On the occasion of being surprised to learn there were 10 shows I actually enjoyed this year.

10. “Project Runway,” Bravo. Still television’s best “reality” show.

9. “90210,” CW. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original, but the revival is my guiltiest pleasure. Memo to the producers: Your main cast is beginning to click, but please don’t forget about Shannen Doherty, whose guest appearances as Brenda remain the best reason to watch this show.

8. “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.” Yes, Couric’s interviews with Sarah Palin were devastating, but that wasn’t the only reason this was the newscast to watch in 2008. Her “Presidential Questions” interviews were revealing, offering the kind insight into the candidates’ thinking that voters couldn’t find anywhere else.

7. “True Blood,” HBO. We don’t have HBO (long story), but I saw the pilot on DVD. That was enough to earn it a place on this list.

6. “Saturday Night Live,” NBC. Tina Fey’s cold openings are deservedly rave-worthy, but don’t overlook Kristen Wiig, who almost single-handedly kept the show alive for the remaining 85 minutes each week.

5. “30 Rock,” NBC. The last great sitcom?

Swingtown4. “Swingtown,” CBS. The cancellation of this prime time serial – which played more like a gauzy memory of suburban America in the ’70s than a soap opera – was the greatest TV crime of the year. “Swingtown” was the spiritual descendent of my beloved “Knots Landing,” boasting a triumphant triumvirate of women characters – Susan, Janet and Trina – that recalled Karen, Val and Abby in their heyday. If CBS’s suits were smart – heavy emphasis on the “if” – they’d keep “Swingtown” alive, making the show a summertime tradition.

3. “Battlestar Galactica,” Sci Fi. Not its strongest season, but even on a bad day it’s better than almost anything else on television.

2. “Lost,” ABC. After all this time, “Lost” continued to confound and compel in 2008. One of television’s all-time great shows.

1. “Mad Men,” AMC. The period setting and costumes mask this show’s greatest strength: its utter weirdness. Every character is at least a little strange, and you never know what kooky thing they’re going to make next. That, more than anything else, is what kept me coming back week after week.

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On the occasion of my thinking this would make a fun list.

10. Gary’s in jail, “Knots Landing,” March 10, 1983. Unlike other prime time soaps of the era, “Knots Landing” rarely ended a season with a splashy action sequence. That was the beauty of the show – its characters were so strong, their stories so compelling, that producers didn’t need to shoehorn them into artificial, life-or-death situations to keep viewers hooked during the annual summer hiatus. Nothing illustrates this better than the fourth season finale, in which ne’er-do-well Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) is jailed following the murder of his mistress, Ciji Dunne. Joan Van Ark shines in the scene where her character, Valene, confronts ex-husband Gary to persuade him he’s not guilty, but the emotional high point comes in the montage that punctuates this episode: Gary’s wife, Abby (Donna Mills), contemplating the situation from the deck of her glamorous beach house; Val sitting in the darkened living room of her suburban home; and an embittered Gary stewing in his jail cell. It was all we needed to keep us hanging on until the new season began in September.

9. San Francisco Bay plunge, “Falcon Crest,” May 15, 1987. This marked the conclusion of my favorite season of “Falcon Crest,” which featured Kim Novak’s season-long guest stint as mystery lady Kit Marlowe. (The character’s name was an inside joke: When Novak was a Hollywood ingénue in the 1950s, studio bosses wanted her to change her name to “Kit Marlowe.”) I love how this episode uses sepia-toned footage from an old Jane Wyman movie as a flashback to reveal her “Falcon Crest” character, Angela Channing, was actually the birth mother of her stepson/archenemy Richard Channing. (If you’re not a fan of the show, trust me: This was a stunning twist.) This season was produced by the team that went on to produce “24,” and you can see their flair for action in the final scene, which ends with five characters (including a baby!) under the murky waters of San Francisco Bay. The audio in this clip is screwed up, which is too bad, because one of the nice touches of the finale is how the sound of police sirens continue after the freeze frame and producers’ credits appear on screen.

8. Enter: Locutus, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” June 1990. Captain Picard is Borgified! Dr. Crusher’s horrified reaction when she first sees the “altered” Picard is priceless (nicely done, Gates McFadden!), but if you ask me, this scene belongs to Jonathan Frakes, perhaps the most undervalued member of this show’s great acting ensemble. If there’s any anguish Commander Riker’s dramatic order in the final scene (“Mr. Worf, fire.”), it isn’t evident here, an indication of the character’s resolute stoicism and the quiet authority Frakes brought to his role.

