The Osbounres: John McCoy/LADN/

What are the best TV moments of the year? Families, freaks, and a few real people helped make 2002 a year that Ken Tucker won't easily forget

December 09, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

What are the best TV moments of the year?

Think about television over the past 12 months, which includes parts of two separate TV ”seasons,” and there are an awful lot of memorable, moving, infuriating, and entertaining events and scenes. Here are 10 notable moments that helped define TV in 2002.

1. THE OSBOURNES INVADE AMERICA Who’d have thought that a British heavy metal geezer could give a new revitalization to this country’s ever-ongoing discussion of family values? The Osbournes may be rich, relocated-to-LA, and prone to conversational obscenities, but they’re also a more loving family unit than any clan this side of ”7th Heaven.” And the frank depiction of Sharon’s cancer diagnosis has recently added poignance to the hilarity.

2. THE RETURN OF ”THE SOPRANOS” After more than a year, Tony’s crime and blood families came back with, if anything, an increased vengeance. Creator David Chase announced he’d be spending more time exploring the wobbly marriage of Tony and Carmela, and some fans complained that the series was uneven, raising plot-points and dropping them. But you gotta admit that the acting is uniformly great, that the killing of Ralphie one of the year’s hold-your-breath surprises, and that Carmela’s crush on Furio the year’s great inexplicable, unconsummated romances.

3. THE RAGING HORMONES OF ”THE BACHELOR 2” Is Aaron Buerge just in love with himself, or did his slick wining, dining, and rose-awardings not strike you as a sustained display of male egotism at its most unsettling (and, to millions, fantasy-fulfilling)? In its second edition, ”The Bachelor” proved that it’s not the final selection that really matters anyway; as entertainment, it’s moments like Christi’s emotional freakout, or the spectacle of some bachelorettes removing themselves before being eliminated that boiled up the next day’s water-cooler chatter.

4. ”AMERICAN IDOL” IDOLOTRY Whether it was the shock of seeing Judge Simon (shouldn’t he have his own afternoon courtroom show by now?) pass cold judgment on a young warbler, or watching Kelly Clarkson ululate her way past perma-frosty Justin Guarini, ”Idol” was the year’s reality-TV phenomenon. Now if only Kelly’s single would fade from our radios.

5. RACHEL GIVES BIRTH ON ”FRIENDS” Capping a great season — and special kudos to the nuanced performance of Matt LeBlanc as a newly sensitive Joey — was Jennifer Aniston’s terrific, “I Love Lucy”-level slapstick performance in finally pushing Ross’ baby out into the world. If it’s really ending, this sitcom is going out with top-notch scripts as well as comic acting.

6. YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A NEW TV-DRAMA GIMMICK — ”24” What sounded like a gimmick (following a dastardly plot against a Presidential candidate over the course of a day, in 24 real-time episodes) turned out to yield sustained suspence, a career-reviving performance by Keifer Sutherland, and a second season that, so far, seems just as good.

7. EMMY AWARD SURPRISES Hey, forget “The West Wing” and “Six Feet Under” (lots of people, including Emmy voters certainly seemed to) — the biggest surprise of the night was Michael Chiklis’ truly underdog-win as the anti-hero of “The Shield.” The prize also probably introduced millions of viewers to a channel they may not have known even existed: FX, in full effect!

8. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WEIRDNESS It’s tragic that one of the greatest musicians of his generation has degenerated into a freak-show act, or maybe something more dangerous: For a few days, could you turn on your TV set and NOT see this grotesquely plastic-surgeoned King of Pop dangling a baby out a Berlin window? Inexplicable; sad.

9. JENNIFER GARNER GETS A MOMMY The statuesque “Alias” star already had a spy-dad with whom she’s had her differences, but bringing the first-rate actress Lena Olin in to play Garner’s traitorous spy-mom was the casting coup of the year. Olin doesn’t only bear the right amount of resemblence to Garner make the bloodline believable, but she turned a possibly campy plot turn into another marvelous hairpin-turn in this delightfully twisty adventure series.

10. THE POWER OF ”9/11” CBS’ remarkable two-hour documentary by the French filmmaker-brothers Gedeon and Jules Naudet provided television’s most effective elegy to the Sept. 11 mass murders. Naudets’ footage of the terrorist attacks in New York City didn’t need anything more than the brothers’ own simple yet eloquent commentary plus regular interludes of a background-soundtrack of silence, which underscored the death and danger that was all around.

Which TV moments do YOU remember most vividly?

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