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The 100 Best Episodes of the 1994–95 TV Season

Vulture is revisiting the 1994–95 TV season all week long. Joe Adalian makes the case that it was "one of network TV's last truly great seasons, which means there are a lot of good shows to choose from — but rather than rank the shows, we're going one step beyond to round up the 100 best episodes of the year. For these purposes, the "season" roughly falls between August 25, 1994 (when My So-Called Life debuted) and June 1995, but there are a few outliers on either side of that boundary. This list primarily focuses on network shows, as network TV was generally where it was at, but a few cable entries made the cut, too. It could have been entirely filled with episodes of The Simpsons, Homicide: Life on the Street, ER, NYPD Blue, Seinfeld, Friends, and My So-Called Life, but that's boring. Instead, after spending about 200 hours rewatching shows on DVD, streaming video, and dodgy YouTube rips, I factored in notability and variety in addition to just straight-up quality. Someone has to sing the song of Due South 20 years later, right?

100. Northern Exposure, "The Quest" (aired February 8, 1995)
There are few things more frustrating than the finale that isn't a finale, and since this is series star Rob Morrow's last episode, you'd think that this would also be where the quirky drama ends, too. But no! Luckily, "The Quest" sent him off poignantly — have fun back in New York, Joel — and the remaining eight episodes of the show are surprisingly good even in his absence. (Buy on Amazon.)

99. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, "Soooooooul Train" (November 7, 1994)
How did Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil get engaged? On Soul Train, complete with funky '70s suits and, in Uncle Phil's case, massive '70s Afros. By this point in Fresh Prince's run, the show was starting to lose a little juice, but it's basically impossible to have a bad time reminiscing about and reliving moments from Soul Train. Plus, Carlton tap-dances. (Watch on Amazon.) 

98. Ellen, "Gladiators" (March 1, 1995)
Ellen goes out on a few dates with Nitro (of American Gladiators fame). It does not work out, but at least we get some acknowledgement that Gladiators was really a thing there for a while. (Buy on Amazon.) 

97. Grace Under Fire, "Lead a Horse to Water" (May 17, 1995)
Brett Butler's comedy was a perpetual also-ran, but in Roseanne's waning years, Grace was a solid alternative in the "blue-collar woman does things her way" genre. In "Horse," Grace's seemingly perfect new boyfriend admits that he's celibate, a declaration Grace doesn't take all that well. It's played for laughs, obviously, but there's also a sneakily progressive edge to Grace's frankness about sexual compatibility. (Watch on Hulu.)

96. seaQuest DSV, "Special Delivery" (December 11, 1994)
Honestly, most of seaQuest's second season was a letdown, but at least this episode gave us the enduring spectacle of Roy Scheider in his underwear (sock garters included), conducting an orchestra. It's his — and now our! — recurring nightmare. (Watch on Netflix.)

95. Home Improvement, "Route of All Evil" (January 3, 1995)
Brad gets a paper route, but it eats into his schoolwork time, so he pays Randy to write some of his papers. There's the arduous "Tim and Jill butt heads" story arc, of course, but Home Improvement (and honestly, most family-set sitcoms) works best when characters work together. "Route of All Evil" is not a life-altering episode by any means, but it's basically a perfect HI specimen. (Watch on Amazon.) 

94. Hercules, "Warrior Princess" (March 13, 1995)
The syndicated phenomenon Xena: Warrior Princess didn't debut until the fall of 1995, but Lucy Lawless's iconic character appears in this early Hercules ep to set up her origin story. Her debut is a little bit campy and dumb, obviously, but Hercules is so straightforward about what it is that you can't even fault the show. Give in. (Watch on Netflix and Amazon.) 

93. Hearts Afire, "Help Wanted" (January 11, 1995)
Perhaps you recall the Markie Post/John Ritter rom-com sitcom? More important, perhaps you recall that Billy Bob Thornton played a character named Billy Bob? In "Wanted," he openly admits to watching Hard Copy. Hard Copy! (Buy on Amazon.) 

92. The Martin Short Show, "A Hippo Never Forgets" (September 27, 1994)
Don't be confused: There are two shows called The Martin Short Show — one from 1999, and this one, which lasted all of three episodes. The comedy — in which Short plays Marty Short, the star of a sketch-comedy series alongside his wife, Meg (Jan Hooks) — tried to be both a regular family-set sitcom and still make room for Short and Hooks to show off their sketch capabilities, but it never quite gets off the ground. "Hippo" at least turns into a weird Barney exploration when Short's character assumes he can waltz onto his son's favorite show — only to discover that the man in the hippo suit (George Wendt) has a longstanding beef. This makes the list more for its ballsiness than for successful execution; in a sea of samey-samey comedies, it's hard not to root for the oddball. 

91. Blossom, "Blossom Gump" (November 21, 1994)
What's tough about coming-of-age shows is that they keep going even after their characters have matured. Blossom was its best self when its main character was just beginning teenage-hood. By the show's final season, the series was searching for stories. And they found a weird one here, with Blossom having dreams about being, well, Forrest Gump, and giving Forrest Gump–y advice to Madonna and Michael Jackson. I can't praise the episode's humor per se, but there's something so determined and odd about having a character dream that she's vaguely developmentally disabled and then give awkward advice to really low-budget celebrity impersonators. I feel empowered by this episode's disregard for convention. (Buy on Amazon.) 

90. The Commish, "Head Case" (November 12, 1994)
One major topic of conversation in the 1994–95 season: inpatient mental-health treatment options. (Another: sexual harassment. My God, every show wanted to talk about sexual harassment.) This was The Commish's chance to go all Nellie Bly on everything, and it's about as nuanced as you'd think. Still, The Commish is a pantry-staple sort of show, not something you reach for regularly, but it sure gets the job done. Bonus points for Michael Chiklis' s transformation on The Shield. (Watch on Hulu, buy on Amazon.) 

89. Roseanne, "Follow the Son" (November 2, 1994)
In its prime, Roseanne was one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. By 1994, though, the show was no longer in said prime, and while some episodes are still pretty good, it's hard not to feel like you're watching a ghost. By season seven, Becky (now played by Sarah Chalke) and Darlene were only sometimes present, and DJ could only handle so many stories. "Son" at least includes David trying to needle his way between Darlene and her new boyfriend, plus the episode includes a baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Danny Masterson, and Traci Lords. (Watch on Amazon.)

