Pat Clark

Cable nearly puts network TV to shame

For the past several years, we here with the Scene section have been picking our top 10 entertainment-related favorites from the outgoing year.

Yes, we're doing it again today.

It's a fun little brain exercise to hit "recall" and come up with the stuff that kept us most diverted, distracted and otherwise amused all year. We also keep it geared to what we know best: Lisa Millegan, our arts critic, sets forth her favorite local stage shows, Marijke Rowland picks the top movies, they pair up this year for concerts and I always stick with good old television.

To be sure, my list is the easiest to compile. All I have to do to hit "recall" for my brain is look at the Season Pass Manager on ye olde TiVo.

Of course, the Season Pass Manager in the DVR box at my house holds far more than 10 TV shows. Lot's more.

Oodles more.

I'd rather not tell you my number, though. It's just too personal.

Turns out, a lot of those shows are pretty darn fabulous. This year, more than ever, coming up with a top 10 list of the best TV shows has proven pretty darn challenging.

In fact, 2007 turned out to be an amazing year for television. Well, in my humble opinion, at any rate.

Most of the best of the best -- almost all of them, actually -- were thanks to those little bevies of quirky delight, the formerly obscure cable TV networks.

If you flip over to Page G-24 and give the top 10 picks a gander, you'll see there are but two Big Four network programs on my list. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox were nearly completely outdone and in seriously grand fashion by FX, AMC, Bravo and the like.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy several Big Four programs quite a lot in 2007. The bulk of them simply were edged out by the glory of what cable had to offer. Some of my favorites of year's past got pushed off the list entirely -- and not so much because they faltered as they just never quite matched the compelling factor of so many of the new shows.

For example, "24" is a show I've been positively rabid about since it debuted. I loved "24" this past season, even though I've read other critics thought it jumped the shark. I thoroughly intend to love it just as much when it returns -- whenever that might be, thanks to the writers strike.

But it still fell off my top 10 because shows like "Mad Men," "Saving Grace" and Damages" were too phenomenal to ignore.

Also out this year is "House." I still think "House" is fabulous, but it just didn't quite compare to cable's "The Riches" or "Rescue Me."

Two reality/competition shows that I dearly love -- "Project Runway" and "Top Chef" fell off the list, too. And rightly so.

Really, with a bounty of dramas and comedies like the one that sprang up on our televisions in 2007, how could I, in good conscience, put anything in the reality genre on that list? Who could take it seriously if a reality-based show made it on a top 10 list over shows like "Entourage" or "The Sopranos"?

As much as I look forward to those competition shows, that would be like putting a chunk of ice in a glass of fine wine.

OK, so sometimes I put ice in a glass of wine. Look, I'm not a wine connoisseur. I know it's not acceptable, but I don't buy the expensive stuff, anyway, and sometimes it just tastes better. So leave me alone.

I may not partake in expensive, fine wine and I might not know how to drink it right if I did. But good TV? Good TV I know.

And, thanks to cable this past year, I know exactly where to find it in 2008.

Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at