Time for another installment of Ask Alan, as I take your questions about the past, present, and future of TV.
First up this week, inspired by a recent comment I made about The Wonder Years pilot being perhaps that show’s best episode, someone asked me what other series peaked that early. Answers include both TV shows that started off strong before tailing off quickly, and great shows that just happen to have especially great pilot episodes. In many cases, these are judgment calls: the Lost pilot probably wouldn’t be my instant Best Episode Ever pick, for instance, but I understand the argument that can be made for it.
From there, we get into a family TV show feud, when I’m asked to choose the superior show between This Is Us and Parenthood. Are the Bravermans more fun to hang out with than the Pearsons? Which show makes me cry more?
Finally, a question about why broadcast networks sometimes air episodes blatantly out of order. The worst instance of this that I ever witnessed was in season three of Homicide: Life on the Street, where NBC executives considered the episode where Steve Crosetti died to be too depressing, so they held it til later in the season, when it aired after episodes that not only referred to his death, but to the way that he died (which is treated as a mystery in “Crosetti” itself). Stuff like that happened so often, Homicide fans used to joke that if an episode aired later than it was supposed to (see also “A Doll’s Eyes” and “Night of the Dead Living,” among others), it must be a great one.