88. Wings, "If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother" (November 22, 1994)
Sitcoms love a disapproving mother, and if you can get Debbie Reynolds to play her, so much the better. Here she played Helen and Casey's mom, who mostly wanted to scold people and cook things. That hypercritical mom role grates both here everywhere else it's deployed, but the joy of the episode comes from Brian and Lowell's enthusiastic eating contest. Friendly competition is more fun than nasty belittling! (Watch on Hulu and Netflix.)

87. Roseanne, "Skeleton in the Closet" (October 26, 1994)
This episode loses points for some of its gay-panic moments (really, David of all people can't explain what gay means?"), but it earns most of them back by having Roseanne dress as Prince for Halloween. (Watch on Logo TV, via Hulu.) 

86. Dr. Katz, "Family Car" (July 2, 1995)
Finally, a show with the guts to admit that The Three Stooges is not funny. (Buy on Amazon.) 

85. The Critic, "Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice" (March 12, 1995)
In addition to its worthy A-story about Jay possibly replacing either Siskel or Ebert, this ep of The Critic has perhaps the show's best fake-movie mention: "Sylvester Stallone and Frank Stallone star in Yo, Godot, I'm Waitin' Here." (Buy on Amazon.) 

84. Lois and Clark, "Tempus Fugitive" (March 26, 1995)
Remember how we granted Hercules its campiness? Let's do that again here for Lois and Clark, particularly because this episode addresses one of the greatest mysteries in American culture: How the hell does Lois Lane not realize that Clark Kent is Superman? She's called "galactically stupid" by a cruel time-traveler and her memory is eventually erased at the end of the episode, but still. It's very satisfying to have someone call out the whole glasses-are-not-a-disguise thing. (Watch on Amazon.)

83. Rugrats, "A Rugrats Passover" (April 13, 1995)
Every seder could be improved by incorporating aspects of this retelling into its Hagaddah. (Watch on Amazon.) 

82. Chicago Hope, "Small Sacrifices" (January 23, 1995)
Most of the attention for Chicago Hope went to Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin, and that's fair enough, but Diane Verona's Dr. Infante was secretly so rad in season one. Here, in one of the great moments of David E. Kelley romance, she declares to Patinkin's Dr. Geiger, "I know you're crazy, and I still want to date you. That has to be an enormous relief!" It plays as wry and smart, not desperate and weird. I promise. (Watch on Hulu.)

81. The Secret World of Alex Mack, "The Accident" (October 22, 1994)
As far as setups go, Alex really sets itself up: She's just your average anxious middle-schooler, until she gets doused in chemical goo. The quality of the visual effects when Alex turns into a glittery puddle are lacking, but you can't go wrong with details like Alex insisting to her crush that she's "way too old to play with troll dolls." (Watch on Amazon.)

80. Love & War, "Jack's Breast" (November 7, 1994)
Love & War isn't a big-name show like Murphy Brown (both are from creator Diane English), but damn if it wasn't a funny, snappy show all its own, especially after recasting its female lead on the way into season two. In this season-three ep, Dana (Annie Potts) discovers that Jack (Jay Thomas) has a lump in his chest, forcing him both to confront his mortality and navigate an almost exclusively female setting at a breast-health facility. This could be confirmation bias, but it seems like shows back in the day were a lot more likely to reference one another; here, Dana chats up a woman who admits that she owes her awareness of self-breast-exams to Sisters (which … yes, did include a breast-cancer story line). (Watch on Hulu.) 

79. Frasier, "You Scratch My Book …" (February 14, 1995)
Frasier is often its best when Frasier tries to be overtly sexy and flirty — partially because it's funny unto itself to see him be so leering and awful, and partially because we know what will happen: Somehow, his massive self-aggrandizement will turn into a fiasco. That's never truer than when the object of his affection is someone dumber than he is, like here, a self-help author named Honey. (Watch on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.)

78. Cybill, "The Curse of Zoe" (February 27, 1995)
Overall, Cybill took a little while to really get going, but even from the start, Christine Baranski was amazing as the frilly, boozy Maryann. (She won her only Emmy for her work on the show's first season. Give her more Emmys, America!) In "Curse," she tries to comfort her BFF (played by Cybill Shepherd), who says her mother always used to make her breakfast food when she was feeling really down. "You'll really make me French toast?" Cybill asks, skeptically. Of course, Maryann says. "Where's your French toaster?" It's not the greatest joke in the world, but it's delivered with such panache. (Watch on Hulu.)

77. Friends, "The One With the Boobies" (January 19, 1995)
Chandler accidentally sees Rachel's "nippular area," and he can't think about anything else. "We're all adults here," says Ross, "since you saw her boobies, I think you're gonna have to show her your pee-pee." "He's right," Rachel agrees. "Tit for tat!" "Well, I don't want to show you my tat," Chander replies, thus altering the phrase "tit for tat" for all eternity. (Watch on Amazon.)

76. NewsRadio, "Inappropriate" (March 28, 1995)
Maybe Dave (Dave Foley) and Lisa (Maura Tierney) don't belong in the all-time sitcom couples pantheon, but their early romance is so awkward, it's hard not to love it. Plus, thanks to the super-baggy '90s clothes, that physical awkwardness gets amplified through waves and waves of diaphanous khaki fabrics. "Inappropriate" is just the second episode of the show, and there's already a solid style-switch between when Dave and Lisa are alone with each other and when other characters are present. (Watch on Amazon.)

75. NYPD Blue, "You Bet Your Life" (December 6, 1994) 
Here comes another mental-illness episode, only this one is particularly wrenching: One of Andy's close friends from AA is assaulted by his own mentally ill adult son. Shows today are often visually very graphic when it comes to human remains (see: Bones, CSI), but NYPD Blue, even with its nudity and racy language, almost never was; instead, we see Andy react and recoil first while seeing a pregnant woman's charred remains and later describing them to a suspect. Just as powerful, if not more so! Just kidding — it's definitely more so. (Watch on Amazon.) 

