Where to find it: Sundance Channel
Why to find it: This British import takes 10 crude, pint-gulping, "common as muck" girls and enrolls them in Eggleston Hall, a fancy-pants finishing school in the heart of Teasdale (wherever that is) with the hope of creating at least one well-mannered lady. While the sight of 10 party girls struggling to learn the finer points of soufflé-making is reason enough to flip over to the Sundance Channel, Ladette To Lady's real charm is its snide, very British narrator, who comments on each girl's actions as if voicing a wildlife documentary.
Memorable moment: When the principal allows the girls an unsupervised trip to the local pub—a trip that ends in a rowdy, drunken walk through the village—the narrator coolly observes, "It was a decision which betrayed a remarkable ignorance of her charges."
Recommended if you're sick of: Wife Swap, Extreme Makeover, or any other reality show where people become their opposites.
Where to find it: Discovery Channel
Why to find it: Not since Rescue 911 have re-enactments been this engrossing—or hilarious. Using actors and survivor interviews, I Shouldn't Be Alive tells the true stories of people who, against all odds, survived battles with nature—battles that they usually brought on themselves through sheer stupidity. In one episode, four men decide to trek through the Amazon rainforest during rainy season, against the strong advice of locals; in another, a conservationist crashes his plane in the middle of the African desert, after telling no one of his plans to fly, and taking along no supplies. An added CSI-esque feature has the camera zooming inside survivors' bodies to better illustrate the physiological changes they're going through. If you ever wanted to know what a shattered leg, trench foot, or gangrene look like from the inside, now you can!
Memorable moment: Floating in shark-infested waters somewhere between Maine and Florida, two crew members of a sunken yacht have the following exchange: "Stop kicking me." "I'm not kicking you." Then a shark fin crests above the water.
Recommended if you're sick of: Survivor. Duh.
Where to find it: BBC America (returns with a new season in March)
Why to find it: Because Mr. Show and The Kids In The Hall no longer exist, and no other show seems capable of replacing them. Like Mr. Show, Little Britain is the work of two men, Matt Lucas and David Walliams, who play a slew of British lowlifes: Daffyd, a "homosexualist" who's apparently gay only to be different; Emily Howard and Florence, the least-convincing transvestites in the country; Marjorie Dawes, a chunky misanthrope who runs a weight-loss program; and many others. The humor varies from absurdist to socially biting, and it's often lowbrow, but it's consistently hilarious—the rarest of all sketch-show traits.
Memorable moment: Daffyd tells his friend Myfanwy about an audition: "It was a complete waste of time," he says. "The director said he couldn't see me as Hamlet. I'm sorry, Myfanwy, but the Llandewi Breffi Amateur Dramatics Society is completely homophobist." "Oh well," Myfanwy says. "What audition speech did you do?" Says Daffyd: "'It's Raining Men' by The Weather Girls."
Recommended if you're sick of: The more-miss-than-hit Saturday Night Live and its even more lackluster imitators.
Where to find it: MTV
Why to find it: It's fun to watch a reality show about someone well past their peak, in this case, former O-Town hunk Ashley Angel, who's apparently squandered his money to the point that he needs to (gasp!) try and find a job. (Turns out he's not qualified for much.) Angel is pretty delusional about his past and future, but more than that, he's constantly acting on his supposed reality show. Everything that comes out of his mouth seems like it's coming from cue cards. Now living with his pregnant wife (Tiffany) and her mother (Scarlet), Angel still seems wide-eyed about pretty much everything, which translates to incredibly watchable desperation. It's no Breaking Bonaduce, but what is, really?
Memorable moment: Tiffany confronts Ashley after Scarlet wakes up to find him at the refrigerator, sporting "morning wood." (The mom's phrase, mind you.) "Morning wood" is repeated several times. The scary thing: The subtle sexual tension between the former boy-band crooner and his mother-in-law seems almost destined to surface at some point down the road. Now there's an idea for a reality show…
Recommended if you're sick of: That high-on-the-hog mouth-breather Travis Barker, his deep-as-a-puddle wife, and the seemingly endless supply of riches those traits have brought them.
Where to find it: The Travel Channel
Why to find it: Aspiring stewards and stewardesses learn the ropes at Frontier Airlines' Denver training center, in a bold experiment to see just how far behind the scenes a reality series can go. The Airline-style series ditches the angry customers and substitutes the squabbles of eight trainees living together, commuting together, and trying not to wash out by falling asleep in the cabin simulator together. Indispensable for viewers researching such flight-attendant hazing rituals as ordering trainees to gather an air sample from the back of the plane in a plastic bag.
Memorable moment: Sharon, a former Bible-school student, tries to complete the drink service on her training flight to Las Vegas without getting airsick all over the passengers.
Recommended if you're sick of: Storm Stories on the Weather Channel.
Where to find it: The Travel Channel
Why to find it: There's something sweet about the Green Valley Ranch hotel and casino. The off-Strip casino obsesses over the cleanliness of its lobby, hosts LL Cool J concerts, sends its mob-ish player-development guys chasing after whales, and runs promotions for its stable of elderly regulars. It's like they're playing "Let's Pretend: Bellagio Edition." Try to catch the first-season reruns where marketing manager David DeMontmollin turns his apartment into an "ultralounge" called JC1K, then has to return to blowing up balloons for the Mobility Store set.
