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Michael Becker/FOX

On the small screen

Television | From secret spies to Cylons, this TV season has some shows to know about

Issue: "The Obama era," Feb. 14, 2009

What's worth your time this TV season? Here are a few picks.

American Idol: There is a reason this is the most watched show on TV. Aside from the fun of watching self-deluded posers and snarky judges, there is something true, good, and beautiful about the thrill that runs up our spine when a nobody belts out an amazing performance. Plus, it gives us something to discuss with both our children and our co-workers. Tuesdays at 8 eastern on Fox.

Dollhouse: This new series with tons of buzz follows people who are imprinted with a detailed new persona for a specific task, from hostage negotiator to assassin. They are literally made for the job. Eliza Dushku stars as Echo, a pretty "active" whose real memories are starting to assert themselves. Premieres Feb. 13 at 9 eastern on Fox.

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Chuck: This warm spy comedy is worth another look. Zach Levi (an outspoken Christian) plays Chuck, a Buy-More nerd by day and a secret spy by, well, day. Returns Feb. 2 at 8 eastern on NBC.

Friday Night Lights: An uncynical look at Texas football and the people who love it, this show gives "fly-over" country fair treatment. The union of Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and Tami (Connie Britton) is the best portrayal of marriage on TV. Some of the storylines include sexuality, sometimes among teens, but it is portrayed with nuance and consequence for actions. Fridays at 9 eastern on NBC.

The Office: Steve Carell leads the cast through office politics, loves, and resentments that seem all too familiar. Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) share a rare (for TV) respectful and drama-free romance. Woven through the funny moments, Carell manages to bring a sweetness and vulnerability to his bumbling nightmare of a boss. Unfortunately the show does have sexually themed humor and storylines, but such behavior is usually depicted as embarrassing and inappropriate. Thursdays at 9 eastern on NBC.

Battlestar Galactica: The gritty survivors of a devastating attack on humanity wearily look for a new home, as the final season of this excellent show begins. Cylons, human-like robots created by man, alternately hunt and aid humanity. With gripping storylines, this show transcends the sci-fi genre to explore war, love, family, and ultimately, what it means to be human. A cable show, it includes language and sexuality. Fridays at 10 eastern on the SciFi channel, and absolutely worth a trip to the video store to rent the prior seasons' DVDs.

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