74. Beavis and Butt-head, "Beard Boys" (November 1, 1994) 
Few things in this world are as revolting as abjection; when something becomes a part removed from its whole, normal things take on disgusting power. "Beard Boys" capitalizes on how gross that concept is by having Beavis and Butt-head glue hair from their heads onto their faces in the hopes of seeming more macho. (And getting chicks.) Many episodes of Beavis and Butt-head caused me to recoil in both horror and glee, but this one has a special primacy. Head hair that is no longer on one's head is a thing of terror. (Buy on Amazon.) 

73. The X-Files, "Humbug" (March 31, 1995)
On most X-Files episodes, Mulder is among, essentially, Muggles — people who don't want to hear his crazy ideas or who want to keep their own weirdness a secret. Not so in "Humbug," when Mulder and Scully investigate a series of crimes in a community populated by past circus-sideshow performers. The episode is funny and tragic, and it includes a great monologue delivered by Michael J. Anderson about the assumptions we make about other people. "You thought that because I am a person of short stature, that the only career I could procure for myself would be one confined to the so-called 'Big Top.' You took one quick look at me and decided that you could deduce my entire life. Never would it have occurred to you that a person of my height could have possibly obtained a degree in hotel management," he scolds Mulder. "Just because it's human nature to make instantaneous judgements of others based solely upon their physical appearances? Why, I've done the same thing to you, for example. I've taken in your all-American features, your dour demeanor, your unimaginative necktie design, and concluded that you work for the government; an FBI agent. But do you see the tragedy here? I have mistakenly deduced you to a stereotype. A caricature, instead of regarding you as a specific, unique individual." And then Mulder replies, badge in hand, "But I am an FBI agent." (Watch on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.)

72. Mystery Science Theater 3000, "The Beast of Yucca Flats" (January 21, 1995)
In addition to being a terrible movie, The Beast of Yucca Flats is even more baffling than most MST3K subjects because none of the dialogue is said onscreen: You can't see any actors' lips moving at all. It's bizarre, and it makes for one hell of a punching bag. "These are all just random sentences, folks," Mike says at one point, and it's the kind of criticism you can't help but want to use in other situations. (Watch on Amazon.) 

71. Picket Fences, "Cold Spell" (October 28, 1994) 
David E. Kelley had both Chicago Hope and Picket Fences, so there were a lot of "issues" on TV that season — in much more frank and thoughtful ways than there are now. Go ahead, find me a network show exploring the bounds of freedom of religion as it pertains to child-rearing. Bonus points if that show also includes dead bodies turning up in freezers all over town. 

70. Melrose Place, "Boxing Sydney" (February 6, 1995)
This is season three of Melrose, when the show's absurd campiness had its heyday. (Kimberly ripping her wig off to reveal her scar came towards the end of season two.) Sydney was one of the first characters after Kimberly to migrate over to the Things Are Crazy side, and when she finds herself trapped at the compound of a polygamist cult, well, Things Really Are Crazy. This also marks the second appearance of Traci Lords on this list, for those of you keeping score. Allison's descent into alcoholic bitchiness is also in full swing here, particularly when she complains about Amanda. "I can't put up with her Saddam Hussein style of business management," she whines. Oh, Allison. Ooooooh, Allison. (Watch on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix.)

69. Murder, She Wrote, "Film Flam" (February 19, 1995)
No one dies until 25 minutes into this episode. That's how little it cares about murder! Instead, this whole episode is about how awful Hollywood is, how trashy agents are, how actors are often nice but sometimes evil, and how anyone who's anyone reads Variety every day. A barely hatched Jim Caviezel stars as a try-hard new actor. (Watch on Netflix.)

68. Inside the Actors Studio, "Stephen Sondheim" (June 7, 1995)
Confession: I tragically could not find a version of this to rewatch. But this is a partial transcript, and the knowledge that Liz Calloway and Jim Walton performed further reinforces the hour's excellence. (This originally aired as part of Bravo's "Month of Stephen Sondheim." Bravo has chaaaaaanged.) 

67. The Real World: San Francisco, "Getting Dropped" (September 8, 1994)
It's the one where they kick Puck out of the house. Why did they agonize over it for so long? That guy was the worst. (Watch on Hulu.)

66. Mad About You, "Our Fifteen Minutes" (January 5, 1995)
Mad About You is perhaps the ultimate no-concept show, and any number of episodes could qualify as bottle episodes, taking place only in their apartment. This one in particular involves Paul and Jamie trying to film a simple 15-minute documentary of themselves — but would you believe their neuroses emerge? True story: I learned from this episode that, under extreme duress, one can reuse a coffee filter. (Watch on Amazon.) 

65. Love & War, "The Morning After" (September 19, 1994)
After tremendous buildup, a couple finally sleeps together; then, each member retreats to his or her group of friends to dish; comedic patterns repeat between said groups, creating an ironic similarity; often these conversations include rigidly gender-normative behavior. So: Love & War is not reinventing comedy here by having Dana and Jack each confer with their gender-segregated pals. But it's done exactly right, playing with that convention of "boys talk about sex like this; girls talk about sex like this" and finding a fresh take on it. (Watch on Hulu.) 

64. Seinfeld, "The Doodle" (April 6, 1995)
Season six of Seinfeld is a really good season, and it was hard to pick among so many worthy episodes. "The Doodle" stands out because it includes Jerry freaking out about something legitimately disgusting, which is accidentally eating pecans his girlfriend had spit out. Aaaghghhh! Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a terrific physical bit where she holds her breath (well, convincingly pretends to, at least) and rifles through Jerry's fumigated apartment looking for a manuscript, dashing back in the hall like a diver gasping for air. (Buy on Amazon.)

63. New York Undercover, "Tasha" (October 27, 1994)
It's the Pluto of the Dick Wolf solar system, but it's there. Undercover is more notable for its musical acts than its deftness as a cop show, but "Tasha" is in that Dick Wolf sweet spot: a dead baby and a negligent doctor. Keep an eye out for a not-yet-famous Margo Martindale as a nurse with a conscience. 

