What is the point of television? The point of television is to talk about television. With the Inauguration over, and all of us still flat broke, we need every bit of free, common culture we can get. So we've invited our culture staff—and one special guest—to gather around the Water Cooler and get you caught up on what we're watching.
How I Met Your Mother
Even with the conceit growing increasingly thin (Bob Saget, who voices a middle-aged Ted, explains the ever more complicated titular story to his teenage children), I find something to love with each episode. The show's guiding light is Neil Patrick Harris—an openly gay man and former child star in real life—as a womanizing, high-fiving bro's bro who delights in our narrator's endless break-ups. The great Apatow prodigy Jason Segel is a close second attraction as Marshall, a sweet-hearted Minnesota boy whose jokes are so lame they're legendary. In the beginning, I watched the show for those two characters. But over time I've come to love all the in-jokes: Lily talking to grown-ups like children, Robin's legacy as a Canadian pop-star—even Ted's wide-eyed "gulp" face (often accompanied by sensitive man-music) has burrowed into my heart. These are my people now, as lily-white and perfectly groomed as they may be. I'm happy to see them all again each week, and whether or not Bob Saget ever finishes his ridiculously long love story, I wish them all the best. CASEY JARMAN. CBS, Mondays at 8:30 pm.
Heading into the penultimate season, we know this much: Lost is ostensibly a show about time travel. What started as a plane crash on an unknown island has morphed into a globe-hopping, decade-spanning, elusive fight between two powerful men (Ben Linus and Charles Widmore) who weren't introduced until the second season. We know that the Oceanic Six, who escaped during last year's finale, have to return to the island in order to save everyone else, even though the atoll disappeared in time (and possibly space). Sawyer will spend more than half the year running around with his shirt off, Claire and Jin might be dead, and Jack still has serious daddy issues. Though it's prone to cheesy moments and aloof and overambitious story arcs, Lost is still the only show on with the audacity to really screw with its viewers' minds—whether that means turning the drama into a primetime sci-fi epic or inventing a time-lapse narrative that's nearly impossible to keep up with. No matter how farfetched it gets, it's awfully hard to ignore. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER. ABC, Wednesdays at 9 pm.
The Office is the best show on TV. A very close second is Heroes, but back to The Office. Seriously. I mean, guys—if you're reading this and haven't seen an episode, look at your hand and then slap yourself because you're missing out on life's greatest thing...laughter. My favorite character, of course, is Dwight Schrute. He's one of the most unique and entertaining people I have ever watched; each week, I just can't contain myself because of his hilariousness. People who think I have a great sense of humor: Watch this show and thank me in the morning. CHANNING FRYE. NBC, Thursdays at 9 pm.
And the final Cylon is... her? I'm of two minds about the first of the past dozen episodes of what I used to think was the Greatest Sci-Fi Series Ever. On the one hand, it appears we've seen the last of the maudlin romances and Saint John the Divine-caliber hallucinations that bogged down the last season. It's good to see Saul "Cool McCain" Tigh finally come to grips with capping his wife back on New Caprica and Lee Adama emerging from his pupal phase. There's hope, I think, that the series will round Cape Lost and actually come to a satisfactory conclusion. On the other hand, do I really care anymore? It's been six months since we left the crew on the charred remains of Earth, and I can't for the life of me recall how they got there. Having become attached to these characters, I was willing to cope with the series losing all social relevance, but I'm afraid the long midseason break hasn't made me any more interested in where it's going. BEN WATERHOUSE. Sci-Fi, Fridays at 10 pm.
The Water Cooler will return in two weeks. Meanwhile, read more of Channing Frye's thoughts on culture on his