7
Dec
2011
Top 10 TV Parties (And The Showdowns They Inspire) of 2011
Gaila's TV Top 10 List
Gaila
I have long been a connoisseur of bad TV, as anyone who even vaguely knows me will attest. There is nothing more pleasant to me than pretty people, gorgeous clothes, petty drama, and insane plotlines. I have found, through my extensive viewing of said terrible television, that nothing offers so great an excuse to showcase all of the aforementioned aspects of bad TV than a good party. The bad TV tradition has bled into more "refined," "respectable" TV as well, proving that everyone loves a good party. Television creators and writers have discovered the handiness of parties, mining these get-togethers for drama and confrontations often and to great effect. Though some television shows abuse the beautiful potential of parties by having too many, or with too ridiculous premises (seriously, Vampire Diaries, the Mystic Falls Historical Society lighting ceremony? What does that mean?), sometimes parties involving whole towns, or even smaller get-togethers focusing on only the main cast of characters, can be awesome, epic, enlightening, enriching, or, at the very least, incredibly entertaining. Thus, here is my list of some favorites of 2011's epic television parties and the showdowns they spawned:


10. 90210, Season 3, Episode 22, "To the future!"

The Secret Circle

No list of epic television parties and their showdowns would be complete without some old-school, nighttime high school soapiness. While 90210 is definitely not the best show on television, it certainly provides the kind of silly, slightly adorable, obviously contrived drama and prettiness that those of us still watching the CW clearly enjoy. In the tradition of the OC and its teen-soap predecessors, 90210 does a great job with likeable enough characters, fantastic clothes, and strangely satisfying spectacle. In the season three finale, the characters all meet for the last time of their high school careers at Ivy and Raj's impromptu wedding. For those who enjoy such high school silliness, the episode provided all the aspects of a fantastic end-of-season bash: a beautiful wedding, complete with gorgeous clothes and adorable PDA, a satisfying conclusion to many of the season's major plotlines, including the banishment of evil Adrianna, the happiness of Silver and Navid, and the requisite drunken reminiscing.All in all, a very pleasant and satisfying party scene, and a very appropriate entry for the teen soap.


9. The Secret Circle, Season 1, Episode 7, "Masked"

The Secret Circle

The Secret Circle has definitely been trying to keep up with its older sister show, the Vampire Diaries, in its use of small-town folklore, horror-esque deployment of mythology, and high school love triangles. While the show has struggled in its first season to present genuine, sympathetic characters and intriguing enough plot points, one way the show has definitely followed in its predecessor's footsteps is in its reliance on parties to create confrontations, up the drama, and provide impetus for magical happenings (these are witches we're talking about, after all). Though the Halloween episode did have a surprisingly entertaining party, I think the show's best party and showdown came in the seventh episode, as five of the six witches in the circle got stranded at Faye's lake house, which made for some (again, obviously) teen drinking, the spilling of secrets, a romantic pentagon, and even the helpful (though slightly terrifying) appearance of a ghost, uncovering the body of a character's murdered grandfather. The episode does a great job of providing drama (obviously. Even in list form all the stuff that goes down in the episode sounds entertaining) and moving some major plots forward, but the characters are also given the opportunity to reveal themselves and their personalities, which is really beneficial to a show still finding its footing. The episode was so entertaining, it took the show to new heights, and I definitely appreciated the chance to get to know better the teens of Chance Harbor's magic Circle.


8. Revenge, Season 1, Episode 5, "Guilt"

Of all the shows on this list, Revenge definitely has the most parties and showdowns to choose from, as nearly every episode thus far has contained a very fancy and thinly premised rich people party, each of which has had at least a few awesome showdowns. This episode's party deserves to be on this list, if only for one incredible showdown: Victoria Grayson, Queen of the Hamptons, and the scariest of all the ice queens, hugging her former best friend and her husband's mistress and explaining the extent of her hatred and loathing for her.



It is a magnificent performance for Madeleine Stowe, who is always amazing as Victoria but is particularly devastating in this scene. As the rest of her attendees of the Victims United Outreach honored by Open Arms benefit (to raise funds, ostensibly, for the victims of the plane crash for which the Graysons were actually responsible), Victoria confronts Lydia in possibly my favorite of all soapy party speeches (and that includes anything said or done by Julie Cooper, the former reigning ice queen of soapy nighttime television) in one small and amazingly played moment. The episode itself has plenty of entertaining moments, and the party scene includes other confrontations, including Lydia confronting Emily with her suspicions about Emily's past, and the general collision of the various pieces of Emily's revenge plan, all of which makes for highly engrossing and absorbing television. This definitely showcases the various intricacies of a truly great party scene, and that Victoria-Lydia confrontation is the epitome of epic party confrontations.


