Bullz-Eye.com's TV Power Rankings, April 2009 Edition, best TV shows, Lost, The Office, Breaking Bad
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With the writers' strike finally behind us, the television industry has sprung back remarkably well. Granted, it isn't all puppy dogs and ice cream for all of our favorite shows, but after the strike forced us to cancel the spring edition of our semi-annual TV Power Rankings, it's nice to be able to show some love for those series that had been gone for far too long. A quick look at our Winter 2008 list may suggest that a major shakeup has occurred in our new Top 20 below, but seven of the shows from last November are either on hiatus or cancelled. Likewise, nearly every eligible show previously on hiatus has snuck its way back into the Top 20, while five new shows have also cracked the list. Most of these are experiencing some of their best seasons ever, and though "Heroes" continues its mighty fall, the return of "24" only further cements the notion that TV is back and better than ever.

For more on our favorite shows, we've included links to DVD reviews and series blogs below, as well as several related interviews. Most recently, we chatted with Annie Wersching from "24," Greg Grunberg from "Heroes," Johnny Gelecki from "The Big Bang Theory," and "Lost" producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Plus, don't miss our stable of Honorable Mentions, the list of our favorite shows currently on hiatus and therefore ineligible for the Top 20, and our farewell to "Battlestar Galactica."

Finally, several new shows have sprung up recently that, had they had more time to state their case, could have conceivably found a spot in our Top 20. Will Harris lists five new shows that may wind up in a future edition of our TV Power Rankings.

Previous Rank: NR
LOSTJust like the academically gifted student who's perfectly happy getting Bs without doing any work,  "Lost" has enjoyed a place in the middle of our TV Power Rankings each and every year. But after a tremendous return to form during last year's game-changing season, the island drama has since risen to the top as the best show on TV. Delivering solid character development along with some pretty mind-bending plotlines, Season Five is fast becoming the show's best year since its premiere. Curiously enough, its success comes down to the one thing that has severely damaged another Power Rankings finalist: time travel. Ever since introducing the high-risk storytelling device, "Lost" has become an even richer viewing experience – thanks in part to the writers' decision to set certain ground rules so that the finer details don't come back to bite them in the ass. Though a lot of the big reveals this year haven't been that surprising (Jin's survival, Locke's rebirth, etc.), the show continues to move closer and closer to its endgame with remarkable confidence, and for good reason. "Lost" used to be the kind of show you looked forward to but were often disappointed by, but now it actually earns its title of must-see TV. — Jason Zingale
Lost Blog l Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Season 3 DVD review l Season 4 DVD review l Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof interview
Previous Rank: #2
TV Power RankingsLike any show that's been around for awhile, "The Office" – now in its fifth season on NBC – has taken its fair share of lumps from critics and fans who feel its best days are behind it, but the ratings tell a different story, placing the ensemble comedy consistently in the Nielsen Top 40, where it's enjoying its best-ever ratings. And really, although it's easy to quibble with storyline choices, how can you have a serious beef with a show that has enough balls to shake up the lives of its core characters so consistently? This season has already seen the departure of Holly (Amy Ryan), the returns of Toby (Paul Lieberstein) and Ryan (B.J. Novak), and what seems like a brand new, "Jerry Maguire"-inspired career for Michael (Steve Carell). Few shows on network TV have ever made such consistently excellent use of their cast, or done as much to expand the narrow confines of the sitcom. Whether or not you thought the show jumped the shark when Pam (Jenna Fischer) accepted Jim's (John Krasinski) marriage proposal – or whether you turned up your nose at the idea of an American version of the BBC's original "Office" in the first place – there's no denying that head "Office"-mate Greg Daniels has managed to turn what could have been a pale imitation into a series with its own unique flavor. And with the new arcs established with the introduction of corporate villain Charles Minor (played by Idris Elba of "The Wire"), it's one that shows no sign of running out of steam anytime soon. — Jeff Giles
Season 2 DVD review l Season 3 DVD review l Season 4 DVD review l Oscar Nunez interview l Melora Hardin interview
Previous Rank: #3
30 ROCKWhereas "The Office" utilizes a lot of awkward situations to get laughs, "30 Rock" is sillier than its Thursday night colleague. Whether it's the self-deprecating humor of Tina Fey, the pomp of Alec Baldwin, or the "look at how dumb I am" laughs from Tracy Morgan, "30 Rock" is ridiculous and is proud of it. While you'll see the occasional sad or genuinely heartfelt moment on "The Office," "30 Rock" never delves into the serious and seems to relish in the fact that it's a sitcom, pure and simple. Fey, Baldwin and Morgan are each brilliant in their own way. Fey's the witty show runner whose personal life is a mess, Baldwin's character is the power-hungry CEO (with a heart...maybe), and Morgan plays a semi-retarded version of himself. While "My Name Is Earl" is fading and "Kath & Kim" was a disappointment, "The Office" and "30 Rock" have provided NBC with a great one-two punch on Thursday nights. — John Paulsen
Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Jack McBrayer interview l Tina Fey & Jane Krakowski interview
Previous Rank: NR
REAPERThe travails of Sam Oliver (Bret Harrison), big box wage slave and well-intentioned devil's minion, remains a highly reliable source of big laughs, and an occasional thrill, in its second 13-episode season.  With the brilliant Ray Wise's serenely mendacious Satan revealed to be Sam's real father, family and emotional commitments have emerged as the show's main theme. Season Two highlights included more screen time for the show's low-key comedic secret weapon, Rick Gonzalez as Sam's sensitive buddy, Ben, whose new girlfriend (Jenny Wade) is, when not a super-hot redhead, actually a horrifying killer demon with sexual and abandonment issues. Even the sometimes over-annoying Sock (Taylor Labine) is trying to come to terms with his oversexed one track mind via his adorable new stepsister (Eriko Tamura) who loves her big brother in a big brotherly kind of way.  At the center of things, star Brett Harrison's work is deepening and darkening along with the show, making the issues surrounding his lingering problems with understandably leery girlfriend Andi (Missy Peregrym) – who is now also his boss – more compelling. "Reaper" has done a fabulous job of balancing emotion with comic timing and spook-hunting slapstick. What more could we ask for? Well, a third season would be nice...but given that creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas have signed a development deal with another studio, "Reaper" seems all but consigned to cancellation. Damn you, CW! Damn you to Hell! — Bob Westal
Season 1 DVD review l Bret Harrison interview l Tyler Labine interview l Ray Wise interview
Previous Rank: NR
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTSFans of the show received some great news a few weeks ago when it was announced that NBC renewed the series for not one, but two more seasons. Apparently, the financial deal with DirecTV was good enough to keep one of the network's best shows on the air. DirecTV will once again air the episodes first in return for paying for about half of the show's production costs. This season, under pressure from the boosters, Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) had to make the tough decision to bench Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) for young gun J.D. McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter). Matt took it hard, but responded with his usual resiliency. J.D.'s dad, Joe (D.W. Moffett), proved to be a terrific foil for Eric all season and eventually found a way to pull enough strings to replace Eric as coach. Looking forward, the creators have to deal with the graduation of several of the main characters – some will stay in Dillon and some will go – but the crux of the series has always been the Taylor family, and Eric faces an interesting new challenge as he takes over as coach of the "new" football team in town, wait for it... the East Dillon Giraffes. Thank you, NBC. You're doing a good thing by keeping this story alive. — JP

Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review
Previous Rank: NR
BREAKING BADFresh off their critically-acclaimed, writers' strike-shortened debut season, "Breaking Bad" is back and checking in at number six on our spring list of the TV Power Rankings. The show boasts an absurdly depressing plotline: Walt White (Bryan Cranston) is a terminal cancer patient who has ditched his high school chemistry teaching gig to cook and sell crystal meth with former student Jesse (Aaron Paul), all the while dealing with an increasingly suspicious and pregnant wife, a 15-year-old son with cerebral palsy, and his brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris), who is unknowingly hot on the drug-dealing duo's trail. Upon first look, this may not seem like the recipe for a successful show, but its clever writing, stunning camerawork and superb acting all contribute to making this one of the most polished shows on TV. When you think about it, "Breaking Bad" is a lot like Walt and Jesse's outrageous drug-dealing business model – the formula is just crazy enough to work. — Jeff Dooley

Season 1 DVD review l Aaron Paul interview
Previous Rank: NR
24We were ready to delete "24" from our DVR queue after the soap opera shenanigans that mired Day 6 (our nickname for the show was "Dynasty of Terror," and if you don't get that joke, ask your parents), but a change of scenery – coupled with a little extra time to plan, courtesy of the writers' strike – has produced the best season of "24" in years. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has spent this season battling an endless parade of villains on both sides of the law, from the FBI director who loathes his torture-happy methods and the senator on a mission to put him in jail, to the for-profit mercenary crew (which includes Jack's longtime ally Tony Almeida) that's working for an African dictator, who's in league with an American military contractor. This season has sprinkled in some old favorites from seasons past (rest in peace, Bill Buchanan), but have introduced two great new characters in FBI Director Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) and Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), and Cherry Jones gives them their best President since David Palmer. Do the show's conspiracy plots border on the ridiculous? Absolutely, and we wouldn't have it any other way. — David Medsker

