Cultural Crowdsourcing: The Top Scenes of 2010

The Top Scenes of 2010

December 17th, 2010

So, the Top 10 Episodes of 2010 series will be taking a hiatus as I head into paper mode over the weekend (which means it will finish on Christmas Eve, in case you hadn’t done the math), but in ruminating on the subject I wanted something to spur some discussion over the weekend.

And, I think scenes are the way to go. While every episode is technically composed of various scenes, there are often scenes which make an impact distinct from their larger context and linger in ways we wouldn’t normally expect. Sometimes they are conversations which seem to resonate beyond the episode into the series’ larger context, whereas other times they are simply scenes which make us laugh or feel some sort of emotion whenever we think about them. Others, meanwhile, are simply incredibly inventive or exciting – there are just an infinite number of criteria, and so I figured this is a job for all of us rather than just myself.

So, I’m going to start with five, and then I very much encourage you to nominate your own selections in the comments. There are, however, two rules:

1) Avoid Detailed Spoilers

There are some shows people haven’t seen, and so I would appreciate (and I’m sure everyone would appreciate) that you don’t go into explicit detail with spoiler-heavy analysis. If you think something (whether it be a death on Dexter or a major event on Lost) could be construed as a spoiler by someone who hasn’t seen it, see if you can’t use other signifiers (episode title, omitting character names) which could at the very least limit the damage.

2) This is Not a Contest

I don’t think we’re going to have this problem, as you’re all pretty civil, but this is not some sort of elimination contest to decide the best scene of the year – rather, it’s a chance to collect an assortment of scenes that people really enjoyed. Like I said, don’t think it will be an issue, but I wrote that I was going to have two rules, and then discovered that I really only had one rule, but decided that the impact of there being two rules may be in some way helpful. Also, whether or not anyone comments on the inanity of this particular paragraph will test and see whether people bothered to read the rules in their entirety, which is always fun.

One final note: I participated in a feature going up at The A.V. Club next week which recognizes scenes of this nature – I wrote about a couple of scenes there, and so I’ll be sure to link to that when it goes up next week. It also means that I likely didn’t include certain scenes here because I’ve covered them elsewhere in other capacities (whether in A.V. Club Features or in my Top 10 Episodes list). My list also tends to lean towards comedy, but “scenes” can mean pretty much anything you want it to be, so don’t feel limited by that.

Five of the Top Scenes from 2010

Fairy Janette performs “Iko Iko” – Treme

[Sorry for the awful quality – better than nothing?]

Treme had numerous high points, but for me the scene which most reflected the infectious spirit which it both embodied and disembodied over the course of its first season was Kim Dickens’ Janette drunkenly dancing in the streets of New Orleans trying to turn cars into carriages with her wand and absent-mindedly belting out “Iko Iko” at the same time. The scene doesn’t become anything sinister, nor does it seem at all self-destructive: it is just a woman, freed of her responsibilities, letting loose and bringing passerby into the revelry – when Janette responds to the teenager that she’s “Me,” it’s sad and beautiful at the same time, which seems to be Treme‘s modus operandi.

Fluffy Town Chase Sequence – Community

I get that Community had numerous amazing scenes, many of them subtle and clever and everything else. However, I was never more impressed than when what seemed like a silly Troy/Abed storyline (the blanket fort) was utterly transformed by the growing sense of scale in the competing conspiracy storyline, converging with a chase sequence that is exciting but also incredibly clever. The chase itself is simple, but the way the scene outlines the various rules (no farting), attractions (the civil rights museum), and even culture (the Turkish District) of Fluffy Town is just brilliant. And yet the piece d’resistance is that the episode actually aired on Latvian Independence Day, making the chase-ending parade a truly wonderful detail amidst what could have been just another fun action sequence.

