EW's editor-at-large marvels at how good season 4 got after he tuned out. Plus: the returns of ''Gilmore Girls'' (already?), ''Studio 60,'' Tom Selleck, and ''Virgin''

By Ken Tucker
Updated May 21, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Catching up with ”The O.C.”

1. Better Than I Thought: The O.C. Season 4
(Warner Bros. DVD)
I admit it — I tuned away from the final season early on, right after Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) entered that wussily staged cage match. Now I see what I missed: the rise of Autumn Reeser’s Taylor as a fine, funny love interest for Ryan, lots of good jokes from a clearly-too-old-yet-still-game Seth (Adam Brody), and a succession of terrific subplots and scenes for his underrated parents (Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan). I publicly apologize to creator Josh Schwartz, whose final-episode commentary is a model of revelation and good-naturedness.

2. Gilmore Girls live!…on ABC Family
(5 p.m. daily)
Perfect timing: ABC Family is in the midst of running the series’ first season so we can wallow in sorrow and pleasure — at the show’s demise, and in the glory of these Amy Sherman-Palladino-helmed episodes. I just caught one where Lauren Graham’s Lorelai is watching Double Indemnity with her mother (the peerless Kelly Bishop). Lorelai tells her nettlesome mom that she has a throaty voice like Barbara Stanwyck, and pays her a Lorelai-style compliment: ”You could have gotten Fred MacMurray to off Dad.” Mom looks faintly shocked. Ah, good times…

3. A better Tom Selleck detective series than Magnum, P.I.? Try Jesse Stone: Sea Change
(CBS, May 22, 9 p.m.)
Hey, I like the old show that brought Tom Selleck fame as much as the next nostalgist. But I’m really liking these TV-movie adaptations of Robert B. Parker’s mystery novels, starring Selleck — goateed, a little thicker around the middle, but who among us isn’t? — as small-town Massachusetts sheriff Jesse Stone. In this fourth outing, Stone is still drinking too much, still too lonely, but he’s got Kathy Baker in fine, astringent form, helping him solve a cold case of murder. Guest stars Rebecca Pidgeon, William Devane, and an affably daffy Sean Young (why doesn’t she work more often?) provide solid support, but it’s Selleck as Stone — moody, wily, quietly sarcastic — that holds the story together. Two earlier Stone mysteries are just out on DVD and I recommend them all.

4. Dirty is funny on The 40 Year-Old Virgin Unrated
(Universal DVD)
At this urgent time in our nation’s pop culture, when we seem to have lost all sense of what’s ”right,” what’s ”wrong,” what’s ”funny,” and what’s ”offensive,” I feel compelled to give a ringing endorsement to the assiduously foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, hilarious 40-Year-Old Virgin, now released as a two-disc DVD that offers such fine extras as Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen improvising for a full five minutes about, um, sexual preference. Then there’s ”My Dinner with Stormy,” a brief interlude between Rogen and a porn star that leaves even Rogen looking abashed. Plus, remember: the actual movie — all praise to Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, and director Judd Apatow — is very good.

5. The not-really-triumphant return of the still-weirdly-fascinating Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
(NBC, May 24, 10 p.m.)
Like so many of its few viewers, I have watched every episode of this now-cancelled series, which returns after a three-month ratings-induced yanking. As whiny, self-congratulatory, and predictable as nearly every storyline has been, it’s a unique experience to witness such a good writer (Aaron Sorkin) and such likable actors (Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, and we’ll agree to disagree on Sarah Paulson) execute a deeply flawed concept with such vigor, discipline, and warmth. No kidding: tune in.

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Gilmore Girls

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