7. Glee, Season 2, Episode 14, "Blame It on the Alcohol"

In its truly confusing and often-awful second season, Glee made a lot of mistakes, most important of which (for me) was the fact that it was no longer fun to watch. I can obviously stomach television that is really bad, so long as it's fun and enjoyable to watch. Glee was very often tedious and boring in its second season, as critics have made abundantly clear. For me, however, one episode that really made me happy and made me vaguely remember why I ever watched the show was "Blame It on the Alcohol". Though the episode was full of clichés and dead-end plots (as most every episode of Glee tends to be), I actually remember well one particularly scene, which is more than I can say for the entire rest of the season. All the boys and girls of glee club gather at Rachel's house for an impromptu drinking session, wherein all of the girls showcase the various effects of female alcohol consumption, the gay boy demonstrates his slight curiosity in the opposite sex, and the entire club exhibits the serious drawbacks of teen drinking (or so Fox would have us believe).



Overall, the episode was silly and inconsequential, but I definitely appreciated the scene for its adorably strange version of teen parties (gotta love the big musical number, which is totally a part of every high school drinking party...right?) and its return to, at the very least, a view of small-town Ohio where the kids do dumb stuff and try to figure themselves out. This is the aspect of Glee I really enjoy, and this is also a fairly awesome party scene.


6. Archer, Season 2, Episode 8, "Stage Two"

Archer


Archer is a brilliant, bawdy, irreverent, hyper-literate, hilarious show. So "Stage Two" was a bit of a twist, seeing as the show's generally light-hearted tone was completely abandoned in favor of a pretty serious examination of one of the show's operative facts: Sterling Archer is an irredeemable asshole, a son of a bitch who generally makes life worse for everyone around him. In "Stage Two," Archer discovers he has breast cancer, and he starts to think hard about how he lives his life. The show would take everything a step further in the even better "Placebo Effect," but the plot line arguably reached its apex in a boozy, "post-recovery" party Archer throws for himself. The party plays out like a standard Archer gathering: Cheryl (or is it Carol?) is really confused about what cancer is, Pam and Cyril are getting plastered and Pam is trying to hook up with him, and Lana is hating on Archer. And then comes the brilliant, never-not-funny constant reversal in which the doctor continues constantly calling Archer back, telling him he actually has cancer still... no wait, he's cancer free!...no, actually, he still has life threatening breast cancer. All the while, Archer switches between elated narcissism and weeping, heart-on-his-sleeve altruism. It's fairly clear which is the truth and which is the wall Archer has built around himself, but he never quite gets the chance to tell Lana how he really feels. There's always another phone call, with the doctor on the line, ready to deliver very good, or very bad news. And it's either the best party of Archer's life, or the worst news he's ever received, depending on which instant you ask him.


5. Breaking Bad, Season 4, Episode 5, "Shotgun"

Much of season four of Breaking Bad was dedicated to chipping away at the confidence of Walter White, reducing him to impotence in the face of a foe that continuously outplayed him. There is no character on television more arrogant than Walt, and no one demands control over every aspect of his existence more vehemently. "Shotgun" takes Walter from what he must imagine is the top of his game (careening through the streets of Albuquerque on a suicide mission to save his partner) to his lowest point, which happens, of course, at a dinner party. Walt's taken multiple lumps over the course of the episode (and the season) from both his boss Gustavo Fring and his wife, Skyler, and while dining with his DEA Agent brother-in-law, he refuses, in one of his most self-destructive moments, to take one more. Hank is grousing about the genius of alleged meth kingpin (and Walter's former assistant) Gale Boetticher, giving him credit for what Walter has done, when Walt just breaks down, takes a deep gulp from his glass of wine, and launches into a rant about how Gale is clearly not a genius. Citing his authority as a teacher, Walt claims Gale is a copycat, thus indirectly giving himself credit for what he thinks is his genius...and putting his voracious investigator of a brother-in-law back on the trail of him and his drug dealing brethren. Within the episode, Hank is on Gus' trail, and all because of an epic showdown at a drunken party.


4. Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 6, "A Golden Crown"



Most of the Dothraki lifestyle could probably count as a party, seeing as apparently every night when they set up camp, a fire is built and music and dancing takes place and there is plenty of sex and violent drunken outbursts. Sounds like a bar downtown in any major metropolitan area on the planet, amiright? "A Golden Crown," however, takes the idea of Dothraki "celebration" to a whoooole new level. The "party" begins with a ceremonial horse-heart-eating by pregnant Daenerys Targaryen, as a Dothraki priestess chants about her son being "the stallion that mounts the world." Like any drama queen, Viserys, Daeny's brother, stomps off because no one loves him. He throws a hissy fit and tries to steal Daeny's dragon eggs, only to be stopped by a loyal henchman, and makes a drunken fool of himself at a gathering the night after. He makes such a scene, claiming that he hasn't received the army he was pledged (and the loyalty he assumed he'd get as well), and that as such he will renege on his side of the deal and take back his sister. At this point, the mountain-like Khal Drogo has of course become enamored of his wife, and takes offense to the idea of her brother carving their son from her belly. In a very literal interpretation of his original pledge, Drogo melts down the golden belt he is wearing and pours it over Viserys' head, a swift death confirming that he is not, in fact, a dragon.


