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Nothing but the Best, 12.30.02 ...

I don't do the whole "10 Best of 2002" thing. That's just soooo TV Guide.

All the TV critics do top-10 lists. I'm a rebel dammit! My column, my rules, folks. If you don't like it, go read TV Guide where they write about how "Everybody Loves Raymond" still has it and "ER" is all that.

So, instead of a top 10, I'll give you a breakdown of the best TV had to offer with my own special, little awards -- no sitting through a four-hour broadcast required.

The Real Must-See TV

HBO -- "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City," "Oz," "Six Feet Under," "The Wire" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." 'Nuff said.

The Best Show You're Not Watching (Comedy)

"Andy Richter Controls the Universe" -- "Andy Richter" is one of the funniest sitcoms on network TV right now. Why aren't you watching it? Damn, what's wrong with you people? Are you a bunch of damn robots? "Must watch 'Friends.' 'Andy Richter' file not found." Make an early New Year's resolution to try it. You won't regret it.

The Best Show You're Not Watching (Drama)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" continues to be the most original and most moving drama on network TV. It's gearing up for what most likely will be its final season. You don't want to miss it.

The Best Show You Can't Watch Because It Got Canceled

ABC's "The Job" -- ABC canceled this great show and then had the gall to put crap like "That Was Then" and "Dinotopia" on the air, insulting viewers throughout the land. Are they smoking crack at ABC, or what? Runners-up: "Undeclared," "Robbery Homicide Division," "Firefly," "Philly," "Haunted," "Maybe It's Me" and "Greg the Bunny."

The Best Reason to Get Cable Besides HBO's Series

FX's "The Shield," Bravo's "Breaking News," Comedy Central's "South Park," USA's "Monk" and "The Dead Zone."

Best On-screen Duo (aka the Uncouple)

Sydney (Jennifer Garner) and Vaughan (Michael Vartan) from "Alias." Runner-up: Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Donna (Janel Moloney) from "The West Wing."

Best Awards Show Host

Whether he was oversleeping at the Osbournes or singling out the only two African American fans of "Frasier," Conan O'Brien proved as host of this year's Emmys that he is the true, yet unappreciated, king of late night.

Most Welcome Comeback

Michael Chiklis from "The Shield," whose return was rewarded with a surprise -- and deserved -- Emmy win for Best Actor. Runner-up: Anthony Michael Hall, who escaped "Whatever Happened to ... " hell with his riveting performance in USA's "The Dead Zone."

Best Fight

Carmela and Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos" -- "I don't love you anymore. I don't want you. The thought of you sleeping in my bed makes me sick." Damn. That's gotta hurt. Runner-up: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Eminem at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Best Reason to Skip the Nightly News

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central.

Guiltiest Pleasure

Admit it. You don't hate "American Idol." You hate yourself for loving it. "American Idol" is the best kind of guilty pleasure, because millions of people watch it, even calling in and voting for their favorite singers, but no one admits to how much they really like it.

The Real Reality Show

"The Amazing Race" -- I never wanted to miss one single episode of either "Amazing Race 2" or "Amazing Race 3." Runners-up: MTV's "The Osbournes" and PBS' "Frontier House." All three of these reality shows are addictive for very different reasons -- not to mention they're head and shoulders above crap like "Survivor" and "The Bachelor."

The "No Award for You" Award

Hey, where's the love for "Gilmore Girls"? It's got some of the best writing and acting on network TV. How about an Emmy? Ummm, a Golden Globe? Damn, how about a Blockbuster Award? Can the "Girls" get a damn People's Choice Award?

On the TV-movie side, everyone seemed to forget how great John Turturro was as Howard Cosell in "Monday Night Mayhem" this award season.

Most Improved Show

"The West Wing" -- This Emmy-winning series hit story line slumps last season (Mary-Louise Parker's annoying Amy, "The Bodyguard" storyline for C.J.), but judging by the new episodes so far this season, "The West Wing" is getting back in the swing of things.

Smartest Move

NBC forking out the megabucks to keep "Friends" for another year. Judging by its fall sitcoms "In-Laws," "Good Morning Miami" and "Hidden Hills," the folks at NBC don't know how to pick 'em anymore. There's no shame in desperately clinging to one of the few sitcoms that works like your very livelihood depends on it.

Best Finish

The season finale of "24" -- After 24 grueling, one-hour episodes in which he saved presidential nominee David Palmer and thwarted evildoers' plans over and over again, Jack Bauer's longest day came to a close, but he paid the price when double agent Nina Myers killed his pregnant wife. There wasn't a more surprising, more gut-wrenching finale this year.
Credit: The Examiner

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