Monday, April 5, 2021

Do You Agree With IMDB’s Top Rated Classic TV Episodes?


As often as I’ve visited the Internet Movie Database, I never cared about its selections of “Top Rated Episodes” for TV shows. But when I was there last week to look up an episode of Soap, I noticed the list was not in its customary place at the upper right of the page. Ironic – the one time I pay attention to it is when it’s not there. But that was enough to finally pique my curiosity.


I started looking up shows from the Comfort TV era to find out which episodes were rated highest by those who took the time to grade them on IMDB’s 1-10 scale. They got a few obvious calls right: “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” for I Love Lucy, “Turkeys Away” for WKRP in Cincinnati. Others? Well, that’s what we’ll take a closer look at now.


The Dick Van Dyke Show

“That’s My Boy?”

Those who know the series will recognize the title – it’s the episode in which Rob becomes convinced that after Richie was born, they brought the wrong baby home from the hospital. The scene when Rob discovers the truth produced the longest audience laugh in the show’s history so that lends some credence to the selection- but not enough. Another flashback episode about Richie’s birth, “Where Did I Come From?” was even funnier, as was “The Curious Thing About Women,” which for me was the best show in one of television’s all-time classics. 



The Fugitive

“The Judgment: Part II”

This was the final show of the series, and it thankfully delivered closure for fans that had watched Dr. Richard Kimble’s adventures on the run for four years. 



But that alone does not make it the show’s best episode. Among those I’d rank ahead of it: “Nightmare at Northoak” – the first time Lt. Gerard caught up with his fugitive prey, and “The Girl From Little Egypt,” which filled in some important missing information about the night Helen Kimble was killed.


The Brady Bunch

“The Subject Was Noses”

My personal favorite will always be “Amateur Nite” featuring the Silver Platters’ performance of “It’s a Sunshine Day,” but I’m good with this pick as well. There are important life lessons that can be learned from wholesome family sitcoms, and here Marcia was reminded of honesty being the best policy, and that it’s not looks but what is inside a person that really counts. 



Charlie’s Angels

“Angels in Chains”

Another obvious selection – I’d have been shocked if something else took the top spot. 



But it’s interesting that “Caged Angel,” fthe only other episode largely set inside a prison, ranked third on IMDB’s list, behind “Three For the Money,” another episodes from the show's fourth season that introduced Shelley Hack. Apparently for these Angels fans there was life after Kate Jackson.



“If They Never Met”

This was a surprisingly astute choice, when there were more obvious candidates such as the pilot episode or the birth of Tabitha. Remember the story? Endora shows Samantha what would have happened to Darrin had she never met him. Sam and Darren’s argument in the opening scenes seems more serious than their other occasional spats over Endora’s nasty spells, which adds gravitas to what happens next. Plus, it’s great to see Nancy Kovack back as Darren’s former fiancé, and the “love conquers all” climax is well-earned. Nicely done, IMDB people. But I still would have opted for “A is for Aardvark.” 



The Wild Wild West

“The Night of the Burning Diamond”

I didn’t even remember this episode from reading the title. I watched it again and enjoyed it, but top-rated? Off the top of my head I’d opt instead for “The  Night of the Grand Emir,” featuring Yvonne Craig as an assassin named Ecstasy (and she was), or “The Night of the Vicious Valentine,” which brought Agnes Moorehead an Emmy, or just about any of the shows featuring Dr. Loveless.


That Girl

“Counter Proposal”

This was the first episode in the show’s fifth and final season, in which Don proposes to Ann and she says yes. But since they never actually get married, who cares? There were at least 20 better shows than this one, including “Pass the Potatoes, Ethel Merman,” “My Sister’s Keeper’ (featuring Marlo Thomas’s real-life brother, sister and father) and “Dark On Top of Everything Else.” 



Happy Days

“Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas”

As with another long-running sitcom, The Facts of Life, IMDB readers chose a holiday episode here as their favorite. I haven’t watched this one in at least 15 years, yet I can still clearly picture that shot of Fonzie, alone in his garage, opening a can of beans over a hotplate for his Christmas dinner.


The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

“The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair”

Before looking I assumed a first-season episode would take the top spot, and that turned out to be the case. This was essentially a “bottle” show, meaning it was set almost entirely in one place – U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. But this twisting tale of saboteurs on the loose features action, style and clever quips in just the right mix, something that happened less frequently as the show got sillier in later years.


The Andy Griffith Show

“Convicts at Large”

No, no, no. Any choice other than “Opie the Birdman” is wrong. But not only did that amazingly written and unforgettable episode not rank #1, it’s not even among the top five selections.


The Mary Tyler Moore Show

“The Last Show”

Over “Chuckles Bites the Dust”? Seriously? 



By the way, my book When Television Brought Us Together contains my picks for the five best episodes of 50 classic series, as well as chapters that talk about why so many of us still prefer the classics to what’s slithering out of the industry these days. I hope you’ll check it out – and let me know what you think.


  1. As someone who's been in love with MTM since I was 10 years old and saw the premiere of her show, I'd like to say that the older I get, the more I appreciate "The Last Show". At a time when great shows like Star Trek, Bewitched, Adam-12, Brady Bunch just unceremoniously... ended, Mary exited just right. At the same time, I would hardly call it their finest episode--but frankly I am TIRED of "Chuckles Bites the Dust" getting all the damn accolades! First of all, the first season was GOLDEN--I loved the one where Bess spends the weekend with Mary and decides she's staying. But if I HAD to pick a favorite, I'd either say "Put on a Happy Face" (where Mary has a "loser" spell, my God I still laugh so hard I cry with that one) or "Best of Enemies" where Rhoda jokes about Mary being a college dropout at the station, and they have a serious parting of ways. When Georgette talks to Rhoda about it, she's in such disbelief... the audience was too. What a dear episode--I love Mar & Rhoda's walk outside at the end. We can't even hear them, but we don't need to, it's that genuine... yes Chuckles was good, but I think there was better. End of rant!

    1. I love "Put on a Happy Face", as does a close friend of mine who considers it his favorite. I've also read it was the favorite of MTM herself. It was funny seeing poor Mary deal w/ all the misery handed to her those days.

  2. I checked out a few of my fave series, and for the most part, there were no surprises--I guessed which episode would be selected on all except for one: The Monkees ("The Devil and Peter Tork"), The Beverly Hillbillies ("The Giant Jackrabbit"), Leave it to Beaver ("In the Soup"), SCTV Network 90 ("The Godfather"). The only one that threw me was for The Flintstones, ("Dr. Sinister"). Huh?! I was expecting "The Blessed Event"--Number 20!

  3. In examining a few of my favorites not yet mentioned:

    F TROOP: "V Is For Vampire" is fun, but not even a top 10 episode IMO. "The 86 Proof Spring" is in the top 5 there and with me. My pick for the best, "The Day The Indians Won", is # 7 at iMDb. The most underrated IMO is "Our Brave in F Troop", which is a top 5 episode they have at 37th.

    CAR 54: I agree completely here. "Toody Undercover" is one of the funniest half hours of television ever IMO.

    PHIL SILVERS SHOW: I knew "The Court Martial" would take this one, but there are so many contenders. I think they underrated my favorites, "The Centennial", at 51st and "Love That Guardhouse" (22nd).

    MAVERICK: "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" and "Gun-Shy" are 1-2. I can't argue. The most underrated episode here IMO is "Maverick and Juliet" which should be much higher than 44th.

    1. Re: F-TROOP, RIP James Hampton (Hannibal Dobbs), who passed away this Wednesday, Apr. 7, at age 84. He lived in the Ft. Worth area, not too far away from where I live myself.