3.Vampire Diaries, Season 3, Episode 5, "The Reckoning"

Klause and Elena

In Mystic Falls, crazy things happen every moment of every day, and most of the particularly crazy things happen when the town is having some sort of strange historical parade or party or ceremony. So far this season, we have witnessed a town-wide ghost resurrection at the town's Historical Society lighting ceremony (again, WHAT?), an epic hybrid army meeting at the high school's Homecoming Dance, and a back to school bonfire which includes multiple stabbing and kidnapping attempts (ok, let's be honest. ALL of these sound insane if you haven't seen them, but are pretty awesome if you have). But my favorite episode of the season, and the best showcase for Vampire Diaries tendency to present awesome parties and confrontations, comes in an episode without a straightforward party scene, but rather a senior prank night gone horribly wrong. In the fifth episode of the season, when most shows would be slowing things down in order to extend the drama, the Vampire Diaries throws it all out into the open. In an episode which shows the return of the baddest vampire on the block, Klaus, and demonstrates the extent of his predilection for violence and self-absorption, we were also treated to some harrowing scenes of Tyler's transformation into a hybrid, Caroline's confrontation with the other blond vampire, Rebekah, and, scariest of all, Stefan's fight for his own soul as Klaus forces him to attack Elena and ultimately removes every piece of his former humanity.

The episode has so much awesome plotting, and every minute is filled with terror and intensity, but, in true V Diaries fashion, the best scenes encompass both of those aspects, and a heaping helping of character development. The Vampire Diaries is definitely the best show on television right now for epic party scenes.


2. Community, Season 3, Episode 4, "Remedial Chaos Theory"



By far my favorite episode of the show this season, "Remedial Chaos Theory" is based on the seven people in everyone's favorite study group, getting together for Troy and Abed's housewarming party. Unlike most other television parties, Community's entry into the list is awesome not because the party has lasting implications on all the characters involved, but because it is such an amazing demonstration of what happens within groups of friends, and what each person contributes to said group. I'm sure everyone who might read this list will have watched this episode, so I won't recap here, but this episode does all of the standard party stuff really well: an appropriately silly theme, some adorable relationship-y stuff, a little bit of violence (except in the darkest timeline, which has A LOT), an appropriate amount of yelling, awkward dancing, and heartwarming friendship moments. However, in addition to all of the entertaining stuff that we've come to expect from awesome TV party scenes, Community manages to frame its party in an episode containing multiple time lines, evil Troy and Abed, and enough resonance and pathos to take it into the highest realms of broadcast television. This is an epic party for the ages...at least in the timelines where "Remedial Chaos Theory" wasn't a pretty average episode of The Big Bang Theory.


1. Parks and Recreation, Season 3, Episode 13 "The Fight"

This is one of my favorite episodes of television, ever, and definitely involves some of my favorite party and confrontation scenes. The premise of the episode revolves around the launching of Tom's new alcoholic beverage, Snake Juice, at Pawnee's Snake Hole Lounge. Tom asks his fellow city employees to come to the party and help promote his product, which everyone does, to hilarious effect. Tom and Jean-Ralphio have some great lines in the episode, playing up their incompetent party-boy routine, while we also get glimpses into the drunk selves of our favorite Pawnee residents: April and Andy, who play the weirdest game of married role play ever; Ron Swanson, in the greatest scene possibly ever; and everybody else in various other forms of awesome drunkenness:



The confrontation of the night belongs to Leslie and Ann, who fight over Ann's seeming lack of interest in Leslie's job opportunity at City Hall. The scenes of the two drunkenly screaming at each other are definitely hilarious, but I was also struck by how invested I had become in their friendship, and how much I wanted them to make up. Obviously they do, the next morning, but their fight really demonstrates the investment we as viewers have in the show and in the characters' relationships, and it is this real affection that I think makes this episode my favorite of all the TV parties and showdowns on 2011. Though each one was epic and entertaining, none struck me as much as "The Fight", and I'd definitely recommend it as the best television party of 2011. And if you have any doubts, try watching Ron Swanson dance again. And again. And again. You won't get tired of it. And you might just get your own epic drunken party started in the process. I know I will.

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