24 Blog l Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Season 3 DVD review l Season 4 DVD review l Season 5 DVD review l Season 6 DVD review l Annie Wershing interview
Previous Rank: #5
SOUTH PARKSeventeen years after beginning life as a crudely animated lark between two University of Colorado students – and a little over a decade after debuting on Comedy Central – Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "South Park" has entered an impressive 13th season. That kind of longevity is rare for any series, but for a show that marked its first Christmas episode by introducing a magical, talking piece of poop, it's downright remarkable. The secret to that success? "South Park" is known for being vulgar – and in fact, much of the show's humor springs from the fact that it's always funny to watch little kids say filthy things – but it's also one of the smartest topical comedies on television. Its quick production schedule – each episode is typically turned around in less than a week – occasionally results in undercooked scripts, but it also allows "South Park" to deliver pointed (and usually very funny) commentary on current events while they're still current. True to form, the 13th season, which kicked off March 11, has already delivered a statement on the economic crisis. Of course, it's also made room for an episode about queefing and one in which Cartman assumes the identity of a masked crimefighter called the Coon. But as a wise man once said, there's a fine line between clever and stupid – and no show currently airing walks that line more evenly than "South Park." — JG
Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Season 5 DVD review l Season 6 DVD review l Season 7 DVD review l Season 8 DVD review l Season 9 DVD review l The Hits DVD review l Cult of Cartman DVD review
Previous Rank: NR
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDSHBO's "Flight of the Conchords" was one of the most buzzed-about shows when it returned to airwaves earlier this year, but you wouldn't know it from the response the new season received. Many complained that it just wasn't as good as its freshman year, but we beg to differ. Sure, the songs weren't as funny or catchy as the ones that appeared in Season One, but the shows themselves were far more clever. There isn't another series on TV that could so brilliantly construct an entire episode around the purchase of a new coffee mug, while the two-episode arc featuring the New Zealand Prime Minister proved that the introduction of new characters didn't take anything away from the ones we already know and love. In fact, because the Conchords were forced to compose almost completely new music for the second season, it allowed them to write songs exclusively for other characters like Murray (Rhys Darby), Mel (Kristen Schaal) and even Dave (Arj Barker). No one really knows whether or not the season finale (where the Conchords are forced to move back to New Zealand) will also be the series finale, but if that turns out to be the case, it's hard to argue that they could have ended it any better. — JZ
Season 1 DVD review
Previous Rank: #11
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHERGood lord, we're in the fourth season of this show, and yet we still haven't met the mother yet…? Fortunately, creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have successfully kept us entertained by hitting close to home with plots about the growing pains that all twenty- and thirtysomethings go through. Both Robin (Cobie Smulders) and Ted (Josh Radnor) have been having career crises, with Robin finding her way from the ill-advised gig in Japan to a spot on a crazy-early morning show and Ted suffering through being laid off from an assignment with Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Marshall's (Jason Segel) company. Also, in a move which can only end badly, Robin has moved back in with Ted. (When was the last time you heard about an ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend living together successfully?) On the up side, though, at least no-one really believed that Karen – played to bitchy perfection by Laura Prepon – was actually going to be the mother. Oh, and as long as we're talking about mothers, bonus points go to Bays and Thomas for hiding the pregnancies of Alyson Hannigan and Smulders with as much humor as possible. (Hiding Hannigan's expanded tummy behind the balls of Marshall's kindergarten basketball team was a stroke of genius.) — Will Harris
Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Season 3 DVD review l Josh Radnor interview
Previous Rank: NR
SCRUBSIt is with a twinge of sadness that "Scrubs" makes it onto our TV Power Rankings, as the show (at least in its current form) is likely on its last season. Star Zach Braff and creator Bill Lawrence are almost certainly out after Season Eight wraps, and the same goes for Judy Reyes (Carla Espinosa). This season (the program's first on ABC after seven years on NBC) has featured some indicators of a show that is crawling to its conclusion (not unlike the one experienced by "Seinfeld"), but the episodes have more consistently featured the combination of random, slapstick comedy and heartfelt storylines that made the show so popular during its early years. It's been said that there's a chance the show could continue on even after Braff's and Lawrence's departure, and viewers were exposed to what that might be like in a disappointing episode April 1st that featured only Turk (Donald Faison), Elliot (Sarah Chalke), and the new batch of interns. Here's hoping for a strong finish for the comedy that, even after eight seasons, is still capable of making us laugh with the best of them. — JD
Season 1 DVD review l Season 3 DVD review l Season 4 DVD review l Zach Braff interview l Bill Lawrence interview
Previous Rank: #6
HEROESOh, how the mighty have fallen. "Heroes" was #1 in our Winter '07 edition and #6 in our November '08 edition of the Power Rankings, and now the series has slipped to #12. In truth, "Heroes" is probably a victim of its own genius. For months, we were teased with the tagline: Save the cheerleader, save the world. Then when they finally saved the cheerleader (and the world), everyone – the writers, the characters and the fans – were seemingly left wondering, where do we go from here? The answer? All over the place, apparently. Hiro was trapped in the past. Robert Forster joined the cast for a way-too-short stint. Nathan turned into a bad guy for no apparent reason. And, of course, there was the endless journey of Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz), who will forever be known as the characters that sucked the life out of "Heroes." Now the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad (again), and this Sylar (Zachary Quinto) / Danko (Zeljko Ivanek) partnership has some potential. But this "rounding up the mutants" storyline is only going to go so far. Our "Heroes" need a purpose – a catastrophe to avoid, an enemy to defeat, whatever – but right now they seem to be floundering. — JP
Season 1 DVD review l Season 2 DVD review l Greg Grunberg interview l Jack Coleman interview l Adrian Pasdar & Milo Ventimiglia interview l Ali Larter, Santiago Cabrera & Tim Kring interview
Previous Rank: #12
THE DAILY SHOWConcerns that the departure of the Bush administration would lower the hilarity quotient of "The Daily Show" have been proven baseless. Why? Inane politicians have always been a secondary target of Jon Stewart's righteous comedic anger; feckless, pandering media has always been target #1. Stewart's ballyhooed battle with CNBC's Jim Cramer might have been over corporate bailouts and stimulus, but the sad truth was that Stewart was doing the work actual news people were scared to do. As if liberated by the experience, "TDS" has been on a comedic roll lately, and much of the credit goes to its rainbow of correspondents, including Wyatt Cenac, Aasif Mandvi and token Brit John Oliver. Oliver's unique comedy stylings were put to outstanding use after TV cameras caught a brief mutual touch between Michelle Obama and England's Queen Elizabeth, and cable news hosts went into hysterics over the supposed breach. Wearing a top hat, cartoon-style tux, monocle and glasses, a sweaty Oliver explained that the reason for the supposed "no touching the Queen" rule was not protocol, but the fact that the tiny monarch is as poisonous as a King Cobra. "The Daily Show" – the only reliable information source on commercial TV. — BW
Previous Rank: #15
THE BIG BANG THEORYIt started as an Honorable Mention which we described as "geeky…like, to the point where you'd have to give the trio of nerds from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' their own series to come up with anything to compete with it." When "The Big Bang Theory" came back for its sophomore season after the writer's strike, however, the show launched itself out of the gate with…well, yes, it was with a bang, quite frankly, which is why the show found itself in the proper top 20. Since then, it's only gotten funnier, but it's also been developing the characters. Leonard (Johnny Galecki) hooked up with the cute Dr. Stephanie Barnett (Sara Rue), Howard (Simon Helberg) scored with Leslie Winkle (Sara Gilbert), the guys managed to meet both Summer Glau and Dr. George Smoot within the span of a single episode, and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) imbued Sheldon (Jim Parsons) with the Christmas spirit via a napkin autographed by Leonard Nimoy, resulting in a surprisingly deep bond of friendship between the two of them that's only gotten stronger as the season has progressed. If Parsons doesn't pick up an Emmy nod for his work as Sheldon this year, it'll be a crime. — WH