62. Law & Order, "Progeny" (January 25, 1995)
An anti-choice activist kills an abortion provider, but at the behest of an even more fanatical former priest (played by Grandpa Gilmore himself, Edward Herrman). L&O occasionally covers reproductive rights, and this is one of the more interesting episodes, especially as McCoy argues biblical law. (Watch on Netflix.)

61. Homicide: Life on the Street, "Nothing Personal" (April 21, 1995)
It took all my strength not to make this just a list of Homicide episodes — it's one of the best shows of all time. And the third season is just dark and brainy and aggressive and wonderful, the whole way through. "Personal" aired out of order, much later than it should have, rather than closer to Crosetti's death (which also aired out of order), where it belonged, so it still has some of that dizzy grief feeling. The real gut-punch of this episode, though, is Giardello trying to explain to Russert that women, including some black women, consider him "too black" to date. Homicide and several other shows acknowledge and discuss racism, but it's rare even today to hear conversations about colorism. (Buy on Amazon.)

60. NYPD Blue, "Simone Says" (November 15, 1994)
No one missed you, David Caruso. Not once Jimmy Smits showed up. On his first episode, Simone and Sipowicz crack a murder case, but two subplots provide a little more heft: one, Detective Lesniak's stalker ex-boyfriend (and cop) showing up at the precinct and threatening her; and two, a woman coming to the station to admit that she thinks her husband is molesting her daughter. It's a tough episode, one that acknowledges that women aren't just in danger from, oh, mob threats and robberies gone wrong — they're in danger in their own homes sometimes. (Watch on Amazon.) 

59. Law & Order, "Precious" (November 9, 1994)
Like I said: Dick Wolf loves a dead-baby case, and this is another great one. While Munchausen-by-proxy stories feel played out at this point, 20 years ago, they were a bit more of a twist. Crazed mom, compliant dad, very sad Lenny Briscoe — hard not to dig this episode. (Watch on Netflix.)

58. The Simpsons, "And Maggie Makes Three" (January 22, 1995)
If you don't cry at the end of this episode — where we see Homer's work station plastered with Maggie's photos as a reminder to keep him motivated — then you are a terrible ice monster with sadness for a heart. (Buy on Amazon.)

57. Mad About You, "Giblets for Murray" (November 17, 1994 )
I'm a sucker for Thanksgiving episodes, and I love when supporting cast members who don't usually interact are thrown together; thus "Giblets" makes the cut. Mad About You's love of simple-but-impossible-task humor is in overdrive on this episode, and while Jamie and Paul remain relatively good-natured despite their families' meddling, honestly, this is one of the most anxiety-inducing half-hours of television I've ever seen. (Also Mad had characters that occasionally smoked. Indoors! AT SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE.) (Watch on Amazon.)

56. Frasier, "The Innkeepers" (May 16, 1995)
Frasier and Niles decide to open a restaurant, and it of course goes up in flames, literally, thanks to some overly jubilant cherries jubilee. (Cue the sprinklers.) A lot of Frasier can be described as "the Crane brothers hatch a cockamamie plan and their father tells them it won't work; he proves to be correct," but "Innkeepers" is especially fun given their level of enthusiasm for said plan and the scale of the absolute disaster. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

55. Sisters, "Blinders" (October 1, 1994)
On a show that loved super-weepy episodes, perhaps none was quite so weepy as Teddy going blind (temporarily!) in the wake of the murder of her new husband Falconer. Don't die, George Clooney! R.I.P.

54. Beverly Hills, 90210, "Up in Flames" (November 30, 1994)
Emily Valentine returns, and her dangerous wiles temporarily lure Brandon away from the super-needy Kelly — who gets even more needy when the house she's in catches fire, and she winds up trapped in a basement bathroom with some random lesbian. It's every girl's worst nightmare, unless you're Emily Valentine in your dreams, in which case it's merely a bump in the road. (Watch on Amazon.)

53. The Real World: San Francisco, "Love Rules" (November 3, 1994)
Several shows in the 1994-95 season include supportive-for-the-time messages about gay and lesbian characters — but none of those characters are ever really lead characters. (Sorry, Matt on Melrose, but you are the secondest of all second fiddles.) Same goes for people living with HIV and AIDS; some mentions of support, but never a main story told from that person's point of view. On TRW:SF, though, Pedro Zamora was front and center; a main character who happened to be a real, actual human being, and a compassionate and deeply compelling one, at that. "Love Rules" shows his wedding, though it's hard to watch the episode now without remembering that Zamora died a week after it aired. (Watch on Hulu.)

52. Chicago Hope, "Heartbreak" (January 1, 1995)
ER was the groundbreaking, exhilarating one, and Chicago Hope was the prestigious one. And more important, the weird one. My God, David E. Kelley was the tsar of weirdness there for a while, giving us all these gloriously kooky episodes and characters that used eccentric circumstances to expose authentic human feelings. (ER went for authenticity all the way around.) On "Heartbreak," Camille drops a transplant patient's new heart, and the patient eventually dies; the patient happened to be the rabbi that married her and her now-estranged husband Aaron, so all these feeeeeelings come to the surface. Yes, there is a crazy eulogy. (Watch on Hulu.)

51. Beverly Hills, 90210, "You Gotta Have Heart" (February 9, 1995)
Ooooh, another cult episode. As in it's about a cult, not that it appeals to a small and fervent fan base. After the fire, no one really understands Kelly anymore, which makes her a prime candidate for culthood. Eventually, Kelly's severe eye makeup will indicate her cocaine addiction, but here it's merely a marker for how removed she is from her usual crew. (Watch on Amazon.)

50. Murphy Brown, "It's Miller Time" (February 20, 1995) 
Between Murphy and Frasier et al., this was a real golden age for smart characters who hate dumb characters. "It's Miller Time" finds the ignorant — but handsome — Miller Redfield back in the mix, and this time, Corky is maybe a little susceptible to his charms. "Speak of the devil," someone says when Miller strolls in to an FYI News staff meeting. Miller pauses for a moment. "Well, he's red? He lives in a place called Hell …" It's a perfect little "how dumb is he?" moment.

49. Mad About You, "The City" (December 15, 1994)
Again, Mad is secretly so, so stressful to watch, and this episode so vividly portrays the soul-deadening stress of living in New York that Rudy Guiliani provides a jokey outro reminding everyone how great it is to live in NYC, etc. Think of this episode any time you tell a cab driver on which side of the street you'd like to get out. (Watch on Amazon.)

