I freely admit to being a closet TV junkie. It’s a habit that I’d like to break, and the major networks have been doing their part by continuing to churn out some awful shows: too formulaic, dumb writing, casts with no chemistry, etc. And as I don’t have cable or dish coverage, I need to be content with the basic airwaves.

But there are a few that I go out of my way to watch:

  • The West Wing (NBC, Sunday). Yes, it’s in its last season, and John Spencer died in December. The show’s writing has been spotty since the beginning of the fourth season, and Aaron Sorkin’s departure at the end of said season sent the show into a bit of a tailspin. But the ensemble cast is still top-notch, and the recent writing has been much better. Hopefully they’ll go out swinging, resolving some nagging plot points along the way.
  • How I Met Your Mother (CBS, Monday). One of the best sitcoms in years. Neil Patrick Harris is so wonderful as a lecherous sleaze, and the cast (including the beautiful Alyson Hannigan) works well together. Even Bob Saget’s narration works well. A triumph for CBS.
  • Commander In Chief (ABC, Tuesday). This could be seen as the heir-apparent to The West Wing, as it documents the life and times of a sitting president and her immediate staff. The difference: the president is a woman (Geena Davis), and her family plays a more immediate role. The first four episodes were markedly better than those since, as ABC fired Rod Lurie for “being too slow in filming the episodes.” While Lurie is still an executive producer, the new writing style is still finding its sea legs (and alienating viewers in the process, as viewership has taken a steep fall since the show’s first month). But the cast is quite good, especially Donald Sutherland as the scheming Republican speaker of the House. I hope that it gets a chance to develop into a solid series.
  • Love Monkey (CBS, Tuesday). It’s great to have Tom Cavanagh back on TV, and this show is the perfect vehicle for his quirky qualities. He plays an A&R rep for an indie record label, having been fired from a large record label (“Goliath Records”) in the first episode. There’s irony here, as the show is underwritten by Sony Music Entertainment and features tons of cameos and performances from Sony-BMG artists (self mockery as entertainment?). However, the mood of the show is light and entertaining, and it’s filmed entirely in New York City – a look-and-feel that can’t be reproduced in LA. Probably my favorite mid-season newbie.
  • My Name Is Earl (NBC, Thursday). Jason Lee was born to play this role, and the show is quite fun. It’s a bit dark at times, but its heart is in the right place. For a network that’s fired lots of comedic duds of late (witness Joey), this is a pleasant surprise.
  • The Office (NBC, Thursday). I don’t watch this too often (and don’t go out of my way to watch it, oddly enough), but I can wholly relate to the show – working at my previous job was eerily similar to the warped scenario of this show. I’ve yet to see the UK original (which stars the wonderful Ricky Gervais), but Steve Carrell holds his own quite well.

There are other shows I’ve also discovered this season that are fun – Gilmour Girls and Boston Legal pop immediately to mind – but the aforementioned ones are my faves.