Season 1 DVD review l Johnny Galecki interview l Jim Parsons interview
Previous Rank: NR
DAMAGESIt's tempting to say that attorney Patty Hewes – played with perfect pitch by Glenn Close – is evil, since she is one of those ends-justify-the-means people that will kill the dog of one of her own witnesses in order to motivate her. But is Patty truly evil? After all, she picks high-profile targets worthy of her contempt, white-collar crooks that consider themselves above the law, and she puts them down. Yes, she tried to have her associate Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) killed, but don't think for a minute that she felt good about it; she even saved Ellen from jail time, and after Ellen threatened her with a gun, to boot. She may work entirely within the gray area, but Patty understands right and wrong, and watching her manipulate her friends, enemies and loved ones – she kicked her husband and son to the curb within days of each other – has become one of our favorite hours of television each week. We do have one question, though: is Patty going to fire faithful servant Tom Shayes (Tate Donovon) every year? He's fast becoming the Kenny McCormick of the show. — DM

Season 1 DVD review
Previous Rank: NR
KINGSThis may well be the first time that a series has ever been voted into the Bullz-Eye TV Power Rankings, only to be handed its walking papers by the network before the feature had even run. Granted, NBC hasn't officially canceled "Kings," but it has moved the show out of its spot on Sunday nights at 8 PM and stuck it on Saturday nights, which is the equivalent of a doctor saying, "I'm sorry, but there's nothing more we can do," and removing life support. In short, it's only a matter of time before we lose this series. Perhaps it was always inevitable, however. The scope of "Kings" was epic, often nearing Shakespearean proportions, with executive producers Michael Green, Francis Lawrence and Erwin Stoff creating a brand new world that provided them with the opportunity to offer tales of war and love without offending any existing countries. The characters had depth, and the actors portraying them – including Ian McShane ("Deadwood"), Dylan Baker, Christopher Egan, Eamonn Walker, Sebastian Stan and Susanna Thompson – offered performances which lived up to the show's lofty goals. This could've been the next "Battlestar Galactica," had it been given half a chance to catch on. The good news is that, per McShane's appearance on "The Daily Show," 14 episodes of the series were completed, so we'll get to see some semblance of a conclusion. The regret, however, is that there was so much more than 14 episodes worth of material to be had from this concept. — WH

