It’s almost impossible to overstate the magnitude of the transformation that television has undergone since the start of the 21st century. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, The Office, Chappelle’s Show, Survivor, Lost and many others changed television forever in the first decade of this century. But, 2010s television certainly met—and quite possibly even exceeded—the heights that the small screen reached from 2000-2009. While the expansion of cable networks near the start of this century led to a stark advancement in both quality and quantity, the rise of steaming that came between the years of 2010-2019 took things to a completely new level.
Considering just how great TV was throughout the course of this past decade, it’s understandable why so many debates have taken place regarding what was the single best episode to air over those 10 years. The same titles tend to come up over and over again when people compile lists of their greatest TV episodes of the 2010s. Some of these titles include Mad Men‘s “The Suitcase,” Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias,” Atlanta‘s “Teddy Perkins,” The Leftovers‘ “Guest,” Game of Throne‘s “Blackwater” and “The Rains of Castamere,” The Good Place‘s “Michael’s Gambit,” and Community‘s “Remedial Chaos Theory.” While all the episodes I just mentioned are legitimately incredible, I happen to think there is one episode that stands above all of them. Not only do I consider this episode to be greater than the eight I just mentioned, I think it’s greater than any of the best episodes from True Detective Season One, Black Mirror, Sherlock, West World, Barry, Succession, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Rick and Morty, or any of the other shows that helped define the 2010s. The episode I’m referring to did not air on a fancy cable network like HBO, it did not air on a traditional network like NBC or Fox, nor did it air on a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Instead, it aired on the fledgling and scarcely-consumed channel Fusion back in 2016. It is the ninth episode of The Chris Gethard Show‘s second season entitled “One Man’s Trash.”
I apologize if you’re unfamiliar with The Chris Gethard Show. Unfortunately for you, it is one of the most difficult shows of all time to describe to someone who has never seen it. Obviously, it was the brain child of comedian, improviser, and actor Chris Gethard. It actually started off as a live show at UCB, then in 2011, it debuted on public access television where it found a cult following. Eventually, it moved to Fusion in 2015 and ran for two seasons before moving to truTV for its final season. I suppose it would be most accurate to label it a variety talk show, but The Chris Gethard Show really does not fit in any one traditional television genre. Throughout the run of the show, Gethard created some of the most experimental and weird TV episodes of all time. For instance, there was the 2015 episode “Sleep Deprivation,” in which Gethard along with the rest of the show’s regulars decided to see what it would be like to shoot a television show after being awake for 36 hours straight. The result was essentially Gethard sharing his feelings and vulnerabilities with a fully rested Seth Meyers for 30 minutes. If that episode description doesn’t sound like something you would be interested in, then The Chris Gethard Show is probably not for you.
There is one episode of The Chris Gethard Show—especially from the post public access era—that stands above the rest for me. That episode is obviously the aforementioned “One Man’s Trash.” Here is the IMDB plot synopsis for this episode, that I consider to be the greatest TV work of the past decade: “Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas join us to guess what’s in a dumpster we found. Seriously, there’s something awesome in this dumpster.” That’s it. Gethard placed a dumpster in the middle of his studio—then Scheer, Mantzoukas, and the audience had to guess what was inside of said dumpster. Somehow that resulted in the funniest 43 minutes of television that I have ever seen.
It’s hard to write about why this episode is so incredible, because a lot of its greatness is due to the reveal of what’s actually inside the dumpster. I’ll just say there is a stroke of coincidence/dumb-luck that occurs early on in this episode that results in a plot twist greater than anything a room full of the world’s top TV writers could come up with, even if they were given a full year. Ignoring spoilers though, I can say that the chemistry between Mantzoukas, Gethard, and Scheer is another one of the main reasons why this episode is so marvelous. When watching this episode, not only is it clear that these three men are hilarious, it’s clear that they are all very good friends who are comfortable enough around each other to basically use an hour of TV to fuck around. To be fair, it’s mostly Mantzoukas and Scheer who are getting the joy out of fucking around. But, it’s wonderful to see Gethard’s many attempts to get the show back on track fail, as Mantzoukas and Scheer continue to cause chaos. Any fans of the “How Did This Get Made?” podcast knows how great this duo can be together, and watching them essentially take over Gethard’s show is one of the most satisfying experiences you’ll ever have.
As I previously stated, it’s hard for me to get into the details on what makes this episode so amazing without spoiling the ultimate reveal. This means that you’re just going to have to watch it for yourself to understand the true brilliance of “One Man’s Trash.” Luckily, this episode is available for free on Youtube. I encourage everyone to watch it, and to consider where it would rank on their own lists of the greatest television episodes of the 2010s. For me, it’s number one*.
*It’s probably not really number one, but it’s fun to share a hot take every once in a while and more people need to learn about this episode, so fuck it.