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PUBLISHED: 1:19 PM on Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Top TV shows of 2005

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Lorelai proposed to Luke, the survivors opened the hatch and Michael Bluth almost married a mentally challenged Brit played by Charlize Theron.

Yes, there were a lot of great TV moments in 2005, but for me, the best was when I finally caved in and got a digital video recorder.

It's no surprise that studies show DVR users watch more TV than those who use VCRs or - here's an outdated notion for you - plan their schedule around the network grids (although, truth be told, I do make sure to take my break during "Veronica Mars" every Wednesday).

DVRs aren't perfect - sometimes shows fail to record and I'm left with nothing but a "did not record-error" message. But they are convenient tape-savers for a 20-shows-a-week geek like me. Instead of juggling VHS tapes and programming my VCR daily, I can program all of my favorite shows at the start of the fall season.

Speaking of rankings, here are my top 10 shows from a great year on the tube.

1. "Veronica Mars" (8 p.m. Wednesdays, UPN) - It's the coolest show on TV because Kristen Bell and the supporting cast have mastered an acting style positioned comfortably between classic noir and modern melodrama.

It's the best show on TV because it respects its audience. Unlike most mystery series (even good ones like "Monk"), the way the weekly cases are solved always rings true, and the season-long head-scratcher - who sent a busload of students over a cliff? - makes every episode vital viewing.

2. "Family Guy" (8 p.m. Sundays, Fox) -- "The Simpsons" likes to joke (playfully, creator Matt Groening says) about how "Family Guy" ripped them off. But you couldn't blame Groening if he was a little jealous, not only because "Family Guy" can get away with more, but also because since its May resurrection (Fox canceled it in 2002). Seth MacFarlane's show is now the better of the two animated favorites. Stewie, Brian, Peter, Lois, Chris - and yes, even Meg - are now fully formed characters, complete with foibles to be exploited by the writing staff.

3. "Prison Break" (8 p.m. Mondays, Fox) - It's a show about a guy (Wentworth Miller) who launches an elaborate, tedious plan to break himself and his brother (Dominic Purcell) out of prison before he is executed, but it's not tedious viewing. "Prison Break" is elaborate though, thanks to the outside-the-walls mystery - headed up by Robin Tunney - of "Who really killed the vice president's brother?," which expanded into "Is he really dead at all?" in the "fall finale" (the story resumes in March). The inside-the-walls ensemble is rounded out by scenery chewers like Peter Stormare (as Abruzzi, whom we hate to love) and Robert Knepper (as T-Bag, whom we love to hate).

4. "The Office" (8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC) - The sitcom, based on the British "Office" that's on the short list of Greatest Shows Ever, got off to a rocky start last spring because it was a little too similar to its progenitor. We couldn't help but compare Michael Scott with David Brent, Dwight with Gareth, Jim and Pam with Tim and Dawn and Scranton with Slough. This fall, however, the American branch of the paper company has distinguished itself with fresh, poignant stories, often involving Steve Carell's Michael, who is rejected after a one-night stand with his boss and left off Jim's party list. Hey, Michael may be a horrible person, but he's also a human being.

5. "The Inside" (canceled, Fox) - Tim Minear ("Wonderfalls") is known for producing dark, moody shows featuring cutting dialogue delivered by a great cast ... which promptly get canceled by Fox. "The Inside" was essentially a non-supernatural "X-files" as Rebecca Locke (Rachel Nichols) and her FBI teammates -- including familiar faces such as Adam Baldwin and Peter Coyote - investigated particularly troubling crimes in Los Angeles.

Like any self-respecting postmodern heroine, Rebecca has troubles of her own (which seven episodes could only hint at). Six unaired episodes are floating out there somewhere, so here's hoping for a DVD.

6. "Arrested Development" (7 p.m. Mondays, Fox) - TV's most brazenly non-traditional comedy will wrap its truncated third season this spring, but it won't be as tough to take as the axing of other great shows. Usually, we mourn the loss of all the stories the writers had been building toward. But "Arrested" never builds to anything: It's wildly unpredictable (the "on


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