Bullz-Eye.com's TV Power Rankings, Spring 2007 Edition, best TV shows, spring TV

Bullz-Eye's TV Power Rankings: Spring 2007 Edition

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Since the dawn of creation -- well, the creation of this feature, anyway -- Jack Bauer sat atop our TV Power Rankings, owning the #1 slot for better than a year and a half. Some would say it was only a matter of time, but now that it's finally happened, the sudden fall from grace of Fox's hit show "24" is actually a lot more embarrassing than it is depressing. But the real-time thriller isn't the only major shakeup in the latest edition of our TV Power Rankings. HBO's "The Wire" makes its grand (and, forgive us, long overdue) debut, while NBC experienced a big surge thanks to its fresh fall lineup. Of course, HBO still came out the big winner with five shows emerging in the Top 10 (four in the first six), proving once again that it pays to, well, pay for quality television.

Looking for more on your favorite shows from our list? We've included links to DVD reviews and series blogs below, as well as several related interviews, including Jim True-Frost ("The Wire"), Jack Coleman and Adrian Pasdar & Milo Ventimiglia ("Heroes"), Josh Radnor ("How I Met Your Mother"), and Tina Fey & Jane Krakowski ("30 Rock").

1. The Wire HBO Last: NR

A formal apology is due to the producers of HBO’s “The Wire.” Up until now, we’ve failed to recognize this wonderful series as one of the best on television, and despite the fact that it was technically off the air during past editions of our semi-annual rankings, it’s a bit embarrassing to look back and find absolutely no mention of it on any of our lists. Of course, we’re more than making up for that now by naming the urban crime drama as our number one pick. Knocking a ratings monster (and staff favorite) like “24” down from its pedestal isn’t an easy thing, either. It takes a lot more than solid writing and excellent performances to achieve such a feat, but “The Wire” delivers on just about every level imaginable. True, past seasons of the show have proved just as remarkable – with an almost documentary-like look into the criminal and political underworlds of Baltimore – but this year’s storyline, involving the city school system (namely four friends and their forced transition into adulthood), was without a doubt the best the series has ever produced. This year also brought us the election of a new mayor, the rise of a new drug lord, and the death of a beloved recurring character, but perhaps the show’s most mind-boggling accomplishment is the way they managed to relegate the show’s main star (Dominic West) to a rarely seen supporting role and still churn out one of the best seasons in television history. ~Jason Zingale

DON'T MISS: The Wire Blog l Jim True-Frost interview

2. Heroes NBC Last: NR

At first glance, “Heroes” sounded like it was taken straight out of the “Misfits of Science” series bible – a bunch of average people turn out to be superheroes – so there was understandable skepticism about the show’s chances for success. Suddenly, however, NBC kicked off a massive promotional blitz, and even pessimists began to wonder if this might be the must-see show of the 2006-07 fall season…which, of course, was wise of them, given that that’s exactly what “Heroes” turned out to be. There are half a dozen (or more) subplots going on at any given moment, but it hangs remarkably well, offering a blend of action, drama, and even the occasional laugh or two. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the show, however, has been the phenomenal acting; in a show that could’ve theoretically coasted by on special effects alone, we’ve nonetheless seen some of the best dramatic work to date by actors like Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman, the mind-reading cop) and Ali Larter (Niki Sanders, the stripper who shares her mind and body with the personality of her dead sister). The breakout role, however, belongs to Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, who can manipulate the space-time continuum; if he never does another series as long as he lives, he’ll be able to travel the sci-fi convention circuit for the rest of his life as a Guest of Honor. As of this writing, Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) may yet blow up New York City…and the thing about “Heroes” is that, with all of its dark twists and turns, honestly, you believe it could happen. And that’s why we keep tuning in every week. ~Will Harris

DON'T MISS: Heroes Blog l Jack Coleman interview l Adrian Pasdar & Milo Ventimiglia interview l Ali Larter, Santiago Cabrera & Tim Kring interview

