8 30 Rock • 30 Rock sealed its status as NBC's best sitcom in years with the episode in which network exec Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin at his smarmy, alpha male best) sets head comedy skit show writer Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) up on a date with "Tom," who turns out to be a chick. Meanwhile, in a series of poker games, Donaghy tries to crack over-eager page Kevin (Jack McBrayer), whose constant perkiness equals a perfect poker face and, according to Donaghy, the threat of world domination.
7 Fundamental • The ninth Pet Shop Boys album didn't seem on any level to match the buzz that preceded its release, but it's a grower, one of those albums whose many layers of beauty only become apparent with repeated listenings. Essential for fans of sophisticated pop/electronica.
6 Vodka • Even better than popcorn as an entertainment supplement.
5 Kidnapped • Poor NBC: The network delivers a bevy of high-quality programs in its new season and still can't crawl out of the cellar. This kidnapping drama shouldn't have been one-third as compelling as it was, but a superb cast, labyrinthine plot and cinematic production made this a must-see that was unjustly canceled early.
4 Battleground from Nightmares & Dreamscapes • TNT showed a quality adaptation of a Stephen King story is still possible, an achievement that continually eludes ABC's efforts to translate his work. This take on one of King's best short stories, in which an assassin finds himself attacked by toy soldiers, was one of the most skillfully crafted hours of television in 2006. Tragically, all of the other installments were grade-A crap.
3 I've Got a Secret • GSN, formerly the Game Show Network, proved it can deliver a high-quality game show with this revival, which had a pitch-perfect retro vibe, an engaging and capable panel and host (Bil Dwyer), and interesting guests. Though I can take or leave most panel shows, this had me tuning in nightly. Although the show is still on the schedule, GSN then reconfirmed its lack of taste by renewing the awful, brain-dead Chain Reaction instead of the smart Secret.
2 Dexter • Edging past Kidnapped as my favorite drama to debut this year, Dexter deviated from Jeff Lindsay's excellent novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter just enough to keep readers well in the dark. A blood spatter expert who rubs out other killers, Dexter is the new Hannibal Lecter, an intriguing villain-hero who, in his way, is making the world a better place. The last few episodes were second only to Battlestar Galactica in masterful suspense in 2006. Good news for devotees: Showtime renewed the show for a second dozen episodes, and Lindsay's third novel in the series is due in August.
1 Battlestar Galactica • I'm a slave to this show as Baltar is a slave to the whims of sultry, seductive, silver-hearted Number Six. With peaks such as Pegasus and Epiphanies, the second season of the best show on television put together an incomparable string of episodes juggling major threads such as the demotion of Adama, Roslyn's cancer and the fate of Sharon's half-toaster baby. Give this show some Emmys, please.
// Previously // 8 Things I Loved in 2005