(NBC) The falling-down funniest show on TV features one of the finest ensembles in prime-time history. Forget the Friends – it’s Dave Foley and company who should be household names. Lost in Wednesday’s 14-sitcom morass, NewsRadio deserves a spot on NBC’s Thursday lineup. This is Must See TV.
2 HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET
(NBC) The blazingly original drama still finds fresh ways to subvert cop-show cliches. Detective Pembleton’s stroke has let Andre Braugher exhibit new vulnerability, and Michelle Forbes’ Julianna Cox has become Homicide’s strongest female character yet.
3 THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW
(HBO) New episodes didn’t arrive until November – but it was worth the wait. Highlights have included David Duchovny’s fearless flirtation with Larry (the great Garry Shandling) and soulless sidekick Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor) reclaiming his Judaism in an episode so remarkable it inspired a New York Times op-ed.
4 NYPD BLUE
(ABC) The plots aren’t as inventive as Homicide’s, but the tangy dialogue and textured acting (especially from Dennis Franz and Kim Delaney as recovering-alcoholic cops) more than make up for the often-predictable cases. And no other series deals with racial issues more honestly.
(NBC) How indestructible is this sitcom? While Kelsey Grammer was in rehab, David Hyde Pierce’s Niles took over the starring role for an episode, and the show didn’t miss a beat. That’s the sign of a perfectly constructed farce. 6 CRACKER
(A&E) It’s an old joke: the shrink who’s crazier than his patients. Yet Robbie Coltrane takes it to tragic new depths as a forensic psychologist with his own gargantuan demons in this blistering British mystery series.
7 THE ROSIE O’DONNELL SHOW
(syndicated) Daytime’s newest queen seems as comfortable talking with the Duchess of York as with her doorman. But she’s her own best guest – a one-woman Regis and Kathie Lee.
8 EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND
(CBS) Even with three adorable moppets in the cast, Ray Romano’s smart family sitcom avoids Full House’s cutesy pitfalls. If CBS really wanted a ”Big Comedy Monday,” it’d move Raymond there.
(UPN) In the black-sitcom ghetto of UPN and The WB, only Brandy Norwood’s joyous teen show stands out. Appealing actors, clever scripts, bright direction – so why are you watching Mad About You instead?
(The WB) The best-acted soap on TV, Aaron Spelling’s Southern serial is as delectable as a Georgia peach. Too bad its ratings are the pits.