3. Entourage HBO Last: 2

You’ve got to love when a show does it, especially if said show has a history of not doing it. In the season-one finale of “Entourage,” Eric (Kevin Connolly) was ready to hop onto a plane and head back to New York before Vince (Adrian Grenier) caved and made E his manager. In the final episode of season two, Vince seemed intent on walking away from James Cameron’s “Aquaman” because he couldn’t handle working with ex-girl Mandy Moore, but before the credits rolled we learned Vince changed his mind during a sit-down with Cameron. Sorry, but *yawn*. Granted, we’re not clamoring for some contrived cliffhanger finale, but we’d also prefer to be spared the easy ending where everything is so neatly and conveniently wrapped up in the season’s closing moments. Fortunately, no such tidy conclusions were reached last season when Vince and E agreed it was time to cut ties with longtime agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Fans of the show know “Entourage” wouldn’t survive without the caustic Ari, so heading into April’s fourth season, the question isn’t if, but when Vinny and Eric reunite with Ari. However and whenever it happens, we’re just glad the writers had the grapes to choose complex and messy over neat and tidy for a change. ~Jamey Codding

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Entourage Blog

4. The Office NBC Last:4

Last time around, we said that the one-two comedic punch of “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” was the most solid pairing presently on the air. Well, as is evident from its drop in our rankings, “Earl” isn’t quite the must-see show it was last year…but, conversely, “The Office” is now arguably even better. You can ask what’s changed, but it’s hard to narrow down what elements led to the increase in quality. Was it the addition of new writers Jennifer Celotta (“Greg the Bunny,” “Malcolm in the Middle”) and the team of Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”)? Or was it that the creators of the original UK version of “The Office,” Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, contributed a script this season? Maybe it was the move to bring in guest directors like Harold Ramis, Joss Whedon, and J.J. Abrams…or possibly the addition of new blood to the cast, like Ed Helms (Andy) and Rashida Jones (Karen). Whatever the case, while Michael never fails to make us cringe with his thoughts, words, and deeds, we’re still laughing at him harder than ever…but, to our surprise, we’ve also been thrilling to the ongoing unrequited romance between Pam and Jim, the unexpected relationship between Michael and Jan, and the secret trysts shared by Dwight and Angela. Three years into its run, “The Office” is still managing that delicate two-step where we laugh at its characters as much as we care about them…and we couldn’t be happier about it. ~WH

DON'T MISS: Season two DVD review l The Office Blog

5. The Sopranos HBO Last: 6

This is it, kids. After eight years, one of the most popular shows in television history is coming to an end, and we’re not really sure how we feel about it. On the one hand, it’s always sad to see one of your favorites close up shop for good, but on the other hand, we can’t shake the feeling that the time is right. The first part of season six, which aired last year, was very good, and yet most agree that it wasn’t quite up to snuff with the show’s earlier work. The reasons are certainly up for debate, but many who pontificate on the demise of “The Sopranos” will tell you creator David Chase doesn’t kill enough people anymore. Sorry, but we’re not buying that. In particular, one high-profile show on our list seems to have fallen into the annoying habit of needlessly killing off characters to goose their ratings and popularity, a trend that contributed to the show’s seven-spot freefall in our rankings. Chase, meanwhile, chooses his spots carefully, as he did last year with the Vito Spatafore storyline. Sure, Chase could’ve knocked Vito off much earlier than he did, and he could’ve been whacking made guys like Chris and Paulie all along the way, but thankfully he knew better. So when Adrianna and Big Pussy did meet their maker, it actually meant something. Will the body count rise come April when “The Sopranos” begins its final nine-episode run, and will Tony (James Gandolfini) be included in that count? We’ll find out soon enough, but whatever happens, at least we know Chase won’t start mowing down characters just to beef up his show’s popularity. There’s no need. ~JC

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Season three l Season four l Season five l Season six, part one l The Sopranos Blog

