TV

The Best TV Episode Numbers of All Time


What TV episode number has the best chance of turning out a classic? We find out.

The Best TV Episode Numbers of All Time
Photo: Art by Chloe Lewis

Episodic storytelling is what makes TV special and if you pay attention long enough, you begin to notice some patterns. Most TV pilots play like mini-movies that often end up quite tonally different from the rest of the series to come. Season finales naturally tend to be a show’s best effort of the year as they must satiate the audience for the long offseason. But what about all the episodes in-between? What episode numbers are consistently great?

We endeavored to find out.

Yes, what you’re about to read is not a list of the “Best TV Episodes of All Time” but the “Best TV Episode Numbers of All Time.” Numbers as in literally “episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, and so forth.” By taking a holistic view of the TV industry at large, we’ve determined which episode numbers are more likely to produce quality than others.

The challenges in figuring this out are obvious. For starters, this is a tremendously silly idea that will waste everyone’s time. We quickly decided that wasn’t a problem. But more importantly: no two TV shows are alike. Episode counts vary wildly from program to program, featuring close to 100 episodes per season for a late night talk show, around 25 for the average network sitcom, and anywhere between three and 13 for most streaming and cable series. As such, we decided to stick to only scripted shows for the purposes of this list, which made roughly episodes one through 30 eligible (though some old-timey sitcoms could cram in as many as 40 episodes a season). From there, we cut the final list down to the top 15.

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