The Best TV of 1999

Like Peter Chattaway on film, I am more comfortable writing about my favorite programs of 1999 than holding forth on what's best. While coping with a temporarily bi-metropolis marriage, I have watched far more TV in the last quarter of 1999 than, oh, since about 1988. This list notwithstanding, my Lent probably will be TV-free.

New Year's Eve coverage (ABC and CNN)

After enduring more than a year of gloomy and misanthropic predictions about the Y2K bug, what better antidote could we have asked for than round-the-clock live coverage of this worldwide celebration? (Congratulations to Australia, Egypt, and France for the most eye-popping displays.) For the trolls who spent New Year's Eve oiling shotguns in the fluorescent glow of their disaster-proof bunkers, don't worry: you can still buy a highlights video and watch it on your Y2K-compliant VCRs.

Frasier (NBC, Thursday)

This comedy recycles plot themes (the follies of lying, the slapstick of hubris) even more often than the many Star Trek spinoffs. Still, it offers the witty scripts and brisk directing we can expect from any show that attracts James L. Brooks. Star Kelsey Grammer combines the dulcet tones of Orson Welles with the comic timing of Jack Benney—and manages to ridicule most of the Seven Deadly Sins.

The Simpsons and Futurama (Fox, Sunday)

"The Simpsons" is an especially rich pleasure because I took a few years to grasp its importance. Both shows from Life in Hell cartoonist Matt Groening regularly barbecue every American sacred cow, including popular culture and New Age aphorisms. Both also pay more attention to Christianity than most other network hits combined.

King of the Hill (Fox, Sunday)

Like "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" dares to portray a churchgoing family, ...

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