It’s time to send the little ones to dreamland, and set your radio’s dial to “spooky.” Bolt the door, lock your windows, and steel yourself for mysterious suspense in tonight’s final features: all the Beyond Beliefs. Mostly. This list only includes episodes released on the podcast, doesn’t include multiple variations of the same episode, and only accounts for episodes from the regular series’ run (nothing beyond episode #219). But this a pretty complete list in order from ones I don’t like quite as well to one’s I can’t stop gushing over.
- Art Imitates Life (TAH #125)
I’ll be straight with you. The 7 bottom ranking episodes of the list are the ones missing either Frank or Sadie. It’s really them working off each other where the brilliance shines through.
The problem with this episode is quite simply that Frank and Sadie Doyle aren’t in it. Frank has been wished out of existence, and Sadie Parker is an art thief with her fiancé, Basil. It’s fun for what it is, and the jazzy cat burglar vibe, under other circumstances, would be great fun. But the fact that something is clearly off, and Sadie seems vaguely aware of that, makes it all a bit frustrating. And it just doesn’t feel like a Beyond Belief episode.
Also, Basil is incredibly understanding about the whole thing and really cares about Sadie, which is frustrating too, because I’d prefer to just hate him.
- Romanian Holiday (TAH #59)
Perfectly pleasant story in which Sadie and Carter Caldwell get cursed by gypsies.
Not much to it.
- The Skeleton Grief (TAH #201)
I got to see this one live. And it was great fun. And JON HAMM. But it was basically a remake of a previous episode without Sadie. It simply can’t compare.
- Rosemary’s Baby Shower (TAH #25)
Donna Henderson’s (the always excellent Janet Varney) first appearance on the podcast! Points for that for sure. She’s a super fun character.
Though I think this one created some canonical problems for the Bens with ages and birthdays and making sure they hadn’t inadvertently done away with a child off camera…or…er…headphone, but the episode itself is quite nice, if quite Frank-less.
- She Blinded Me with Séance (TAH #20)
This is a tricky one for me. Again, Frank doesn’t appear, and it was fairly early on (fifth Beyond Belief since the podcast started). I think the Bens (and Paget) were still figuring out the characters a bit, and how to handle one Doyle without the other.
Sadie acts quite a bit like Frank in this episode and has a lot of zingers and one-liners that could would probably have been delegated to Frank, were he there.
It made her character sharper and more cynical. If I’m being honest, I actually liked that! But it isn’t the same Sadie Doyle we know and love.
- Nuns the Word (TAH #68)
The reason this one gets to be ranked a little higher than some of the other missing-a-Doyle episodes (no Sadie here) is we get a lot of Frank’s backstory, which is really interesting. Well, it’s basically Constantine, but in the Beyond Belief universe.
This is the first time we truly find out about his life before Sadie, and there’s lots going on.
It’s also the only Beyond episode in which James Urbaniak appears as a character other than Nightmares (but we’ll get to him).
- Molar Express (TAH #133)
I was so sad when I woke up to a new Beyond episode Monday, and there was no Sadie. But the reason I think this episode works better than some of the others is the supporting characters carry it, and Frank’s just sort of there to fire off funny commentary.
It’s a pretty good one considering my favorite character is missing.
- Love Love Me Doom (TAH #32)
Okay, from here on out we have both Doyle’s in all the episodes.
My problem with this one is Frank and Sadie only have eyes for each other. Except here where a succubus and an incubus show up and meddle with their affections. And there’s this whole divorce fake-out, which ultimately goes nowhere.
It’s all written and performed well, but I prefer my Doyles madly in love with each other.
- Time Waits for Norman (from Christmas on Jupiter) (TAH #191)
Well, this is sad. It has funny moments and puns about time, but there’s a darkness to this episode that’s not usually present. And I feel super super bad for Norman at the end. Especially because he’s played by Jim Beaver.
But you gotta give it points for the feels.