Previous Rank: NR
TOP CHEFChecking in as the only reality show on our list is Bravo's smash-hit cooking competition show, "Top Chef." The program just put a bow on its fifth and most successful season (set in New York), with the 34-year old bald nerd Hosea Rosenberg taking home the coveted "Top Chef" title. Forgetting for a second that Rosenberg won the crown over the clearly superior Stefan Richter and fan favorites Carla Hall and Fabio Viviani, the show was a joy to watch week in and week out. The 17 culinary wizards battled it out in the kitchen, elimination style, producing creative renditions of every dish from eggs Benedict to hot dogs to seared scallops. The elegant yet clearly culinary infantile (at least by comparison) Padma Lakshi contributes eye candy as host, while co-host and superstar chef Tom Colicchio brings a knowledge and legitimacy to the judges' table that makes the show respected by casual foodies and gastronomy gurus alike. All the show's elements sizzle together to create a delectable combination, one that'll make you care way more about cooking food than you ever thought possible. — JD
Previous Rank: NR
DOLLHOUSEThe latest entry from the cultyist of cult TV maestros, Joss Whedon ("Buffy, the Vampire Slayer," "Firefly," etc.), has been a rocky ride, but some creators' failures are more intriguing than others' greatest successes. About an immoral and illegal firm that programs the brains of beautiful young people, e.g. Eliza Dushku's Echo, to be anything from a love slave to the head of Union Carbide, the show's initial episodes were entertaining enough. Still, the topic (human trafficking) meant that Whedon's trademark humor would be mostly off the table, and his famed feminist sensibility would be under the microscope. For numerous reasons, then, those first few episodes didn't completely wow anyone. Still, "Dollhouse" has improved, even as it has evolved into more of an ensemble show.  In particular, the widely praised sixth episode, "Man on the Street," found a way to integrate more humor and a sense of direction, though the ratings have continued to slip after a so-so follow-up episode, and a much better one after that.  Things are looking tough, but with crack supporting players Harry Lennix and Olivia Williams ("Rushmore") providing ballast, some remarkable visuals, and numerous creepy/thought-provoking ideas, we think "Dollhouse" has earned our support. — BW

Joss Whedon interview
Previous Rank: NR
BURN NOTICEIt shouldn't surprise anyone why "Burn Notice" was left off the last Power Rankings, because after winning over audiences with a solid freshman debut, the first half of Season Two failed to live up to expectations. Choosing to focus more on the mystery behind Michael Weston's (Jeffrey Donovan) burn notice, creator Matthew Nix was right to want to answer questions, but tried doing so at the price of what made the show work so well in the first place. Thankfully, the slump didn't last long, and when the series returned for the second half of the season, it delivered a batch of new episodes that might just go down as some of the show's very best. Along with getting back to basics with more contained, single-episode storylines, the series' trademark humor was given a welcome boost thanks to unsung hero Bruce Campbell's promotion to a more active role. Plus, between the thrilling cliffhanger and the introduction of the great John Mahoney as Michael's newest "boss," Season Three can't come soon enough. — JZ
Season 1 DVD review l Bruce Campbell interview
Previous Rank: #14
Terminator: the Sarah Connor ChroniclesA long-running show, frequently derided as being unoriginal, despised by many critics, removed from the primetime schedule only to return, "Family Guy" is basically the "According to Jim" of the TV animation world, with the crucial difference that no competing series has ever accused "According to Jim" of being written by manatees. All kidding aside, no show has ever gone through more on its way to a seventh season than the onetime red-headed stepchild of the Fox animation lineup – now a cornerstone of the network's Sunday night lineup and a hot enough property to justify not only a pending spinoff in "The Cleveland Show," but the continued presence of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane's other series, the loathsome "American Dad!" Love it or hate it, "Family Guy" is nothing if not consistent: Season Seven has featured more of the same cutaway gags, bizarre celebrity voice cameos, and tasteless storylines that fans have come to expect from the Griffin family. Some choice moments have included the episode where Peter cashes in an old raffle ticket to play a round of golf with O.J. Simpson, the one where Lois takes a job with FOX News and discovers that Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are actually Fred Savage in disguise, and a storyline involving Stewie's kidnapping of the entire cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It ain't the smartest thing on TV, but those manatees must be doing something right. — JG

Volume 1 DVD review l Volume 2 DVD review l Volume 3 DVD review l Volume 4 DVD review l Volume 6 DVD review l Seth MacFarlane interview

Big Love (HBO)
Big Love In a perfect world, beer makes you thinner, Opening Day is a national holiday and "Big Love" sits comfortably in our Top 10. Fresh off quite possibly its best season yet, the acclaimed HBO drama certainly deserves more than a mere honorable mention nod, but "Big Love" has been known to make viewers more than a little squeamish. It's understandable, really, considering the show follows the life of a polygamist family in suburban Utah with ties to the Juniper Creek compound, a backwoods polygamist community led by the ultra-creepy Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton). It's enough to make even loyal fans a bit uncomfortable at times, and it's the primary reason only a select few of the Bullz-Eye writers watch, and therefore voted for, the show. Fortunately, the fascinating relationship between Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) and his three wives more than makes up for the occasional case of the willies, and few shows ratchet up the tension as relentlessly as "Big Love." The fact that a drama about a polygamist family recently was renewed for a fourth season (airing in 2010) no doubt qualifies as an upset of sorts, but at a time when so many other quality shows are prematurely canned, HBO deserves credit for its continued faith in "Big Love." — JC

Bones (Fox)
BonesTake the procedural aspects of "CSI," add the humor of "NCIS," throw in the sexual tension of "The Mentalist," and you've got Fox's most underrated series. (Maybe that's because it feels more like a CBS series?) The ongoing threat of the Gormogon serial killer in Season 3 led to a stunning conclusion, but while fans of Dr. Zack Addy (Eric Millegan) may have been furious, you kind of could see the odd logic behind his actions, and Season 4 offered a nice wrap-up to the storyline in "The Perfect Pieces in the Purple Pond." Meanwhile, the break-up of Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (T.J.Thyne) was addressed in "Science in the Physicists," with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons popping up to confront his little girl's former paramour. (Nice tattoo, Hodgins.) This season has also been chock full of Sweets…that's Dr. Lance Sweets, played by John Francis Daley. As the resident psychologist of the Jeffersonian, Dr. Sweets has added a breath of fresh air to the show with his insights. It doesn't take a PhD, however, to determine that Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) are destined to be an item, despite their constant assurances that there's nothing between them but the mutual respect of two colleagues. Yeah, right. — WH