48. The John Larroquette Show
I couldn't pick a specific episode of TJLS because this show does not exist on the internet. Seriously! There is barely a record of an inventive comedy whose writing staff boasted a pair of writers named Mitch Hurwitz and Jim Vallely ever having aired — even the episode descriptions are lacking. A few season-one episodes are floating around, and they're strong enough that I'll grant a season-two episode placement here, but I can't pick one in particular. If anyone finds the season-two episode guest-starring Rip Torn, though, please send it my way.

47. Northern Exposure, "Our Town" (July 26, 1995)
Even though Joel's sendoff should have marked the end of the series, story-wise, this finale hits all the notes you'd want for a quirky, heartfelt show. Let the joy of everyone getting his or her happy ending wash over you. (Buy on Amazon.)

46. Picket Fences, "Final Judgement" (April 7, 1995)
In today's cynical world, it's easy to mock Picket Fences' enthusiasm for tackling hot-ticket news items. But are there other shows today that are exploring the ethical ins and outs of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia? Fences just loved a good, old-fashioned legal debate, and while the show's various shenanigans are not at all realistic, the strong feelings — particularly strong feelings of empathy-driven ambivalence — are not. I'd watch a reunion episode of this show so fast, oh my God.

45. ER, "Everything Old Is New Again" (May 18, 1995)
ER often felt as raw and ragged as a a documentary about exhaustion, but even it is not immune to the charms of a call-off-the-wedding episode. The first-season finale ends with Carol Hathaway's aborted wedding (a peak moment in '90s brown-lipstick fashion), but even amid the soapiness, ER hangs onto some truth, which is that not everyone was invited because not all the characters are super BFFs. Carol's not friends with Benton (is anyone?), so he's not in the dance-y montage with everyone else. (Watch on Amazon.)

44. Sisters, "A House Divided" (February 4, 1995)
There's a lot of ridiculousness on Sisters, a lot of hyperbole and rococo storytelling. But the show could still really turn the screws when it came time for True Emotions, and John and Georgie filing for divorce was a biggie. Georgie's supposed to be the normal one, the stable one, the together one. Oh, sure, she fell in love with her predatory therapist, but can't she and her ham-hock of a husband work it out? Lo, they cannot. Consider this a wailing plea for this show to land on Netflix.

43. Due South, "Manhunt" (October 6, 1994)
Amid the gritty cop shows and brainy comedies, 1994–95 still made room for the light dramedies, and Due South was among the more lovable, combining fish-out-of-water with irascible genius, like the best USA series that ever was (even though it wasn't on USA). "Manhunt" introduces Leslie Nielsen's character, who winds up being a sort of father figure on the show. (Buy on Amazon.)

42. The Simpsons, "Sideshow Bob Roberts" (October 9, 1994)
Put this in the political-commentary time capsule so that future generations might know that Rush Limbaugh has been an object of scorn basically forever. The Simpsons loathes dishonesty, and Sideshow Bob rigging an election becomes a synecdoche for any number of frustrating aspects of the political process. (Buy on Amazon.)

41. Friends, "The One With Fake Monica" (April 27, 1995)
Monica's credit card gets stolen by someone who has a far more fun life, and when Monica tracks down the thief, she's more jealous than she is angry. Who among us hasn't worried that adulthood is synonymous with boring and joyless? (Watch on Amazon.)

40. The X-Files, "Duane Barry" (October 14, 1994)
Is Duane Barry an alien abductee, a violent psychopath, or both? (Spoiler: He's both.) After Mulder works as a totally unqualified hostage negotiator, Barry's shot and hospitalized, where doctors discover "chips" that have been implanted in him — corroborating his "I was abducted by aliens" story. Scully takes said chip to the grocery store, where she scans it across a checkout scanner, which promptly beeps and blares and aggressively malfunctions. It's one of the show's brilliant moments of combining The Truth Is Out There craziness with the mundanities of ordinary life. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

39. Seinfeld, "The Jimmy," (March 16, 1995)
Seinfeld isn't a show known for its decorum or modesty, but a story that involves a main character being mistaken for someone with intellectual disabilities is right on the edge of going too far. But "The Jimmy" pulls it off. (Buy on Amazon.)

38. The Larry Sanders Show, "Next Stop … Bottom" (September 29, 1994)
Hank goes into full-on tailspin after his brief marriage ends, and he creeps on every woman at the show — guests, staffers, everyone. But Arthur isn't worried about Hank's drinking and drug use. "It's one of the six stages of healing after a divorce," he says. "Shock. Denial. Fear. Booze. Boners. Acceptance." (Watch on Amazon and Crackle — via Hulu.)

37. Friends, "The One Where Underdog Gets Away" (November 17, 1994)
Yay, another Thanksgiving episode! (And who could have known at the time what a thing Friends Thanksgiving episodes would turn out to be.) This is where we learn that Chandler hates Thanksgiving and the episode marks the only time that Monica and Rachel's door is ever locked. (Watch on Amazon.)

36. The Simpsons, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" (May 21, 1995)
The Simpsons is our great cultural remetabolizer. It uses familiar camera angles, stories, moments, iconography, phrases, even wholesale story concepts, and somehow redesigns them in the show's own image. No one cares about you anymore, J.R. (Buy on Amazon.)

35. Baseball, "6th Inning: The National Pastime" (September 25, 1994)
It's the Baseball installment that covers Jackie Robinson. Peak Ken Burns. (Watch on Amazon and Netflix.)

34. Frasier, "An Affair to Forget" (May 2, 1995)
Frasier accidentally discovers that Maris is cheating on Niles, and through a series of — you guessed it — mishaps and miscommunications, Niles also finds out. Even when it goes for ridiculous grandeur, like Niles sword-fighting with Maris's paramour fencing instructor, Frasier lets its characters actually be sad. Not just sitcom sad. Sad sad. There's a moment in this ep where Frasier and Marty agree that they won't bring up the affair to the devastated Niles; they'll just act normal in the hopes of cheering him up. Niles knocks, they open the door, and he sees them and collapses, weeping, into their arms. It's funny, but also kind of crushing. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

33. My So-Called Life, "The Zit" (September 22, 1994) 
One of the hardest things about being a teenager (or being around teenagers) is that everything is the biggest deal, the most important thing, the hugest issue ever. It really feels like that. And for Angela Chase, her relationship with her mom often feels like an oppressive catastrophe — even though, in the scheme of things, anyone would be lucky to have Patty Chase in his or her corner. But it doesn't feel so lucky when she's pressuring you to be in a mother-daughter fashion show. (Watch on Amazon and Hulu.) 

