So here we are at the finals of the TV madness competition that started way back in early March. How did we get here? And why did it take so long? Let's get right into the matchup:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
I certainly expected Buffy to be here, as pretty much anyone who knows me can attest to, but Sunny was a surprise. I thought I'd see Seinfeld here or maybe Letterman or the Daily Show or even Arrested Development but the more I got into this competition the more I realized how fond my memories of so much of the life of Sunny has been so it's no longer a surprise. And it wouldn't be an upset at all to see it beat Buffy here. As I write this I do not know who is going to win, and admittedly I ignored the voting (which has tailed off quite a bit as the competition has gone forward). The winner will simply be which show has the best 20 episodes ever, as that seems to be the fairest way to compare one vs. another. (I could do like the best 50 episodes ever but who has that kind of time).
1 - Graduation Day Part 2 vs. Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare
Graduation Day was a 2-parter ender to Buffy's season 3, the culmination of a perfect season-long "Big Bad" arc where the mayor of Sunnydale was actually a vampire who aimed to be truly immortal by becoming an unstoppable, historic dragon-beast hellbent on destroying the world. And this 2nd of the 2-parter featured the execution of his plan, at Sunnydale High's graduation, which just so happened to be the graduation of his season-long nemesis Buffy Summers and her Scooby Gang of friends Xander and Willow and Cordelia and Oz. What was really special about this episode was the big surprise when the Mayor turned into the demon and Buffy's plan for buying herself time was to arm the heretofore unacknowledged extras she'd saved time and again on the series (the "Redshirts" in Star Trek lore) and these not-so-oblivious high school kids fought off the vampire horde while she lured the Mayor/Demon through the school to the library where Giles was waiting with tons of explosive and... yeah, satisfying ending to a spectacular season. Even if Angel left in the aftermath, ending three years of ill-fated love.
But Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare is definitely the funniest episode of any show I've ever seen.
2 - Hush vs. The Nightman Cometh
Hmmm... I probably should have switched 2 & 3 and had the musical episodes of each show battle each other. I'm actually not sure which would win that battle. And I have no idea who to give this to -- the perfectly rendered hilarity of a Sunny musical or the perfect horror story in silence. I honestly can't vote against either of these shows. Again, this competition is so very close to call.
3 - Once More with Feeling vs. Sweet Dee is Dating a Retarded Person
So this is where the germ of The Nightman Cometh began for Sunny and while the scene of Dennis and Charlie at Charlie's darkened apartment writing the first lyrics of the story of the Nightman is the greatest thing ever in the history of ever, the rest of the show is not up to the great Buffy musical. And we have our first winner.
4 - Becoming Part 2 vs. The World Series Defense
The season 2 finale -- the heartwrenching battle that ends with Buffy killing Angel as Willow attempts (and ultimately succeeds) to restore his soul -- was the high point of the series until the season 3 finale. The Sunny episode that featured a Phillies-themed visit to the park in the playoffs without tickets was all kinds of funny but just can't compare.
5 - Something Blue vs. The Gang Dances Their Asses Off
Something Blue was the pinnacle of the series of one-off Buffy episodes in which humor was the primary motivation as this episode featured Willow casting a spell that makes her inadvertent wishes come true, including Xander being a "demon magnet", Giles going blind, and Buffy and Spike getting engaged to be married. You had to have watched the series religiously for 4 years like me to understand the nonstop inside jokes that made this episode so funny but Giles's half-blind reactions to mortal enemies Buffy and Spike kissing each other makes me smile just thinking about it. "Stop that right now! I can hear the smacking." Or Xander's reaction when he hears the surprising news.
Buffy: Spike and I are getting married!
Xander: How? What? How?
Giles: Three excellent questions.
Or what about this classic exchange:
Buffy: Honey, we need to talk about the invitations. Now, do you want to be 'William the Bloody' or just 'Spike,' because either way it's gonna look majorly weird.
Spike: Whereas the name 'Buffy' gives it that touch of classic elegance.
Buffy: What's wrong with 'Buffy'?
Giles: Ah, such a good question.
Yes, you probably have to have watched the show to get the humor. Anyway, the gang dancing its asses off features Cricket and the Waitress and dance-offs and "Take My Breath Away" and all kinds of betrayals and Dennis being all kinds of awesome but it can't win here. Sorry.
6 - Graduation Day Part 1 vs. Mac's Banging the Waitress
Part 2 was the best show ever on the series but Part 1 is often as fondly remembered because it featured the long-awaited knockdown-drag-out Buffy / Faith fight which ended with Buffy stabbing Faith with her favorite knife, but Faith getting the last laugh by jumping off the ledge of her apartment onto a passing truck, therefore not allowing Buffy to use the blood of a slayer to save Angel... she does let Angel "feed" on her, nearly killing her. Anyway, Mac's Banging the Waitress is one of the great episodes of Sunny for a number of reasons, but primarily for (a) Charlie's 24-pack and large pizza night while waiting for Mac and (b) Dennis's "home movie collection." That's enough to tie the great Buffy.
7 - Lovers Walk vs. The Gang Gives Back
Lovers Walk is probably the perfect mix of comedy and tragedy, setting the stage for the entirety of season 3's excellence. Spike returns drunk and upset that Drusilla left him for a Fyarl (sp?) demon ("They're all slime and antlers") somewhere in South America and after kidnapping Willow and Xander, he has some hilarious exchanges with Buffy and Angel until he gives up, tells them he left their friends at the Factory, and is on his way. Of course by then Oz and Cordelia find their missing boyfriend/girlfriend (using Oz's wolf sense), walking in on Willow and Xander making out. And Cordelia falls to her death. At least until the next scene is of Willow and Buffy walking past a funeral, not attending one, as Cordelia lives but her odd relationship with Xander is over.
