A secret admirer's batch of valentines for the small screen's overlooked sweethearts from the week of Feb. 20/27, 1998

Their faces don’t often grace magazine covers. They’re not promoted as hunks or babes. But they have their own quietly ardent admirers, who reveal their crushes in hushed tones around watercoolers. Now we blow the lid off of…TV’s secret sex symbols!

Gloria Reuben
Julianna Margulies may have been the cover girl for Esquire‘s “Women We Love” issue, but the ER woman EW loves is Reuben’s Jeanie Boulet. Despite her HIV diagnosis, she hasn’t become a sexless victim. She radiates a simmering sensuality, whether she’s flirting with a handsome AIDS researcher (Harry J. Lennix) or reconciling with her repentant ex-husband (Michael Beach).

Kyle Secor
Homicide‘s Andre Braugher may have been one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People, but his Sensitive Guy partner, Secor’s Tim Bayliss, has captured just as many female hearts. Which makes his recent flirtation with bisexuality all the riskier (he went out on a date with a charming restaurateur played by Peter Gallagher). But hey, the NBC cop show didn’t become network TV’s best drama by playing it safe.

Mitch Pileggi
The X-Files‘ David Duchovny may have been on the cover of every magazine in the universe, but it’s Pileggi’s bald-headed, broad-shouldered FBI guy Walter Skinner who brings a real element of danger to the show. He seems to be in Mulder’s corner, but you never know if he’s really One of Them. And there’s nothing sexier than an air of mystery.

Connie Britton
New cast member Jennifer Esposito may sport ridiculously high hemlines on Spin City, but it’s Britton’s marvelously brittle punchlines as bookkeeper Nikki Faber that’ve won us over. The only question: Why would such a knockout constantly be hard up for dates?

Nicholas Brendon
David Boreanaz’s bloodsucking Angel may have gotten horizontal with Sarah Michelle Gellar on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s her platonic pal, Brendon’s Xander Harris, who has really earned a stake in her heart. Xander’s attraction-repulsion relationship with cheerleading diva Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) has provided some of Buffy‘s biggest guffaws this season, and Brendon delivers the drollest one-liners this side of Matthew Perry.

Gary Basaraba
Brooklyn South may have no shortage of improbably gorgeous cops (Jon Tenney, Yancy Butler, Dylan Walsh, Erika Eleniak…), yet it’s Basaraba’s beefy desk sergeant, Richard Santoro, who has become the show’s most arresting presence. He’s like NYPD Blue‘s Dennis Franz — a hardheaded cop hiding a soft underbelly — without all of Andy Sipowicz’s unattractive racist attitudes.

Lisa Gay Hamilton and Lisa Nicole Carson
They’re both named Lisa. They both costar on David E. Kelley series — The Practice and Ally McBeal, respectively. And they both aren’t given enough to do, as anyone who’s seen their superior work elsewhere can testify (Hamilton played a Haitian immigrant in Showtime’s recent Defenders TV movie and Carson has a recurring role as Eriq La Salle’s ex-lover on ER). Still, they’re the most appealing characters on their shows — Hamilton because she’s the only Practice regular who’s not a lawyer (she’s the office manager) and Carson because she’s got some meat on her bones. As opposed to her scarily skinny TV roomie, Calista Flockhart.