The Gauntlet slogs into the ever-expanding quagmire of television and helps sort out the best shows on which to waste your time-- away from more productive pursuits, such as, say, school-- from the dreck you'll probably be delighted to waste your time on anyway.
How I Met Your Mother (CBS/E!)-- This show is one of the few consistently hilarious comedies on TV and on CBS of all places. With Neil Patrick Harris and Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Jason Segel on board, HIMYM is underrated comedic gold, as well one of the most likeable shows around.
Gossip Girl (CW/CTV)-- The O.C. is dead. Long live the O.C.: New York.
Prison Break (Fox/Global)-- Apparently that wasn't Dr. Sarah's head in that box. Oh snap!
Heroes (NBC/Global)-- After last year's disastrous and messy season, the writers have returned to the more simplified format of the first season that focused on the more likable core of main characters. Hopefully, despite the stink of last season, most people won't have forgotten the first season was actually kind of good.
House (Fox/Global)-- House has managed to maintain its focus on strictly medical drama without becoming stale or falling into a predictable formula and Hugh Laurie gets dreamier with age and curmudgeonliness.
Beverly Hills 90210 (CW/Global)-- It's more of the same teen drama fare (diet pills, remaining true to yourself, date rape, et cetera), except it tries to be less trashy. Snore.
Fringe (Fox)-- Joshua Jackson stars as the Mulder to newcomer Anna Torv's Scully on J.J. Abram's new sci-fi pet-project. Expect sharp writing and sexual tension galore between the two extremely attractive leads.
America's Next Top Model (CW/City)-- The show's trashiest "cycle" to date, featuring some controversial characters such as Isis, a pre-op transvestite and a hilariously hoochified, post-boobjob, self-proclaimed "warrior princess of Harlem."
Pushing Daisies (ABC/CTV)-- This tale of a pie-maker who brings his childhood sweetheart back from the dead, but can't ever touch her again is all at once heartbreakingly romantic as well as good, quirky fun as a murder mystery.
Knight Rider (NBC)-- An update of the '80s show, it features cameos by the Hasselhoff himself as Michael Knight and Val Kilmer as the voice of the new KITT, now a Ford Shelby GT 500 KR Mustang. It's a guilty pleasure, but surprisingly good, too.
Kitchen Nightmares (Fox/Global)-- Gordon Ramsay brings his self-righteousness to failing American restaurants. Mixed with American production values-- a.k.a. tons of unnecessarily inserted drama-- it makes for a highly annoying, shout-filled hour of television. Watch the British version on Food Network for a gentler side of the Scottish chef.
30 Rock (NBC)-- Tina Fey's brilliant comedy returns this season with the same quality laughs, as well as a couple of big time cameos appearances by Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few.
The Office (NBC/Global)-- Jim and Pam are separated. Sort of. Tune in to also see the continuingly horrifying saga of Ã¼ber-incompetent boss Michael Scott and his artificially inseminated on again/off again girlfriend/boss, Jan. Co-creator of the original series, Stephen Merchant, will also be directing an episode this season.
Kath & Kim (NBC)-- Filling in for the ousted Scrubs (moving to ABC), this comedy stars Molly Shannon and Selma Blair as a trashy mother-daughter team that have drawn comparisons to the stage mom antics of Dina Lohan and her daughter Ali on Living Lohan.
Grey's Anatomy (ABC/CTV)-- This show got trashy big time with increasingly absurd storylines in the soap opera vein. Prepare to start watching again this season as the actually credible and aesthetically pleasing Scottish actor Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting, Lucius Vorenus from HBO's Rome) joins the cast as Dr. Cristina Yang's new love interest.
Survivor Gabon (CBS/Global)-- Yeah, it's still on. Poor, poor Jeff Probst.
Life On Mars (ABC)-- A remake of the superb British series, the show has a present-day detective who is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. Notably it stars Harvey Keitel and the Sopranos' Michael Imperioli.
Life (NBC/Global)-- Damien Lewis (Band of Brothers) is another Brit passing for a Yank in an American procedural. He's darn good, but the show itself doesn't do much to discern itself from the vast sea of cop dramas. Catch him before the show is inevitably cancelled.
Saturday Night Live (NBC/Global)-- The season premiere this past weekend was kind of awful, except for an appearance by Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. As the U.S. Election approaches, let's hope there's more of the same. Andy Samberg's infamous "Digital Shorts" continues to churn out some absurdly funny, viral video fare.
Entourage (HBO/Movie Central)-- A good reason to have cable is HBO Sunday viewing. Entourage continues to deliver sharp, poignant comedy on what it's like to be in show business. This season will see Vince try to restart his career after the abject failure of Medellin. The boys-- plus agent Ari and his assistant Lloyd-- also venture on a "spiritual," 'shroom-fuelled journey into the desert and Ari and Lloyd continue their bro-mance amidst the Joshua trees.
Dexter (Showtime/Movie Central)-- The third season of this complex drama about a vigilante psychopathic serial killer/blood splatter analyst returns with the addition of Jimmy Smits, the new detective who's on to Dexter.
The Simpsons (Fox/Global)-- It's still around and it's still pretty good.
True Blood (HBO/Movie Central)-- Vampires have acquired synthetic blood and have revealed themselves to humans in this new HBO drama starring Anna Paquin. If you were kind of pissed off by the Victorian restraint of the Twilight books, this cable vampire romance is for you.