Peggy on the Scooter – Mad Men

This isn’t even a scene. It’s really just a shot. But in a season with numerous dramatic highs, it was one of a number of scenes which continue to prove that a great drama series is willing and able to be as funny as any comedy on television. While there are a number of other options, including a background body removal and Joan and Peggy’s tremendous conversation in the finale, there is something so simple and so genius about Peggy’s circular diversion that I just can’t get it out of my head. (Thanks to Misanthropy Central for the GIF)

Pizza Throw – Breaking Bad

That this was completed in a single shot is the single greatest cinematic achievement in Bryan Cranston’s career. It was the purest representation of Walter’s anger and frustration, the sort of moment which makes the character seem precisely as pathetic as he needs to be for the series to truly work. It is not perhaps a scene loaded with great significance, and the series has more thrilling moments later in its tremendous third season, but this singular feat of aerodynamics said more than any pizza-related scene in the post-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles era.

Ron Swanson vs. A Puppy – Parks and Recreation

This is a tough call. On the one hand, there are a good dozen Ron Swanson scenes that should be here, and I’m hopeful they will emerge in the comments. And many of those moments happened within “Telethon,” a season highlight. However, there was just something about that cold open which combined my unabashed love for Ron Swanson with my unabashed love for puppies. Throw in Aziz Ansari doing his best puppy voice, and I just melt every single time. (Thanks to F**kYeahRonSwanson for the GIF).

Now it’s your turn – what were your favorite scenes of 2010? Mine tended to lean towards the comic or the musical, but I want to make note that more dramatic scenes are absolutely desirable. Try to limit yourself to a few selections, but the more the merrier!



Filed under 10 of '10

33 responses to “Cultural Crowdsourcing: The Top Scenes of 2010

  1. I’d just like to point out, as an Albuquerque resident, that Venezia’s Pizza is delicious and really do sell pizzas that size.

  2. Digifreak642

    I’ll go through some of the obvious ones. The ending of One Minute for Breaking Bad. Chang’s scene in Community’s Modern Warfare. The (Lost) scene with Jack and Vincent in The End. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia scene where Dee is a bird.

    I’d also put the very first scene of Walking Dead in there, even though the rest of the season was a disappointment.

  3. Preemptive bid for the final scene of Terriers. Go straight or turn left?

    And maybe call me crazy, but the Stonehenge speech in Doctor Who “The Pandorica Opens” was an excellent summation of Matt Smith’s Doctor, more so than anything that came before it (and, arguably, what comes to pass in “The Big Bang”). Plus? “Romans!”

  4. Jeff Carroll

    If Friday Night Lights qualifies for 2010, then the scene where Coach Taylor writes —– on the board (keeping things spoiler-free).

  5. Patrick

    How about the fight from the end of the season of Rubicon? That had me more on the edge of my seat than anything that happened in TWD.

    Also my favorite Ron Swanson moment was in the finale when he is told that the budget is being cut and he can barely contain his excitement.

    The opening scene of Justified was amazing.

    And lastly from The Venture Bros. either the scene where the term ‘Cripster’ is coined or where everyone explains what a ‘Rusty Venture’ is.

  6. Damnyankees

    The scene in Party Down where everyone acts out Roman’s script at Steve Guttenberg’s house.

  7. Bryan

    Obvious ones for me are from Lost: the last two scenes Island timeline scenes from “The Candidate,” the last scene in the submarine, and then the scene immediately after on the beach.

  8. I could nominate a top 5 list solely from Breaking Bad: Walt alone trying to catch the fly; Gale singing; the conclusion of “One Minute”; Hank talking to Marie in the car in “One Minute”; the Windy montage; the premiere cold open introducing the cousins…

    Other great moments from other shows include Vincent & Jack in Lost; Ron Swanson teaching Pawnee how to cane a chair on Parks & Rec; the Michael/Holly reunion geek-out on The Office; Hank signing the mortgage in “Change Partners” on Terriers, which was the moment that announced that this show was ready to bring it; Tom Noonan’s Jesus “lesson” in Louie; Jon Stewart’s Glenn Beck imitation on The Daily Show; and the bathroom “NPR” scene in The Good Wife.

    Thanks for the italics!

