Apr 27, 2020
What single episode got you hooked on a TV show forever?
We’re kicking off a new regular Friday feature called “Conversation Starters,” where we pose a big TV question to give you something to talk about this weekend. Please take advantage of this week’s topic to pick fights with your friends, strike up a conversation with that hottie you haven’t worked up the nerve to approach yet, or join in a calm, illuminating exchanges of ideas in the comments, such as the internet is famous for. Enjoy responsibly.
What modern TV show gets viewers hooked the fastest? Netflix made big news recently by revealing the answer, and it’s a six way tie:
- Bates Motel
- Breaking Bad
- The Killing
- The Walking Dead
If you watch just the first two episodes of any of those shows on Netflix, there’s at least a 70% chance you’ll finish out the season. (Netflix’s own flagship programs House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black came in a close second with just three episodes.)
This inspired the HNTP team to ponder a different but related question:
What single episode of a TV show (whether you watched that episode first or not) hooked you on a series forever?
Marion says: CSI’s “Fur and Loathing in Las Vegas”
Prior to “Fur and Loathing in Las Vegas” (S4 E5), I had seen a few episodes of CSI, but I don’t think I really saw CSI. It was what I happened to watch if I was home, but it wasn’t something I’d stay home to watch. From the beginning, CSI had a certain cool noir sensibility mixed with nerdy science and some element of the weird, but “Fur and Loathing” brought it all together – perversity, odd circumstances that led to multiple deaths, the what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ethos, the feeling that God or at least fate has a vicious sense of humor, and of course the puns. That was the episode in which I became not just a viewer, but also a fan. I can’t say my love affair with the series lasted forever, but it continued at least through the Grissom years and maybe a season or two after that.
Rick says: The West Wing’s “Noel”
I was initially reluctant to jump into The West Wing because it seemed unfaithful to Sports Night somehow, what with creator Aaron Sorkin abandoning his firstborn after just one season to start a new family in the White House. Yeah, I’m not pretending it makes sense, but there it is. I didn’t watch any of season one, and I only watched the episode “Noel” (S2 E10) because a friend of mine forced a copy into my hands on a VCR tape, which was a thing that existed at the time.
In this particular episode, Josh is slowly losing his ability to hide his PTSD after being shot in an assassination attempt in first season finale, so his boss Leo forces him to meet with a psychiatrist. Here, Aaron Sorkin is at the height of his powers as a writer and developer of psychological rich characters (before he decided “one-dimensional preposterously smart asshole” was the only character he’d ever write again). The mind-blowingly clever dialogue that made Sports Night such a work of genius is on full display, but the characters have a full hour to work with as they explore their own emotional depths, something Sports Night desperately needed because “serialized half-hour sitcom” doesn’t work with the masses (ask Arrested Development).
Yes, Sorkin’s plagiarizes himself, as usual, stealing Sports Night’s Dan’s journey to accepting he needs psychological counseling, but when it’s this well done, who cares.
Susan says: Bob Burgers’s “Sheesh Cab Bob”
The episode that really hooked me was “Sheesh Cab Bob” (S1 E6). Bob’s Burgers was still trying to find its voice in the first season and finally found that what kept viewers coming back was the dynamic between the members of the quirky family. In this episode, eldest daughter Tina Blecher’s thirteenth birthday is coming up, and she wants nothing more than a party and her first kiss. Bob takes a second job as a cab driver to afford the cost while struggling to overcome his rivalry with Jimmy Pesto, Sr., the father of the boy Tina really wants to kiss. I wasn’t particularly sold on Bob’s Burgers before because of the family’s generally hatefulness, especially toward Bob, and Bob was quickly becoming a henpecked husband/father who was at the mercy of the whims of his more eccentric family. I remember thinking, “How can these people be a family when they’re such jerks to each other?” However, the family’s love shines through this time when they come together to give Tina a special day, and it becomes heartwarming when you realize that this family truly does cares about each other – just in a very weird way.
Julie says: Lost’s “Orientation”
True story. I did not officially start watching Lost until its second season. As a self-proclaimed “terrified flyer,” it was generally my practice to avoid television series that revolved around massive plane crashes with large body counts. But then, sometime before the show’s second season began, I caught one of those pre-season recap specials that ABC tends to air to hype up its most popular shows. The special did its job on me, apparently, as I was intrigued enough by what I saw to check out the Lost season 2 premiere when it first aired, back in the fall of 2005, as well as the second episode of that season, which aired the following week.
Then came Episode 3, “Orientation,” or, as I like to call it, “The Episode of Lost That Ate My Brain.” For the uninitiated, this was the first episode to introduce those funky 70s’ era instructional videos created by those weird science nerd hippies, the Dharma Initiative, the content of which somehow convinced perpetually shirtless Hatch Dweller, Desmond Hume, to spend his entire life entering a single series of numbers into an old crappy computer every 108 minutes, out of fear that if he didn’t do so, he would . . . well . . . essentially explode the planet.
The first “Orientation” video was so strange, and so obviously filled with hidden clues from the writers as to the origins of the mysterious island that had become the Losties’ new home, that its introduction instantly launched thousands of websites, blogs, news articles, message boards and podcasts, each attempting to decipher its hidden meanings. For over-analytical TV nerds like me, an Easter-egg filled video like this was TV Nirvana. I was hooked instantly. Lost became my crack cocaine.
Just as Poor Desmond was compelled to enter those darn numbers into that darn computer every 108 minutes, I too was compelled to follow the most faithful zealot of the island’s mystical teachings, Locke’s enticing instruction, spoken immediately after the video played for the first time: “Let’s watch that again.”
“Orientation” is also the first time in the series that we meet The Tailies, an entirely different cast of characters than the ones fans had been spending Season 1 getting to know. To think, all this time we’d been hanging out with Jack, John, Sawyer & co., there was literally an entire separate series going on at the other side of the island, featuring the folks seated at the back end of the plane! Talk about a serious mindf*&k! I loved every minute of it.
In fact, I fell so hard for Lost that I eventually started recapping the series. Some of those recaps even ended up in an honest-to-goodness book that just came out this past month, and is currently on sale at Amazon.com. (Shameless plug, I know. My apologies.)
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