Dancing With the Stars, NCIS and Modern Family are doing fine without you. But, with the TV networks looking at ratings during the annual November advertising sweeps, we thought it time to recommend a few good shows that could use your attention. Here are nine in a variety of categories we can say are the best shows you're not watching — plus an online bonus.
Best New Drama
The sudsy ABC show that bears Music City's name is testament to country music's continuing evolution: Ravishing Connie Britton's relatively old-school country diva Rayna James (that's Shania and Faith old school, not Dolly or Loretta) squares off against Hayden Panetierre's rising starlet Juliette Barnes (think Taylor Swift). Nashville weaves cutthroat city politics and familial squabbles into all that country conflict. Britton is as brilliant here as she was on Friday Night Lights. The music is pretty good, too.
Best Returning Drama
Over four seasons, this NBC series has beautifully expanded from adaptation of a 1990s movie to become one of the finest grown-up dramas on television. The large Braverman family and its many joys and crises feel real — sometimes, as in the case of one character's ongoing battle with breast cancer, almost too real — and so do the intergenerational relationships and sibling rivalries. The writing is Emmy-worthy, and there is plenty of fine acting, particularly by Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, who often provide tiny moments of resonance. A recent episode combined both, ending with the elder Bravermans sitting on their porch swing listening to "A Whiter Shade of Pale."
Best Returning Comedy
Destined to live in the shadow of its ABC Wednesday night lineup-mate, Modern Family, The Middle is just as funny as the Emmy-winning Family — and probably more like the way most of us live. As a working-class, Midwestern couple struggling to get by with three challenging kids, Neil Flynn and Patricia Heaton are perfectly calibrated to deal with the chaos around them. The kids are a hoot, too.
Best Guilty Pleasure
The D.C. drama that debuted on ABC to little fanfare last spring perfectly balances the fine mix of gravitas and cheesiness required of a true guilty pleasure. For gravitas, how about the backdrop of the nation's capital, all those iconic buildings teeming with powerful people, including — you guessed it — the president himself? For pure cheese, you get weekly tabloid tales, plus a U.S. president who's as much creepy stalker as commander in chief. Tony Goldwyn is great as the POTUS who can't keep it in his pants, and Kerry Washington, the real star of the show, is fantastic, too, as the "fixer." Watch it once. We bet you'll be back for more.
Best Morning Show
CBS This Morning
NBC's Today show has all the (unwanted) drama, with cohosts spinning quickly through the revolving doors at 30 Rock, and ABC's Good Morning America, now highest-rated of the big three, has the hip factor. But CBS This Morning, still the ratings underdog, has Charlie Rose, who got the job earlier this year at age 70. Rose, Oprah's BFF Gayle King and Norah O'Donnell have an easy, unforced chemistry — a refreshing alternative to their highly caffeinated competitors.
Next page: Martha Stewart, plus an online treat. »