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Best Of List, 12.31.01 ...

With repeats running rampant and the start of the new year just hours away, instead of your daily dose of ratings, programming news, trends, TV related updates and trivia what follows are my picks for the best and worst regularly scheduled shows -- network, cable or syndication -- in 2001. Look for The Programming Insider to return in its typical format on Wednesday.


1. The Sopranos (HBO) True, itís not easy to watch when you have young kids roaming the halls, but if you can set your VCR or keep the kids preoccupied the soapy Mafia-related antics of the best drama on television will keep you riveted week after week. If only HBO would produce more than 13 episodes per season.

2. Malcolm in the Middle (Fox) The sad but laugh-out-loud familiarity of TVís most dysfunctional family makes Malcolm in the Middle the Roseanne of the new millennium. Only letís hope that if the show runs nine years the winning lottery will not come calling.

3. Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS) As the current heir to CBSís historically important Monday 9 p.m. half-hour (remember when I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith, All in the Family, MASH and Murphy Brown aired here?) Everybody Loves Raymond has kept the tradition of quality Monday night laughs alive. Only next year it would be nice to see Ray Romano join two-time Emmy winning TV wife Patricia Heaton at the winning podium.

4. Gilmore Girls (WB) Smart writing, solid acting and one of the best supporting casts on television today are three reasons why TVís sassiest mother-daughter team -- Lorelei and Rory -- are poised for a long run on the WB. Hopefully, the Emmys will take notice in 2002.

5. The West Wing (NBC) If you can ignore this seasonís disappointing terrorist theme opening episode, The West Wing remains a consistent rewarding way to get past the weekly hump.

6. Survivor: The Australian Outback (CBS) No, it wasnít as water-cooler worthy as the original Survivor but it did give viewers the best female villain (Jerri Manthey) since Joan Collins on Dynasty and the biggest sap (Colby Donaldson) since the Professor on Gilliganís Island. Even Russell Johnson would not have been dumb enough to give away a million big ones.

7. CSI (CBS) Although the return of The Fugitive got the buzz on Friday last season, it was bona fide sleeper lead-out CSI that took the ratings ball and ran with it. This is the show networks -- and viewers --- dream of.

8. Friends (NBC) What seemed tired just last year turned into Must See TV this season. But will eight (seasons, that is) really be enough for NBC?

9. Law & Order (NBC) The Energizer battery of primetime dramas keeps on ticking in ratings and quality year after year, after year. There is no stopping this juggernaut.

10. King of Queens (CBS) Although itís Raymond who gets the Monday night raves on CBS, Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller are worthy of some kudos of their own. Oh, and by the way, this is not a spin-off of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Runner-Ups: The Bernie Mac Show (Fox), Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (UPN), Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), Once and Again (ABC), Sex and the City (HBO), Six Feet Under (HBO)


1. XFL (NBC, UPN) A word of advice to Vince McMahon: stick to wrestling.

2. Emeril (NBC) What do you get when you combine a popular cooking show host with limited acting skills, two over-zealous female characters and Robert Urich, the king of TV show flops? The biggest sitcom disaster of the year.

3. Chains of Love (UPN) This is what you could call hitting rock bottom in the reality arena.

4. Kristin (NBC) If you have ever experienced the sound of nails -- sharp nails ≠ scratched against a blackboard then you know what Kristin the sitcom is all about. Stick to Broadway Ms. Chenowith.

5. Bob Patterson (ABC) and The Michael Richards Show (NBC) Sorry guys -- no one ever said finding a success after a hit series is easy.

6. Men, Women & Dogs (WB) No wonder the frog net is struggling on Sunday.

7. Drew Carey (ABC) If there was ever a show begging to be canceled itís this one. Unfortunately for viewers, however, ABC has (foolishly) committed to The Drew Carey Show through 2004.

8. Talk or Walk (syndication) When former knife-yielding (and expelled) Big Brother 2 house member Justin popped up in a potentially staged segment it was just about over for this thankfully canceled hour of daytime talk.

9. Jerry Springer (syndication) Unless youíre into staged dysfunction from the lower echelon of society you wonít be amused by this tired hour of "talk."

10. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (ABC) It wasnít that long ago when this game show was a breathless, pulse-beating way to spend an hour. But with too much exposure (four weekly editions last season) and too many celebrity stunts, the fun of watching an ordinary individual walk away with a potential million $ has all but disappeared.
Credit: Mediaweek

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