'Tis the season to be thankful

Having finally managed to uncurl myself from the fetal position in which I've spent some goodly portion of the last three weeks, I decided that for the sake of my well-being, my mood, and generally to avoid the verbal and physical assaults of the people around me, I would stop talking about the elections and move on. And what better time than the upcoming holiday season to take stock of the things we have and we value, rather than bemoan what might have been and what has been lost, right?

So I present to you 20 things that I'm thankful for this holiday season, brought to me by the television networks and the movie studios. Hopefully some of these things will also help cure your depression if you supported John Kerry this season, and, if you were a Bush supporter, give you something to be joyous about around that selfsame Kerry voter that won't make him or her want to kick you for gloating.

1. "Lost". Easily the most engrossing show on television, J.J. Abrams' newest takes a set of standard plot devices - crash survivors, a desert island - and makes them startlingly new.

2. Seinfeld on DVD. Sure, you can see Jerry and the gang twice a night in syndication and numerous other times on the weekends - but what if it's three in the afternoon and you need an entertaining dose of nothing, stat? Slip them in, yada yada yada, you're happy again.

3. "Scrubs". And speaking of stat, the best medical show on television is staying at its peak - and yes, it's a comedy. Despite his strong directorial debut in "Garden State," success has not yet managed to spoil Zach Braff, who continues to give some of the best comic performances on the small screen.

4. Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The two creators of "South Park" are still scorching earth and taking names both on their television show and in "Team America: World Police," which should be required viewing for anyone who is involved with the exercise of American military force. Plus, it's puppets, people. How can you not find puppets funny?

5. Tempests in teapots. It's a triumph of the American condition that despite the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor, a war that's going problematically, to say the least, and looming national security threats on the horizon from Iran, North Korea, and Al Qaeda, we can spend a wildly disproportionate number of our time thinking about Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live and a revealing promo for Monday Night Football.

6. Imelda Staunton in "Vera Drake". Regardless of what side you're on in the abortion issue, Staunton's performance as a woman who terminates pregnancies in postwar England is never less than absorbing, thought-provoking viewing in Mike Leigh's newest film.

7. Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, and Felicity Huffman in "Desperate Housewives." Anyone who's a sucker for beautiful women doing remarkably stupid and funny things should check out the show. Even if you're not interested in the soap opera or the examination of women's anxiety amid ostensible domestic tranquility, you'll stay for sights like Longoria mowing a lawn in evening gown and high heels, or Hatcher accidentally burning down a rival's house (don't ask).

8. The rebirth of William Shatner. Every few years, the man manages to do it - he's like a phoenix. Is he always good on "Boston Legal"? No, not always. But he's always intensely watchable.

9. Sarah Vowell. Anyone who's never listened to her on NPR is going to start tuning in just to hear more of the voice that launched a thousand force fields as the super-powered daughter in "The Incredibles".

10. Rob Corddry. Jon Stewart and a crack writing team get much of the credit for the remarkable success of "The Daily Show," as well they should, but what about the hyperactive bald guy who will basically do anything at all for a laugh? What about him? Let's give him a little love.

11. And speaking of hyperactive bald guys - David Cross on "Arrested Development," who, for reasons I'm not at liberty to go into, has spent most of the last few episodes in blue body paint. It must be said that this is not the most flattering fashion choice, but it may be one of the funniest.

12. Straight men. Always an underappreciated category in general, but we're in a wonderful age of them now. Two that stand out in particular are Jason Bateman in "Arrested Development" and Scott Patterson, who plays Luke on "Gilmore Girls".

13. Forensic detection. If there wasn't a group of crime scene investigators who specialized in analyzing trace evidence, what would CBS do at night? Actually, this isn't so much something for us to be thankful for as for CBS...

14. Reruns of "The Family Guy" on the Cartoon Network. The most scabrous animated comedy on television (with apologies to those folks from Springfield) reminds you that there is a place for offensive loudmouths with stupid opinions - and that place isn't necessarily Fox News or CNN's "Crossfire".

15. Movie actors accepting their small screen destiny. Actors like Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, Mary Steenburgen, Treat Williams - distinguished feature players all, but never quite making that jump to the A-List - who are carving out wonderful, full and breathing characters for themselves on shows like "Joan of Arcadia," "Everwood," and, yes, even "CSI: New York".

16. Las Vegas. The election may have been taken by the punditocracy as a referendum on moral values - but Sin City is providing a raft of killer storylines, on shows like "CSI", "Las Vegas", and even the now-on-hiatus "Father of the Pride". They say Minneapolis is one of the best cities in the country in which to live, but how many of us would want to see a show set there?

17. The failure of sequels and remakes. "Alfie" hasn't caught fire; neither has "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" or "Shall We Dance?". Maybe, going into the holiday season, we can hope that America has decided to accept original fare like "The Grudge". Actually, "The Grudge" is a remake, too. Well, I'll settle for the failure of bad sequels and remakes.

18. The Marx Brothers. Not for any particular reason; I'm just thankful that they're there. Go watch "Animal Crackers" or "Duck Soup" or "A Night at the Opera" again; you'll be thankful too.

19. The Mars daughter. Veronica Mars, that is, whose eponymous UPN show has - let's be particularly thankful - been picked up for a full season. That way more people have the chance to get hooked by this mixture of "High School Confidential" and "The Maltese Falcon."

20. "Lost." I know I already said it, but, you know, I'm really really thankful for it.

Have a a great holiday this month.

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