2005 was my first full year with a TiVo, which makes compiling a “best of the year” list a lot easier. Those who own the device know that it comes with a “season pass manager,” which forces subscribers to rank their favorite shows. (It demands this of us because sometimes “Survivor,” “The OC,” “Smallville” and “Alias” will all air in the same slot; when they do, TiVo forces you to choose which two you like most.) The TiVo, helpfully, even hangs on to a show’s rankings long after that show is cancelled.
I remind all that “The Wire,” “The Sopranos,” “The Venture Bros.,” “Da Ali G Show” did not air new episodes in 2005. I remind all others that if your favorite show is not on any of these lists, it was almost certainly number 11 on one of mine.
Peer now into the sickness that is my TV world:
10. The O.C. (Fox) The show I watched on Thursdays before “Survivor,” “Smallville” and “Alias.” Nowhere near as edgy as it used to be, but Rachel Bilson has grown almost as funny as Adam Brody, plus Marisa turned all lesbian early in the year!
9. Everwood (The WB). A cloying and maladroit hug-and-learn hour which inexplicably evolved into one of the most entertaining series on television. Less of those wacky motorcycle-riding seniors! More adventures of the mismatched Hannah and Bright. After “Tru Calling,” the most improved series of 2005.
8. The Inside (Fox). Tim Minear - one of the key architects behind “Angel” as well as the brilliant but short-lived “Firefly” and “Wonderfalls” – teamed up with writers Jane Espenson (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” “Gilmore Girls”), Ben Edlund (“The Tick,” “Firefly,” “Angel”), Richard Hatem (“Miracles”) and Craig Silverstein (“The Dead Zone”) for a “Silence of the Lambs”-inspired psychological thriller about the FBI’s Los Angeles-based Violent Crimes Unit. It was sick and funny and weird and, had Fox introduced it after “American Idol,” it would by now likely be Fox’s highest-rated scripted series.
7. Six Feet Under (HBO). The best and most mature of the show’s five seasons saw Claire take a day-job, Keith and Michael start a family, Ruth come to terms with Crazy George, and Nate kill himself with extra-marital sex. The season finale, written and directed by series creator Alan Ball, gave each of the long-suffering Fishers happy endings, and reduced the Mighty Herc to a mighty blubbering pool of goo.
6. 24 (Fox). The Kim-free fourth season – which gave us Edgar Stiles and Charles Logan and “Behroooooz!” and Jack’s first meeting with Naked Mandy - did not offer the magnetic heights we associate with the first season, but 2005 gave us the first season of “24” that managed to hold its momentum across all 24 episodes.
5. Rome (HBO). One of the best period pieces I’ve ever seen on a screen of any size. Rich characters, propulsive plotting, tight dialogue, and everybody still believed that invisible people in the sky shaped our destinies. Idiot Romans. HBO announced over the summer that “Rome” would get a second season, but more recent reports have thrown the series’ future into question. Regardless, the slave girl taking Titus Pullo’s hand provided some kind of perfect ending.
4. Lost (ABC). One of the most frustrating shows I can’t stop watching. 2005 was not as good a “Lost” year as 2004, but 2005 saw the regulars covered in Leslie Arzt, it took us down The Hatch to The Button and the Blast Door, it introduced us to Hanzo and Mistereko and gave us that great flashback episode with the Tailies. My best advice to those who oversee the show? Less flashback, more stories explaining the Island, and more substantial conflict between the heroes. The flashbacks are great when they seem to offer clues as to what’s going on in the middle of the Pacific. (Was it really just a coincidence that guy-in-hatch Desmond met Jack back in the states?) When they don’t – as with the recent Locke, Kate, Hurley and Ana Lucia flashbacks – they just kinda feel like padding. If there really is a five-year plan, the creators might maybe consider telescoping it down to three years before viewers lose interest.
3. Gilmore Girls (The WB). Another series that started out great and grows richer and more accomplished with each succeeding season. Makes me laugh every week, makes me cry at least three times a year. Richard Gilmore’s realization that his betrayal of Lorelai may have irreparably harmed his granddaughter put a lump in my throat the size of an ottoman. And as much as I thought Rory’s quitting Yale was absurdly out of character, I do see now how it serves a bigger and much more important arc. It remains the funniest show in production, and you, gentle reader, should enjoy it while you got it. As the highest-rated show on the WB, it’s a lock to return next season, but mastermind Amy Sherman-Palladino has a new WB series due out next fall, and she may have to walk away as “Gilmore” showrunner.
2. Veronica Mars (UPN). Comedy, drama, action, adventure, romance, betrayal, intrigue and class-struggle tied up in tidy, easy-to-adore package. Loved this series last season when it mostly trafficked in stand-alone installments; love it way more now that the plotlines that run between episodes are more tightly woven together into a massively intricate whole. Love the Casablanci, and can’t wait to see what Beaver’s up to. Keith Mars is not only funnier than fellow TV daddies Jack Bauer and Jack Bristow, but he might turn out to be an even bigger badass. Novelist and “Cupid” creator Rob Thomas has officially now given us two of the best TV series ever made.
1. Battlestar Galactica (SciFi). Post-apocalyptic drama that works brilliantly on so many levels I can't keep track of them all. I remind readers that all 23 episodes of the regular series aired in 2005, from “33” and “Water” all the way to “Pegasus.” The endlessly mysterious Cylons - with their strange monotheistic religion, their bizarre reproductive agenda, their fearlessness, their invulnerability, their unpredictability – make for some of the most fascinating and complex villains ever engineered for any filmed entertainment, big-screen or small. Chief Tyrol and Sharon “Boomer” Valerii coming to terms with Sharon’s sleeper status made for one of the year’s most intriguing storylines. Introducing a second Sharon on Caprica was the definition of inspired. The evolving relationship shared by Bill Adama and Laura Roslin, the almost-retired military man and the schoolteacher suddenly charged with preserving what’s left of the human race, is world-class. Saul Tigh’s wife is hilarious. We’ve seen the first two episodes of 2006 (SciFi resumes colorcasting the series this Friday) and can tell you that there are a lot more surprises to come. Series mastermind Ron Moore, who served as a key player on “Deep Space Nine,” co-wrote “Star Trek: First Contact” and oversaw the first season of “Carnivale,” cements with this series his status as Grand Master Storyteller.
10. Scrubs (NBC)
9. The Comeback (HBO)
8. The Office (NBC)
7. Arrested Development (Fox)
6. Justice League Unlimited (Cartoon Network)
5. Wonder Showzen (MTV2)
4. Entourage (HBO)
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
2. Weeds (Showtime)
1. South Park (Comedy Central)
10. Breaking Bonaduce (VH1)
9. Kill Reality (E!)
8. My Life on the D-List (Bravo)
7. Blind Date (syndicated)
6. The Adam Carolla Project (TLC)
6. Survivor (CBS)
4. Real World/Road Rules Challenge (MTV)
3. Big Brother (CBS)
2. Project Greenlight (Bravo)
1. The Comedians of Comedy (Comedy Central)
10. Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS)
9. Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)
8. The Al Franken Show (Sundance)
7. Late Night With Conan O’Brien (NBC)
6. Late Show With David Letterman (CBS)
5. Iconoclasts (Sundance)
4. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central)
3. Too Late With Adam Carolla (Comedy Central)
2. The Howard Stern Show (E!)
1. Dinner For Five (IFC)
Selected season-sets of Herc’s All-Time Favorite TV Shows!