If there’s a lesson to learn from the rise, fall andresurrection of Arrested Development,the sitcom centered on the lovably dysfunctional Bluth family that aired on FOXfrom 2003 to 2006, it’s that it pays to be a cult favorite. Though the show wasa critical darling and attracted an impressive list of guest stars (CharlizeTheron, Liza Minelli and Amy Poehler among them), the network canceled it afteronly three seasons, due to mediocre ratings. This didn’t deter the show’s fanbase, which continued to grow in size and zeal until, after five years ofclamoring, the powers that be relented. Onstage at the New Yorker Festival lastfall, the ensemble cast—which includes Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and DavidCross—and their director, Ron Howard, announced that the show will be returningin 2013 with ten new episodes, followed by a feature-length film. Fanaticseverywhere chicken-danced with joy.
ArrestedDevelopment isn’t the only show that’s managed to attract a circleof ardent supporters; with “Gleeks” and “Downton Maniacs” commanding thespotlight, there’s never been a better time to love television passionately andunapologetically. Smash,NBC’s new drama chronicling the creation of a Broadway musical about MarilynMonroe, is primed to capitalize on this enthusiasm: Its pilot drew 11.4 millionviewers and a whirlwind of positive buzz. Fans are already arguing over whichof the show’s two starlets would make a better Marilyn.
But with dozens of shows competing for attention andlimited hours in a day, which are worth watching? We’ve trolled the airwavesfor a list of television shows that, through charismatic characters, compellingplotlines and high production values, live up to the fan fervor. All tastes areaccounted for, from Portlandia,IFC’s sketch-comedy show that riffs on the cultural quirks of the PacificNorthwest, to Homeland,the Golden Globe-winning terrorist psychodrama from Showtime, starring ClaireDanes as an unbalanced CIA agent, to DowntonAbbey, the BBC period drama that has secured veteran actress MaggieSmith a whole new set of acolytes. The only question is: Do you have a DVR?