- Forged in Flame (TAH #101)
This was one of the specials done at Meltdown Comics, and the sound is so different that it throws me a little. I think for that same reason the timing seems slightly off at times. And there are some seriously strange things (talking cookies). Sometimes that weird stuff works well and trial and error is useful. Might not quite work here, but “Scream a Little Scream” sure as shit works, so it’s worth it sometimes.
But the episode features a Sadie list, which is always exciting, and there are, as always, some enjoyable chuckles throughout.
- A Beyond Belief Valentine’s Day (TAH #106)
There are multiple stories in this one. More succubus action. Both the Doyles and Dave Henderson all fall for her, but the fighting between the three is unexpected and funny and workd a little better for me than the earlier episode on the list.
In the other story, Frank and Sadie are distressed to find that all their liquor has tragically been turned to wine. Apparently they don’t count this as alcohol. The melodrama it creates is genius executed.
They have to meet with Bacchus and Freya to get it back. The episode focuses a lot on them and I could have used a touch more of the Doyles.
- The Heart is a Lonely Haunter (TAH #159)
More melodramatic Roman gods. It’s fine. Some good jokes. It’s not written by Acker and Blacker. I miss them. But admittedly the Doyle’s dialogue is true to their voices.
Frank continually belittling cupid by calling him “flying baby” is fantastic. As is Cupid’s inability to remember if he’s Roman or Greek.
- Claus and Effect (TAH #147)
This one takes place as a story being told within a Sparks Nevada episode. Again, the Bens didn’t write it.
Jon Hamm makes an appearance. And tells bad puns! Hurray! And Santa Claus is there. He needed to make an appearance in Beyond Belief at some point. And there’s a watch out what you wish for moral at the end.
- Gory Gory Hallelujah (TAH #197)
Come for Misha Collins and Keegan-Michael Key playing angels, stay for the nicknames of the Doyle’s auction friends.
This isn’t so far down the list because it isn’t funny, there’s just a lot of good stuff to come that I had to make room for.
- Bah, Murderbug (from The Full Christmas Episode from December 2011) (TAH #98)
If you’ve never wondered what it would be like for the embodiment of the past present and future to argue with each other, then you’re missing out. If you have, it probably went something like this.
The segment’s part of a larger Christmas special. It’s a reworking of A Christmas Carol (as the title suggests), but with Frank and Sadie being put in the Scrooge role by some confused ghosts.
- The Deceased Charm of the Bourgeoisie (TAH #129)
We actually see the Doyle’s at an auction with the most ridiculous people with the most ridiculous names.
Annie Savage is pure gold in this episode (both when her character is possessed and isn’t) and Joshua Malina as the bartender was a cute in-joke for the fans (get it? Because he plays the barkeep in Sparks Nevada).
- Making Spirits Fight (TAH #114)
Remember the ghosts from Bah Murderbug? They’re back! In this follow-up story, the Scrooge character has been correctly identified by the ghosts and goes to the Doyle’s for help, resulting in one of Frank’s better lines, considering the context: “The Dickens you say!”
The ghost of Christmas future, who didn’t appear in the previous episode, appears here, and he’s the worst in the truly best way, and the ghost of Christmas present’s infatuation with him is hysterical.
- How to Spell Revenge (TAH #109)
Give it up for the witch coven, complete with Linda Cardellini, and Molly Quinn, and MARC EVAN JACKSON.
The idea of Frank and Sadie joining a book club is hilarious (and totally out of character, but the incongruity is explained by the end). It aslo included one of my favorite Sadie lines: “remind me how we know you, darling. Did we drop a house on your sister?”
- The Skeleton Brief (TAH #192)
This is the episode “The Skeleton Grief” remade. Sadie just makes things that much better. The Doyles have some really sweet moments together in this episode that, of course, play best when they’re both it.
There are a few “oh. no!” moments throughout, but by the end, karma settles everything into a fair and balanced conclusion.