6. Rome HBO Last: 18

HBO is the perfect network for a show like this. The pagan religions of ancient Rome weren't very conservative, so sex and violence (often at the same time!) play huge roles in the show's various storylines. The first season of "Rome" chronicled the rise of Julius Caesar and ended with his grisly murder on the floor of the Senate. He left all of his money to young Octavian, who is now proving to be a worthy adversary to Mark Antony and the Senators of Rome. Although politics are at the forefront, the series is really about the friendship of two real-life soldiers, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, who sometimes shape the events of Rome and are sometimes shaped by them. Earlier this season, Lucius spiraled into a deep depression – which bordered on madness – when he learned that his children were raped and murdered at the hands of a bitter enemy. Ever loyal, Titus stayed by his side, but even he couldn't get through to his friend until he learned that the children were indeed alive. Now Lucius is struggling to keep his family together in spite of its dark past. The story, acting and production values are superb, and the show exceeds even HBO's high standards by producing what looks and feels like another chapter in a major motion picture each and every week. The show was terrific in its first season, but its twelve-spot jump in our rankings reflects its improvement (or is it sustained excellence?) in its second season. The history of Rome is vast, and the show has a wealth of compelling stories to draw from, but HBO has announced that due to mediocre ratings and high production costs, this will be its final season. As it turns out, "Rome" isn't the heir to the throne of "The Sopranos." Instead, sadly, it's a bastard stepchild, just like "Deadwood." ~John Paulsen

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Rome Blog

7. Battlestar Galactica Sci-Fi Last: 19

What began as an odd concept – Ronald Moore’s re-imagining of the cheesy ‘70s series – has become the gold standard for sci-fi television. In 2005, Time Magazine and Rolling Stone called it the best show on TV, and it has yet to disappoint. The series is now in the middle of its third season and the human fleet is once again trying to keep the Cylons off their tail. They started the season on a planet under Cylon occupation, but executed a bold plan to escape their clutches. They’re back on the trail to Earth, but they have to make sure the Cylons don’t find it first. And just when we thought we knew what all of the skinjobs looked like, we discovered that there are five more Cylon models yet to be revealed. Needless to say, the conspiracy theories are flying on fansites and blogs around the world. Meanwhile, the show has used the romance angle more this season, creating an impossible situation between Cara and Lee (who are both risking their respective marriages) and they’re even hinting at a budding romance between Roslin and Adama. There’s more of a spiritual side as well, with lots of talk about the Chosen One, the gods and destiny. Moore is in the midst of production on a spinoff series, “Caprica,” but it doesn’t appear that it has adversely affected “Battlestar Galactica,” at least not yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed – he’s got a good thing going. ~JP

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two, part one l Season two, part two l Battlestar Galactica Blog l Mary McDonnell & James Callis interview

8. 24 Fox Last: 1

When you get a Number One, the only way is down, noted poet Adam Ant once said. Season Six of “24,” to this point, has been such a profound disappointment that we feel compelled to make an example of it. Wayne Palmer is Melba-toast bland as the new Commander in Chief, and he is surrounded by a group of foaming-mad chicken hawks that no president of Palmer’s demeanor would ever choose for his administration. Jack Bauer has spent the last 18 months getting brutally tortured by the Chinese, but after a few unguarded moments, it appears to have had no psychological effect on him whatsoever. Chloe O’Brien has been defanged, playing the role of mediator between Morris and Milo instead of the feisty tech babe we have come to love. Grae, the Bluetoothed leader of the shady company pulling former President Logan’s strings, is revealed to be…Jack’s brother. Really. Grae also confessed to setting up Jack to take the fall for the deaths of President David Palmer, Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler in Season Five, but since the show has yet to acknowledge who else knew about Jack faking his own death, we’re not convinced that is even possible. Kal Penn played the most unconvincing terrorist in TV history, and the FBI’s plan to spy on a group of detained Muslims is to have a guy who’s never worked undercover accidentally plant a phone on a guy minutes after he’s stolen it from him. Yikes. And yet, we continue to tune in every Monday, like a suffering lover, with the hope that the show will realize how poorly it has behaved lately and will bring us chocolates, flowers and a really thoughtful greeting card. Jack Bauer, you’ve officially been put on notice.  ~David Medsker

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Season three l Season four l Season five l 24 Blog

