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Best of 2001
Top 10 TV Shows

 
BY JOHN LEONARD
 

Buffy, the Musical: Going out a witch but coming back a star.
 

Behind the Veil
In which Saira Shah, the British-born daughter of an Afghan intellectual, reported on Taliban terror -- women shot to death in a football stadium for adultery, men hanged from goal posts for homosexuality, the secret schools for girls, the clerics as proud as Pol Pot -- just a couple of weeks before most of America cared (CNN).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
by which, of course, I mean the Musical, wherein all the characters sang and danced their darkest secrets, as if Sondheim had teamed up with Dracula to do Our Town (UPN).

Laughter on the 23rd Floor
Laughter, with Richard Benjamin directing Nathan Lane in Neil Simon's play, captured the neurotic genius of Sid Caesar and all those famous comedy writers for Your Show of Shows, like Simon, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, and Carl Reiner (Showtime).
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Nero Wolfe
Nero Wolfe, with Maury Chaykin as the great detective and Timothy Hutton as his smart-mouth sidekick Archie, re-created Rex Stout's world of fine food, imported beer, rare orchids, strong opinions, and vile acts almost perfectly in one of the year's best series (April, A&E).

New York: A Documentary Film
The four concluding hours of Ric Burns's magnificent televisual account of the port city over four centuries and its embodiment of the idea of a freely chosen future reminded us that all a terror bombing can do to this idea is scatter it like seeds, from which we'll grow more towers (PBS).
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Saving Elián
This nuanced retrospective on the international custody case from tireless Frontline producer Ofra Bikel, touched every base from the little boy's high-seas rescue by dolphins to Fidel Castro's pep rallies to Janet Reno and her predawn raid on Elián's camera-loving relatives, with special emphasis on the political clout of Miami's Cuban community (PBS).
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Six Feet Under
Among its many other subversive virtues, this show introduced most of us to the marvelous Rachel Griffiths as Peter Krause's difficult girlfriend in a series about a family of morticians who face up to bizarre death by everything from swimming pool to cookie-dough mixer (HBO).
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Things Behind the Sun
Things Behind the Sun, with Kim Dickens, Don Cheadle, Gabriel Mann, Elizabeth Peña, Eric Stoltz, and CCH Pounder, brought Allison Anders's lacerating film about gang rape by high-school boys to a home screen almost too small to contain its furious complications (Showtime).
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Twilight: Los Angeles
A brilliant account of the 1992 insurrection after the Rodney King verdict. With Anna Deavere Smith impersonating everyone from a black teenager to a Korean grocer to a Latino journalist to a Hollywood agent to police chief Daryl Gates, gun-toting Charlton Heston, and grandly operatic Jessye Norman (PBS).
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Wit
Mike Nichols's TV adaptation of Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play starred Emma Thompson as a cancer-stricken professor of seventeenth-century poetry, Eileen Atkins as her ghostly mentor, Audra McDonald as the nurse who gave her baby oil and a Popsicle, and Harold Pinter as the father who encouraged her to read Beatrix Potter (HBO).
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Photograph by Mitchell Haaseth/UPN

 
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