Memorable moment: When director of marketing Wayne "Shamu" Shadd puts a drink on his head and/or jumps into a handy pool of water. This occurs roughly once every two episodes.
Recommended if you're sick of: The glamorous Vegas locales featured on every other Travel Channel series.
Where to find it: E! Entertainment Network
Why to find it: Originally titled The "What The…" Awards, this roundup of the week's craziest TV moments found its purpose once it borrowed the name of E!'s signature '90s success, Talk Soup. No longer limited to daytime talk sleaze, The Soup now roams the mediascape, gathering clips from reality TV and the Internet, and excusing people from having to watch whole episodes of Trading Spouses or Dr. 90210 to get to the good parts. Host Joel McHale is hit-and-miss with his quips, but it's the footage of a woman on The Montel Williams Show crushing soda cans with her mammoth breasts that makes The Soup worth 30 minutes a week.
Memorable moment: McHale goes deep inside a week's worth of awkward Tony Danza monologue transitions.
Recommended if you're sick of: Clicking through iFilm every week to find the hot new viral video.
Where to find it: ESPN Classic
Why to find it: After an awkward second season in which hosts Randy and Jason Sklar brought in a studio audience for their half-hour of skits and Mystery Science Theater-style skewering of old sports programming, Cheap Seats went back to basics for the stellar season three, even revisiting such prime mockable fare as spelling bees, regional wrestling shows, and pre-"hole cam" poker tournaments. Where else can you hear ESPN announcers urging other ESPN announcers to "control their adjectives"?
Memorable moment: In a 1977 episode of Superstars, Olympic hurdler Guy Drut blows through the obstacle course until he trips over, yes, a hurdle. "That's like Tiger Woods climbing Mt. Everest and then missing a two-foot putt," moan the Sklars.
Recommended if you're sick of: Pretty much everything else on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, and ESPN Deportes.
Where to find it: CNBC
Why to find it: Seldom has a show been more aptly titled. In Mad Money, Wall Street wild man Jim Cramer paces around like a caged bull and shouts his way through insanely caffeinated rants about the stock market, frequently veering into weird stream-of-consciousness rambling. Factor in Cramer's weakness for groan-inducing sound effects, which he triggers by hitting various buttons, as well as his predilection for clumsy pop-culture references—you half expect him to insist that not buying his stock of the day is as dangerous as Britney Spears driving with her baby in her lap—and you have a one-man three-ring circus of a show.
Memorable moment: Cramer exchanging his trademark cry of "Boo-yah!" with amped-up callers.
Recommended if you're sick of: Financial analysts who don't appear to be clinically insane.
Where to find it: The Learning Channel (TLC)
Why to find it: Children's edutainment doesn't get any more charming than this minimalist animated series about the scientific method. A newly hatched chick (Peep) pals around with a bird who can't fly yet (Chirp) and a know-it-all duck (Quack), experimenting with their little patch of earth. Who's that other bird in the mirror? Why won't balloons stay underwater? Where did Quack get his jaunty sailor's hat? Joan Cusack does the narration, Taj Mahal provides the bouncy theme music, and live-action interludes feature children testing hypotheses about construction materials, paper-airplane design, and friction.
Memorable moment: Quack tries to give directions to his duck pond by referencing his own feet and beak as landmarks. Chirp: "You have to use things that don't move!"
Recommended if you're sick of: The Disney Channel.
Where to find it: ESPN Classic, but only during baseball season, because that's the hardest time to find baseball on TV.
Why to find it: Why spend three-plus hours watching today's drugged-up players grind their way through a meaningless 5-2 game when you can spend half an hour watching the drugged-up players of yesteryear in compressed versions of some of the greatest games ever played? No-hitters! Walk-off homers! Records broken! And facial hair like you wouldn't believe.
Memorable moment: In any given episode, it's a special kind of exciting to hear the play-by-play men in the moment before history is made, unaware that the next words they speak will be featured in highlights packages for years to come.
Recommended if you're sick of: The 21st century.
Where to find it: National Geographic Channel
Why to find it: It's worth watching The Dog Whisperer—a program in which trainer Cesar Millan attempts to correct the behavioral problems of troubled dogs—just as a spectacle of human ineptitude. For instance, take the case of Nugget, a compulsive eater who nearly died after consuming half a rug, and whose owners admit to walking him only three or four times a week. (Effect, meet cause.) But the real attraction here is the delightfully accented, fetchingly goateed Millan, who exerts an almost hypnotic quality on the dogs he encounters, simply by not losing his cool while applying a firm, cruelty-free approach to training.
Memorable moment: In a segment titled "Showdown With Shep," Millan calms a cornered, aggression-prone German shepherd using, as the voiceover notes, "only a 25-cent leash," while faux Ennio Morricone music plays in the background.
Recommended if you're sick of: Ghost Whisperer, humanity.