- Bon Viv-Haunt (TAH #164)
It rare for Beyond Belief to consist of a good old-fashioned haunted house story, so this is an enjoyable outlier. Of course, the trope is flipped on its ear since the Doyles have been approached by a ghost to see if they can do anything about his house’s…human problem.
The best thing about this episode is that the Doyles have to pretend to be ghost, which Frank is over the moon about.
Of course, they don’t make very good ghosts, but they still get their job done by reconciling the real ghosts with the humans in the house.
- A Dave at the Races (TAH #54)
Donna Henderson’s husband, Dave (a werewolf), rarely appears in person (or in voice) on the podcast, despite the fact that he’s talked about quite a bit, but this episode is all about him.
The usual clinks have been replaced in this episode the Law & Order dun-dun sound (I laugh after every one). And the episode features A HORSE-WOLF; DO I NEED MORE OF A REASON? NO, I DO NOT.
- Winter of the House of Usher (from Christmas on Mars) (TAH #52)
If Edgar Allen Poe had written How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it would have gone something like this. I didn’t immediately love this one, but after hearing it a few times, I realized I hadn’t been giving it the credit it deserved.
As if the premise weren’t enough, the narrative gets the Doyle’s out of the house by letting them run out of booze and forcing them to go wassailing, despite not knowing any Christmas songs.
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang You’re Dead (TAH #37)
Frank and Sadie have a car! And Frank is driving! But the car is evil. Like Christine. But even more comical.
A lot of the humor in this one comes from the dialogue suggesting and over explaining what’s visually happening that the audience can’t see. That and the danger of sobriety sneaking up on Frank and Sadie.
- All About Evil (TAH #214)
This episode gets meta with itself. All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard are both called to mind when hearing these outrageous characters speak.
We’re treated to more crazy nicknames and old style movie speak. This is one of those episodes where the Doyle’s are very much observers and just need to nudge the action in the right direction now and again. It finds strength in its ensemble.
- Three Strikes You’re Dead (TAH #204)
Baseball playing ghosts, while not entirely original, are always fun. Baseball playing ghosts that suck at playing baseball are a delight.
The switched roles of a dad (who happens to be a ghost) trying to make his son proud by being a good ballplayer, is very endearing. And Frank and Sadie in the country? Fantastic.
- Scream a Little Scream (TAH #189)
Really really weird. Even by Beyond Belief standards. But I kind of dig it. A lot. Like a lot a lot. The episode has an atypical feel and structure. Most of it takes place in a cast of characters’ dreams. I mean, yeah, it’s based on Charlie and Chocolate Factory, but that’s why it’s so wacky.
It’s Frank at his most sardonic, while we discover Sadie’s love for children’s books. They are met in the dream world by Frank’s imaginary friend, Busby, a “grump,” and Sadie’s imaginary friend, Huckleberry Beanstalk, who’s “appallingly upbeat.” And one of the most fun things about the episode is the casting of Cecil Baldwin (Welcome to Night Vale) as the dream monster (not to be confused with Nightmares the clown monster, but we’re still getting to him), with a voice like rich poisonous molasses.
- When Cthulu Cthalls (TAH #153)
Great stuff. Tight script, focused without too much meandering and just flat out funny. I listen to it often.
Two Mormon-esque doomsday nutjobs (played by Psych’s Timothy Omundson and Maggie Lawson, both of whom are hysterical) try to use the baby Henderson as a vessel for a god, but Donna and the Doyles are having none of it. To really appreciate it, you should give it a listen.
- Caped Fear (TAH #96)
It’s not the first time we meet Mark Gagliardi’s vampire character, Carlylse Ravencastle, Dark Husband to the Midnight, but that doesn’t make it any less funny. He really puts the vamp in vampire. Who else could get away with referring to Frank as a juice box?
The Doyle’s can’t both be thralled at the same time (the vampires aren’t powerful enough), and the alternation of the thrall between Frank and Sadie is excellent.
