It’s perhaps the most important non-premiere/finale month in the TV Calendar, the month where shows and networks are made and broken. Now, while I’m enough of a TV Geek to know when these periods are, Wikipedia has actually taught me a whole lot more on the subject. What is a Sweeps Period, you ask?
“Much of the ratings system, however, still consists of the completion by viewers of ratings diaries, in which a viewer records his or her viewing habits, generally for a week, in exchange for being advanced a nominal fee. These diaries play an especially important role during the four sweeps periods conducted in February, May, July and November in an attempt to measure smaller local market audiences in markets that are not covered by People Meter samples already…”
“Television networks and other programmers make unusual efforts to attract additional viewers during these periods, including airing mostly first-run programming as opposed to repeats, airing more special broadcasts, and including special content in programming such as guest stars, controversial and unexpected plots or topics, extended episodes, finales, and increased competition in advertising.”
So, during these periods the Nielsen ratings system is gathering data on those areas that are not usually found within their polls of the nation. As a result, this is the time when advertisers are most interested in seeing what people in the entirety of the U.S. are watching, so networks have a vested financial interest: the more different populations watching, the more advertising dollars they may be able to charge in the upcoming season.
So, much like the article says, February is defined by event programming and new episodes of shows. There are guest stars, huge new plot arcs, explosions, premieres, and just about everything else you can imagine. And, it is now my job to go back through this month and television and find out which 10 episodes stood out above all others. It’s a tough task, but I believe I’m up to the challenge.
There are the episodes that were considered for the list, but just didn’t make the cut. Still, they represent some quality television and should be commended. Also, since I limited the final list to one from each show, some of these could have ranked quite easily.
The Amazing Race – “Beauty is Sometimes Skin Deep”
Gilmore Girls – “I’m a Kayak, Hear Me Roar”
Grey’s Anatomy – “Wishin’ and Hopin’”
Heroes – “Unexpected”
Lost – “Flashes Before Your Eyes”
The Office – “Cocktails”
Ugly Betty – “I’m Coming Out”
The Top 10 Episodes
Of February Sweeps 2007
(Episodes must air between January 29th and February 28th)
10. Veronica Mars – “Papa’s Cabin”
Airdate: February 27th, 2007
While not reaching the heights of its first season, the end of the 2nd Season Three arc on “Veronica Mars” felt more satisfying than its first. Things came together in a logical way, the perpetrator (Tim Foyle) didn’t turn into a raving lunatic at the episode’s end, and there were some nice comedic moments along the way to keep things a little bit light. The show will never be as cohesive as it was in its first season, but this episode shows that they’re still capable of ending an arc in a satisfactory manner.
9. Gilmore Girls – “I’m a Kayak, Hear Me Roar”
Airdate: February 19th, 2007
While certainly not the show’s best episode, and one that certainly won’t be remembered as a pivotal episode for the series, the fallout from Lorelai’s breakup with Christopher was incredibly well handled. Lorelai told Rory first, and then painstakingly told her mother while both were a little bit drunk. That level of mother-daughter bonding between Lorelai and Emily is rare for the series, and it was handled extremely well; when Lorelai woke up the next morning to find that her mother was now cold and angry about it all, it seemed even more natural. I’ve stopped thinking about the switch in producers for the show, and episodes like this are not changing that any time soon.
8. The O.C. – “The End’s Not Near, It’s Here”
Airdate: February 22nd, 2007
Although my detailed thoughts about the episode can be found within Thursday Night TV Club, on a simple level it was a satisfactory finale to a show that, a year ago, I had written off. While it was certainly not the simplest finale, and it was plenty contrived, it did its job well enough to deserve a spot on this list. It was an hour of television that made you forget, for just a second, that you sat through two seasons of absolute shit to get to this point; I’d say that’s a successful finale. As it ended with a young Ryan look-alike sitting, clad in his grey hoodie, looking lost, it was fitting; Ryan has turned into Sandy, and the circle continues.
7. The Office – “Business School”
Airdate: February 15th, 2007
While it may not be the show’s best episode of the season, and lacked the drama inherent within the next week’s “Cocktails,” I think that Joss Whedon defeated J.J. Abrams in the battle of the guest directors. From the hilarious “Jim the Vampire” storyline, to the handling of the bat by Dwight, to Michael’s candy bar lecture style, the episode delivered the comedy. However, it also dealt with the relationship between Ryan and Michael, an oft ignored one, and Pam’s art show provided some drama between her and Roy and a nice moment between her and Michael. It wasn’t a perfect episode, but it blended comedy and drama into a quality half hour of television.
6. Battlestar Galactica – “Dirty Hands”
Airdate: February 25th, 2007
Stuck with three filler episodes during the February Sweeps period, Battlestar Galactica managed to make one of them work to great effect. Tyrol’s return to a position of labour boss, as the episode was advertised was predictable, but it was the context which provided a great deal of interest. The idea of Baltar smuggling a book out of his prison cell is another nod to historical events, and its effects on the core storyline were immediate; painting Adama and Roslin as the aristocracy ,and then having them be a little bit crazy, paints a picture that is a fascinating microcosm of true events and one that complicates the fleet’s dynamics. Battlestar may be at its most explosive when dealing with the Cylons, but it’s at its best when it delves into the political drama inherent in their situation.
