2. Homeland

Network: Showtime
Stars: Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin, Morena Baccarin, David Harewood, Diego Klattenhoff, Morgan Saylor, Jamey Sheridan

The best new show of the year caught us, like many others, totally off-guard. With minimal pre-debut hype, Showtime’s Homeland premiered in September and immediately jammed its hooks into our nerves.

On a week-to-week basis, the premise felt like it could implode at any given moment: A bipolar CIA hotshot (Claire Danes, a.k.a. Ms. Better Win An Emmy) suspects a Marine (Damian Lewis, also dynamite) returning home from eight years of Iraqi captivity of having switched allegiances and secretly plotting a terrorist attack. Over 12 tense weeks, Homeland tossed several red herrings, plot twists, and character deceptions at its viewers, to such a degree that producers Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon (both 24 alums) always seemed on the verge of dropping the narrative ball.

Yet, as the season escalated, so did Homeland’s excellence, building up to its wholly satisfying finale with incredible, white-knuckle tension and suspense.