Castle (ABC)
CastleCrime procedurals are a dime a dozen these days, so what makes ABC's "Castle" any different? Two words: Nathan Fillion. Best known for his role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds on the short-lived FOX series, "Firefly," Fillion has proven time and again why he's the ultimate guy's actor, combining the action hero charm of Harrison Ford with the snarky humor of Bruce Campbell. Here he plays Richard Castle, a best-selling novelist who's just killed the lead character in the latest installment of his popular crime series. After being called in to consult on a NYPD case involving a serial killer copycatting murders from his novels, Castle decides to stick around – partly because he's basing his new character on his partner, Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), and partly because he just enjoys her company (even if she doesn't feel the same way). Fillion hasn't had a whole lot of luck when it comes to television (or movies, for that matter), but it's hard to imagine a crime drama being cancelled in its first season, so we'll take what we can get. — JZ

Chuck (NBC)
ChuckAs May approaches and the primary TV season comes to close, there are always a few shows left wondering if they'll live to see another day. One series on that list that continues to baffle me is "Chuck." While it doesn't have the cult following of a series like "Terminator" or "Reaper," the NBC spy comedy has only gotten stronger since the writers' strike interrupted its freshman season. Though the show has become more about its title character's involvement with the government, it has done a remarkable of keeping all the characters a part of the story. Morgan (Joshua Gomez), Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin), and Lester (Vik Sahay) and Jeff (Scott Krinsky) have all played a part in one of Chuck's (Zachary Levi) missions at some point throughout the season (even if they didn't know it), while the recent reveal that Chuck's dad (played by Scott Bakula) is actually Orion has introduced an interesting new element to the show's mythology. NBC may not see anything worth saving in "Chuck," but its fans would disagree. — JZ

The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
The Colbert ReportOnce again, we have failed to honor Stephen Colbert with an official place in our Power Rankings, but that hasn't stopped the rest of the world from festooning the fake far-right commentator with awards and plaudits – including possibly naming a NASA space station node after the comedy pundit, beating out the proposed name, "Serenity," in an online poll. (Proving that, if you're on basic cable four nights a week, it is possible to outdo online fans of "Firefly"/"Serenity" creator Joss Whedon.) Indeed, the quality of Stephen's comedy has also gone stratospheric in recent weeks. With the help of the post-Obama inaugural freak-out of Fox News' stable of rightwing pundits, Stephen's been giving a rich vein of material to milk, with a recent bit mocking the frequently tearful, always hysterical, Glenn Beck reaching an apex of hysterical genius. Stephen mock-praised ultra-patriot Beck's mysterious "9/12 Project," by appearing in a gas mask while cocking a rifle, and then playing a recording of Beck attacking activist 9/11 families on his radio show, and finally, proposing his own "10/31 Project." Fly true, Space Station Node Colbert, fly true. — BW

Fringe (Fox)
FringeThere must be some fans of "X-Files" left over at Fox, because "Fringe" shares more than a few characteristics with that beloved series. It revolves around an FBI agent who investigates the unnatural, has a budding yet subtle romance with a co-worker, and is on the verge of unraveling a vast conspiracy that could mean the end of the human race. All right, so maybe we made the "end of the human race" bit up, but there's no doubt that Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is in uncharted territory in her investigation of "The Pattern." At her side are Peter Bishop (the love interest, played by Joshua Jackson), Dr. Walter Bishop (the strange/hilarious mad scientist, played by John Noble) and Agent Philip Broyles (the hard ass boss, played by Lance Reddick). The show maintains the delicate balance between the freak-of-the-week and serialized formats that is so vital for good science fiction television. We wouldn't quite put it in the class of an at-its-peak "X-Files" just yet, but it's getting there. — JP

Leverage (TNT)
Mad MenHere's the pitch – a small group of thieves and con men band together to trick the greedy and self-serving out of their money. Sound a little like "Ocean's Eleven"? Yeah, but instead of George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, "Leverage" has Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge. Only the Joss Whedon fans out there are going to recognize more than one name on that list. As a result, it may have taken a while for the actors (and the audience) to warm to their characters, but as the season wore on, "Leverage" slowly got better and better. "Ocean's Eleven" may be setting the bar too high – in tone and format, the show actually feels more like "Hustle," the U.K. series about a group of con men. Sure, we'd like to see a little more grit (and maybe a little more greed – after all, these are thieves we're talking about), but all in all, it's been a solid first season for "Leverage." — JP