9. Extras HBO Last: 14

As was expected, “Extras” climbed its way back into the Top 10 thanks to some much-needed maturation from co-creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. While the first season of the series felt incredibly uneven (where showcasing guest stars became far more important than actual plot or character development), season two quickly remedies this by giving main character Andy Millman (Gervais) plenty of serious issues to deal with. As his new series (the catch phrase-based office sitcom, “When the Whistle Blows”) begins production, Andy becomes torn between his new gained celebrity status and the notion of selling out for said fame. Despite the poor critical response, however, the show still earns great ratings, and leads to the aspiring actor to receive a BAFTA nomination for Best Comedic Performance. Always a comedic force when performing his own material, Gervais is at the top of his game yet again, while Ashley Jensen (who plays a much smaller role in the second season) continues to be an integral part in the success of the show. Equally as important is Merchant, whose Agent character has been given more room to develop this year. Still, while the trio of performances make for a great series (not to mention Shaun Williamson as the fourth lead), the incredible lineup of guest stars (including Orlando Bloom, Daniel Radcliffe and Sir Ian McKellan) remains one of the best reasons to tune in each week. ~JZ

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review

10. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip NBC Last: NR

What can you say about “Studio 60” that hasn’t already been said. The show is pompous, unrealistic and ridiculously left-wing, but it also makes for some damn good television, and while many viewers bitch and moan that the material is far too preachy, it’s interesting to note that those people are still watching. Sure, the show is a bit of a train wreck and the sketches are never funny (“Dolphin Girl, seriously?), but that’s what makes the relationships between the cast and crew all that more interesting. Created by TV guru Aaron Sorkin, the show takes place on the set of an “SNL”-like sketch show (for which the series is named) with former writers Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) now acting as the show’s executive producers. The future of the drama looked bleak following a weak premiere, but NBC stuck to their guns (quite surprisingly, actually) and ordered a full season. And boy, was that a smart move! Featuring an excellent supporting cast including Amanda Peet, Timothy Busfield, D.L. Hughley, Sarah Paulson, Nathan Corddry, and new recruits Columbus Short and Lucy Davis, the show continues to get better with each passing week. Sure, Danny’s more recent stalker-inspired monologue (“You better start running, because I’m coming for you”) certainly raises more than a few questions, but there’s really only one worth asking: will “Studio 60” ever earn the audience it deserves? ~JZ

11. Scrubs NBC Last: 3

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that “Scrubs” has dropped so low in the rankings. Coming off one of the best years since its debut, expectations for the show were certainly higher than usual – especially when it was called up to the big leagues and given a spot in NBC’s highly coveted Must See TV lineup – but no one could have guessed that the sixth season would start out on such a sour note. Whether it was the accelerated progression of J.D. into adulthood (he’s got a baby on the way, with guest star Elizabeth Banks, no less) or Carla’s all-too-brief post-partum depression (a subplot added to accommodate Judy Reyes’ real-life hip injury), the first five episodes of the new season were particularly somber. Things were looking so bleak, in fact, that fans of the show were preparing to concede that the medical comedy was finally showing signs of wear, but with the much-publicized musical episode creatively rejuvenating everyone involved with the show, things are finally getting back on track. And as long as things remain this kooky and fresh (read: Kelso getting his own episode, or the Janitor using a stuffed rabbit as a salt and pepper shaker), we don’t see any reason why “Scrubs” won’t being making a triumphant return to the Top 5 in the very near future. ~JZ

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season three l Season four

12. The Shield FX Last: 7

There was a time when the start of the New Year also meant the start of a new season of “The Shield,” but lately, we can’t seem to keep track of when the show is actually returning. By our count, the show has been off the air for nearly a year now, and while recent FX promos point to an April 3rd premiere, it doesn’t make us any less peeved that we’ve been stuck watching second-rate shows like “Dirt” in its stead. All I know is that creator Shawn Ryan better have one hell of a finale in mind, because the way that he left things at the end of season five – namely the Shakespearean death of fan favorite Lem (Kenneth Johnson) at the hands of best pal Shane (Walton Goggins) – still doesn’t sit well with many viewers, and if he doesn’t get his act together soon, there’s no telling who’ll even bother sticking around for the seventh and final season. “The Shield” used to be one of the most gripping dramas on television. How about going out with a bang? ~JZ

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Season three l Season four l The Shield Blog

