TV 2006 – The Cream of the Crop

HeroesTop tens are always so objective – they're colored by one's liking or disliking of specific genres; whether there's substance to the choices; even whether there's diversity. For the season of 2005/6, these are the shows that kept me coming back for more…

…in alphabetical order:

24

This year's "day" was the best since the show's debut season. Smart, twisted, adrenaline-pumping fun and crazy cool performances from Gregory Itzin and Jean smart helped to elevate the show – not that easy to do when the premiere killed two much-loved characters and almost killed another. Plus, the return of Commando chloe! What's not to love?

Battlestar Galactica

In this remarkably delicately balanced series, creator Ronald D. Moore and his creative team examine war, faith, ethics/morals, and more – and they do it within the constraints of a weekly one-hour drama. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer before it, BSG gets no respect from the masses because its title, but it works on every possible level – and to such an extent that one can only feel sorry for those whose memories of the over-the-top eighties' series prevent them from even checking it out.

Deadwood

David Milch's poetically vulgar, brutal western is filled with historical accuracy, informed whimsy, and a cast that amazes time and again. Any series that can give Ian MacShane and Robin Weigart the opportunity to do their stuff… that's worth watching! When that same series attracts actors like Molly Parker, Timothy Olyphant, Brad Dourif, and Alice Krige, you've definitely got something special.

Dexter

Based on the books by Jeff Lindsay, this series revolves around a serial killer who only targets other serial killers. Michael C. Hall [Six Feet Under] is amazing as the self-proclaimed monster who works as a blood spatter expert for the Miami police, while secretly finding and eliminating those of his ilk who had the misfortune of not having a very smart cop for an adoptive father. The series is smart, funny, weird, creepy and – most importantly – entertaining.

Grey's Anatomy

The most ethnically diverse cast on TV because they were the best actors for the roles. That's unique, in and of itself. The interweaving of medical emergencies and the complex relationships of a large group of fully realized characters makes this a series that contains boundless possibilities for both drama and humor – and switches back and forth [frequently in the space of a sentence]. Quite possibly the most purely entertaining hour on TV – and creator Shonda Rimes didn't even have to dumb it down for a common-denominator audience [don't you love shows that assume their audience is intelligent?].

 

Dexter at Work

 

Heroes

A number of random individuals around the world wake to discover that they have superpowers. Then we learn that there is someone killing them. This basic comic book superhero conceit is made appealing by the way the various characters react [some love being different; other just want to be normal – whatever that is], and a prophecy of nuclear destruction for New York City. By keeping the characters real, the show's writers make it possible to enjoy their increasingly unreal adventures.

Lost

Even with the lull that was the first six episodes of season three, Lost still more thought-provoking and enthralling than the vast majority of TV dramas. Now that we're learning more about The Others, it's beginning to look like some of the fan theories out there are, at least potentially, somewhat on target. Between developing its characters in unusual ways, turning the most unexpected things in to cliffhangers, and generally playing the viewers' minds as well as the characters', the show's creative team has created a unique world.

My Name Is Earl

This philosophical trailer trash sitcom assumes that there is an audience that is familiar with concepts like karma – and then plays directly to them. The redemption of Earl Hickey is funny not because he's a redneck, but because of his enthusiasm – every time he tries to make up for one of his bad deeds, he goes so over the top that one can't help but laugh. Jaime Pressly adds a kick as his ex-wife, Joy, and the friendship between Earl and Joy's current husband is refreshingly different.

Ugly Betty

This Americanization of a wildly popular telenovela is smart, funny, melodramatic and emotionally satisfying. Betty, of course, is the less-than-pretty assistant to the new editor for Mode Magazine – the bible of the fashion conscious. Despite the number of people determined to oust said editor – and the complexities of her personal life – Betty always moves forward. Played by the rather gorgeous America Ferrara, the dowdy Betty is this year's breakout character.

Veronica Mars

The contemporary Nancy Drew continued to be smart, funny and vulnerable while solving the mysteries of the school bus killer and the campus rapist. The series remains remarkable for having a father who is neither dim nor ignorant, and the shadings given to characters who initially seemed like complete jerks [Logan and Weevil] is refreshing.

Honorable Mentions

House

Sherlock Holmes in a hospital, this is a star vehicle for Hugh Laurie as the curmudgeonly Dr. Gregory House – who became a doctor mostly because they are seen as being right, but turns out to be quite the diagnostic genius. As the series progresses, and the supporting cast gets more to do, the show is rounding into an excellent drama – but even when Laurie's House was the main [or rather, only real] attraction, it stood well above the crowd.

My Boys

I would have thought that I'd tire of a sitcom where the female sportswriter seems unable to express herself without using baseball analogies – but such turns out to not be the case. This series about a woman who is "one of the boys" [plays poker, eats junk food, watches the game, etc.], but still has a feminine side [even if she's not always sure of how to access it], turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year.

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