  9. belinda

    The pizza on the roof scene is definitely heightened by the podcast on AMCtv which describes and reveals how it happened.

  10. Eleanor (undeadgoat)

    Hmm, I often have problems remembering details (rather than broad arcs, etc), but I think I’ll give this a go anyways:

    Caprica: Everything with Sam Adama, but if you make me choose, his unleashing of a secret weapon in the very last episode aired stateside, “False Labor.”

    Lost: The second time Claire gives birth, and the aftermath thereof.

    HIMYM: Street juggling, Latvian (?) Barney.

    Doctor Who: Spitfires in space!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And also the remembering of Rory. 🙂

  11. Tristan

    James Callis likes tomatoes in a late season one episode (1×18, I believe?) of FlashForward.

    Can be seen here:

  12. The scene in Boardwalk Empire’s “Anastasia” where Chalky White tells the story of his father. Mesmerizing.

    Link to scene:

    • trippdup

      Yes, but also the scene where Michael Pitt’s character monologues in the diner in the episode that introduces Jack Huston’s character.

  13. Pretty well anything Anna Torv did on Fringe this season, especially in the last episode, ‘The Marionette.’

  14. Joel

    Annie chloroforming the guard , twice, on the episode of Community where they went to Jeff’s former law firm.

  15. The “Layla” scene in Community’s “Contemporary American Poultry.” The filming techniques are so perfectly Scorsese, I’m awed every time it kicks in. Especially that pan from the female extra to Britta waking up to find gum in her hair. Ahhhh, Scorsese.

    The final scene in the “Everybody Loves Hugo” episode of LOST, where Desmond hits Locke with the car. When Locke was being hauled away on the stretcher, I had such a ‘Livia Soprano’ moment. I could’ve sworn Locke was smiling under that mask, but I wasn’t quite sure. It was delightfully ambiguous. In retrospect, it was probably the last moment of hope I had that LOST would end darkly.

    Picking a scene from “Terriers” is tough because they’re all so good. The final scene and cut to black was perfect. Any of the seamless transitions from “Sins of the Past.” Any Steph/Hank scene. Ah, screw it, I’ll just say the final scene of the series. Hank’s voice has so much empathy in it, I get a little emotional thinking of it.

    Kenny Powers’ farewell speech to the Charros is a sociopathic delight.

    Jax following the family that adopted Abel in the “Bainne” episode of “Sons of Anarchy.” At first I gave all credit to Charlie Hunnam and Director Adam Arkin, but a scene like that goes from good to great in the Editing Room.

    I have to mention the 9-minute single take steadicam shot by the cast of “Childrens Hospital” in the Season 2 Finale “The Sultan’s Finger.” Utterly brilliant.

    • Jason mentioned a different episode of Louie–I should have listed the scene in the Diner from the “Bully” episode. The feelings on display there are so palpable. What almost- or middle-aged guy hasn’t been concerned of that very situation? Great, great writing there.

    • Max

      On eastbound, kenny’s “I’m a tit man” speech was the most gadpingly hilarious moment for me.

  16. mesk

    As I already mentioned to you on Twitter, here are my top three:

    1. The montage that follows the sun hitting the Impala in Supernatural’s season finale. It brings about the emotional catharsis of the episode and sums up the narrative arc of almost the entire show.
    2. The final conversation between Peter and Olivia in “Marionette.”
    3. The Doctor, Amy and Vincent stargazing in Doctor Who 5×10.

  17. aby

    This is tough, but definetly the Jack/Vincent scene from Lost. Also the Katherine reveal from The Vampire Diaries. I loved the Olivia crying next to the washing machine from the latest Fringe as well. As for Terriers the entire thing is a masterpiece so take your pick. Still love the Katie/Britt scene where he tells her how he really met her and you think she is angry, but actually wants to relive it. I might need to add the Michael/Fiona scene in the little building on the season finale of Burn Notice.

  18. Giancarlo

    The Halloween episode of Community is filled with what TVTropes calls Crowning Music of Awesome, loved it, specifically when ABBA’s “Fernando” kicks in, Prepare to meet the power of imagination.