8 - Halloween vs. Kitten Mittens
Season 2 Buffy where Ethan Rayne makes his first appearance, creating chaos when his spell turns the kids wearing costumes bought from his store into the actual costume. This turns Buffy into a clueless Southern Belle from "Angel's time" (the 1800s), Xander into an Army guy, and Willow into, literally, a ghost. In the meantime, bunches of kids are demons and Spike joins in on the fun. Angel and Cordelia (who bought her sexy cat costume at another store) keep the gang alive until Giles can confront his old "friend" Ethan. But Kitten Mittens wins out here. Because, come on.
9 - Doppelgangland vs. The Gang Hits the Road
This is the second of the first two Anya(nka) episodes featuring Vampire Willow... in this one, the better one, Vamp Willow is brought into this dimension by a spell gone awry and she holds a crowd hostage at The Bronze with fellow vampires, all while lamenting the boring order of this dimension (in her world, vampires ran wild). This leads to some interesting exchanges when the gang finds out Angel (who was at the Bronze at the time, but escaped).
Angel: Willow's dead...Hey, Willow...Wait a second.
Xander: We're right there with you, buddy.
10 - Pangs vs. Sunny Christmas
Two holiday episodes, the first one Thanksgiving and the second Christmas. As much as I loved the attempts of Buffy to continue making Thanksgiving dinner as they are under assault from aggrieved Native American ghosts, Christmas still rules.
11 - What's My Line Part 2 vs. Underage Drinking
Interesting battle here. This was I believe the third ever episode of Sunny and it announced the series as a truly depraved / hold nothing back / hilarious series in this episode in which the gang tries to recapture its youth by literally capturing the youth of a crowd of high schoolers who are going to Paddy's Pub because they don't card. On the other hand, this is the first ever 2-parter in Buffy history and signaled the turn of the show from its largely "monster-of-the-week" roots towards more of the Buffy mythology that propelled it through the rest of the series with the arrival of a second slayer (not Faith, she wasn't there yet) and Buffy's first thoughts of a future life without slaying.
12 - The Prom vs. The Gang Reignites the Rivalry
Wow, every time I think Sunny is going to win a battle (Flip-a-delphia!), all these memories of a great Buffy episode come back. This is the one where Buffy feels all alone during Prom Night because she and Angel are through (he's leaving town after graduation, assuming they defeat the mayor) but the class award her "Class Protector", which was such a sweet and sentimental moment. Of course, the whole hounds of hell main plot "evil" of the episode was pretty lame (and easily defeated by the Buffster) so .... yeah, Flip-flip-flip...
13 - Prophecy Girl vs. Who Got Dee Pregnant
Season 1 Buffy finale (defeating the Master) vs. the highlight of the past 2 seasons (Dee turning into an actual ostrich in Mac's point of view still cracks me up).
14 - The Wish vs. Mac and Dennis Break Up
The Wish is the first introduction of Vamp Willow as in the aftermath of the Xander/Cordelia breakup and her near death, Cordelia (blaming it all on Buffy) wishes Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. Anyanka, a demon at the time, grants her wish. And we plunge into an alternate world in which Willow and Xander are vampires, the Master is still alive and ruling Sunnydale, and Angel is their pet. In the meantime, Cordelia, oblivious, is nearly killed just walking the streets but gets rescued by the "white hats" -- Giles and Oz and Larry (who would die in the non-alternate reality on Graduation Day)... and eventually, a hardened and angry Buffy, in from Detroit. In Mac and Dennis Break Up, Mac becomes unbearable after moving in with Charlie and Frank, and Dennis becomes unbearable trying to hang with Dee, who is busy trying to get a cat out of her wall -- "Cat in the wall, huh?" Eventually, Charlie and Frank come to her rescue ("How many cats are in the wall?" "A lot of cats, a lot of cats") and Mac and Dennis get back together.
15 - The Gift vs. The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention
16 - The Zeppo vs. Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire
17 - Homecoming vs. Frank's Pretty Woman
This episode was from last season on Sunny, the first episode, with the instant classic scene of Charlie vomiting all over Frank's hooker in the back seat of a limo. I couldn't stop laughing.
18 - This Year's Girl vs. Mac and Dennis: Manhunters
This Year's Girl was the return of Faith in season 4 in the first of a 2-part episode in which Buffy and Faith changed bodies, but not in a Freaky Friday kind of way. Manhunters of course features Charlie and Dee becoming addicted to human meat. As with everything in life, human meat wins out.
19 - The Body vs. The Aluminum Monster vs. Fatty McGoo
On Sunny, the wonderful Judy Greer stars as a now-grown Fatty McGoo and Dee stars as the not so grown Aluminum Monster but the episode is largely about a sweat shop run by Frank and Mac that is all kinds of funny. But The Body is the shocking season 5 episode in which Buffy's mom dies suddenly and unexpectedly after they thought she'd survived a brush with cancer. Joss Whedon directed this episode and while it certainly wasn't funny and in many ways presaged the downfall of the series after Mrs. Summers and Giles (in season 6) abandoned the show as the adult figures, it has to win this battle.
20 - Tabula Rasa vs. Charlie Gets Crippled
Verdict: Sunny but it's too little too late...
8 to 7 to 5. 5 ties. Buffy 8, Sunny 7. It's incredibly close and I guess I could use the rest of the shows 21-xxx to push Sunny over the top. Without looking to deeply, I would guess that Sunny would win that battle. But in the top 7, Buffy had a 4-0-3 record. At the very best of the best, Buffy had the best episodes. And that's going to be good enough for me.
Winner: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The Best Show of All Time, according to Vague Space.