5. Big Love
HBO's pseudo-Mormon drama has been surprisingly awesome, with great acting and only-in-Utah plotlines. Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is just your average superdad -- except he's got three wives, a compound full of nutcase relatives and kids filling up his three comfortable suburban homes. And just when you thought Bill's perfect little world was going to implode at the end of Season Two, he somehow manages to hold it all together. Plus, Harry Dean Stanton as the Prophet offers one of the creepiest characters ever put on the small screen.
4. Top Chef
I'm not a big reality TV guy, but Bravo's televised face-off between talented young chefs is seriously addictive. This is like the opposite of FOX's Hell's Kitchen, which is about manufacturing drama; Top Chef is about making food -- really, really impressive food.
3. 30 Rock
In our postmodern, everything-old-can-be-new-again world, it was inevitable that we'd get a show about a show -- in this case, a sitcom that goes behind the scenes at a Saturday Night Live-ish comedy hour. And as with SNL, it's the ensemble that makes or breaks it -- and in the case of 30 Rock, they make it big time. Judah Friedlander is delightful for his studied slothfulness, and of course Jack McBrayer as Kenneth the Page has been the breakout star of the show. But 30 Rock really does belong to Alec Baldwin's razor sharp delivery of consistently great lines. Here's a case where great writers really make the difference.
2. Planet Earth
Wow! This is the mother of all nature specials, and if you have one of those fancy HD setups, these BBC-produced shows give you your money's worth, with stunning scenes from all over this spectacular planet. Planet Earth takes you somewhere you've never been and teaches you something about the world beyond your sofa.
1. Flight of the Conchords
Learning something is nice, but for my top pick I'm going with the least educational, most daft show I've seen in years. HBO's Flight of the Conchords documents the travails of a couple of New Zealanders -- Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement -- trying to make a go of a music career in the Big Apple. This show is wildly uneven: Some episodes miss the mark (the David Bowie dream sequence), but others are perfection (when Jemaine gets mugged and any of their dates). It's the subtleties that make it great, like when their manager, Murray, insists on taking roll at band meetings, attended by just the three of them. Oh yeah, and once per show they break into song in hilarious mock-MTV style. Some of the songs are classic (check out "Business Time" on YouTube), and the guys are such happy losers you can't help but root for them. And apparently they didn't use up all their tunes yet, as a second season has been announced.