Twenty years ago (Nov. 9–15, 1998), NBC’s Thursday night dominated the ratings chart* — with one holy exception.
1. ER: Season 5, episode 7, “Hazed and Confused,” NBC (Now streaming on Hulu)
[In Stefon voice] This episode has everything: George Clooney going rogue to treat a sick baby; Mare Winningham; a heart-racing crisis (an exhausted Dr. Corday [Alex Kingston] gives a patient a lethal dose of magnesium); before-they-were-famous guest stars (Octavia Spencer as a deceptive pregnant patient; Julie Bowen as Dr. Carter’s [Noah Wyle] girlfriend Roxanne); and a RuPaul shout-out. A–
2. Friends: Season 5, episode 7, “The One Where Ross Moves In,” NBC (Now streaming on Netflix)
Ross (David Schwimmer) moves in with Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc), bringing a whole bunch of boxes and lots of irritating habits (like his “keep it down” face and hand gesture) with him.
In retrospect, Schwimmer deserves a lot of credit for his willingness to be so darn annoying for our viewing pleasure. If only Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) story line — stop trying to make the romance with Danny the neighbor (George Newbern) happen; it’s never going to happen! — didn’t drag the episode down. B+
3. Touched By An Angel: Season 5, episode 8, “Psalm 151,” CBS (Now streaming on CBS All Access)
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, did producers really manage to land Celine Dion (as herself, speaking French!) and Wynonna Judd (as Audrey Carmichael, a songwriting mom whose son is dying from cystic fibrosis) for their 100th episode spectacular? A+ for effort, guys.
4. Frasier: Season 6, episode 7, “How to Bury a Millionaire,” NBC (Now streaming on Hulu)
Having split from the always-unseen Maris — and her money — Niles (David Hyde Pierce) must vacate his luxury three-floor apartment and move in with Frasier (Kelsey Grammer). Much like Ross (see No. 2), Niles is an exceptionally annoying roommate (he rearranges Daphne’s [Jane Leeves] kitchen and keeps Frasier up all night with his fussy sleeping habits). Plenty of haughty Crane-brothers conflict, jokes about Noël Coward’s fountain pen, and the image of Pierce in a garish Hawaiian shirt make this episode a solid B+.
5. Jesse: Season 1, episode 7, “The Kiss,” NBC (Not currently streaming)
This may not be the worst of NBC’s “hammock” sitcoms (a.k.a. the filler shows between Must See TV hits Friends, Frasier, and ER), but boy, did Christina Applegate deserve better. In case you don’t remember it (why would you?), Applegate played the titular Jesse, a single mom/waitress living in Buffalo, who in this episode fights with her boyfriend Diego (Bruno Campos) after admitting she kissed her ex-husband Roy (Michael Weatherly). A lack of hilarity ensues. D+
*SOURCE: NIELSEN MEDIA RESEARCH