My Boys (TBS)
My BoysWe're still not convinced that TBS is ever going to earn a spot as a go-to place for must-see original comedies. We can't deny that they're trying to carve themselves a niche, but if they're going to succeed, they need more material like "My Boys," which has the best comedic ensemble on basic cable. Over the course of the show's first two seasons, we watched P.J. (Jordana Spiro) battle back and forth over her feelings toward Bobby (Kyle Howard), and in a moment which inevitably inspired comparisons to "Friends," we watched Bobby only realize his feelings toward PJ on the eve of his wedding to another woman. But, really, if you're going to be compared to another ensemble comedy, you could do a lot worse, right? Season 3 has already provided one plot line that proudly stands with the best "My Boys" material of all time – I speak, of course, of the Moustache Growing Contest – and watching the PJ / Bobby relationship evolve has comedic potential galore. Even better, the show's been around long enough now that it's offering its fans sequels to past successes, like the upcoming "Decathalon, Part Deux." Keep it coming, boys. — WH

Supernatural (CW)
SupernaturalWhat seemed to begin as a vehicle for CW "heartthrobs" Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles has turned into a four-season foray into all things, um, supernatural. The first season was a bit spotty at times, but once the show found its feet (via terrific chemistry between its two stars and killer season-long storylines), it has just gotten better and better and better. The duo plays Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who are "hunters" that drive around the country trying to rid the world of demons, ghosts and monsters. The creators have become incredibly adept at interweaving the weekly and season-long storylines, which makes for both an interesting hour and an interesting season of television. The fourth installment revolves around the brothers' role in the impending apocalypse, so the duo has encountered angels and demons, and before it's all said and done, they might even meet Satan himself. Anyone who likes the paranormal (i.e. fans of "The X-Files," "Fringe") should try "Supernatural" on for size. — JP

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox)
Mad MenFirst off, let's give the producers of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" credit for one of the most brilliant casting decisions on television last year when they brought in Shirley Manson, the feisty lead singer of alt-rockers Garbage, to play Catherine Weaver, the head of tech company ZeiraCorp and liquid metal Terminator in disguise. Indeed, the casting across the board has been exceptional; Thomas Dekker, for one, improves from episode to episode as the savior of mankind, and Brian Austin Green should win an award for comeback player of the year, though we're still smarting over the shocking death of his character Derek Reese. There is one thing about "Terminator" that bugs us, though, and that is the deliberate pace at which they're doling out the story. Right when Weaver and the Connors finally land on each other's radars, we hit the season finale. They seem to have a good story to tell, but they'd be wise to tell it while they still have the chance. — DM

The Unit (CBS)
The UnitIt's obvious from our rankings that we're not that into CBS. The network seems to focus on procedurals that don't require any real viewer loyalty or the way-too-sappy emotional dramas that seem to target the 50-and-over crowd. One exception is "The Unit," which follows a group of soldiers that are so deadly the Army doesn't even admit they exist. Early on, the show spent too much time following the wives' lives at home, but in recent seasons the creators have found a pretty good balance between that and where the show really shines – out in the field with the men of "The Unit." At the start of this season, there was a coordinated attempt on the lives of the President, Vice President, President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, and much of this season has been dedicated to the unit's bulldog-like focus on bringing these conspirators to justice. Dennis Haysbert (AKA President David Palmer from "24") anchors a terrific ensemble cast. — JP


Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Curb Your EnthusiasmBy the time Season Seven premieres (sometime late this year), it will have been almost two years since the Season Six finale. That is just way too much time for us to go without our Larry David fix. The sixth season brought a lot of changes to Larry's life. His wife, Cheryl, left him because he's a selfish prick (like she didn't know that when she married him!), and over the course of the season, he unknowingly fell in love with Loretta Black (Vivica A. Fox), a member of the family that the Davids took in after they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Fox is slated to return for at least a few episodes, so we should see what happens in/to that relationship. (Odds are that Larry will find a way to screw it up.) The next step is for HBO to settle on a premiere date, so let's just hope it's sooner rather than later. — JP

Dexter (Showtime)
DexterFans of Michael C. Hall's morally upright psychopath can relax: his show is contractually obligated for another two seasons. On the other hand, viewers of Showtime's thriller/delayed coming of age tale can never actually relax because the stakes grow higher each year. That was certainly true of Season Three, which had Dex learning about the ups-and-downs of bromance with Jimmy Smits as a vengeful D.A. who becomes way too knowledgeable about Dex's passion for offing fellow serial killers, just as our hero is preparing for a hurried marriage and immanent fatherhood. With the "I Kill You, Man" plotline behind us, the thrills and chills will nevertheless get even more intense in season four: Dexter and his "dark passenger" have an even scarier challenge – marriage to the lovely Rita (Julie Benz), a new baby, and two adorable step kids to care for. Many a man's hobby has died for less. — BW

Entourage (HBO)
EntourageAfter five seasons, one thing is clear: Vinnie and E are BFFs. Things had never looked bleaker between Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly) as last season's finale came to a close. Vinnie's career had all but flatlined, leading to one of the better scenes in the show's history: Vince firing E in the streets of Queens, and E firing off an f-bomb before heading back to L.A. Would this be the incident that finally drove a wedge between the two friends? Of course not. Ari (Jeremy Piven) swoops in with a gift-wrapped offer to star in Scorsese's new movie, Vince and the boys rush back to L.A. with the news, Vinnie and E hug it out (bitch), and on to Season Six we roll (this summer). "Entourage" is far from perfect (just ask The Sports Guy), but it's usually a lot of fun. With all signs pointing to a return to the good life – Vince is working again, E's career seems to be on the rise, Drama (Kevin Dillon) is a TV star again and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is dating Jamie Lynn-Sigler (on the show and in real life) – the fun won't be stopping anytime soon. — JC

