How do I love TV, let me count the ways . . .My Top Ten Shows of 2007

Cast_lost_abc_s3_240 This is going to be a good week. I know this because:

1. I have completed all of my Christmas shopping.

2. On Friday, ABC announced a premiere date for Lost. The show returns for a fourth season on January 31 taking over the Grey's Anatomy time slot. Yes, they have only eight episodes completed. But I say eight episodes of Lost is better than no episodes at all.

3. The Writer's Guild of America announced Saturday that it will begin trying to negotiate individually with producers. That means the Late Show with David Letterman could return with its writers by January 2. This is a small sign of hope during a crippling strike that appears to have no end in sight. (The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Night With Conan O'Brien are returning too but sans writers).

4. And finally ABC also announced on Friday that Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams will reprise their roles as Angie and Jesse on All My Children beginning January 18. I think you all know my attachment to All My Children (remember I told my mom I wanted to take a family vacation to Pine Valley). These days I don't keep up as much as I used to with soap operas, but I'll be tuning in to catch one of my all time favorite TV couples reunited (sure Jesse is dead but this is no time to nitpick).

So with all this good news, let's take a look at my picks for the 10 best shows of 2007. I should emphasize that they are my picks. When I first started writing this column, it was much easier to be sure I had given every show in prime time a fair shake but with the explosion of original programming on cable TV, now I feel like I'm lucky if I at least watch the pilot episode of every new show. So here are the ten shows that captivated me the most this year.

1. Lost (ABC): There is nothing else like Lost on TV. Nothing. No show has created such an enchanting world with such fascinating characters. No show has pulled me in to so many mysteries while making me care so deeply about the survivors of Oceanic Air flight 815 and their back stories. And no show achieved such a game changing feat in its season finale. Just thinking about the shock I felt when I realized the entire two hours had been a flash forward still gives me chills. I cannot wait until January 31.

2. Mad Men (AMC): Do you remember that movie Pleasantville, when Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon entered a 1950's sitcom? That's kind of how I feel when I watch Mad Men. Matthew Weiner has created a show that is so evocative -- with the clink of the ice in the glass, the swish of the skirts and the billowing smoke -- that, as a viewer, I almost feel like I could step right in and join the office pool. That's how vivid and vibrant Mad Men is. And Jon Hamm's Don Draper is that perfect fusion of the right actor with the right part at the right time. It's the kind of part that transforms careers. And it's the kind of show that defines a cable network no one ever thought of for original programming before.

3. Damages (FX): You know one of my favorite games is to play "predict a plot" while watching a show. I like to see if I can guess where a show is going and what trick it has up its sleeve. Damages always kept me guessing. Just when I thought I had figured something out, I realized the show had pulled a fast one on me. And what a cast! Glenn Close was simultaneously evil and vulnerable and I don't think anyone can match Ted Danson's ability to so effortlessly go from comedy to drama. His Arthur Frobisher was a despicable guy but there were still times I kind of felt sorry for him. How delightful that this show was picked up for a second season.

4. The Office (NBC): Of all the writer's strike causalities, this one hit me the hardest because the series was snatched from us immediately. Leaving us to wonder how Jim and Pam are doing with their burgeoning romance, if Andy is making any progress with Angela and how Dwight is managing in a post-Angela world. Although I think the one hour episodes put a strain on the series, The Office remained TV's most awkwardly hilarious comedy. And added bonus points for deftly handling the Jim and Pam relationship so it didn't dominate the series.

Neilpatrickharris_howimetyourmother 5. How I Met Your Mother (CBS): Last week when I was watching the episode where the gang tries to warn Ted about dating his doctor, I actually said out loud, "This show has reached perfection." The episode was so flawlessly edited with its flashback within a flashback within a flashback. In its third season, this comedy continues to reward loyal viewers (I love the little things like how Ted continues to correct people after the episode where that was declared to be his most annoying habit) while being laugh out loud funny. And no discussion of How I Met Your Mother would be complete without a shout out to Barney. Neil Patrick Harris has created a character who could have dominated the series but with Harris' nuanced performance, Barney is one very funny part of a very funny whole.

6. 30 Rock (NBC): This is a show that has blossomed in its second season and solved the problems that hampered its first season. Tina Fey has become more comfortable acting and the comedy has figured out exactly how to leverage Jane Krakowski and Tracy Morgan to maximum comedic effect. Add in Alec Baldwin's deadpan delivery as corporate executive Jack Donaghy and 30 Rock has lived up to the definition of Must See TV.

