. Set in “real-time” format, the episode follows Frasier and Niles as they try to plan a dinner party for Seattle’s hottest high society couple, the Ashbys. After going through a blackballing session of their potential guests and losing their favorite caterers, Frasier and Niles get an RSVP on the answering machine that exposes what some of their guests really think of their brotherly love, and the two are left with none of the high-class party requirements they hoped for after the Ashbys cancel. “We have a third-rate caterer with a record, two lushes, a couple who both think we’re both nutcases, an Argentine wild child, and Roz,” Frasier declares at the end of the episode. “Dinner is served!” — Megh Wright

Poll closed.

The Dick Van Dyke Show — “It May Look Like a Walnut,” February 6, 1963

We think of high-concept, “weird” sitcom episodes as being a relatively recent phenomenon, but back in 1963, The Dick Van Dyke Show was doing stories about a character fearing that walnuts will steal his thumbs and imagination. The character in question is Rob (Van Dyke), who keeps his wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), up all night by watching a scary science-fiction movie in bed. The next day, walnuts are strewn all over their house, Rob’s friends are acting weird, and a man who resembles comedian Danny Thomas but calls himself Kolak visits Rob at his office. It’s elaborate and distinctive, and so beloved that the show’s official fan newsletter is named…the Walnut Times. Thumbs up, indeed. — Josh Kurp

Get Smart — “A Spy for a Spy,” October 1, 1966

When the Chief is kidnapped by rival agency KAOS, Maxwell Smart is thrown into a battle of the wits with Siegfried, KAOS’ Vice President of Public Relations and Terror. (This episode marks Siegfried’s first appearance on the show, though he would go on to become one of Smart’s most often-recurring nemeses.) Max kidnaps KAOS’ number two, prompting Siegfried to kidnap another CONTROL agent, and so on until Smart’s giant tally board of each side’s kidnapping victims includes all the agents on both sides. And as he says to Siegfried, “It wouldn’t do any good our kidnapping each other, because there’d be no one left to do the negotiating.” It’s a simple idea, heightened to a humorous extreme, and it makes for an absurd, silly, and fun episode of the James Bond spoof that launched a thousand James Bond spoofs. — Hallie Cantor

Poll closed.