The Tournament Of Episodes is here! Begin complaining now
Illustration by Dan Henrick.
Illustration by Dan Henrick.

The Tournament Of Episodes is here! Begin complaining now

Here’s how this is going to work. Plus: Meet your readers’ choice winners!

Welcome to the TV Club Tournament Of Episodes! Let’s name the best episode of the 2013-14 TV season with exacting scientific accuracy and then give it a meaningless prize.

“Now hold up, Todd,” you might be saying. “How can you purport to do such a thing? Aren’t all opinions ultimately subjective?”

Of course, but that’s the fun of meaningless prizes, isn’t it? Here at TV Club, we’ve become fond of embracing the absurdity of things like top 10 lists or awards for the “best” in TV. It all comes down to one person’s opinion, in the grand scheme of things, and that can be infuriating when an awards body or critic disagrees with you, or enthralling when they agree. So, with a tip of the hat to The Morning News, who gave us the idea, based on its Tournament Of Books (which celebrates the meaninglessness of literary prizes), we launched this tournament.

How will this work?

Every day, episodes will be pitted against each other in battles to the death. One of our elite TV Club scribes will watch both episodes, then make the call on which episode was better. What’s the criteria for “better”? There isn’t one. It’s all about what the judges felt at the time. Not all of us have watched every show, and some episodes may be hamstrung by that. Plus, the two episodes that you guys picked in the readers’ choice process will get a bye all the way to the semifinals. Why? Because life’s not fair, that’s why. The champions of the original tournament will emerge, bruised and bloody, only to face an entirely new foe who hasn’t had to fight with anybody yet. That’s just how it works.

How were the episodes chosen?

Again, with science. Actually, we just nominated a bunch of episodes we liked, then pared them down to an initial 15, one per show. We’d never claim those were the best 15 episodes of the year; they were just 15 episodes we really liked. From there, we asked two TV critics from other publications to nominate a couple of episodes that we had missed for tomorrow’s play-in match. Then we asked you guys to come up with even more episodes we missed for the readers’ choice round. Honestly, we could have had dozens of other episodes in this tournament. If your favorite wasn’t chosen, it’s not because we don’t like you or your show. It’s because of science.

How were the pairings chosen?

Outside of the play-in match (which was, again, chosen for us by others), we chose them for thematic links that we won’t bother revealing. 

I highly disagree with this process and wish to express my discontent!

We’re glad you feel that way. Every day, we will include a Google poll with every match, so you can vote how you prefer and tell us how wrong we were.

What’s the schedule look like?

It’s not too complicated. In fact, you can check out our handy-dandy bracket graphic (which will post updated daily) to get a good look at it in visual form.

June 16: Introductory remarks from Todd VanDerWerff (This is the post you are reading.)

June 17: Play-in match: Arrow, “Three Ghosts” vs. True Detective, “The Secret Fate Of All Life” (judged by Josh Modell)

June 18: Round one, part one:
Play-in champion vs. Breaking Bad, “Ozymandias” (judged by Phil Dyess-Nugent)
Louie, “Model” vs. The Returned, “Camille” (judged by Gwen Ihnat)
Girls, “Beach House” vs. Orange Is The New Black, “Lesbian Request Denied” (judged by Dennis Perkins) 
How I Met Your Mother, “How Your Mother Met Me” vs. Looking “Looking For The Future” (judged by Caroline Framke)

June 19: Round one, part two:
Bob’s Burgers, “Turkey In A Can” vs. The Good Wife, “Hitting The Fan” (judged by Genevieve Valentine)
The Americans, “Behind The Red Door” vs. Sleepy Hollow, “Necromancer” (judged by Scott Von Doviak)
Broad City, “Last Supper” vs. Hannibal, “Takiawase” (judged by Alasdair Wilkins)
Review With Forest MacNeil, “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes” vs. Rick And Morty, “Rixty Minutes” (judged by Joshua Alston)

June 20: Quarterfinals, judged by Carrie Raisler, Brandon Nowalk, Molly Eichel, and Myles McNutt
June 23: Semifinal 1, judged by Zack Handlen
June 24: Semifinal 2, judged by Sonia Saraiya
June 25: Readers’ Choice: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Community, “Cooperative Polygraphy,” judged by Erik Adams
June 26: Readers’ Choice: Winner of Semifinal 2 vs. Mad Men, “The Strategy,” judged by Todd VanDerWerff
June 27: Final match, judged by all judges

If you need more information on any of these episodes, just click on the links.

What meaningless prize will the victor win?

Why, a golden TV dinner of course!

Wait. Where’s the zombie round? I demand a refund!

A Tournament Of Books fan, eh? Well, as much as we enjoy copying people down to the letter, there were so many great episodes that we knew we’d forget a few, and we thought having you choose new ones to enter the tournament at the last stage (rather than simply resurrecting old ones) would be just as much fun. Perhaps you’ll disagree, should one of your favorites fall early, but for now, we’re just happy to have Community and Mad Men represented.

So that’s the Tournament Of Episodes. Join us over the next two weeks as we watch some of your favorite TV characters bash each other bloody in pursuit of that golden TV dinner. And maybe take this chance to revisit a handful of these, because each and every one is great TV, and each and every one is a winner just for being nominated.

Except not really, because the actual winner will be the winner.

More The Tournament Of Episodes 2014