13. South Park Comedy Central Last: 15

Isaac Hayes had a pretty good thing going at “South Park.” Trey Parker wrote some deliciously naughty songs for him to sing, and Hayes enjoyed the kind of career resurrection that most of his ‘70s soul peers only dream of. But when he opted out of his contract (though there is still speculation as to whether Hayes himself pulled the trigger) over the Scientology-skewering “Trapped in the Closet,” Parker and Stone gave Hayes the fair and balanced treatment they give everyone else: they turned Chef into a child molester and subjected him to the most gruesome death in the show’s history. And that was just the season premiere: others that were on the receiving end of Parker and Stone’s blunt instrument include onetime “South Park” champion George Clooney (“Smug”), Al Gore (“Manbearpig”), and the writing staff of “Family Guy,” who are revealed to be manatees in a tank full of “idea balls” (makes perfect sense to us). Lastly, there’s “Make Love Not Warcraft,” which is the best sitcom episode about video games in TV history. Rumor has it that Dane Cook and M. Night Shyamalan are potential targets for next season. Sweeeet.  ~DM

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Season five l Season six l Season seven l Season eight l 'The Hits, vol. 1' review

14. Grey's Anatomy ABC Last: 9

The offscreen action at Seattle Grace has threatened to overshadow the onscreen drama this season, what with Dr. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) somehow using his injured hand to choke Dr. McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) while simultaneously tossing a homophobic slur at puppy-eyed intern George O’Malley (T.R. Knight). Fans worried that tension amongst the cast might result in an unexplained departure from the show for Burke, but so far those fears have been unfounded. Creator Shonda Rhimes continues to serve up an addictive mix of romance, humor and pathos each week. The addition of Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) as a full-time cast member was a wise move (though her quickie Vegas marriage to George, thus making her “Callie O’Malley,” was not), as was the use of Izzie’s (Katherine Heigl) inheritance check to fund a free clinic. Now let’s just hope the writers come up with some better conflict for Derek and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) than that snoring episode: viewers tend to be happiest when Meredith isn’t. ~Deb Medsker

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two

15. Lost ABC Last: 8

If there was one thing we learned from the initial set of six episodes that aired back in October, it’s that J.J. Abrams and Co. really dig the love triangle dynamic they’ve created between Jack, Kate and Sawyer. Why else would they throw all of them onto a completely different island, lock two of them in a cage, and force the third to perform spinal surgery on their enemy’s fearless leader? Quite simply, because it makes for good television. Still, it’s hard to deny that fans of the show aren’t missing some of their other favorite survivors, and with the restart of season three, it looks like we’ll finally get a chance to see what’s been happening on the original island. Then again, will anyone even care? You bet, and though waiting three months for any series to resume is absolutely ridiculous (especially one so dependent on facts and theories – look what happened to “Prison Break”), we’re still expecting one helluva season. The more recent announcement that the show’s creators actually see an ending point in sight is a step in the right direction for those eagerly awaiting some answers, but if there’s just one issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, it’s that we still don’t know what the hell is going on with Desmond’s girlfriend. ~JZ

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Lost Blog

16. Prison Break Fox Last: 12

“Prison Break” is struggling now that the gang has broken out of the clink. The main storyline involving Michael, Lincoln and the President is still compelling, but the storylines of the supporting characters – namely C-Note, T-Bag and Sucre – are growing more and more tedious as the season wears on. Do we care about C-Note and his medicated daughter? Not really. How about the millionaire T-Bag and his insane attempt to make his ex-girlfriend love him again? Not so much. What about Sucre’s mission to find his girlfriend in Mexico? Well, he’s always been pretty likable, so we’re tolerant for now, but he’s on notice. The writers have already killed off Abruzzi, Tweener and now Haywire, so who’s next? The first season of “Prison Break” was intense and exciting mainly because it’s something we’ve never seen before, but now that the fugitives are on the run, it’s proven to be tough to keep everything together. ~JP

