Network: Showtime
Air Dates: October 1, 2006 - present
Stars: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, James Remar, Julie Benz, Erik King, C.S. Lee, Desmond Harrington

Lately, the scariest thing about Showtime's Dexter is how uneven it's been, with too many lame side characters getting overzealous storylines and a disappointing fifth season that moved ahead absolutely nothing in Dexter's (the great Michael C. Hall) big picture arc. But there's a reason why we're sticking with Miami's noblest serial killer: When Dexter is on point, it's one of TV's best shows, hands down. And a major factor in that excellence is Dexter's willingness to stage gruesome kill scenes worthy of any horror-loving gorehound's approval.

As the title character, Hall is never less than electric, nailing the character's inherent shyness and social awkwardness and occasionally revolting viewers in the show's cold-hearted murders. When Dexter/Hall drives that knife into his strapped-down victims' chests, the impact is fierce—the maniacal satisfaction in his eyes translates horrifically.

The fact that Dex is the show's hero plays into how Dexter blurs the line between good and evil; as for his per-season rivals, though, they're best served wholeheartedly cold. The Ice Truck Killer and Trinity (brilliantly played by John Lithgow) rank amongst the most disturbing serial slayers in both TV and movie history. And you know why? Because they don't crack predictable sexual puns (we're talking to you, Masuka) and actually bring something to the table (sorry, Batista). —MB