NBC recently purchased the rights to mangle this biting BBC original (a la "Coupling") for network viewing audiences, so be sure to catch the unspoiled original on cable. The workplace mockumentary provokes as many cringes as it does laughs. Everyone has worked in this office, with these people: David, the smarmy boss who fancies himself a comedian and never wastes an opportunity to humiliate himself; Gareth, the self-important, ex-military company man; and Tim, the drone who's dreaming of bigger things but stuck in a job he's too smart for. It's funny because it's true.
2 miss match
Prime-time may be crying about missing men, but this is the sort of fare that makes sure the women are going nowhere. OK, it's a completely nonsensical premise (a divorce lawyer who advertises her services as a matchmaker on her business card). Not to mention that Alicia "Clueless" Silverstone is playing said divorce lawyer. So what if a little suspension of disbelief is required? Like most guilty pleasures, it won't raise your IQ, but it will leave you smiling. And it has solid performances from Silverstone, who was nominated for a Golden Globe, and Ryan O'Neal as her money-grubbing dad/boss.
3 arrested development
Yet another Fox we're-so-dysfunctional-we're-funny show, but, like "Malcolm in the Middle," (and unlike "Oliver Beene") it really works. The show centers around Jason Bateman's disbelieving observation of his family; he is the lone clear-thinker in a sea of crazy. The show is a critical darling that is struggling to build an audience, perhaps due to its too-silly storylines, but Bateman's near-perfect delivery and a strong supporting cast (including "It's Garry Shandling's Show" vet Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross of "Mr. Show") make it worthwhile viewing.
4 life with bonnie
Comic actress Bonnie Hunt gets another shot at her own show. This time, she plays a mother, wife and chat show host in Chicago. The schtick: along with her cast, which includes David Alan Grier from "In Living Color," Hunt gets to improv with her fictional show's real-life celebrity guests, which have included heavyweights such as Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Martin Mull, Phyllis Diller and Jonathan Winters, leading to some of the most unexpected moments on TV. And the show is even cultivating a bit of mystery: When the show started, Hunt's character had a 10-year-old daughter, who seems to have vanished.
5 Curb your enthusiasm
A show about nothing, only a darker, far less PC and more famous variety: This is what "Seinfeld" might've been had it not had to submit to Standards and Practices. Larry David, the basis for George on "Seinfeld," plays himself and makes chaos out of the most mundane activities and interactions. Real celebrities freely mingle with fictional characters, and the show is shot without a script, relying heavily on the cast's wit and improv talents. Even perpetual whiner Richard Lewis manages to work well here.
6 THE o.c.
The "Beverly Hills 90210"/"Melrose Place" (both also aired on Fox) for the new millennium, but in a different county, Republican Orange instead of liberal Los Angeles. Why does it work? Because it hooks viewers into a complex soap opera about attractive people, their money and their sex lives. It's got a bad-boy making good Russell Crowe look-alike in Benjamin McKenzie, a nerdy type (but not overly so) in Adam Brody and a trio of pretty young things in Mischa Barton, Rachel Bilson and Samaire Armstrong. Even the parents are lookers. And it's managed to attract both men and women in the key 18-49 year old demo.
7 dead like me
Viacom's answer to HBO's wildly successful "Six Feet Under." The show follows a contemporary grim reaper, Georgia "George" Lass, played by Ellen Muth, and her boss Rube (Mandy Patinkin). Together they grab the souls of the living and escort them to the afterlife. According to Robert Greenblatt, Showtime president of entertainment, "Dead" earned ratings 60% better than the year-to-date time period average and 45% stronger than the network's overall primetime average. The network has ordered a second season of 15 episodes.
8 The Bernie Mac show
In its third season," Bernie" was launched in a new time-slot, following "The Simpsons," giving Fox's Sunday night comedy coalition-including "Arrested Development" and "Malcolm in the Middle"-a big boost. Bernie Mac, the creator and star, just picked up a Golden Globe nomination. "Bernie" retains 92% of its adults 18-49 lead-in from "The Simpsons," according to Nielsen results. Shaquille O'Neal of the Lakers starred in the season opener, which dominated its slot in adults 18-34 (5.6/15) and teens (6.4/18) and drew 10.4 million viewers overall.
9 Doggy fizzle televizzle
A show that has spawned a new lexicon. That's fo shizzle dizzle! Even Fran "the Nanny" Drescher, in an Old Navy ad, takes a stab at this new homey bizzle. MTV ordered up six more episodes of the sloe-eyed rapper/actor's half-hour variety show after a successful debut run averaged a very respectable 1.4 million viewers for six episodes, for the period of June 22-July 27, according to Nielsen. Snoop alternates between starring in skits and going reality, such as when he manned an Arby's drive-through window. Fans liken it favorably to the Flip Wilson Show of the '70s. S-N-double-O-P, D-O-double-giz-ee!
10 The simpsons
Say "Good Night." That was the first "Simpsons" episode. Actually, it was a short flick that appeared on "The Tracey Ullman Show" on April 19, 1987. Tracey's gig is long gone, but Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie remain, with consistently high ratings. Celebrities still line up to lend their voices and images to the show: This season, British PM Tony Blair even did a guest spot. Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner-original cast members of the "Ullman Show"-are still the voices of Homer and Marge, and Fox is still the home of Springfield, and Sunday night is still its best night, thanks to the family.