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And, as if in response to the criticism that NYPD seems unable to create a female character who’s not primarily a foil for the men, there seems to be a breakthrough: new addition Jill Kirkendall (Andrea Thompson), a cop who is already looking like the most resonant crime-solving woman since Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect.
4 NEWSRADIO (NBC) Former Sanders collaborator Paul Simms has managed something Shandling has opted not to try: an iconoclastic sitcom that nonetheless adheres to the strictures of network TV.Very often, Larry Sanders is so funny I have to choke back a guffaw lest I miss the next punchline.And I can’t think of another sitcom that repays taping and repeated viewing as well.I’m thinking not only of the racism embedded in the soul of Andy Sipowicz (the earthshakingly good Dennis Franz) but of the increasing complexity of Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits).Whether Bobby was cruelly slapping around that squirrelly little creep Henry (Willie Garson), or finding himself unable to resist the little-boy selfishness that’s been mucking up his relationship with Diane (Kim Delaney), Smits somehow managed to make every flicker in Bobby’s mind register on his stoic face.But Matt Le Blanc’s Joey and Courteney Cox’s Monica have flourished anew, while Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel and Matthew Perry’s Chandler are steadily becoming comic creations of remarkable intricacy. Look at this show with an open mind and try not being beguiled.
7 MURDER ONE (ABC) By the end of last season, Daniel Benzali had become known in my house as ”the boring bald guy.” But that debut run of One also pulled off the show’s then-central conceit — keeping you engaged in a single trial over 21 episodes.
David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully now give off a united glow that says to the world, ”We’re right, you’re wrong, back off.” There’s no denying that The X-Files is more uneven these days (that episode where Mulder was remembering past lives was more heartburn commercial than X-File), but this is one series in which such erratic-ness is less a sign of creative exhaustion than of an admirably heedless faith in flaky flukiness.
3 THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (HBO) Garry Shandling is TV’s purest artist, quietly yet aggressively laboring over an unmatched portrait of show-business egotism.
This season, Anthony La Paglia replaced Benzali and offered a hero who was prickly and arrogant in a more engaging way.
The Waltons’ Ralph Waite has been a marvelous skunk of a baddie, and Missy Crider’s work as a hapless murder defendant who also happened to be, as one character puts it, ”a major hottie,” gave One a fresh jolt of energy.
1 NYPD BLUE [PROGRAM of the YEAR] (ABC) TV’s most varied, humane, and exciting drama took more chances this year than a hit show needs to, and became a deeper, richer series for the effort.