32. Murphy Brown, "The Good Nephew" (March 13, 1995)
Murphy Brown was showing a little bit of wear and tear by season seven, but there were still episodes of shining greatness, like this one, in which Paul Reubens guest-starred as Murphy's latest, shockingly competent secretary.

31. The Larry Sanders Show, "Hank's Night in the Sun" (July 27, 1994)
This is cheating, slightly, to include this, since it aired before the fall season started, but it's too good to resist. Behold the power of supporting characters: This is an episode with almost no Garry Shandling at all. It's a shining moment for Jeffrey Tambor, whose character gets to host the late-night show at the very last minute. "Let me tell you something," Hank tells Darlene just before he walks out onstage. "I prayed. I actually got down on my knees and I prayed that Larry would stay sick so I could host the show tonight. I mean, I wished this man unwell. Do you understand that?," he says. "I'm still doing it. I hope he stays sick through the weekend, and the week after that, and the week after that. You don't get it, do you? You see, it's not Larry who is sick. It's me. It's me. I am very sick. I am sicko. I'm so fucking sick. But I'm finally where I belong." And then he walks through the curtain to deliver his (disastrous) monologue. (Watch on Amazon and Crackle — via Hulu.)

30. Under One Roof, "Daddy's Girl" (March 21, 1995)
There's no explaining why some terrible shows survive and some good shows bite it. Under One Roof, starring Joe Morton and James Earl Jones, is one of those totally forgotten terrific series that should and could have been a staple, but just wasn't. Instead of becoming a fixture of the TV landscape, the show aired six episodes and vanished. Too bad, since, as family dramas go, it was grounded and original, and was one of very few show at that time, or frankly, any time, with black leads. "Daddy's Girl" emphasizes the good (and bad) ways people become their parents, particularly when parenting their own children.

29. The X-Files, "The Host" (September 23, 1994)
Flukeman! He's the gross worm dude who lives in the sewer! Aaaaah. This is one of the grosser, more haunting monster-of-the-week episodes, and the image of a man coughing up some kind of tapeworm will never be unseen. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

28. ER, "Motherhood" (May 11, 1995)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, "Motherhood" is still a textbook episode of ER. There's the extreme patient (in this case, a kid impaled on an iron bar), the major life moment (Susan helping deliver her niece), the hospital-bureaucracy discussion (what's Carter gonna do next year?), and a little bit of sex appeal (Peter and Jeannie kiss). Tarantino did work in a scene with Susan and Carol's bare feet front and center, though. (Watch on Amazon.)

27. Party of Five, "Worth Waiting For" (October 3, 1994)
Everybody's talking about sex. Sex sex sex! Claudia's incessant curiosity is sort of charming, but Julia's story line is more impressive. She's initially so determined to lose her virginity that she decides to sleep with a friend who has a big, unrequited crush on her — and even though she changes her mind when she realizes how cruel that would be to him, it's a strong acknowledgement that teen boys do not have a monopoly on thinking about and strategizing about sex. (Watch on Amazon.)

26. My So-Called Life, "Strangers in the House" (October 20, 1994)
Just thinking about Angela's closing monologue in this episode puts a lump in my throat. Sharon's dad has a heart attack, so she winds up staying with the Chases for a few days, even though she and Angela aren't really best friends anymore. Both girls act out a bit from trauma and frustration, but they make up at the end of the episode. "There are so many different ways to be connected to people," Angela tells us. "There are the people who you have this unspoken connection to, even thought there's not even a word for it. There's the people who you've known forever, who know you in this way that other people can't because they've seen you change. They've let you change." [Sobs.] (Watch on Amazon and Hulu.) 

25. NYPD Blue, "The Bank Dick" (May 16, 1995)
It's another support-your-local-gay-acquaintance episode, this time with Simone standing up for precinct admin John Irvin. The real fun of the episode, though, is Simone and Sipowizc strategizing about how to find two scam artists, and eventually deciding to pose as pharmaceutical benefactors to convince the deadbeats to return to the hospital where their infant is a patient. Detective schemes! Always a treat. Less of a treat: Diane's emergent alcoholism. Watch on Amazon.) 

24. The Simpsons, "Itchy and Scratchy Land" (October 2, 1994)
"No, my son is also named Bort." (Buy on Amazon.)

23. Homicide: Life on the Street, "Fits Like a Glove" (October 21, 1994)
Homicide doesn't often go to the "neighborhood weirdo" well the way Law & Order often does, so on the occasions that colorful characters do arrive, they're portrayed with a real dignity. Like in this episode, when a man who enthusiastically collects serial-killer artifacts arrives at the station in the hopes of buying a white glove found on a recent victim. Creepy, yeah, but like all good weirdos, he's the star of his own show in a parallel universe. (Buy on Amazon.)

22. Melrose Place, "The Big Bang Theory" (May 22, 1995)
This is the one where Kimberly blows up the building. Greatest season finale ever, basically. (A furious drunk Allison chugging vodka and screaming, "Go away!" puts it over the top.) (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

21. ER, "Full Moon, Saturday Night" (March 30, 1995)
Mark Greene is generally the anchor and hero for the first several seasons of the show, but he's also kind of a grumpus and not the world's most responsible human. In "Full Moon," he's mentally checked out, snappish, and relying on Susan to cover for him when the new boss shows up. That's one of ER's biggest strengths both in the first season and in the years that followed: Characters went through phases. Things that happened to them had long-lasting impacts, and Mark's funk after losing a patient is just one example. (Watch on Amazon.)

