“Taradise” may have induced vomiting, and Freddie Prinze Jr.’s comedy was truly pathetic, but here are seven shows that prove television was more worthwhile than Thucydides reading in 2005.
7. My Name is Earl (NBC, Thursday 9 p.m.)
A new show about karma, a list of wrongdoings that need to be righted and Jason Lee’s moustache. Earl (Jason Lee) wins the lottery but is hit by a car, and consequently sets out to change his karma by making a list of all the wrong things he’s done in his life. With a little luck, a lot of beer, his silly brother and his trailer-park ex-wife (Jaime Pressly), Earl might just succeed in reversing his karma. Standout performances from Lee and Pressly anchor this outrageous comedy. With an equally outrageous bunch of supporting characters, “My Name is Earl” keeps the humor flowing throughout its riotously funny half-hour slot.
6. My Super Sweet Sixteen (MTV)
A glitzy look into the oh-so-hard lives of teenage divas (and one divo) as they search for the perfect designer dress that inevitably ends up looking slutty, pout when their parents suggest buying a gently used Range Rover, gush over their celebrity entertainers and party hard until curfew. This show is in no way intellectually stimulating, but that’s not the point. It’s silly, outrageous and extremely entertaining in its absurdity. Watching a birthday girl who arrives in a Cinderella carriage — complete with a Prince Charming in costume — ape the signature moves from “Dirty Dancing” somehow puts everything in perspective.
5. Entourage (HBO, Sunday 9 p.m.)
This series, based on the experiences of producer Mark Wahlberg as a young actor in Hollywood, follows the life of Vince Chase, the “next big thing” who brings his friends and brother along as he sets out for California. The writing and the acting in this show make it a must-see, and Jeremy Piven steals the show as crazy superagent Ari, who tries to lead Vince down the path to stardom with dripping sarcasm. With a great ensemble cast, this show is a look into the Hollywood machine — what it takes to reach the big time and stay there.
4. House (FOX, Tuesday 9 p.m.)
A hospital drama that follows brilliant but irreverent doctor Gregory House (Hugh Laurie) as he tackles different medical puzzles. With gory up-close looks at surgical procedures and swooping shots of the human body’s internals, “House” may be focused on the medicine, but the show also includes a little sexual tension for the good doctor.
Maybe it’s Hugh Laurie’s incredibly sardonic bedside manner. Or those bright blue eyes. Or maybe it’s the way that House and his team diagnose baffling illnesses in the span of an hour. But in any case, “House” has the right prescription for success. Seriously?
3. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, Sunday 10 p.m.)
Set in the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital, this show follows the lives of surgical interns as they wade through the typical twentysomething issues of careers, relationships and sex, though not necessarily in that order. The interns fall in love with their jobs, with each other and with their off-limits bosses as they embark on the road to self-discovery. Don’t worry, it’s not as cheesy as it sounds.
The ridiculous attractiveness of Dr. McDreamy … er, Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), is not the only reason to tune in on Sunday nights. The show works because of the ensemble; there’s the insecure and overdramatic Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), the endearing and puppy-like George (T.R. Knight), the beautiful and holiday-lovin’ Izzie (Katherine Heigl) and the wisecracking and brisk Cristina (Sandra Oh). Though it’s set in a hospital, this show is really all about the juicier stuff, like friendship and love and sex, and is consistently heart-meltingly wonderful.
2. Lost (ABC, Wednesday 9 p.m.)
A plane crashes on an island that is anything but paradise. With appearances by mysterious people known only as the “Others” and the discovery of a strange man who has been living in a bunker on the island for many years, the survivors of Oceanic Flight 816 don’t have it as easy as those castaways on “Gilligan’s Island” did.
The intrigue on the island, combined with characters’ flashbacks to their pre-crash lives, is perfectly balanced to maximize suspense. This show is never predictable, and each episode raises bigger questions while keeping answers tantalizingly close. “Lost” blends drama, a strong cast (including feisty Michelle Rodriguez and tender Matthew Fox), a dash of romance and science fiction to create one of the most enthralling hours of television in 2005.
1. Arrested Development (FOX, Monday 8 p.m.)
This half-hour comedy chronicles the daily life of television’s most dysfunctional family, the Bluths, as they struggle to keep the family business afloat. Quite possibly the best television show of the year, it has an amazingly quirky cast, talented guest stars and very absurd episodes that involve magic tricks and hair plugs gone awry.
The Bluth family is, well, special. Those that shine include “G.O.B.” (Will Arnett), a not-so-skilled magician; Buster (Tony Hale), who lost his hand to a seal; Maeby (Alia Shawkat), a teenage girl who holds down a job as a high-powered film executive; and Tobias (David Cross), who lost his job as chief of medicine and is now an unemployed actor. Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is perhaps the sanest of the bunch, but his earnest demeanor and overbearing concern for his son, George Michael (Michael Cera), sometimes put him in the crazy camp with the rest of his kin. “Arrested Development” may have been tragically cancelled by FOX (leaving gems like “Nanny 911” and “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy”), but this show is a phenomenal innovation that — for a short time, anyway – has finally brought smart comedy back to the small screen.