WEEDS SEASON 1 YOUR HUSBAND drops dead, your cash runs out, your son is making faux terrorist videos--it's enough to drive a suburban mom to smoke pot. Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) sells it instead, to her eager neighbors, to keep her upscale lifestyle. Parker and creator Jenji Kohan pass up the chance for easy satire, making a wry, tender comedy about a woman trying to keep what she loves from going up in smoke.
PRISON BREAK SEASON 1 ON TV THIS month, the thriller shifts scenes as the jailbirds bolt from a high-security prison. (Relax, spoilerphobes: it's in the title.) Find out how they got there as Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller, left) unfolds an origami sculpture of a plan to free his brother from death row, with the help of some unsavory convicts and a prison map hidden in the most elaborate body tattoo since The Illustrated Man.
THE WIRE SEASON 3 DAVID SIMON IS the Balzac of Baltimore. Each season the writer-creator's sprawling HBO crime drama takes on a different social issue in the inner city--this time asking whether it's possible to break the cycle of drugs and violence. A police major (Robert Wisdom) creates a system of unofficial "free zones"--blocks where drug dealing is tacitly legalized. Meanwhile a drug kingpin (Idris Elba) tries to persuade his crew to run its drug trade like a business, with less bloodshed and more profit. The surprising--and politically and personally explosive--results on both sides of the law drive the series' finest, most poignant season yet.
LOST SEASON 2 DOWN THE hatch! What began as a sci-fi Survivor grew into a paranoid detective game and an exploration of the limits of reason and faith. As the castaways find what's inside a bunker (a psych experiment, a doomsday computer and a lot of 1980s furniture), their world expands. Joining them are a priest (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an ex-cop (Michelle Rodriguez) and scary "Others" who don't like sharing their island. This detail-packed drama is worth watching for the first time, or for the second, with a finger on the PAUSE and REWIND buttons.
MY NAME IS EARL SEASON 1 CRIME MAY NOT pay, but doing good is no picnic either, as petty crook Earl Hickey (Jason Lee, below right) learns in this sitcom. Hit by a car after winning the lottery, he decides to repair his Karma by righting every wrong he's done. With naive teddy-bear brother Randy (Ethan Suplee, above left), his feral, conniving ex-wife (Jaime Pressly) and her sweetly spacey new husband (Eddie Steeples), he ineptly cuts a swath of penance through his small town. Earl is a cartoony fella--he perpetually looks as if he just lost a battle with the Road Runner--but Lee gives him a mellow decency. This story of a bad man going good badly is a redemptive riot.