A warm thought for the deep chill of winter: Even in the doldrums of a miserable season, Gilmore Girls proves that it's still capable of greatness. This week's episode returned to its core, the electrifying dynamic among three generations of Gilmore women, balancing humor with searing flashes of drama in an episode incomparably illuminated by the welcome return of Kelly Bishop's imperious, hilarious, monstrous yet ultimately oh-so-human Emily Gilmore.

It seems like ages since we've seen Bishop at her best. And no mistake about it, she was at her best this week, rising to the occasion when Emily's husband, Richard (the estimable Edward Herrmann), is felled with a heart attack. Bossing around the hospital staff, railing against the incompetence of any poor health-club or service worker who has the bad luck to come up against her, she is a riot. And as Lorelai and Rory sit in amused horror, we know deep down all will be well because they're all together again.

The episode builds to a wrenching confrontation in the most banal of settings (a hospital gift shop) when Lorelai confronts her mother over Emily's seeming detachment: getting a will (and a living will) faxed to the hospital, canceling dinner reservations, ordering what sounds like a small inlet's worth of fish to be delivered to the house. Emily rightly puts Lorelai in her place, in an anguished monologue about the duties of a wife and partner, an area in which she assumes (rather correctly) that Lorelai is woefully ill-informed. "He's my whole life," Emily cries. If anyone watching wasn't crying, they're heartless.

The episode also was a happy (if poignant) reminder of what we still love about the show, even at its weakest: the community of Stars Hollow, rallying around its favorite girls in a time of crisis. Even Michel was sympathetic (albeit characteristically fussy). And Luke? Stepped up, just as you'd expect. Whatta guy.

And yet, this episode had the bad fortune of being trapped in a hopelessly ill-conceived season, so we also had to deal with the whole Lorelai-Christopher fallout. After turning him into an unlikely suitor who swept her off her feet with deep-pocketed romantic whims (the Paris adventure), the show now transforms Chris into a callous, jealous ogre who leaves Lorelai on her own for the entire episode. I'm sure we'll get an explanation next week for his extended absence, but too little too late. What kind of person doesn't at least return her calls with an "OMG, I'm so sorry, I'll be there, this is awful, what can I do?" Answer: There is no such person, just a victim of bad soap-opera writing. Instead, Chris shows up unannounced, not even letting Lorelai know he was on his way, and for the most impurely contrived pseudodramatic motivations (as in: pouting once again over Luke being there).

The fact that Gilmore Girls is still capable of greatness, even now, is reason enough to pull the curtain on this show before we forget it was ever any good.

Speaking of good: Bones tonight. Fox, 8 pm/ET: watch it. (Or, if you're watching Friday Night Lights, record it. Those are the only two defensible viewing options in that hour.)

Two new faces brighten things up on what is generally one of the more amusing procedurals (if you can get past the icky forensics). British comic actor Stephen Fry, whose career has long been linked with Fox's House superstar Hugh Laurie (in Jeeves & Wooster, A Bit of Fry and Laurie and the incomparable Black Adder), is wonderful as a disarmingly droll police shrink brought in to analyze Booth right down to his colorful socks. Booth, still reeling from the death last week of serial killer Howard Epps (did Booth let him drop?), shoots up a noisy ice-cream truck in a fit of pique, which puts him on temporary leave and under the doctor's scrutiny.

Their scenes together are terrific, and this twist frees up Bones to get a temporary new partner for a case that takes them to Florida's gator country (yes, we go inside the belly of the beast). The new guy, nicknamed Sully, is played by Eddie McClintock, who often plays boorish louts in second-rate sitcoms. Here, he's quite charming as an agent far less intense than Booth, a guy who sees there's more to life than murders and corpses. Bones finds this intriguing, and so do I.

The case itself is OK, fairly obvious in its resolution (with one mid-story twist you can see coming a mile away). But the pleasure of Bones, as it is most weeks, is in the interaction and development of these very appealing characters, including the lab techs back at the Jeffersonian. When Hodgins, eager to get his hands dirty in the gator, says, "We have the coolest jobs ever," you may tend to agree.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Bones is the coolest show ever. But it probably is the coolest, and certainly the most consistently enjoyable, crime drama currently on the air.