In this last of TV Guide Online's series of helpful memos to members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, critic Matt Roush, Michael Ausiello and our bumper crop of professional couch potatoes pick the best of the tube's top dramas. Of course, we're not saying the Academy must nominate the shows we suggest. Us? No way. We wouldn't dream of doing a thing like that. As if! All we're implying is, if there is any justice whatsoever in the world, when the actual nods are announced on July 3, we'll find the Academy has given these programs the props they're due. And the contenders oughta be:
24: By now, even as cool as the one-day-per-season gimmick is, we're over it. What we aren't and can't get over is the mind-blowing consistency with which this show surprises us. In a year in which the show's filthy-rich baddies sought to start WWIII, the only thing we could be sure of week in and week out was that, dang, there isn't a single thing that we can be sure of!
Alias: Besides giving babe-watchers a post-millennial Emma Peel who's as stimulating to the mind as she is to the eyes, this spy game knocks us out by taking more chances in 60 minutes than many series do in their entire runs. This season alone, the show turned itself inside out by blowing up SD6 (aka Villain Central), then by ending the year with the theft of two years from heroine Sydney. Caramba!
American Dreams: To appear edgy, some series flash a little skin, and others throw in the occasional curse word or engage in ultra-violence. But this show? Nope. It simply, frankly refocuses the tumultuous 1960s through the wide eyes of an American Bandstand teenybopper. The result? Surprise it's profoundly affecting. Plus, it's got a beat, and you can dance to it.
Boomtown: Its high concept notwithstanding casework is played from a variety of points of view within the same episode this cop show succeeds on the merits of its top-drawer acting and pitch-perfect writing. Moreover, while we may not always like the core crimefighters, we always get them no mean feat, that.
The Shield: In its sophomore season, this police drama has continued to pick up where NYPD Blue left off, eschewing watercooler flirtations in favor of gritty street conflagrations. Better still, in its adamant refusal to trade in black-and-white characterizations, it's reminded us that while black can be beautiful, shades of gray are dazzling.