TV Guide loves Lucy - but it loves Mary just a little more.

The best television show ever, the magazine has decided, was the 1975 episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" where the WJM-TV newsroom gang mourns the death of Chuckles the Clown.It came in just ahead of Lucille Ball's tipsy turn as the Vitameatavegamin Girl.

Moore figures in four of TV Guide's picks as top 100 episodes, two as star of her eponymous 1970s series and two as Laura Petrie in "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Choosing the top episodes involved "lots of arguing, which we're still doing," among the weekly magazine's editors and the staffers from cable's Nick at Nite who were called in to help, said Steven Reddicliffe, TV Guide's editor in chief. The list appears in this week's issue.

Not only was Chuckles' demise the high point of one of television's best shows, it managed the delicate trick of getting laughs from a funeral, he said.

"It still makes you laugh and laugh uproariously," he said. "And it really opened the door for comedies to look at subject matters that they hadn't before."

Ball's 1952 "I Love Lucy" episode where she gets drunk on a health elixir designed to make "happy, peppy people" shows her talent for physical comedy "at its most vibrant and resourceful," the magazine said.

Episodes from today's two most popular shows were third and fourth on the list.

No. 3, the top drama, was a particularly hectic 1995 day on "ER" when Anthony Edwards' character misdiagnosed a pregnant woman.

In fourth place was a 1992 "Seinfeld" with former baseball star Keith Hernandez. TV Guide editors snubbed another episode, "The Contest," where Jerry and the gang try to prove who's master of their domain.

"It was the one that got the most attention, but we didn't feel it was the best one," senior editor Jill Rachlin said.

Ten series showed up twice each on the list, including three still in production: "The X-Files," "The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld."

The Vitameatavegamin Girl episode was the oldest show picked. "Ellen's" coming-out episode, ranked No. 35, was the most recent.

Editors sifted through about 750 nominees. Their arguments included one fight on whether to choose "The Brady Bunch" episode where Marcia dates former Monkee Davy Jones or the one where she gets hit in the face with a football. Davy won.

Shows that didn't make the cut included "Dallas," "Maude," "Designing Women," "The Rockford Files" and "Golden Girls."

Among those that did make the grade were some that were easy to miss, such as "On the Air," which was on the air for only three episodes in 1992.

The final tally suggests the golden age of television may be right now.

"People will argue that the '50s were," Reddicliffe said. "For this kind of list, there were a surprising number of contemporary shows - `Seinfeld,' `Frasier,' `The X-Files,' `The Simpsons.' This is a great time to be watching television. I don't think there's ever been as many great shows on."