10. The Rachel Zoe Project
Appropriately dubbed “raisin face” by Nicole Richie, Rachel Zoe is a stylist to the stars and Botox’s biggest client. Watching is the equivalent of a fashion football game, causing viewers to scream, “No! Oh my god! Don’t wear that. Oh, what is she thinking?!” at their screens.
Standout performance: Zoe’s assistants Taylor and Brad. Taylor’s snippy, bitchy remarks and tendency to overreact makes us wonder why we still like her so much, while Brad’s disarming charm and cute fumbling tug at our Oscar de la Renta heartstrings.
9. Pushing Daisies
Now unfortunately cancelled, this whimsical treat brought us the pie-maker that could bring people back to life – including his dead love. What could be more uplifting than that? The show’s colorful style is what really made it stand out and television will be worse without it.
Standout performance: Lee Pace as pie-making Ned. One half of a painfully romantic love story, Pace was a delight to watch. Hopefully, in his future endeavors, everything comes up roses.
8. How I Met Your Mother
This comedy hit all the right marks this year – so much so that its fantastic cast recently took to the pages of Entertainment Weekly for a photo shoot of 2008’s best moments including Jonas Brother hysteria, Indiana Jones remakes and the Beijing Olympics. Looks like they’re as funny off-screen as they are on.
Standout performance: Neil Patrick Harris as Barney. Harris’s comeback sprung from spoofing himself as a drugged out womanizer in the Harold and Kumar films, which once he came out of the closet, became even more hilarious. He recently stripped down for an episode of the show too. Looks like he’s willing to do anything for comedy and we, of course, approve.
This show was initially recommended to us by an addict who said he felt connected to main character Dexter’s inability to stop killing. When a television show has you rooting for a serial murderer, you know it’s gold.
Standout performance: Michael C. Hall as the enigmatic Dexter. This season begged the question: “Is Dexter capable of love?” Hall’s nuanced acting – rightfully – kept us grappling for an answer.
6. True Blood
This was the year of the vampire and the whole genre, truthfully, risks getting very played out very quickly. However, this campy novel-turned-series is so entertaining and sometimes poignant we’re willing to bet it’s better than that other vampire fandom. The fresh Louisiana setting and inclusion of the ever-adorable Anna Paquin (and her awesome rack) don’t hurt either.
Standout performance: Nelsan Ellis as the fierce as fuck Lafayette. The porn and drug dealer by night, fry cook by day steals every scene he’s in. From licking a homophobe’s burger to “give it AIDS” to being the only gay man of color on television (Can you name another?), Lafayette is easy to root for.
Say what you will but children’s television is now made for equal enjoyability by adults (case and point: R.I.P. Drake & Josh). With reigning Disney empire Hannah Montana approaching “so five minutes ago,” Nickelodeon’s tech-based comedy iCarly is set to take the throne.
Standout performance: Jerry Trainor as Carly’s goofy older brother, Spencer. As a 30-something on a network for tweens, Trainor makes what could be a one-note role endearing and hilarious.
4. Gossip Girl
The storylines and character development have gone downhill since it’s first season but this deliciously sinful CW soap remains too good to pass up. Watching an episode is like finishing an entire tub of cookie dough alone with a spoon on a Friday night: terrible for you but so, so satisfying.
Standout performance: Taylor Momsen as wannabe fashion designer Jenny Humphrey. Co-star Ed Westwick’s heart-wrenching turn as Chuck Bass deserves mention but Momsen is the most natural in her role. You hate her because she’s a whiny, ungrateful, impatient teenager, which means she’s doing her job. Honorable mention goes to Kelly Rutherford’s Lily Bass.
3. 30 Rock
Liz Lemon is the everywoman; totally falling apart while holding everyone else together. Who working today can’t relate to that? What we probably can’t relate to is the hilarious folk surrounding Tina Fey’s Lemon; self-absorbed Jenna, psychotic Tracey, horny Frank.
While it needs to cut down on the guest stars, the show consistently delivers at least one line you’ll be quoting the next day.
Standout performance: Alec Baldwin as conservative boss-man Jack Donaghy. His interactions with his mother on the show’s recent Christmas special were to die for (pun intended). Honorable mention goes to Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth and Scott Adsit’s Pete.
As confusing and brilliant as ever, this ABC powerhouse is finally near the end and – hopefully – some answers. The island drama has raised enough questions in its five seasons to put Jeopardy! to shame but it’s also introduced some of the most complex characters and smartest storylines in television history.
Standout performance: This is like picking a favorite child: Michael Emerson as Ben, Jeremy Davies as Faraday, Terry O’Quinn as Locke, Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond, Yunjin Kim as Sun.
1. Saturday Night Live
From its spot on political satire to the consistently gut-busting Digital Shorts, Saturday Night Live has made almost as big a comeback this year as Britney Spears. Fey’s Sarah Palin, Jason Sudekis’s Joe Biden, Darrell Hammond’s John McCain and even Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama (come on, SNL: hire another black man!) kept us laughing through the election. More recently, last week’s Digital Short “Jizz in My Pants” was as catchy as a Timbaland song and as hysterical as…well, the number of us who had to explain the word “jizz” to our parents. Touche, SNL. Touche.
Standout performance: Kristin Wiig. The woman must have a personality disorder with the way she’s able to pull so many characters out of her tiny frame. Her deformed sister singing act, Junice, the overly enthusiastic Target lady and the crazy woman doing an adult braces commercial in her own bathroom are just some of what Wiig has up her sleeve.