20. Frasier, "Breaking the Ice" (April 18, 1995)
Frasier wants his dad to say "I love you." Marty says it to the dog, he says it to his bartender, but never to Frasier. ("That's 'I love ya,'" Marty differentiates. Okay.) Niles and Frasier accompany Marty on an ice-fishing trip in the hopes of convincing him to say that he loves them, and they all get pretty drunk. And rather than balk or half-ass the conclusion, the show goes for the full-on feelings. After a moment of steeling himself, Marty looks at each son in the eye. "Frasier, I love you," he says, a little tearily. "Niles, I love you." "I love you, too," they say back. It's not a funny scene, particularly, but it is a great one. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

19. Frasier, "Adventures in Paradise (Part 2)" (November 22, 1994)
Return of trying-to-be-sexy Frasier! And thus, the return of disaster, in this case, in the form of Lilith. The show deployed Bebe Neuwirth throughout its run, but always sparingly, adding just a dash of disapproval. Frasier tries to act casual about running into Lilith while each is on a romantic getaway, but he can't manage his feelings at all, and it brings out the super immature side of him. Erudite person acts like a child? Cue laughter, forever. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

18. Chicago Hope, "Freeze Outs" (February 20, 1995)
"You're trying to save one patient; I'm trying to save thousands of patients." Such is the refrain of the research doctor, particularly when another doc asks her to let a new patient into her study, which could compromise her work thus far. Diane Grad, underrated and underappreciated TV doctor. (Watch on Hulu.)

17. NewsRadio, "Smoking" (April 4, 1995)
A shocking number of shows from this season include characters smoking, often indoors, even at work. It's jarring to see at this point — one never encounters that sort of thing outside of period dramas anymore. On NewsRadio, our nicotine addict is Bill (Phil Hartman), and as much as everyone is trying to get him to quit, nothing seems to be working. Not even the patch. "I had no idea you're only supposed to wear one [patch] at a time," he complains. "How many were you wearing?" Dave asks. "Fifteen, 16 — I sort of stuck them all around my waist like a belt." Oh, Bill, TV misses you. (Watch on Amazon.)

16. Seinfeld, "The Fusilli Jerry" (April 27, 1995)
You have to choose your pasta for your pasta sculptures carefully, Kramer tells everyone. "The hard part is to find a pasta that captures the individual," says. "Why fusilli?" Jerry wonders. "Because you're silly," Kramer replies. The episode is better remembered for Kramer's "ASSMAN" license plate and for Putty stealing Jerry's "move," but "because you're silly" is one of the most perfect exchanges ever. It's also weirdly loving, given how abrasive Seinfeld often is. (Buy on Amazon.)

15. Party of Five, "Thanksgiving" (November 14, 1994)
Another Thanksgiving, though not one with goofy high jinks: The Salinger kids each confront the contrite drunk driver who killed their parents. This is easily one of the weepiest episodes in TV history, ending with the family visiting their parents' grave while "The Circle Game" plays. Scientists could study this episode to discover the origin of sobbing. (Watch on Amazon.)

14. My So-Called Life, "Pilot" (August 25, 1994)
"We had a time," Angela says. And we certainly did, watching Angela Chase dye her hair and catch the attention of one Jordan Catalano. The most memorable part of the episode, though, is a tearful Angela talking to her mother. ("My mother's adopted. For a while, she was looking for her real parents. I guess that's what everyone's looking for," Angela says in her voice-over.) "I'm really sorry. About my hair and everything," Angela says, and she starts to cry. And then she lays down in bed as her mom holds her and tells her it's okay. It's the perfect image of wanting so badly to be grown up and still really, really needing your mom. (Watch on Amazon and Hulu.) 

13. Picket Fences, "Freezer Burn" (January 6, 1995)
When the town massage therapist dies, everyone is scandalized to discover he'd been doing "the squiggly" with many of his female clients. Then everyone has a big old earnest discussion about sexuality and sensuality!

12. Homicide: Life on the Street, "End Game" (February 10, 1995)
Steve Buscemi plays a racist, dangerous gun nut suspected of shooting three cops. His time in the Box is one of the show's most intense, grueling interrogations on a show known for just such a thing. Everyone takes a crack at him — Meldrick, Munch, Bayliss — but the real showdown is definitely with Pembleton. (Buy on Amazon.)

11. ER, "Love's Labor Lost" (March 9, 1995)
I swear, I'm not just ranking these episodes based on their sad-factor, because God knows if I were, this would be No. 1. The episode earned Emmys for writing and directing as well as a pile of other awards, and rightfully so: It's absolutely staggering, from start to finish. Mark Greene catches bad break after bad break, and despite what we know of his emergency skills, he botches a delivery and the mother dies. One time I cried on the El in Chicago and thought to myself, This is a real Mark Greene thing to do, Margaret. (Watch on Amazon.)

10. Homicide: Life on the Street, "Crosetti" (December 2, 1994)
NBC cruelly and inexplicably aired this episode out of order, so Crosetti's surprising death was a lot less surprising if you noticed Lewis mentioning it two episodes earlier, but no matter: It's is still a top-notch episode. Everyone at the squad house is stunned to learn that Steve Crosetti has killed himself — so stunned, in fact, that Lewis refuses to acknowledge that it's a suicide and instead tries to pursue the case as a homicide. There's so much shame floating around these officers, so much self-recrimination; it's the kind of environment where someone's suicide sets off the thought, Is he so different from me? Reluctant moral anchor Frank of course gets the iconic closing moment, defying department protocol and putting on his dress blues to salute Crosetti's funeral procession. (Buy on Amazon.)

9. Friends, "The One Where Rachel Finds Out" (May 18, 1995)
Season one of Friends is all about Rachel getting her head out of her ass, or at least trying to. And so it's fitting that, in the finale, she learns at long last that Ross has been harboring a major crush on her since forever. She's an oblivious person in general, and she's been apparently oblivious to Gellar Love for years, but the moment Chandler accidentally spills the beans, it's this huge turning point, and not just for her relationship with Ross, but also for how alert she is to other people. (Watch on Amazon.)

