Playing favorites . . . my picks for this year's top 10 shows

Michaelchall_dexter_240 You might have noticed that I am calling my end-of-the-year lists "my favorite" instead of "best of." With all the shows on TV these days, more than any other year, I had to quickly make decisions about new series. You guys swear that both True Blood and Sons of Anarchy got better with time --- but I wrote both shows off after three episodes. Based on all the emails I received, I definitely plan on catching up with them in the future.

And, as I always say, being a TV critic really comes down to my (hopefully interesting) opinion and my personal preferences. Because in the end I gravitate towards and keep up with the shows I like the best. So even though Dexter may be a brilliant show, a series revolved around a serial killer isn't a show I want to watch on a regular basis. I've tried but it's too dark and disturbing for me (strange I know coming from someone who watches CSI each week but the TiVo wants what the TiVo wants). And unfortunately when both The Wire and The Shield came back for their final seasons, I didn't keep up with them. (Insert your exasperated sighs here.) That doesn't mean they didn't end on a fantastic note. It just means I didn't make time to take them on.

If you read my column regularly, I'm sure none of my picks will surprise you. But here are my 10 favorite shows of 2008.

Cast2_madmen2_240 1. Mad Men (AMC): Watching this series is such an evocative experience, that I almost feel like I've smoked a cigarette when it's over. It pulls you in their world. And it's also a series where every character gets to shine -- from Bryan Batt's sad, repressed Salvatore Romano to Mark Moses' scheming, struggling Duck. Every moment of Mad Men is one to treasure.

2. Lost (ABC): I remain more convinced than ever that Lost will be remembered as on of the best TV dramas of all time. It continues to challenge the conventional wisdom of how TV tells a story and going into its fifth season remains just as compelling as it was in the pilot.

Howimetyourmother_s2_240 3. How I Met Your Mother (CBS): When this show first premiered, I thought it could be the next Friends. I'm not sure why it didn't become the pop culture phenomenon I thought it had the potential to be but it will always be legendary in my mind. No show so perfectly captures the easy, funny dialogue that exists among friends. And I want to give an honorable mention to The Big Bang Theory, a show I like more and more every time I watch it. So much so that it almost made my list this year.

4. Eli Stone (ABC): By now you know why this beloved series is on my list. I totally heart this series. And it has become almost painful to watch the episodes knowing that each hour with this lawyer/ prophet may be my last.

Hughlaurie4_house_s4_240 5. House (FOX): I have my concerns (that's a big no on the potential Cuddy/House romance) and I still want the series to figure out what to do with Cameron and Chase but I can't deny that each week I look forward to watching House solve the case. The series was one of the few to come back from the writers strike with some of its strongest story lines yet.

6. 30 Rock (NBC): Wacky as ever, no show can seamlessly weave in so many laughs per second. I have yet to watch an episode that didn't make me laugh outloud. But I do have one request -- more scenes with the writer's room please.

7. Everybody Hates Chris (CW): Perhaps TV's most underrated series and representative of something we don't see any more -- the family comedy. Funny, poignant and featuring the best child actors on TV, this series is a gem. If you're not watching it, you should be.

Spencergrammer_amberstevens_greeks2 8. Greek (ABC Family): The dramedy is the pitch-perfect mix of romance, humor, pop-culture references, timely topics and angst without ever taking itself too seriously. There's a genius behind all the frothy fun that deserves to be recognized.

9. The Office (NBC): Sure sometimes the show is way too awkward and uncomfortable (I still shudder at the thought of Jan and Michael's dinner party) but there are still so many bright spots at Dunder Mifflin. And special bonus points for letting Pam and Jim's relationship evolve like it would in life.

10. Privileged (CW) and Life on Mars (ABC): Okay I'm totally cheating by putting two shows into one slot but this is a tough time for scripted hour long series so I definitely need to recognize my two favorite new shows of the fall. Privileged slipped right into the void left by Gilmore Girls and Life on Mars spun a story that left me confused, captivated and wanting more episodes. And both thrive because of their leading characters.

Those were my favorite shows of 2008. What are yours? Talk about it below.

Ask TV Gal

I just moved to where I have cable that includes AMC. I've been dying to see Mad Men -. Are you aware of any upcoming marathons I could watch so I could start at the beginning, the relative beginning, or even watch enough to know who's who and what's going on? Thanks! Jan

Sorry Jan I check with the folks over at AMC and they don't have any marathons planned right now. My guess is that we'll see a marathon closer to the start of season three next year. In the meantime, I definitely recommend renting the first season on DVD.

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

Erincahill_freeride_240_002 Erin Cahill was Ted's sister on How I Met Your Mother. We saw her a few week's ago as the fiancé of the missing man on Without a Trace (the episode that took Jack and Sam to LA). Cahill was also Amber in the short-lived FOX series Free Ride.

Robin Weigert was the wife of the woman whose cancer had come back on ER. Weigert was, of course, Calamity Jane on Deadwood and Lt. Karen Davis last season on Life (she returned for one episode this season). Weigert was also Juliet's sister Rachel on Lost.

Gloria Garayua is doing double duty on medical dramas. She's one of the interns, Graciella, on Grey's Anatomy and was the pregnant woman INS was after on ER.

Sarahdrew_everwood_240_002 It was a familiar faceapoolza on Private Practice. Brian Benben was Sheldon, the psychiatrist who thought he was out of Violet's league. Benben was Martin in the HBO series Dream On. Sarah Drew was the pregnant college student who wanted to give her baby up for adoption. Drew was, of course, Hannah on Everwood and we've seen her this year as Kitty Romano on Mad Men and Megan's best friend on Privileged. Ione Skye was the woman who wanted to adopt the baby. Skye was Diane in the movie Say Anything.

Meredith Monroe, Andie on Dawson's Creek, was the woman with ovarian cancer who didn't want to have the surgery Addison recommended. Jay Harrington was the rival doctor treating her. Harrington must like playing doctors on TV. He was Susan's boyfriend Dr. Ron McCreadie on Desperate Housewives, Dr. Simon O'Keefe on Summerland and Theo on The Division. I was about to place the always charming Harrington in my "deserves his own show" file but I don't have to. We'll see him soon as the title character in the new ABC series Better Off Ted.

Kerrsmith_justice_240 Kerr Smith was Paul the lawyer who assigned Maggie to the nonprofit case on Eli Stone. Smith was Jack on Dawson's Creek and Tom on the FOX series Justice, which also happened to star Victor Garber.

Jack, Kim and Tom were the first of many readers to be so excited to see Reginald VelJohnson as Big Mike's cousin Al Powell on Chuck. He was Carl the father in Family Matters but more importantly Sgt. Al Powell in the Die Hard movies. It was one big inside joke as both Als have a thing for Twinkies.

Visual Inside Joke of the Week

Zac paid special attention to the jerseys people were wearing at the Minnesota bar on How I Met Your Mother. Robin's jersey said Fryman on the back. Pamela Fryman is an executive producer on the series and has directed every episode. Another man at the bar had a jersey that said Smulders on the back. Cobie Smulders plays Robin on the series.

That's all for today. I'm back on Friday with quotes of the week. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com. Talk to you on Friday.

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal

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