Mad Men (AMC)
Mad MenBy now, it's clear that this Emmy-winning, super-acclaimed look at a high-end advertising circa early 60s is about more than booze, cigarettes, sexism, and actual sex, in the workplace. Indeed, so enigmatic and wittily subtle is the mystery of its lead character, literally self-made genius adman Don Draper (Jon Hamm), that the doings of Don and his cohorts at Sterling Cooper could probably extend into the 70s and beyond. Still, before we see copywriters Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) puzzling over how to sell mood rings and pet rocks, there's lots of high voltage material left in the era of hula-hoops, Ed Sullivan, JFK and Frank Sinatra. Tantalizing plot threads, including a failed power play, foredoomed marriages, and Don Draper's still mysterious motivations. We have no idea what will happen, but we know they'll be misery, failed dreams, and cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails. — BW

Sons of Anarchy (FX)
Sons of AnarchyIt's never easy to say goodbye to your favorite TV show, but when "The Shield" ended last year, no one could have imagined that FX would find a worthy replacement so soon. That "Sons of Anarchy" just so happens to be written by "The Shield" scribe Kurt Sutter certainly helps, and based on its first season alone, the biker drama even has the potential to surpass "The Shield" as the cable channel's best series ever. While the episode leading up to last season's finale was actually better than the finale itself (and would have made for one helluva cliffhanger), the pieces are now in place for Jax (Charlie Hunnam) to challenge Clay (Ron Perlman) as rightful leader of SAMCRO. If you're not tuning into "Sons of Anarchy," you're sorely missing out, because when the show returns for its second season this fall, it's only going to get better. Sutter hasn't let us down yet, and it doesn't look likely that he will anytime soon, either. — JZ

True Blood (HBO)
True BloodFrom Alan Ball, the writer of "American Beauty" and the creator of "Six Feet Under," comes the adaptation of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse book series that follows the mind reading heroine (played brilliantly by Anna Paquin) as she navigates an alternate reality in which vampires are a part of everyday life. A series of gruesome murders rock Sookie's small hometown in Louisiana, and after she falls in love with a vampire (largely because she can't read his mind), the sweet and innocent Sookie finds herself delving deeper and deeper into the underground world of vampires. As expected, Ball's writing is top-notch, and although the first season starts slowly, it quickly becomes must-see television somewhere around the fourth episode. With the departure of "The Sopranos," "Deadwood" and "The Wire," we were a little worried about HBO, but "True Blood" proves that the network hasn't lost its touch when it comes to original programming. — JP

Weeds (Showtime)
WeedsWhen last we left the Botwins, they had fled the flaming Agrestic for the border (presumably San Diego) where Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) set up shop as a front for a Mexican drug running operation. At first, she thought they were just running marijuana, but when young girls started emerging from the tunnel attached to her maternity clothing shop, she blew the whistle on the operation. The creators have a done a terrific job of changing things up from season to season, and Nancy, ever the survivor, now finds herself pregnant with her former boss's baby. (Oh, and he knows she was the rat. Awkward!) It promises to be an interesting fifth season for the Botwins. — JP

BATTLESTAR GALACTICARonald D. Moore and Co. redefined science fiction television with their re-imagining of the classic series from the '70s. Not only did they take us on a wild ride through the deepest reaches of space – they successfully answered just about every question they posed through out the course of the series' four-season run. (The creators of "Lost" should take note; the bar is set.) Anyone that has any (and we mean any) interest in science fiction should drop what they're doing and watch all 58 episodes right now. Stop reading and go and buy the DVDs. Seriously, we're not moving on until they're gone. Are they gone? Good. R.I.P. "Battlestar Galactica," and we can't wait for your prequel, "Caprica." So say we all. — JP
Life on MarsYes, there's a biting-the-hand-that-feeds feeling to this bit, but it must be said that, although ABC is responsible for providing the Power Rankings with its #1 show ("Lost"), they also axed no fewer than four series which were mentioned in our last Rankings. "Life on Mars" perpetuated the stereotype of 13 being an unlucky number, since that's where it ranked on our last Top 20, but at least it managed to earn a proper conclusion, unlike #16, "Eli Stone," the final episodes of which still haven't seen the light of day. They will, however, air this summer, along with the last gasps of the also-canceled "Dirty Sexy Money" and "Pushing Daisies," both of which made our Honorable Mentions list. Last time, we were praising ABC for having the most creative line-up of any network; now we're giving them the fish-eye for prematurely killing off some of the most inspired programming to make it onto broadcast television in ages. (Let's also not forget that they're also making enemies and inspiring viewer rebellion over on ABC Family, having pulled the plug on "Kyle XY.") Still, look at the bright side: they could've given us five nights of Jimmy Kimmel at 10 PM. — WH

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