Hey, a new template we're almost happy with! But anyway.
Overseas Drama Series of the Year
The Riches (Virgin 1)
Featuring superb performances from Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard (who has come a long way since chewing the furniture in Mystery Men), The Riches saw the Malloy clan - a sort of travelling sideshow version of The Real Hustle - adopt the identity of the titular family. That's 'the Rich family', not 'the Titular family'. You knew that? Oh. The first episode explains how all this comes about, leaving the remainder of the series to seeing how the family cope with their new environs. While that single concept might have been enough to coast along for the thirteen episodes that make up the first series, the writers managed to keep the viewers guessing which way they were going to go next, all the way up to the marvellously circuitous season finale.
Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department. But! He's also a serial killer, who takes out the criminals the cops just can't catch. All of which wouldn't sound out of place on the back of a low-budget straight-to-rental tape lurking in a dark corner of Star Video circa 1986, but luckily this is a more compelling series than our hamfisted summary suggests. The first season deals with the Miami Metro Police Department trying to track down a serial killer dubbed The Ice Truck Killer. Who, it soon transpires, is keen to impress Dexter with his mad slaughterin' skillz.
Lost (Sky One)
While a lot of people have made a point of complaining about the latest series of Lost ("oh, this is just getting silly now" is usually the standard comment that we've heard), we've been as engrossed as ever. For every major mystery that gets resolved (and despite what some say, they do get resolved - try re-watching season two if you need to check how much we've learned in season three), new and exciting questions are brought to the fore. And we've finally found out how John became wheelchair-bound, as well as discovering that the island isn't a very safe place to be if you're from Manchester. There was even time to spend a whole episode doing a tribute to Tales Of The Unexpected, with Nikki and Paulo as the main players.
Minus points for getting Britain wrong, though. We spell the word 'honour' with a 'u', and the Premier League doesn't work by having the same two teams playing each other twice in two days. Duuh.
While the first series successfully introduced us to the character, the background and the motives behind the eponymous anti-hero, the second series (due on FX any month now) raises the bar impressively. Without giving anything away - it's precisely the sort of programme you'll get a lot more from if you don't know what's likely to happen, so keep well away from the EPG info box before watching - the writers are about to take everyone on a long and very impressive journey. The main driving force behind the plot for season two (which we aren't going to mention) merely serves as a backdrop to the events that unfold. We've just watched the whole lot in one enthralling sitting, with help from the Xbox 360's new 'stream stuff you've downloaded from the internet to your proper telly' option. Given we have the attention span of excitable puppy, that's quite an achievement.
It's not just us, either. Dexter is currently just a fraction behind Heroes (which we still can't get that excited about, frankly) as the top-ranked show at TV.com.
Just time for a couple more quickies.
Repeat Of The Year (UK)
Yes Minister (BBC Four)
Making a welcome appearance as part of the channel's season of politically themed programming, series one of Yes Minister should provide a reminder to 21st Century TV bosses that pre-watershed comedy doesn't have to be along the insipid lines of My Family or Green Green Grass. As the exploits of Jim, Bernard and Humpy show, they could actually be quite intelligent, and indeed, quite excellent. Similarly, it proves that you don't need a script packed with swears to make something for an adult audience.
Another welcome aspect of BBC Four's re-run of the first series was that it led to us finding the DVD bargain of the year. The complete seven-disc box set, which also includes every episode of Yes Prime Minister, delivered to your door for less than eighteen pounds. Fantastic stuff.
Repeat Of The Year (International)
The Sopranos (More4)
Coming just after the end of the sixth and final season, a weeknightly repeat run of every single episode. All of which means the people who'd missed the first season and subsequently had to spend much of the following eight years wondering what all the fuss was about can now try and join the loop without having to spend an absolute fortune buying the DVD boxsets.
There are two problems arising from this. One, the ending of the entire series has been talked about so much, it's hardly likely to surprise us when it comes around the second time (even Hillary and Bill Clinton have performed a spoof of it). Two, having five hours per week of unmissable drama sitting on your PVR is one hell of a time-thief. Still, it keeps us off the streets of a Friday afternoon.