  19. A couple quick ones:

    Rubicon: I’d nominate the scene from episode four with Truxton Spangler discussing one of the CIA official’s ties as a simple demonstration of the value an independent analysis outfit. That was one of the first killer scenes of the short-lived series and one that helped show just how clever Spangler was. A conversation about the qualities of a tie has never been so gripping.

    Parks and Recreation: Here’s a really odd one, from “The Master Plan”. The talking head with Shauna the journalist commenting on her inability to “even land the shoeshine guy”. Not only is her frustration just plain hilarious, but I love it as one of several examples in the show caring enough to hint at the lives the recurring and guest characters have outside of their interactions with the lead characters. We may spend most of our time with the employees of this one department, but there’s a full town out there with personalities that are much more alive than the guest and recurring characters of The Office. This show, in my mind, is very good about developing a real place for its secondary cast and making them more than generic placeholders used strictly to move the plot along. In just a little more than one full season the show’s collected quite a group of great characters that populate Pawnee. It cracks me up that you can look back through just the three episodes Shauna appeared in and see this arc of a young woman desperately trying to find a boyfriend, sort of honing in on the goofy man she keeps writing about and then getting turned down.

    30 Rock: Tracy Jordan and the Cash Cab. Nothing sums up Tracy’s character better than his immediate desire to know the rules of the game. There’s no question he’s going to play, Tracy’s game for every wacky distraction that comes his way.

    Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Daphne finds a magazine in tucked in Fred’s couch. He freaks out as she starts to examine it, leaping over the furniture trying to snatch it out of her hands. Is it a girlie mag? Nope, just Traps Illustrated, presumably the leading magazine dedicated to traps (of the monster-catching variety). This little moment is a good example of the updated humor and character dynamics of the latest, and greatest, Scooby-Doo series. (

  20. In Doctor Who, I loved pretty much all of the beginning of “The Eleventh Hour” – “you’re Scottish! fry something!” in particular – and the soda and penguin scenes in “The Big Bang”.

    In Being Erica, the transition in “Rabbit Hole” from the flashback into the ROM – damn, that was a gorgeous shot – and the scene in “Jenny from the Block” where Judith meets an old friend. Vinessa Antoine practically glows in that scene, which makes it so disappointing she got the short end of the plot stick afterwards. (And, if we’re counting web series, the “pet manicure” gag from the Road Less Travelled online thing.)

  21. I’ve mentioned this on Twitter, but while The Office is no longer great, and Christening was overall a pretty lackluster episode, the scene with Toby in the church asking God why he’s so mean to him is probably my favorite scene of the whole year.

    (great scene, great episode.)

    • Bryan

      Dick Whitman Sampler
      December 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm
      (great scene, great episode.)


  23. trippdup

    Community – The Bria/Abed scene in the middle of Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.

    Archer – Hard to pick one scene, but perhaps the climax of Skytanic?

    Boardwalk Empire – Nucky and Margaret’s scene in the penultimate episode.

    Futurama – The Late Phillip J Fry – Last two minutes.

    Breaking Bad – The scene where the hitman rescues the accountant.

    Sons of Anarchy – Gemma finds out about Abel.

  24. Robert

    Glee – “Dream On” – Joss Whedon delivered a fantastic ode to flash mobs with his direction of the “Safety Dance” number

  25. 18 to Life – The marijuana-induced Twister orgy in Phil’s garage from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”

    Better Off Ted – Lem’s “throwing coffee at God” speech followed by Veronica’s “Carl Gordon Jenkins Gordon Jenkins” speech from “Beating a Dead Workforce”

    Chuck – The bear decapitation story from “Chuck Versus Operation Awesome”

    Community – Total agreement on the chase through Fluffytown, but if I had to pick a runner-up, it would be the chloroform scene from “Accounting for Lawyers”

    Cougar Town – The beach montage from “Finding Out”

    (And yes, for the record, I do watch TV series whose titles start with other letters of the alphabet.)

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