To vote in this lineup, scroll to the poll at the bottom of the page, then head back to the bracket to see all of round one of The Best Pop Culture Dream Sequence, The A.V. Club’s no-holds-barred competition to see which dream sequence from TV or film deserves the title, “Greatest Of All Time.”
Looking back, it makes a certain twisted sense for Bob Newhart’s second major sitcom to be revealed as nothing but a dream. After all, the funniest Newhart conversations often feel like bad dreams, with harried innkeeper Dick Loudon—inheriting the “only sane man” mantle held by predecessors like Green Acres’ Eddie Albert—unable to find the right holes to poke in the idiotic arguments put forward by his ever-invasive neighbors, like Tom Poston’s bumbling handyman George, or Peter Scolari’s fast-talking city boy Michael. After eight seasons spent suffering through the rampaging inanity, it must have come as something of a relief, then, for Dick to learn that his entire time at Vermont’s Stratford Inn was just a figment of someone else’s imagination. Not just anyone, either: The show’s final scene reveals that all of Newhart‘s circular logic, destitute heiresses, and taciturn backwoods brothers existed in the sushi-tortured mind of Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley, the protagonist of Newhart’s earlier hit sitcom The Bob Newhart Show. Serving as a fun nose-thumbing to the shocking “it’s all a dream” endings that became fashionable in ‘80s TV, “The Last Newhart” is also a fantastic joke in its own right—especially when Newhart turns to his secret guest star (and former TV wife) Suzanne Pleshette to suggest she dress more like the “beautiful blonde” (Mary Frann) he was married to in his dream.
Mad Men, “Waterloo” (2014)
Mad Men dream sequences are often tormented, violent, and unnerving glimpses into the psyches of its characters. Not, however, Don Draper’s vision of Bert Cooper performing a song and dance number in socks to “The Best Things In Life Are Free” at the end of the seventh season episode “Waterloo.” Though brought on by Don’s grief, it’s bright and toe-tapping, both poignant and utterly fun. Don is escaping the staff meeting where Roger announces Bert’s death, when he hears his old boss’ voice call, “Don, my boy.” He launches into the tune a cappella, but is soon joined by a chorus of choreographed secretaries and a full score. When he’s done, Don is left holding back tears. Out of context, it’s a nod to actor Robert Morse’s legacy and the series’ ingenious casting: He was in the original Broadway production and the film version of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. In the world of the Mad Men, it serves as a sweet send-off to the kooky ad man, while also speaking to the show’s persistent anxiety over the push and pull between financial success and unbridled creativity.