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The eight TV shows you should be watching

Tune in to ratings-challenged series like ”Arrested Development” and ”Miss Match” — before it’s too late

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Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, ...
Arrested Development: F. Scott Schafer/FOX

The eight TV shows you should be watching

Some of fall’s most promising series (”Miss Match,” ”Karen Sisco,” ”Arrested Development”) could be canceled if their ratings don’t improve, while others are just so good (”Alias,” ”Scrubs,” ”Smallville”), we think you should give ’em a chance. Grab the remote and read on!

Alias, Jennifer Garner | GARNER
Image credit: Jennifer Garner: Sheryl Nields/ABC
GARNER

Alias

Sundays, 9 p.m., ABC

Why you should be watching ”Alias”

WHAT IT IS Superspy Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) struggles to unlock her missing memory while doing dirty work for the CIA.
WHY IT’S GREAT Creator J.J. Abrams gets mad props this season for shaking up Sydney’s world like a snow globe: He erased the last two years of her life, leaving her (and us) desperate to fill in the blanks.
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING For those coming to the party late, the story seems too complicated for mere mortals to ever understand. (NSC?… Memory-extracting surgery?… What?)
WHY YOU SHOULD Hey, this show throws so many curveballs even ardent fans get a little lost sometimes. But stick it out: Besides the corkscrew plot twists, Sydney has some great outfits.

Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, ... | PORTIA DE ROSSI, TAMBOR, AND BATEMAN
Image credit: Arrested Development: F. Scott Schafer/FOX
PORTIA DE ROSSI, TAMBOR, AND BATEMAN

Arrested Development

Sundays, 9:30 p.m., Fox

Why you should be watching ”Arrested Development”

WHAT IT IS Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) must salvage the family business and control his crazy family after his father, George (Jeffrey Tambor), lands in jail for creative accounting.
WHY IT’S GREAT Bizarro dark humor, no laugh track, and a voice-over by producer Ron Howard. It’s almost too cool for network TV.
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING The show’s lead-in, ”Malcolm in the Middle,” isn’t the hot property it once was, and time-slot competitor ”Law & Order: Criminal Intent” does bang-up ratings.
WHY YOU SHOULD If this gleefully subversive show gets the ax, we probably won’t see another one like it on network TV for years. Talk about arrested (creative) development.

Treat Williams, Everwood | SMITH, WILLIAMS, AND VIVIEN CARDONE
Image credit: Everwood: Chris Large/The WB
SMITH, WILLIAMS, AND VIVIEN CARDONE

Everwood

Mondays, 9 p.m., the WB

Why you should be watching ”Everwood”

WHAT IT IS After a patient’s untimely death this season, Dr. Brown (Treat Williams) and his son, Ephram (Gregory Smith), have struggled to find their footing among the townspeople of their small Colorado town.
WHY IT’S GREAT Don’t let the bucolic setting fool you: This is a savvy show that isn’t afraid to tackle hot-potato issues like AIDS, STDs, and homosexuality.
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING ”Everybody Loves Raymond” is a ratings juggernaut over on CBS, and teens who consider themselves too cool for lead-in ”7th Heaven” don’t know what they’re missing.
WHY YOU SHOULD ”The O.C.” may be getting all the hype, but this series covers equally challenging terrain — with fewer distracting bikinis.

Carla Gugino, Karen Sisco | GUGINO
Image credit: Karen Sisco: Vivian Zink/ABC
GUGINO

Karen Sisco

Wednesdays, 10 p.m., ABC

Why you should be watching ”Karen Sisco”

WHAT IT IS Sisco (Carla Gugino) is an ambitious United States marshal who does a better job of collaring bad guys than snagging dates.
WHY IT’S GREAT Gugino crackles with sexy cool, and her repartee with on-screen dad Robert Forster promises more interesting story lines are in store.
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING Tough cookie Karen may not have been romantic enough to hold on to ”Bachelor Bob”’s audience on Wednesdays — the show’s been put on hiatus until March.
WHY YOU SHOULD (WHEN IT’S BACK) A smart, sophisticated gun-toting babe: What could be a better antidote to Jessica Simpson?

King of the Hill | THE HILLS
Image credit: King Of The Hill: 2001 Fox Broadcasting
THE HILLS

King of the Hill

Sundays, 7:30 p.m., Fox

Why you should be watching ”King of the Hill”

WHAT IT IS Propane salesman Hank Hill does his best to understand his quirky family while living not so large in Texas.
WHY IT’S GREAT This gently skewed series digs up plenty of wry family humor, but without the tired sarcasm.
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING Who wants to miss the last half hour of ”60 Minutes”?
WHY YOU SHOULD Smarter than it looks, ”King” may be the one TV show that addresses middle American mores without poking fun or getting preachy. And, oh yeah, it’s actually funny.

Miss Match, Alicia Silverstone | SILVERSTONE
Image credit: Miss Match: Justin Lubin
SILVERSTONE

Miss Match

Fridays, 9 p.m., NBC

Why you should be watching ”Miss Match”

WHAT IT IS Producer Darren Starr’s sweeter, PG-rated answer to ”Sex and the City” with Alicia Silverstone playing a divorce attorney turned matchmaker.
WHY IT’S GREAT This show finds fun in the nightmare that is blind dating, and Silverstone hasn’t been this lovable since ”Clueless.”
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING Any single girl worth her salt (the audience this show is desperate to find) is out prowling the singles scene on Friday nights.
WHY YOU SHOULD Romance is alive and well on this cuddly, upbeat show, but not for long if ratings continue to tank.

Judy Reyes, Zach Braff, ... | JUDY REYES, BRAFF, AND DONALD FAISON
Image credit: Scrubs: Paul Drinkwater
JUDY REYES, BRAFF, AND DONALD FAISON

Scrubs

Thursdays, 9:30 p.m., NBC

Why you should be watching ”Scrubs”

WHAT IT IS An off-the-wall comedy about newbie doctor J.D. (Zach Braff), his abrasive adviser Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) and life in a nutty hospital.
WHY IT’S GREAT It’s got whip-smart dialogue plus a cast with the talent to dish it out (Where’s McGinley’s Emmy already?)
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING Hey, anyone would have a hard time competing against ”C.S.I.”
WHY YOU SHOULD Considering that this is the only NBC show of the last five years to be worthy of that annoying ”Must See TV” title (what, you weren’t watching ”Good Morning Miami,” were you?), this one’s TiVo worthy.

Smallville | WELLING AND KREUK
Image credit: Smallville: Michael Courtney/The WB
WELLING AND KREUK

Smallville

Wednesdays, 8 p.m., the WB

Why you should be watching ”Smallville”

WHAT IT IS Before he could climb tall buildings in a single bound, Clark Kent (Tom Welling) had to survive his teen years along with pals Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) and Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum).
WHY IT’S GREAT In season 3 Clark is growing up fast — dabbling in ”red kryptonite” (which turns him into black-leather-wearing Bad Clark) and scrambling to hide his secrets from nosy Lex.
WHY YOU’RE NOT WATCHING You probably think you’re too grown up for a show about the early days of ”Superman.”
WHY YOU SHOULD Clark is a tortured hunk with the soul of a poet; Lana is the beautiful girl next door he yearns for. It’s like ”Dawson’s Creek” with superpowers.