7. Friday Night Lights (NBC): Even when the drama made a plot mistake that could have been crippling, it still managed to make a series about high school football in a small town, a show that everyone can relate to. For why I heart Friday Night Lights, check out my post from Friday, December 14.

8. Brothers & Sisters (ABC): The best family drama on TV. Period. For more on how I want to be a Walker, check out my column from last Monday, December 10.

9. The Closer (TNT): With crime dramas, it's often not the crime but those who go about solving the crime that make the show. And right now there are a lot of good crime dramas on television (Bones, CSI, Without a Trace), but there's something about the way Detective Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson goes about getting the bad guy that makes this show my favorite. And I can't get enough of Detectives Provenza and Flynn.

10. House (Fox): The series took a risk by sidelining three of its main characters in favor of Dr. House's Survivor like search for a new team. But instead of seeming like a desperate attempt to breathe new life into a series in its fourth season, it was a brilliant way to supply House with new fodder and show viewers his slightly more vulnerable side. And it wouldn't have worked if those vying for House's team, especially the ones who didn't make it, hadn't been so perfectly cast and developed. A special shout out to Kal Penn whose Kutner is so much fun to watch.

I know. I know. I left out your favorites. And believe me I struggled over this list (would Wilhelmina and Marc hatch a plot against me if I left off Ugly Betty?) so I want to hear from you. What were your favorite shows of 2007? Post your comments below.

Highlights of the Week of December 17-23

ABC and NBC both have week long programming stunts this week. Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, Nick Lachey, Kelly Rowland and Blake Shelton return to their hometowns to create an amateur choir and have them compete in Clash of the Choirs. The four-night series premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC and the winning choir will be declared on Thursday. Come on this is going to be fun. I'm rooting for Lachey whose choir will sing his "What's Left of Me?" ABC has the week long show Duel, which also premieres Monday at 8 p.m. and runs through Sunday. Twenty-four contestants, identified by their careers, face off on trivia question to win a grand prize of 1.5 million.

FOX is dubbing this the fall finale of K-ville (Monday, FOX, 9 p.m.) but my guess is that this could be the last we see of the series.

If you ever needed proof that I'm strangely drawn to cheesy dramas, look no further than October Road (Monday, ABC, 10 p.m.) which I continue to watch even though it really is quite a bad show full of ridiculous dialogue and stilted acting. It's like the kids of Dawson's Creek grew up and became even more self involved. This week, Hannah has to deal with Ray's bratty ex-wife. Are you still watching October Road? If so let me know because it will make me feel so much better.

Find out who lost the most weight in the two-hour season finale of The Biggest Loser (Tuesday, NBC, 9 p.m.) You won't really even have time to miss the show. Allison Sweeney returns to host a brand new edition on January 1 that will feature all different sorts of couples trying to lose weight.

Boston Legal is one of the few shows featuring a new episode this week (Tuesday, ABC, 10 p.m.). Shirley has to decide Lorraine Weller's fate now that it's been revealed that she is British and used to be a madam. You have to wonder why the show went in that direction. Did Saffron Burrows get tired of having to do an American accent? Either way Lorraine has been one of my least favorite additions to the show. So I say ship her back across the pond. How about you?

Blakelively8_gossipgirl_240 Gossip Girl is also new this week (Wednesday, CW, 9 p.m.).Blair's father comes home with his boyfriend for Christmas. But that's not her only problem -- she finds out that Chuck and Nate are together in Monaco, meaning that Chuck could tell Nate about his quality time with Blair in the limo. My question to you is this. Do you think Chuck could become one of those bad boys we grow to love (a la Logan on Veronica Mars) or do you think he's beyond repair? Discuss.

Gina Mantegna, the real life daughter of Joe Mantegna, guest stars as a missing teen on a brand new episode of Criminal Minds (Wednesday, CBS, 9 p.m.) This show has always been a little too gruesome for my taste but I'm curious if you think the series has been affected at all by Mandy Patinkin's departure. Also I'm kind of intrigued by the possibility of a Morgan/Garcia romance. How about you?

The Screen Actors Guild celebrates their own when Kate Walsh and Terrence Howard announce the nominees for the 14th Annual SAG Awards Thursday at 9 a.m. on TNT.

The winning band is declared in The Next Great American Band Friday at 9 p.m. on FOX.

That's all for today. I'm back on Wednesday with my picks for the best characters of 2007 and where have I seen them before? Remember if you have a favorite quote or TV moment from 2007, write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com and let me know. And, as always, if you have a question, seen a familiar face or want to nominate a quote of the week, write me. Talk to you on Wednesday.