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Prison Break Blog

17. Deadwood HBO Last: 5

Well, despite all the rumors, “Deadwood” isn’t quite dead…yet. Last year, HBO decided not to extend the options of the terrific ensemble cast, making a fourth full season unlikely, but the network and series creator David Milch agreed to produce two two-hour telefilms to wrap up the show’s loose ends. Season Three contained a myriad of intertwining storylines, but focused on the growing influence of businessman/asshole George Hearst, which put former adversaries Al Swearengen and Sheriff Seth Bullock in an unlikely alliance. “Deadwood” features stronger language than any other HBO show, and with “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” on the network’s roster, that’s saying a lot. The truth is that everything about the show – the language, the acting, the story, the sets and the costumes – is colorful, and whether or not HBO wants to admit it, they’re going to miss “Deadwood” once it’s gone for good. ~JP

DON'T MISS: Deadwood Blog

18. House Fox Last: 16

Season Three introduces us to a Dr. Gregory House (Golden Globe winner Hugh Laurie) whom loyal viewers barely recognize: He jogs. He checks himself into rehab. He submits to the authority of…well, someone other than himself, for once. But as intriguing as House’s transformation may be, it’s the emergence of two other strong male characters that have given this season its bite. Guest star David Morse, as Detective Michael Tritter, is the quiet, law-abiding foil to House’s brash rebel, but his iron will proves stronger than the doctor’s. Meanwhile, perennial doormat Dr. James Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) finally takes a stand when, faced with losing his practice after lying to protect his old friend, House shows neither remorse nor gratitude. House’s pride and arrogance have led him to make some bad decisions this season, and that has made the show hard to watch at times. Hard to watch, yes…but even harder to look away.  ~DebM

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two l Lisa Edelstein interview

19. Dr. Who BBC Last: NR

Who, indeed, would’ve believed that this venerable British sci-fi series would become a must-see staple of American television viewing? Thanks to a larger budget and better effects, the show’s a hundred times easier to get caught up in than in its previous incarnations, but, ultimately, it’s the writing and the acting that make “Doctor Who” so imminently watchable. Series One brought us Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but when he passed the torch to David Tennant for Series Two, the transition proved easier than anyone might have reasonably expected. And while that second series ended with the departure of Rose Tyler, who’d been an invaluable member of the cast (who would’ve thought that pop star Billie Piper had such acting chops in her?), as long as Russell T. Davies is still running the show behind the scenes, we’ll be tuned in every week. Davies has been walking the tightrope like a professional acrobat, balancing the series’ episodes with just the right amount of trips into the mythos of “Doctor Who” – i.e. visits from the Daleks, the Cyberman, and even K-9 – in between the brand new storylines. Series 3 begins in March 2007 on the BBC. Frankly, it can’t get to the Sci-Fi Channel here in the States soon enough. ~WH

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Season two

20. How I Met Your Mother CBS Last: NR

I know, it’s hard to believe that one of the funniest, most unique sitcoms on television today is A) one that doesn’t use the single-camera method that’s all the rage, and B) on CBS. Still, what can we tell you? It’s true. “How I Met Your Mother” also has one of the strongest comedic ensembles going, but it’s possible they’re just invigorated by the creativity of the show’s plot structure. Every episode is, in fact, a story being told by Future Ted – voiced by Bob Saget, though played in the show by Josh Radnor – to his kids, and, when the series ends, we’ll finally know who the kids’ mother is…but not yet. All we know for sure is that it isn’t Robin (Cobie Smulders), which is ultimately a little depressing, given that Ted and Robin are a couple at the moment. While you’re never far from wondering who Mom will turn out to be, the non-linear structure of most of the episodes means that they’re all full of flashbacks and constantly unfolding story lines. Everyone in the cast is great, but, seriously, almost everything that emerges from the mouth of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) will have you thinking, “Dude, I am totally going to start saying that myself.” ~WH

DON'T MISS: Season one DVD review l Josh Radnor interview


Off the List

My Name Is Earl (10), Rescue Me (11), Curb Your Enthusiasm (13), Family Guy (17), Reno 911! (20)