- Cursed at First Bite (TAH #122)
Of all the things that could bite you, it was rather surprising that the “monster” in this story is a doll. But, like any vampire or werewolf, let it bite you and you become one too. A fate that befalls Frank, leaving it to Sadie to save the day.
I don’t like dolls. They scare me. In spite of that fact, I find this episode to be very enjoyable. It also has a recurring song, sung by a chorus of dolls, which is entertaining.
- Vampire Weekend (TAH #48)
Sadie turns into a vampire! Sadie with superpowers isn’t normally something I’d be against, but we can’t let her turn into a monster, so Donna is called to help.
Donna nearly ruins everything by wanting so badly to get to vampire around town with Sadie (again, part of me likes this idea, but what about Frank?), but eventually Donna does the right thing and helps save Sadie. Because Donna’s awesome, and she’d never let Sadie be a vampire (unless Sadie asked to be).
- The Yesterday Shop on Today Street (TAH #88)
A Twilight Zone episode. 100% We’re all familiar with this plot, but in true TAH fashion, some humor is infused.
The episode is appropriately creepy and mysterious, which Frank and Sadie have zero time for. The archetypes of the other characters are all spot on, and they still found time to make references to Lost and “Hotel California.”
- The Bloodsucker Proxy (TAH #172)
I think this was the first episode I saw one of these shows at Largo, the proper Thrilling Adventure Hour venue.
First of all, major points for the title. A pun on my favorite Coen brothers movie (don’t judge me).
This one has some of the more outlandish characters in it (you’re killin’ us, Gags!) with all different styles of vampires thrown together in one location. It’s like What We Do in the Shadows, but with Frank and Sadie (so even better).
- It’s a Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad World (TAH #219)
The grand finale. Yes, of COURSE I cried, and if you’re a fan and say you didn’t, then you’re a liar.
This is also the first episode on this list in which Nightmares appears (he’s so good that every episode he appears in ranks within the top 20). He’s the big bad of the whole series, an evil clown and Frank’s childhood bogeyman. Other than Frank and Sadie, he’s gotta be the best character in the series. His voice is compliments of James Urbaniak. The combination of his performance with the Bens writing is damn near perfection, and it kills me that I never got to see a Nightmares episode live.
But this episode is a petri dish of all the baddies from the show as they descend on the Doyles all at once. Frank and Sadie vs. every monster they’ve ever had to face.
There was a heart sinking moment in the beginning when I thought they might actually end the series by killing Frank and Sadie (but keeping them together in the afterlife). Luckily, they didn’t go that dark. Nightmares makes them face their two greatest fears: sobriety and the Doyles being separated from each other. But Frank overcomes both with a truly epic speech, with the courage he gets from Sadie.
- Hell is the Loneliest Number (TAH #1)
For being the first episode and “finding its feet,” this is a very solid showing. Already introducing reoccurring characters and setting the tone. It’s so funny and so well done that it deserves this spot on the list.
You can see where the idea may have evolved and changed. Frank and Sadie seem to be more benevolent later on, while still sardonic and cutting, but their early assholery is still a ton of fun to listen to.
- Son of Beyond Belief & Ladies and Skeleton (TAH #143)
That song though! This episode opens with Creepy Hal singing an original song that gives me chills and is amazing in every way.
This is two episodes, but they were released together, so I’m ranking them as one. “Son of Beyond Belief” began so strange. Frank and Sadie with a child? What could be more terrifying than that? It turns out to be my own personal nightmare, because their son is actually Pinocchio. There’s nothing scarier than marionette puppets. But Frank and Sadie are particularly cutting in this episode. So funny.
“Ladies and Skeleton” introduces us to, Catherine, Frank’s dead lover (she was pre-Sadie). Sadie, being amazing, shows next to no jealousy and wants to save Catherine from the calaca she’s trapped by. Frank manages to kill the calaca with one of my favorite lines in the show: “a gun, won at auction, belonged to noted playwright and werewolf hunter, Anton Chekov. Perhaps I should have mentioned it earlier.” Then Creepy Hal sings a reprise of that awesome song.
