The second half is the one that matters, right. The listing continues. If you wish to read the list in its complete form read the post below this first. To get the true list experience see.
10) Deadwood, Deadwood
David Milch doesn't look quite as good anymore post John From Cincinnati, but I'd put his work on Deadwood up against almost anybody's. His re-imagining of the American west as a filthy, mud-caked cesspool of corruption which juxtaposed with Milch's near poetic, often lyrically beautiful dialogue makes for one of the most original and grittily artistic shows ever made. The pilot so wonderfully condenses all the things that would make this great television into one awesome hour, that instantly informs you something great is happening here. And I didn't even mention how great Ian McShane is.
9) Opening Night, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb is an easy show to forget when doing this kind of thing, but when it gets it right the mind of Larry David is so perfectly attuned to television that it becomes something so hideously hilarious you can't help but laugh. The season four finale, which saw the climax of the Larry stars in the producers arc, was pretty close to perfection, as far as television comedy goes. Every joke was wonderfully paid off, every gag earned and it had Larry singing songs from the producers musical. How is that not awesome.
8)...And The Bag's in the river, Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad, in its glorious second season, has kind of become my favorite show currently airing. It began because its brand of twisted black comedy was original and refreshing. But then all of a sudden it began to nail the drama too, and a very real and serious way, and half way through the second year I knew I was watching something great rather then something that just could be great. My favorite episode remains in the first season however, because this particular episode saw Walt contemplating his first truly monstrous act, and thus a man about to become the increasingly more calculated and cold villain we see in later episodes. And its so wonderfully acted by Bryan Cranston, who truly earned both of his emmy's in this episode alone, and that's ignoring the truly stellar work that was to come.
7) Exodus part 2, Battlestar Galactica
I got onto Battlestar quite late. It seemed for a time like it was a line of geekery I was unwilling to cross, but once the fanboy stigma is fought through, there's left just a fucking great show in its own right, and it was never better then in its four episode arc at the beginning of season three, dealing with a thinly veiled Iraq war metaphor, casting humanity as the oppressed Iraqi's and the Cylon's as the Americans. Its conclusion is almost a pinnacle of allegorical TV combined with straight up thrilling adventure. You never knew sci-fi could be this good.
6) Everyone's Waiting, Six Feet Under
I'm of the opinion that Six Feet Under tailed of slightly in its later seasons, but there's no denying the genius at work in its final episode, the last ten minutes of which are close to the best sequence of television I've ever seen in anything. A great send-off for what might be the ultimate ensemble character study that was ever on the box.
5) 11 P.M to 12 P.M, 24
Once 24 reached about season 4, it took a nosedive into self-parody and an increased sense of camp and the ridiculous. Which is a shame really, because if there ever was a show that should have been a single season its this. Its put together so cleverly, often proving even savvy viewers wrong and in the first year's final episode, chosen here, it had a truly devastating climax that no-one saw coming. Back in 2001, 24 was literally one of the best show's you had ever seen, but eventually it became a victim of its own success. We'll always have this episode though, which is as perfect as a thriller could be.
4) The Constant, Lost
The relationships, or the shipping, as the cool kids are calling it these days, has always been the worst thing about Lost. Its a show written by geeks for geeks with no interest in writing a genuine relationship, or maybe even without the capacity for it. Why then, is The Constant so fucking awesome. Its an episode about unrequited love on an adventure action show, it had no right to be this amazing. But it was, in part to Henry Ian Cusick's terrific performance, who came from nowhere to almost steal the show in the later years, and part due to Desmond and Penny's relationship being mostly implied rather then fed to us in weak broad strokes. Whatever. All I know is that this is one of the most powerful, moving episodes of TV the decade had to offer.
3) Once More With Feeling, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Or the episode that changed TV forever, and made a musical episode a requisite for all long lasting TV shows. What makes watching Buffy so great as that even in a weak season such as its sixth, it can so wonderfully rise above its station to give us something extra-ordinary. I'd liken this to Season two's equally surprising, equally genius 'Passion' in that its quality and ingenuity catches you off guard and there's nothing to do but sit back and take in the awesome. People stuck with Buffy for this reason, that for all its faults and contrivances, it has the unique capacity to truly blow your mind and create such a joyous sense of wonder, in a way that no show before it, or after it, has managed to replicate.
2) Pier Pressure, Arrested Development
Arrested Development is certainly my favorite show of the decade and while it might not quite be the best, it remains something to be properly in awe of. The smartest, most perfectly written and acted sitcom that ever was. Its high amongst many highs was probably this, an episode revolving around teaching elaborate lessons to one's kids. In a very twisted and expensive way. What's great about the show is that it is the only show to be both devastatingly laugh out loud funny whilst providing cutting and smart comedy. TV Nirvana.
1) Final Grades, The Wire
And so to number one, and hand on heart it couldn't be anything else really. The Wire is the most intricate, relevant show that ever was. It has things to say about plot, politics and character and it does it all masterfully. The absolute peak was the fourth season, which followed the arcs of four kids stuck between a failing school system and an ever present gang culture. Its the best hour of TV I've seen in these last ten years because its so hauntingly true, and seeing a realist show hit such astronomic dramatic heights without sacrificing what it is was such an awesome thing to see. Its an episode to put you in your place to be sure.