10. Survivor: Guatemala - Maya Empire (Season 11): The latest installment of Survivor finished in December, so it narrowly qualifies. Kinda like Munich getting in under the buzzer. This is the last time I will compare Survivor to Munich. This season wasn't as showy as previous seasons, but a solid offering in what may have been the most physically taxing season yet. Which works for me, since I don't watch for all that "snakes and rats" conflict crap. I watch for gameplay, and from that perspective, this was a satisfying season that featured 18 competitors and no quitters. Quitters have been on the rise on the show, as people seemingly go on the show to become D list celebrities and then find out that the show may actually be kind of difficult. Not only were there no out and out quitters, there were no semi-quitters either, with people seeing themselves doomed, and then casually accepting their fate. Instead, there were a lot of blindside votes and the doomed fighting to stick around. The season could've rated higher if not for the early season dominant focus on returning players Stephanie and Bobby Jon, a gimmick I was not a fan of.
9. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Season 10): Not as powerful and funny as last year when they had all the election news to fill up on, the gang at The Daily Show still had a lot to work with in 2005. In 2005, they could be even more snarky and a little "I told you so" with all of Bush's fumbles this year, be they Katrina, Skooter Libby, or wire taps. Stewart doesn't even have to hide his raw dislike for the administration anymore, which makes me happy. Near the end of the season, the show lost a bit of its legs, as it faces some growing pains associated with its success. They lost Steve Carrell last year (and Mo Rocca sometime around there too when I wasn't paying attention), and now Stephen Colbert has graduated to his own show, and Samantha Bee went and got herself knocked up. But, Ed Helms is still reliable, and Rob Corddry has stepped up as the star of the show.
8. The West Wing (Season 6): A comeback year for the show, injecting fresh life into the series with the Democratic nomination of Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits), and finding its legs in the post-Aaron Sorkin years. Yes, it is not as good as it used to be, but it was better than season five, mostly because it did new things that the viewer couldn't unfavorably compare to what Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme had done in the first four seasons. Sadly, the non-election stuff often didn't stand up to the election stuff, and the show still relied on some showy stuff seemingly designed solely for the purpose of filling up NBC's crappy, crappy promos (fist fight, anyone?).
7. The Amazing Race 7: If fans of this show didn't realise that this was a great season, then they know now after sitting through the abyssmal train wreck known as The Amazing Race: Family Edition (also aired in 2005). I've only seen those two seasons of the Race, brought in by the addition of the love-em-or-violently-hate-em professional reality show contestants, Rob and Amber. The show quickly addicted me to its fast pace and brilliant editting so much that I sat through that fucking Family Ediiton.
6. Survivor: Palau (Season 10): Good enough to get the number two spot on my Top Five Seasons of Survivor list (Guatemala would contend for number five were I to redo the list), Palau was a comeback season after the dull Vanuatu: Islands of Fire. This season became so compelling for one simple fact: they let one tribe lose. And lose. And then... lose some more. That's right, the Ulong tribe lost every single immunity challenge they competed in, and the show never shuffled them up. They didn't even merge the two tribes, instead waiting until Ulong was down to Stephanie and then just having her join the Koror tribe. And it was beautiful. Especially since Ulong was the younger, cockier tribe, to see them lose every week was like a real live tortoise and the hare story come to life. Every week you'd wonder if they could possibly keep losing, and every week they did in new and exciting ways. Add to that the most physically dominant champion in firefighter Tom Westman, who killed a freaking shark with a stick, and you have a great season.
5. Rome (Season 1): Ahhh... HBO, how you give me the violence, cursing, and sex I so need on my television. Even when I didn't really understand what was going on early in the season, it never failed to be compelling. Once I managed to figure out who each of the roughly 200 actors that make up the main billed cast were, I was truly hooked. The show's budget (which was huge by TV standards, but still, TV standards) often made the impending battles disappointing and underwhelming, but boyoboy did the season end with a bang. Or, well, a knifing. Yes, of course it was THAT knifing.
4. Weeds (Season 1): I began watching this show for one reason: Mary-Louise Parker. I luuuuuuuuuuuurve her so much. I kept watching because Weeds is everything Desperate Housewives pretends to be but isn't: layered, controversial, funny, sexy, and inventive. Primarily a comedy, it always goes for the laughs while presenting conflicted and human characters. I only wish the season had lasted longer so that character developments didn't feel short-changed.
3. Entourage (Season 2): My comedy of the year, Entourage was an internet discovery for me. You see, I don't actually get HBO. Sometimes Movie Central picks an HBO show up (like Rome), sometimes it doesn't. How else would I know that I love a show like Entourage with its tour de force star turn by Jeremy Piven if it weren't for downloading? Huh, anti-piracy bastards? Alright, I'm just killing time here because I don't have much else to say about the show other than I love it and it's hilarious. Hey, I already reviewed it once, okay?
2. Lost (Season 1): This show started off like a house on fire with an energy not seen on television since, maybe, the debut of 24. That energy continued throughout the debut season, following the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 in their struggles on the mysterious island they landed on, along with flashbacks to the struggles that led them there. It was as addictive as television gets, stimulating the mind as much as the adrenalin levels of the viewers. The first season was a perfect blend of suspense and drama, with fantastic flashbacks and intriguing set ups. Sadly, the second season isn't holding up to the first, as it is starting to look like the creators didn't have much of a plan past the first season. It's not too late, but either way, the current flaws don't change the excellency of the premiere season.
1. Veronica Mars (Season 1): The best show on television, Veronica Mars not only takes the number one spot, but is the currently front-runner for the same spot in 2006. I didn't watch it as it first aired, because UPN is sooooo far up the dial. Then once it was getting all the "best show you're not watching" hype and comparisons to my favourite shows ever, I figured it was too late to join in on the fun. But again, downloads and DVDs came to save the day, and now I'm a believer. Rob Thomas is my new master. Veronica Mars may be the funniest, smartest, most action-packed, and best thriller on television today. The characters are all fantastic, Veronica and Keith have the best father-daughter TV relationship ever, and the season long mystery of who killed Lily Kane manages to power the season AND come to a satisfying conclusion by the end. But what makes the show truly special (well, other than Kristen Bell), is that they know to mix in mini-mysteries to tide the viewer over while delaying the major mysteries. It's the best of both worlds. You get the addictive season long plotline, while getting weekly mini-adventures that get wrapped up in each show. I have nothing but condescending pity for those who are missing this show.