7. Showdown at the Belmar Hotel, “Knots Landing,” March 29 1984. Oh how I love this one. After ending the fourth season on a quiet note (see entry No. 10), the producers really amped up the melodrama here. Gary’s torn between rescuing imperiled loves Val and Abby, while good guy Mack finally gets the bad guys, but seemingly at the cost of his wife Karen’s life. (Look for a pre-“Twin Peaks” Grace Zabriskie as Karen’s apparent assassin.) “Knots Landing’s” Wolfbridge Group storyline was insanely convoluted, but who cares? This is still great fun.

bobby-ewing-in-the-shower16. Bobby in the shower, “Dallas,” May 16, 1986. One year after his Bobby Ewing character died, Patrick Duffy pops up in the shower of his ex-wife Pam (Victoria Principal) in the closing moments of “Dallas’” ninth season finale. Was it Bobby? An imposter? A hallucination? In the 10th season premiere, viewers would learn, of course, that it was indeed Bobby, and that Pam had dreamed his death and the 31 episodes that followed. For me, the most frightening moment of this cliffhanger comes immediately before Pam wakes up, when Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is blown up during a visit to Ewing Oil. “Dallas” without my beloved Sue Ellen? Now that’s scary!

5. The assassination attempt, “The West Wing,” May 17, 2000. This frightening action sequence is wildly out of sync with the literate tenor of the series, yet it’s so dramatic, I had to include it. President Bartlet is working the rope line after a town hall meeting in Rosslyn, Va., when two skinheads open fire on the presidential entourage. Viewers see almost all of the show’s main characters crash to the ground. (Just why is the entire senior West Wing staff accompanying the president to a routine town hall meeting?) Who lives? Who dies? An unexpected and suspenseful conclusion end to a solid freshmen season. The best touch: Viewers hear a Secret Service officer’s desperate plea (“Who’s been hit? Who’s been hit?”) after the screen fades to black. Shades of the 1987 “Falcon Crest” finale!

4. The flash forward, “Lost,” May 23, 2007. For three seasons, “Lost’s” trademark was its flashbacks showing the lives of its characters before they became stranded on a David Lynch version of “Gilligan’s Island.” The third-season finale seemed to incorporate flashbacks to the life of lead character Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox), until the closing moments of the episode, when we learned we had been watching flash forwards to Jack’s life after he escaped the island. In a show known for its twists, nothing was more stunning than this. A good show can get away with manipulating its audience from time to time; it takes a great show like “Lost” to do it consistently and leave the audience begging for more.

3. The flash forward, “Battlestar Galactica,” March 10, 2006. Another stellar season of televison’s consistently best drama ends with a bang: a nuclear explosion wipes out a major civilian vessel in the colonial fleet, handing Gaius Baltar his first crisis as the newly elected weasel in chief. In a moment of despair, Baltar buries his head on his desk as the final scene of the season closes. But wait, there’s more! It turns out the season isn’t over. The show flashes forward a year (!), showing us life on New Caprica, immediately before a Cylon invasion. Frakking brilliant.

2. Who shot J.R.? “Dallas,” March 21, 1980. The granddaddy of all TV cliffhangers, included here not so much for nostalgia, but for its elegant simplicity – it’s a classic, well-constructed whodunit, with almost every major character a suspect. This is the moment that turned “Dallas” into a worldwide phenomenon, but I was already a fanatic by the time this episode aired. (Yes, I was 6 at the time.) There are family photos of me wearing my prized “I Shot J.R.” t-shirt during our trip to the Kings Dominion amusement park during the summer of 1980. (Where did The Moms find a “Dallas” shirt in a child’s size?) Shockingly, there isn’t a good version of this on YouTube. The one linked here is the best I could find.

bobby-ewing-on-his-death-bed1. Bobby dies, “Dallas,” May 17, 1985. My all-time favorite. This wasn’t a cliffhanger so much as the denouement of the show’s central narrative – the Cain-vs.-Able-style conflict between the good Ewing brother (Bobby) and the evil one (J.R.). Even though Bobby’s death didn’t really happen in the “Dallas” continuum (the death was the beginning of “Dallas’” infamous “dream season”), this scene still packs a punch, ranking as perhaps of the greatest deathbed farewell in TV history. (Maybe James Caan’s in “Brian’s Song” was better, but I’ve never seen it.) Steve Kanaly (Ray), Larry Hagman (J.R.) and Patrick Duffy (Bobby) really shine here, but in my mind, this is Victoria Principal’s greatest “Dallas” moment. I still get chills when her character, Pam, flinches at the moment Bobby flatlines. This is everything a season finale should be. Watch it and weep. (Chris Baker trivia: I made an armband out of black construction paper and wore it around the house the day after this episode originally aired.)