- The Devil and Mr. Jones (TAH #10)
Pterodactyl Jones! I always love when PJ’s in an episode (which is a lot less often than I thought). He isn’t even consistently played by any one actor (Patton Oswalt plays him in this episode), But the old-timey detective dialogue the Bens write for him is unmatched.
This episode treats us to a gross leprechaun (thanks, Gags), a femme fatale, and plenty of use of the word “dame.”
- Second Star to the Wrong (TAH #15)
Properly creepy. Like, for reals. A pan shows up, and he’s just creepy. But the Doyles are there, and they’re just funny. The resulting balance is absolute perfection. Gorgeous.
It takes the Doyles about an hour to answer the door, being continually distracted by each other and drinks, we get another reference to the bee incident, and Sadie’s delight at the Pan’s goat legs is exactly the type of thing I listen to the show for.
- Basil’s Day (TAH #149)
Unlike when Sadie meets Frank’s ex-lover, Frank is insanely jealous to meet Sadie’s ex-lover, and it’s very entertaining.
The demons are hilarious, and the first time the demon in the girl is revealed is so surprising, it gets a huge laugh.
A big reason for this being so high on the list is the crowd’s reaction to what’s probably the dirtiest joke ever to appear in the Thrilling Adventure Hour. While performing an exorcism, the Doyles take the possessed girl into their room and the girl’s father asks, “ropes on the bed? Do you do a lot of exorcisms?” There was clearly something more that happened onstage that the podcast audience can’t see. There’s the longest pause I think TAH ever had, while they wait for the audience to stop laughing.
- Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Corpse (TAH #156)
I love a good Bloody Mary story. She’s one of the urban legends that even I was aware of in my sheltered youth.
A quarter of the episode is just Frank and Sadie talking about various types of liquor before, while concocting a Bloody Mary (like, the drink), they summon Bloody Mary (like, the spirit). It turns out that Bloody Mary is an incredibly precious character. The Doyle’s are shocked to find they like her too, and they all become friends.
- Touch of Keeble (TAH #140)
Breakfast in bed, Doyle-style (“j’adore meals taken pajama clad”), compliments of sinister…elves? Like in the fairytale of the elves and the shoemaker, the elves pretend that they’re just trying to be helpful. They sing a whole song about it.
Of course, they want to steal Frank and Sadie’s happiness. That’s when they start to get creepy. Seem slightly off genre? The Doyles think so too. Until they meet the Grentel. This one provides lots of giggles.
- The Haunting of Howard Schroeder (TAH #93)
Excuse me a sec, I have to talk more about the brilliance that is Nightmares the clown! He’s gonna start showing up a lot. He and his monstrous carnival theme music. Why do I love Nightmares so much? Well, he’s something Frank fears for one thing. And something Sadie loves for another.
This episode features another reference to the bee incident, a capital exposition scene, the ghost of the kid Frank and Howie got killed, and some truly over the top sound effects that evoke quite the reaction from the audience and the actors.
- Stabbin’ in the Woods (TAH #208)
Steve Agee, you magnificent bastard. This is one of the several episodes I was lucky enough to see live, and the physical characterization of the baddie made me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed in my entire laugh. Obviously, that’s missing from the podcast, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious. Every word that comes out of his mouth is also expertly and comically executed. You can hear all the other actors snickering throughout.
A flubbed line leads Arden Myrin and Paul F. Tompkins on a several minute long riff that will leave you in stitches.
The Doyles are successfully kidnapped (which NEVER happens) and terrorized by a madman. The phrase “ride the pony” still gives me the shivers. And the giggles.
- Prelude to a Fish (TAH #167)
This is another one that really benefits from having an ensemble. Several actors star as woodland animals who are invested in the love story between a lagoon monster and a mermaid. Lagoon monsters and mermaids? Yes, please.
A recurring and increasingly ominous rendition of a “Kiss the Girl” style song, “Oolee oolee oolee,” is quite possibly the best part of the episode and made it an instant favorite of many fans.