Honorable Mention

30 Rock (NBC)
We admit it: when we heard NBC was going to be airing two series that were both about the backstage antics at late-night sketch comedy shows, we thought, okay, “30 Rock” is only getting green-lighted because Lorne Michael is less than happy about “Studio 60.” Plus, the fact that the show was retooled after its initial pilot was filmed made us apprehensive as well. But we’re big enough to admit that, now that we’ve hit the halfway point of the season, “30 Rock” is finally getting its sea legs, probably in no small part because of its primo new timeslot on Thursdays at 9:30. Alec Baldwin’s wit is as dry as Tracy Morgan’s is surreal, and the blend of these two types of comedy means we’re always laughing. And will Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and Jack Donaghy (Baldwin) finally hook up? Time will tell…but we’ll keep watching to find out. ~WH

Big Love (HBO)
As with several of the HBO shows on this list, we haven’t seen a single new episode of “Big Love” since our last batch of rankings, which means we (or, more accurately, this writer) are still wondering what’s going to happen now that everyone knows Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is a polygamist. “Big Love,” judging by chatter on message boards and general word of mouth, isn’t for everyone. That’s not to say the quality of the show is lacking – you’d be hard pressed to find a mediocre HBO original series these days – but some guys have a tough enough time dealing with one wife or girlfriend, let alone three, and most women cringe at the thought of three wives sharing one husband. Fair enough, but for those who’ve latched on to the show, the second season can’t come soon enough. There were rumblings last year that HBO chose “Big Love” over “Deadwood” when the network decided to not renew the western drama for a fourth season. While we find that hard to believe (does it really have to be one or the other?), it wouldn’t entirely shock us. Then again, we (I, whatever) know what so many others don’t: “Big Love” is one of the most provocative, intriguing and entertaining shows on TV. ~JC

The Boondocks (Adult Swim)
As much as we love this show – it’s the only animated series even close to being as hilariously controversial as “South Park” – we have to admit that it might’ve made our Top 20 if its second season hadn’t been delayed for so long. (It’s been bumped repeatedly, so the current claim of a June premiere is rather dubious.) Still, even with this annoyance, “The Boondocks” is so undeniably hilarious that its mention within our list was a given. Any show that can drop references to “Scarface,” “Enter the Dragon,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and “Do the Right Thing” has clearly earned its merit badge in pop culture...even if the characters do throw around the word “nigga” at a rapid clip. If you’ve never seen the show, your best bet is to watch “A Date with the Health Inspector,” which features guest voice work from Samuel L. Jackson that’ll have “Pulp Fiction” fans doubled-over with laughter. ~WH

Friday Night Lights (NBC)
It’s not often that a film’s television spin-off surpasses its predecessor in quality, but that’s exactly what’s happened with “Friday Night Lights.” The show revolves around a high school football team in a sleepy Texas town, and while the football scenes are realistic, there is more than enough to keep non-football fans interested. The dynamic between the team’s head coach (Kyle Chandler) and his wife (Connie Britton) is terrific, and the growing relationship between their daughter (Aimee Teegarden) and the team’s quarterback (Zach Gilford) is probably the most realistic teenage romance on television. The show touches on a number of heavy subjects – racism, drug use, infidelity, etc. – but it’s also hilarious at times, making it easy to become invested in the show’s characters. We know it’s tough to jump into a series mid-season, but in this case, it’s worth it. Along with “Heroes” and “Studio 60,” “Friday Night Lights” is one of the best new shows of the season. ~JP

Sleeper Cell (Showtime)
In the last few years, with “Weeds,” “Dexter” and now “Sleeper Cell,” Showtime has taken HBO’s creative model and produced some great television. “Sleeper Cell” follows an undercover FBI agent Darwyn Al-Sayeed (yep, he a Muslim too) as he infiltrates a terrorist cell that’s hell bent on launching an attack on the city of Los Angeles. Think “24,” but more realistic, and without all the silliness. In fact, the Fox series has taken a cue from “Sleeper Cell” this year by trying to flesh out the conflict that extremism creates within the Muslim community, something the Showtime series has excelled at in its two seasons. The show is also intent on portraying terrorists in all shapes and colors, including a Frenchman and a white-bred suburban American. “Sleeper Cell” is intense and suspenseful, and it provides a terrifying glimpse into the minds of martyrs. ~ JP

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