Category Archives: 10 of ’10

Top 10 Episodes of 2010: “Heart” (The Good Wife)

“Heart”

Aired: March 16th, 2010

[Cultural Learnings’ Top 10 Episodes of 2010 are in no particular order, and are purely subjective – for more information, and the complete list as it goes up, click here.]

As odd as it sounds, I think the focus on The Good Wife’s complexity is often an oversimplification.

I appreciate that the series engages in ongoing serial narratives, and that it serves as a character/workplace drama along with its legal procedural elements; I love moments when these two worlds collide, like when Alicia finds herself hearing conversations about her husband on FBI tapes she’s investigating for another case. The interplay of these various spheres is a key part of the series’ success, and certainly what sets it apart from the majority of network procedurals.

However, The Good Wife would not be half as successful as it is without the ability to tell compelling procedural stories within that framework; while the show can sustain episodes without the structure of a weekly case, that it chooses not to places immense pressure on those cases to deliver. Sometimes they are fairly generic, but other times they feature compelling judges (like Ana Gasteyer’s “in your opinion”) or compelling attorneys (both Mamie Gummer and Michael J. Fox made an impact in this area) which elevate the episodes regardless of serialization.

“Heart” stands out for me out of the series’ output this year because it holds considerable meaning without overindulging in serialization. The way we’re dropped into the chaos of the emergency trial, and the way Martha Plimpton entirely steals the show with her newborn baby, are what I remember most strongly from the episode: the case was scrappy and distinctive, makeshift and yet emotionally resonant, and the writing was strong throughout. However, in reality, the episode was hugely important to the central love triangle between Alicia/Will/Peter, and even marked a key turning point for Peter’s campaign (which has become a cornerstone of the second season).

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Top 10 Episodes of 2010: “Sweetums” (Parks and Recreation)

“Sweetums”

Aired: February 4th, 2010

[Cultural Learnings’ Top 10 Episodes of 2010 are in no particular order, and are purely subjective – for more information, and the complete list as it goes up, click here.]

When choosing between great episodes of great shows in order to make it on this list, Parks and Recreation probably posed the biggest challenge. The show’s second season was a revelation, and its back half had numerous highlights, and choosing between them was more difficult than I had imagined. In most similar instances, I had a gut instinct that drove me in one direction, something in particular I wanted to be able to recognize about that show or that episode over the course of the past year.

With Parks and Recreation, there are simply so many options – I recently watched through the entire second season on Netflix, and admittedly have also seen the first six episodes of season three, and the sheer bounty of greatness made this decision difficult even while disqualifying the Season Three episodes which won’t air until early next year (one of which would definitely be a contender).

I ended up choosing “Sweetums” because it does a number of things which were key to the season’s success. While “Telethon” is the best individual vehicle for Amy Poehler and perhaps the best reflection of the entire ensemble, “Sweetums” highlights the wonderful, complicated relationship between Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope, a relationship which helped set Season Two apart from the show’s earlier episodes. Their tete-a-tete over Ron’s ability to drive after drinking brings out the best in both characters, whether it’s Ron’s whiskey-fueled harp building or Leslie’s “O Captain, my Captain: Ron Swanson, A Swan Song” eulogy; at the heart of their friendship is a sort of begrudging respect for the other’s fundamentally different approach to their life, and “Sweetums” laid the groundwork for Ron’s belief later in the season that even if Pawnee could use less government, it could not exist without Leslie Knope.

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