Best Example: Dexter

By its sixth season, the Showtime drama that once daringly asked us to accept a serial killer as the protagonist had gotten so boring and safe in its execution that we were forced to step in and dedicate an entire list detailing the ways it could conceivably get back on track.

In the years following an excellent second season, Dexter committed the worst sin a cable drama could: It became formulaic. Each season played out the same beats—Dex (Michael C. Hall) wrestles with Harry's (James Remar) Code and strikes up a bond with a kindred spirit who reveals themselves to be a far worse danger to society than he is, forcing him to off them—and failed to advance both plot and character development. Sensing viewer unrest, the series finally pulled the trigger on a long-awaited plot development: Debra (sexy Jennifer Carpenter) discovering her brother's secret hobby, but by then almost all goodwill had been squandered and during the hiatus most assumed they would fuck that up as well.

On the contrary, it appears the Dexter team took a few of our suggestions, because the current season is a wild improvement over the last four that preceded it. They've handled every stage of Deb and Dexter's new dynamic beautifully, and they've enlisted the beastly acting talents of Ray Stevenson and stunning Hot Complex subject Yvonne Strahovski to affect Dex in new, exciting ways that past special guest stars, however talented, ultimately did not. (What up, John Lithgow.)

The series is still burdened with what is quite possibly the most useless supporting cast in television history, but we're not asking for miracles. Instead, we'll gladly accept an engaging A-story that actually has us anticipating the next episode instead of contemplating dropping it from the DVR queue.