8. The X-Files, "Anasazi" (May 19, 1995)
Season one of The X-Files sets up a mountain of conspiracies: about the government, about aliens, about who's killing and abducting our agents' siblings, etc. And season two is a doubling down on that, with "Anasazi" piling on even more. ("They" killed Mulder's dad, too? Oy.) The promise of the episode isn't fully kept until season three, but it's still a doozy. I mean, Scully shoots Mulder. Out of love. To save him. And it works. (Watch on AmazonHulu, and Netflix.)

7. Seinfeld, "The Big Salad" (September 29, 1994)
If "The Doodle" covers something that genuinely is awful, then "The Big Salad" focuses its attention on the opposite: something that's relatively benign, but only in the Larry David world becomes a massive social crime — in this case, the wrong person getting "credit" for bringing Elaine a salad. It's the quintessential Costanza problem of both wanting recognition and deep, deep self-loathing. (Buy on Amazon.)

6. NYPD Blue, "Large Mouth Bass" (February 7, 1995)
Shirley Knight won a guest-actress Emmy for her role as a woman whose ex-husband sought vengeance on her by killing her daughter. It's a brutal, brutal episode, but it captures one of the most important parts of NYPD Blue: The detectives don't just spend time around nasty criminals and the slimy underbelly of whatever. They also spend a lot of time around people who are in incredible pain. They're not inured to violence because they get to know all the perpetrators; the cops struggle because they know the victims. (Watch on Amazon.) 

5. Law & Order, "Coma" (September 28, 1994)
This was Sam Waterston's first season on the show, so Jack McCoy's indignation factory was just getting started. (Also, Briscoe/Logan, McCoy/Kincaid? A thousand times yes. Such a glorious era.) And in "Coma," we get our first glimpse at how powerful it will become: Larry Miller plays a vile comedy-club owner who maybe — and it seems likely — put a hit out on his wife. It's one of very few unresolved cases on the show, which makes it even more memorable. (Watch on Netflix.)

4. ER, "24 Hours" (September 19, 1994)
The pilot for ER changed TV. Simple as that, although I guess that's not very simple at all. While hospital dramas were definitely nothing new, the pacing and urgency of the show is different than anything that came before it; the camera work, the sprawling set, the lack of resolution for most of the patient-characters we see. And the pilot nails all of that down while giving us plenty of story, too: The first episode is Carter's first day, and it's the day Carol attempts suicide. And for Mark Greene, it's just another day. This solidified ER's signature style from the get-go, a constant clash of significance, a not-breathing trauma patient wheeled in next to someone with a bagel-slicing injury. It's a hospital — every day there is the worst day of someone's life. But for everyone else, it's just another day. (Watch on Amazon.)

3. The Simpsons, "Lisa on Ice" (November 13, 1994)
This is not the conventional pick for best episode of season six, but it gave us two essential parts of pop culture for which I will be ever grateful. Like any sibling who ever tried to skirt the "keep your hands to yourself" edict, I treasure Bart and Lisa's standoff. "On my way to bed, I'm gonna be doing this," Bart says, windmilling his arms like crazy. And if you get hit, it's your own fault." Lisa responds by kick-walking around. "I'm going to start kicking air, like this," she says. "And if any part of you should fill that air, it's your own fault." (Homer also uses this "it's your own fault" logic to eat a pie.) More importantly, perhaps, is that "Lisa on Ice" gave us one of the most-quoted, most tragic lines in all Simpsons history, from perpetual quote machine Ralph Wiggum: "Me, fail English? That's unpossible." (Buy on Amazon.)

2. Homicide: Life on the Street, "Extreme Unction" (October 28, 1994)
Frank Pembleton is one of TV's best characters, and he's at his most interesting when he's in emotional distress. In "Unction," that distress comes from arresting the serial killer who dumped her victims' bodies — naked but for a pair of white gloves — behind churches. She calls herself "JMJ," which Pembleton correctly deduces stands for "Jesus Mary and Joseph." He and the killer, Pamela, go back and forth, over and over, and eventually, Pamela confesses — though it's on TV, with a lawyer, explaining that she has multiple-personality disorder. Pembleton, distraught, talks the case over with a nun. "I don't pray anymore," he says. "I used to. I used to pray for answers. A clue, a sign of what I should do, how to find something precious in this life. There was a time when I thought it was my job. But is it? Nothing in this world changes because of what I do," he tells her. "The hurt goes on and on. God has … God has given up on us. He doesn't hear us any more, sister." Try to find a more powerful monologue in cop-show history. It can't be done. (Buy on Amazon.)

1. My So-Called Life, "Betrayal" (January 12, 1995)
Don't sleep with your best friend's kind-of boyfriend. If only Rayanne had heeded the most important rule in the friendship Bible. But she didn't, and Angela finds out (thanks to Brian accidentally videotaping it for yearbook), and now their epic, precious friendship is over, or so it seems. Cue the school production of Our Town, in which Mr. Katimski casts Rayanne as Emily. "Emily is dead," he reminds her. "The life she had is over. That's a pretty big deal. I mean — oh, gee whiz, she is just now realizing how precious every moment of that life really was, and that she never fully appreciated what she had. Just imagine what that must feel like, Rayanne." Yeah, Rayanne. Just imagine. He then asks Angela, who's doing backstage work in the wings, to come onstage and read opposite Rayanne, just as a last-minute substitution. Then Rayanne delivers part of Emily's famous monologue. "All that was going on and we never noticed," she says through tears. "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?" And then it's Angela's turn to say a line, and through her overwhelming anger and sadness and disappointment, she whispers, "Were you happy?" And as they both cry, Rayanne says back "No. I should have listened to you. But that's all human beings are, just blind people." The end — or even a transition — of a teenage friendship really does feel like you're dying. Few shows, if any, ever acknowledge the depth and potency of those relationships, and MSCL using Our Town for resonance confirms and validates the power of those feelings. Teenage-hood is this chronic feeling of everything looming with significance and a moment later everything aching with hollow dumbness, and never knowing how to navigate either sensation. And the answer to this big mystery, the answer that lies in adulthood and Thornton Wilder plays, is that we're all just blind people, and that growing up — for Angela, for Rayanne, for everybody — is simply to acknowledge that. The scene is this perfect bubble of emotions and assignments, regrets and possibilities, support and betrayal, the rare piece of art that actually captures what being alive truly feels like. (Watch on Amazon and Hulu.) 

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson