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Picks and Pans Main: Top 10 Shows

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THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK CITY (Bravo)

A standout example of the crazy synergies of the docureality format: These Manhattan women, luxury lovers of no great apparent taste or social rank, became the darlings of the local media and ultimately stars in their own right. Rest in peace, Mrs. Astor.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (NBC)

More relevant than ever in 2008, thanks to Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond and Tina Fey. Their candidate impersonations (replayed widely on hulu.com) were the influential froth on a tidal surge of political commentary. Fey’s dopey flirt of a Sarah Palin was the one that made headlines, but the best was Poehler’s smiling, seething Hillary Clinton.

SWINGTOWN (CBS)

This drama about sexual adventurers in the 1970s had just the right look and tone of innocent sunlight and sleazy nostalgia. Lana Parrilla was especially good as a naughty-but-nice vixen of the old Aaron Spelling school.

FRINGE (FOX)

A paranoid thriller about the slimy realm of stealth science, this was the best new series to emerge from a stinko fall season. Creepy effects, dark humor and a superb performance from newcomer Anna Torv: cool, smart and natural.

LOST (ABC)

The narrative arc of TV’s most intractably dense series made an ingenious leap forward, revealing future survivors back on the mainland. At which point an awesome realization dawned: Was it all beginning to make sense?

WEEDS (Showtime)

Liberated from the suburb of previous seasons, the oddball satire about a pot-dealing mom grew wilder and scarier in its new setting, a town across the border from Tijuana. Mary-Louise Parker—pale, calculating and wide-eyed as a woman who knows each step risks tripping a land mine—has created an indelible character.

CRANFORD (PBS)

A funny, often moving miniseries about the unmarried ladies of an insular Victorian community where the air is full of gossiping, as well as the deeper rumblings of coming modern times.

IN TREATMENT (HBO)

A psychodrama in the most literal sense, this had possibly the single best acting moment of the year: Dianne Wiest, playing a therapist who for years has reined in her thoughts and feelings, at long last unleashes them on her onetime protégé (Gabriel Byrne).

THE SHIELD (FX)

After seven seasons, the meanest cop show of them all ended with Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) reaching the logical end of his corrupt and murderous road: total perdition.

DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG
The definition of “television show” is changing with the new digital technology—and that brings us to this charming online original, a musical with Neil Patrick Harris as a wannabe supervillain sapped by a weakness for love.