5. House – “One Day, One Room”
Airdate: January 30th, 2007
An episode so divisive that I felt like blogging about it specifically, it very much redeemed House in my eyes after it had struggled to keep my attention. While I think that the episode featuring Cuddy’s blind date may have been more entertaining, I think that this story of a rape victim that relates to House was far more interesting. The philosophical discussions were not life-changing, but they were necessary to balance out the fairly boring medical cases which had come before it.
House is at its best when it balances these elements, and this episode was something that I needed in order to continue to enjoy the show. While I can understand that some people may disagree with this, and considered the episode too preachy and abstract, I also think that neither of those are overly negative attributes. After the absolutely dreadful Tritter arc, which took the show in circles for a good six episodes, it was good to return to something on a larger scale that could actually change the titular character in some fashion. Divisive or not, the episode was the perfect example of what House needs to do to stay relevant.
4. Lost – “Not in Portland”
Airdate: February 7th, 2007
Mostly due to being forced to limit this to one episode of each show, I had a tough time picking which Lost episode to place on the list. While “Flashes Before Your Eyes” was certainly the most philosophical, the opener to the season’s second batch of opener’s had the hardest job and did a fantastic job with it. With haters lining up to attack the show after a mediocre fall finale, it was up to the story of Juliet and the escape of Kate and Sawyer to hold out attention.
And, in my view, it performed this role better than I could have ever expected it to. Juliet’s back story gave us further insight into the Others as people, not just as a threat, and the introduction of the sensory torture right of A Clockwork Orange gave us a better idea as to their methods. We got to see a glimpse into the Dharma drafting process, a return of our favourite Ethan Hunt, and on the whole an episode of television where the back story seemed integral, the main story had tension, and we felt like things were kicking off with a bang. One almost wonders why they didn’t just have this as the Fall finale, cliffhanger be damned, just to end on a much superior note.
3. 30 Rock – “Hard Ball”
Airdate: February 22nd, 2007
After watching this episode of Tina Fey’s little comedy that could, I wanted to take 30 Rock behind the middle school and get it pregnant. Now, for those who don’t watch 30 Rock, that’s probably quite strange; however, that running joke (Applied to cornbread to hilarious effect), is just one of the things that made this the best ½ hour sitcom episode to air within the February Sweeps period.
Jenna, often the show’s weakest link, was perfect for a storyline regarding political ignorance and a hilarious trip to see Tucker Carlson and Chris Matthews on Hard Ball. The battle between Liz/Jack and Josh regarding his salary was the kind of internal affairs situation which could be boring and yet was a neat little diversion. And, most important, Kenneth the page joining Tracy’s entourage provided laughs with harmonizing to Annie and just…everything. While it may not have the mythos that The Office lays claim to, 30 Rock came to the table with the best comedy episode perhaps all season.
2. Friday Night Lights – “I Think We Should Have Sex”
Airdate: February 21st, 2007
When I reviewed the pilot for Friday Night Lights last summer over at McNutt Against the Music, I said the following:
I must caution all that this is not just a football show, and that’s probably its biggest problem…. It just doesn’t do anything to convince me that it can elevate itself past O.C. style drama in coming episodes.
I now take back every single one of these words; it isn’t a football show, no, but that’s often its greatest asset. And, with an episode like this one, it absolutely convinced me that it can elevate itself above O.C. style drama. What could have been pure after-school special is elevated to a level that is emotionally charged and wonderfully acted.
The episode focuses mostly on young QB Matt and his girlfriend Julie, who also happens to be the coach’s daughter, deciding to have sex. After some condom shopping, and an amazingly acted scene from Connie Britton, their attempt is awkward, real, and exactly how you would imagine it happening. Her conversation with her livid parents when she returns, humbled by their advice left untaken, and everything just clicked. The rest of the episode’s subplots were still sharp, resonating into future episodes with ease. Simply put, this was the best episode of pure drama put on television this past month.
1. Heroes – “Company Man”
Airdate: February 26th, 2007
I don’t think I had lost faith in Heroes, as the episode before this one had given me some positive things to say about the show for the first time in weeks. While I loved the concept, from the very beginning I worried about its ability to develop characters. With “Company Man,” Heroes proved that not only can it develop characters, but it is capable of putting forward the most impressive episode of the February Sweeps period.
Written by Bryan Fuller (“Wonderfalls”, “Dead Like Me”), the episode is the fascinating tale of Mr. Bennet and his relationship with both the shadowy organization he works for and his adopted daughter Claire. Once one of my least favourite characters, Claire has become immeasurably more worthwhile due to both her father and a shift in her character from whiny to observant. The story of how Mr. Bennett adopted Claire, and the struggles he went through, helped put into context all of his motives thus far within the show’s narrative.
Not only this, but the show even made good use of guest stars George Takei and Christopher Eccelston, connecting them to the show’s core storylines in a tangible fashion. Matt Parkman, once the show’s most useless character other than Mohinder, now has a role and a function within the narrative. By abandoning all other storylines, and focusing in tightly on this one event and this one group of people, the show took an immeasurable leap forward in storytelling and drama. It once stood out only due to its concept; now, for the first time, I see Heroes as being a stellar television show, not just within its genre of choice.