Tonight is the eagerly-awaited season premiere of The Office and the somewhat less eagerly-awaited season premiere of My Name Is Earl. I think most veteran TV viewers will agree that the season premiere of a long-running show is rarely the best part of the season. The expectations are too high; there’s too much to set up; if there was a cliffhanger at the end of last season, the resolution is bound to be disappointing; the network may insist on a big gimmick to start the season, and while gimmick episodes can be entertaining (Bones going to London was fun) we really want the show to get back to familiar territory. Generally you expect that the best episodes will come after the season premiere established what kind of season this is going to be.
But there are exceptions. Can anybody nominate a season premiere — not a series premiere, a season premiere for a show in its second season or beyond — that was a really great episode, one of the best if not the best of the whole season?