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So few viewers are watching that this vote is probably for a lost cause: big mistake, America.
True, Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe seems stuck in a dumb-chick rut, and David Schwimmer’s Ross is becoming dismayingly sappy.5 THE SIMPSONS (Fox) Unappreciated now because the media celebrated Bart-mania years ago, The Simpsons continues to be the most reliable satire on network TV.The season opener, in which Homer and family left Springfield to work and live in a happy-faced, fascist corporate community was such a dead-on critique of the Disney empire, I swear I heard Rupert Murdoch chuckling.David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully now give off a united glow that says to the world, ”We’re right, you’re wrong, back off.” There’s no denying that The X-Files is more uneven these days (that episode where Mulder was remembering past lives was more heartburn commercial than X-File), but this is one series in which such erratic-ness is less a sign of creative exhaustion than of an admirably heedless faith in flaky flukiness.3 THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (HBO) Garry Shandling is TV’s purest artist, quietly yet aggressively laboring over an unmatched portrait of show-business egotism.I’m thinking not only of the racism embedded in the soul of Andy Sipowicz (the earthshakingly good Dennis Franz) but of the increasing complexity of Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits).
Whether Bobby was cruelly slapping around that squirrelly little creep Henry (Willie Garson), or finding himself unable to resist the little-boy selfishness that’s been mucking up his relationship with Diane (Kim Delaney), Smits somehow managed to make every flicker in Bobby’s mind register on his stoic face.
And, as if in response to the criticism that NYPD seems unable to create a female character who’s not primarily a foil for the men, there seems to be a breakthrough: new addition Jill Kirkendall (Andrea Thompson), a cop who is already looking like the most resonant crime-solving woman since Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect.
2 THE X-FILES (Fox) The concept most alien to this show — displays of simple human emotions — is what kept The X-Files fresh and intriguing this season.
But Matt Le Blanc’s Joey and Courteney Cox’s Monica have flourished anew, while Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel and Matthew Perry’s Chandler are steadily becoming comic creations of remarkable intricacy. Look at this show with an open mind and try not being beguiled.
7 MURDER ONE (ABC) By the end of last season, Daniel Benzali had become known in my house as ”the boring bald guy.” But that debut run of One also pulled off the show’s then-central conceit — keeping you engaged in a single trial over 21 episodes.
Dave Foley, as the radio station’s put-upon news director, is probably the subtlest actor in sitcoms, whereas Phil Hartman and Andy Dick thrive on reckless excess.