- Teenagers of the Corn (TAH #63)
I’M NEVER TRUSTING JAMES URBANIAK IN A BEYOND BELIEF EPISODE EVER AGAIN. HE MAY SPEND THE VAST MAJORITY UNDER THE GUISE OF ANOTHER CHARACTER, THEN BAM! HE’S “A BOOGIDY MAN WITH FLOPPITY SHOES.”NIGHTAMES THE CLOWN. AND IT WILL BE GLORIOUS. Hurray!
This episode also features a Joe Cocker sound-alike version of “A Little Help from My Friends,” and the Doyles are non-plussed by the creepy and disturbing events happening in the town (“boo hoo, I can fly. That’s you!”). Then Nightmares shows up and they figure they better get involved.
- Werewolf of Wall Street (TAH #183)
This is normally the kind of premise I would hate: memory erasure, Frank and Sadie not being a couple, the Doyle’s lives taken over by different people, complete mistaken identities. And…IT ALL WORKS SO WELL.
It’s nice to see how Frank acts without his penthouse, money, booze, and wife. Turns out he’s a much more decent person than a lot of us probably give him credit for. And still in love with Sadie, who to no one’s surprise in a supervisor position, and just like in real life, is the boss of Frank. The other characters are all fun as well. Particularly funny.
- Goatbusters (TAH #72)
I love a good chupacabra story. Partially because chupacabra is the most fun to say. Bonus points: both Gillian Jacobs and Natalie Morales guest star.
Sadie’s explanation of how she will count a single sheep and what she’d call it, her excitement at the idea of meeting a farmer, as well as her carrying on about a dream she had about herself and Frank as newspaper reporters, makes this a brilliant Sadie episode.
- The Devil You Know (TAH #116)
Nightmares and Pterodactyl Jones?! In the same episode?! Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?
This is an episode’s worth of the best lines the show has ever had. I can’t call any out, because the entire episode is the best writing to ever happen on TAH. This episode includes Frank and Sadie getting into a film noir-off, a trip to hell, and a precious three-headed dog. I defy anyone to find anything about this episode that isn’t topnotch.
- White Hunter, Drunk Heart (TAH #42)
The granddaddy of the Sadie says a list episodes (not the longest, but likely the best), hearing the Doyle’s idea of roughing it in the savannah is marvelous.
In lesser hands this episode might seem to be in bad taste (our heroes are shooting animal for sport after all), but the snarky idiot gods they end up feuding with, Sadie’s glee at every damn thing that happens, and Frank’s excitement at getting to use the word “bag” make everything exceedingly dear.
- Sarcophagus Now (TAH #80)
This episode is tailor made for me. An Indiana Jones style mummy adventure story with cat-goddess, Bast? Every Bast line is my favorite, and the way they all act around her is also my favorite. Who doesn’t like cat jokes?
And if Bast and the mummy, Kathuset, aren’t already the best guest characters, at the end, Chachacat, the fire demon, shows up. Is there anyone else you’d rather hang out with? I think not.
- Djinn and Tonic (TAH #76)
“I’m the geeeeeeeenie from the bottle!” Sparks Nevada may have gotten the musical episode, but Djinn and Tonic is like a mini-musical. And we get to hear J.K. Simmons sing an increasingly dramatic rendition of his refrain every few minutes.
Add on the fact that Frank and Sadie basically spend the rest of the episode doing an Abbott and Costello routine, and you’re in for a treat. Delightful.
- Wishing Hell (TAH #5)
The best. The. Best. No, no. I don’t care if it’s not your favorite. Your favorite is wrong. Unless it’s “Wishing Hell,” because it’s the best.
It’s Stand By Me meets It, we’re introduced to Nightmares, and Frank and Sadie defeat the monster together in equal measure. It’s the first time, so Sadie’s delight upon meeting a clown is unexpected and a truly joyous thing.
Love love love love love.